The church is a fine example of the Early English style of architecture and is now a Grade 2 Listed Building.
Built in stone with Bath Stone copings and mouldings. There is, on the North outside wall, a beautiful buttress with an ornate capping containing a small statue of Our Lady with the child Jesus. Over the main doorway is the monogram” M” for Mary together with statues of St. George and St. Edward. The Spire has a wood shingle roof surmounted by a golden cockerel. Workers were brought over from Italy to lay the terrazzo floor in the sanctuary and the aisle.
The church seats about 90 people. There is a high wooden barrel ceiling with roundels covering the sites of the original electric lights. It needed a very long ladder to change a bulb. The entry to the roof area was through a trap door above the organ.
The painting behind the altar is by Paul Natter. On either side of the altar, about 30cm from the ground level, are the Latin words “Altare Privilegiatum” which indicates that a special indulgence is bestowed on the priest celebrating Mass at this altar. The Sanctuary lamp which used to be in the centre is now on the right hand side. To the right of the Sanctuary is an alcove which used to house the Confessional and where two beautiful Italian statues dated 1897 now stand. These depict Our Lady of the Assumption and The Sacred Heart. A statue of St. Joseph and the Child Jesus is in the entrance porch and is of similar design.
There are many fine windows in the Church. Those to the right of the Sanctuary are French glass, made by C. Champigneulle of Paris, 1908, and depict Fides, Spes, Caritas, (Faith, Hope and Charity). The round window over the Sanctuary shows the Crowning of Our Lady and replaced an earlier Rose Window. Those to the left of the Sanctuary are of German glass, made by Mayor & Co. of Munich. Of these double windows, the first depicts the Angel Gabriel appearing to Our Lady announcing that she is to be the mother of Our Lord (The Annunciation). The Angel appears standing on a cloud and the Holy Spirit is a dove. In the other double window Our Lady is shown visiting her cousin St. Elizabeth who was to be the mother of St. John the Baptist (The Visitation). Our Lady is shown as a young girl and St. Elizabeth as an elderly lady, as we read in St. Luke Chap.l.
On the left side of the nave the windows have a special order. Reading from the Sanctuary they are as follows:-
The Patron Saint of the Parish: Edward the Confessor, crowned in 1042 at 40 years of age, he died on 5th January 1066 aged 64.
The Patron Saint of the Diocese of Portsmouth: St Edmund of Abingdon is next. He was Archbishop of Canterbury and died in Soisy, France in 1242 having been Archbishop for eight years.
The Patron Saint of England: Saint George Patron Saint of England, died about the year 303.
The Saint who brought Christianity to England: Saint Augustine Bishop and known as the Apostle of the English, he died on the 26th May 604.
The man who sent him: Saint Gregory the Great, who was born in Rome in 540 and elected Pope in 590. He is said to have died on the same day as St. Augustine.
Finally there is Saint Thomas of Canterbury: Who became Archbishop of Canterbury in 1162. He was born on 11th December 1117 and martyred 1170.
Of the windows on the opposite side some were the personal choice of the benefactors. The first is of Saint John the Apostle who died about A.D.66 aged 94.
Then a window which is very appropriate to the Forest, Saint Francis of Assisi, 1182-1227, founder of the Franciscan Order. Saint Elizabeth Patron Saint of Hungary 1207-1231.
The next window is the Patron Saint of France, Saint Joan of Arc, born on the 6th January 1412 she was burned at the stake on the 30th May 1431 and bears a dedication written in French. Translated it reads:-
“In memory of my dear mother, her daughter Edith Lyman Collins, her Grand-children Vladimir and Stanislas Czaykowski; her affectionate son-in-law; the Marquis of Malassye by marriage; who died a holy death – 1921“.
The last window is Blessed Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury. She was executed for her faith on the 28th May 1541. In the porch are windows to Saint Peter and Saint Paul.
The west window (below) was erected to the memory of the solders of the 7th Division “The Immortal Seventh” who assembled here in Lyndhurst in 1914. The window has five lights. Those on the outside show men in their battledress holding the regimental flags of the 13th Hussars and the Northumberland Hussars. The other two lights show St George and St Joan. The centre light shows Major W.A. Kennard D.S.O. kneeling in prayer beneath the figure of Christ.
Taken from various parish records and newspaper items.
The cost of the building was about £5,000, a considerable sum in those days. The whole of the cost was defrayed by M. Souberbielle and as the church was free of debt it was soon consecrated. The consecration crosses can be seen at the doorway and around the walls.
The Service of Consecration on the 28th July 1896 took from 8am until 12 noon with the Rt. Rev. John Vertue, Bishop of Portsmouth officiating. He was assisted by the Parish Priest, Canon James Daly, and the Parish Priest of Lymington, Fr. Patrick O’Connel1. M. Souberbielle was in the congregation.
The first to be baptised in the new church on the 23rd February 1897 was Carol James Egerton and on the 1st July 1897 seven candidates were confirmed by Bishop Vertue. In the same year three bells were installed, the tablet in the porch reads:-
“Of your charity pray for the Soul of Marie Louise Souberbielle in whose memory these bells were erected on the 1st July 1897 by E. Souberbielle Countess R. Czaykowski Mary Livingstone Willard and Henry Clarke MD. R.I”
At the Bishop’s Visitation on the 27th May 1906 Canon Daly reports that there is Holy Communion at 8.30am and Mass at 9am and 11 am on Sundays. On Holy Days, Holy Communion is at 8am, and Mass followed by Benediction is at 10am. The Catholic population in the parish was made up of 25 men, 66 women and 60 children. On average some 71 attended Mass on a Sunday, slightly less than today’s numbers.
The first Midnight Mass at Christmas was celebrated in 1902. Canon Daly left in 1910 and was succeeded by Fr. Hugh Breslin, from Co. Donegal. He was born in 1879 and ordained in Dublin in 1906. For the Bishop’s Visitation in 1912 he reports that Holy Communion was at 8.30am and sung Mass at 1 0.30am on Sundays. Weekday Mass was at 8am. The Catholic population in the parish was then 19 men, 42 women and 26 children, and an average Mass attendance of 60 on Sundays, with another 18 men, 34 women and 28 children at the Mass in Totton. Confessions were from 6 to 7.30pm on Saturdays. It was, and remains, a small parish.
Following the Second Vatican Council, which began in 1962, it was required that, among other things, altars should be placed so as to enable the priest to celebrate Mass facing the congregation. So, in 1976, work began to re-order the church. First the outside stonework was cleaned and new shingles were put on the spire, then came the big task of interior alterations.
The altar, which was at the top of three steps, was moved forward and lowered; the tabernacle was also lowered, but this was so well done as not to be noticeable. Two of the grey marble steps were mounted behind the six large candles and the terrazzo mosaic which formed the top step was lifted and can now be seen mounted on the wall behind the altar and below the tabernacle. The Confessional was moved to the Sacristy and the alcove now houses two statues and a votive candle stand. The Font was moved to the front of the church replacing the Pulpit and an electronic organ placed in the area vacated by the font. While the building work was in hand the statues and paintings, including the large painting above the tabernacle, were cleaned and restored. New lighting was fitted including outside floodlighting of the western end of the church. The architect for all this was Mr R.L. Pateman MSSAT,MFB, and the work was carried out by J.J. Frame Esq. During the restoration, Mass was celebrated in the old school. Work was completed quickly and on the 4th December 1977 the altar re-consecrated by the Rt. Rev. Anthony Emery, Bishop of Portsmouth, who also confirmed thirteen people during the ceremony. The Bishop was assisted by Rev. Fr. Richard Hind (Chancellor of the Diocese), Rev. Fr. Abraham Jacob (Dean of the New Forest and Parish Priest of Lymington), Very Rev. Canon Daniel Q’Hanlon (parish Priest of Brockenhurst) and the Rev. Fr. Laurence McMaster (Parish Priest of Lyndhurst).
In 1981 the priest who had stimulated and carried through the imaginative re-ordering, Fr. McMaster, left to become Parish Priest of St. Edmund Campion in Bournemouth and the Rev. Abraham Jacob came to the parish from Lymington.