St John’s Church
The church fellowship
“We are a friendly and supportive church community drawn from inside and outside the village of Rowland’s Castle. Our aim is to share God’s love with all we meet, and all who come to the Church or Centre. We are fully integrated into all the many and varied activities of village life, and are always open to new people and new ideas. The church has been here since 1837; see the timeline for more information about the church.”
What we believe
“Our beliefs are rooted in the Bible, uniquely God inspired, the foundation of our faith. We believe in one God, existing in 3 persons, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, each possessing all the attributes of God. However ‘good’ we try to be, we cannot measure up to God’s perfect standards. But God loves us and wants to be with us. To be restored in relationship with Him, we need to recognise and repent of our sins and receive forgiveness through believing that Jesus alone paid our penalty.
We believe that Jesus was the Son of God, but was born on earth to live a sinless life and show us how to receive salvation. By dying on the cross in our place, He removes the sin from all those who believe in Him as Saviour and ask Him into their lives. We believe He rose from the dead, acts as our mediator with God, and we can enjoy a personal relationship with a living Jesus. Through being washed clean of sin by the shedding of Jesus’ blood, we are born again. The Holy Spirit is the person of God who resides in each born-again Christian. He works in us to develop the fruits of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility and self-control.
He may endow us with gifts through God’s grace – faith, healing, words of wisdom or knowledge, prophecy, discernment, speaking in tongues, interpretation or miraculous powers. Our salvation through Jesus allows us to live eternally with God. When death comes, it is not the end. We will be resurrected to live for all time with our God.”
1818: An Act allowed for the building of new churches in areas where a large enough population existed at least two miles from an existing church.
1837: On 29th August of the year Queen Victoria came to the throne, the Revd. G R Mountain of Havant and Revd W Norris of Warblington made an application to build a church at Red Hill in Rowlands Castle following pledges of £783 by local people. Mrs Harriet Dixon, wife of Charles, owner of Stansted House, laid the foundation stone on 31 August
1838: The church was consecrated by Charles Sumner, the Bishop of Winchester, on 12 July.
The original church consisted of a cruciform shape which included:
- the Nave – the central seating area from the first step to the crossing opposite the porch
- the Chancel – now a raised open area, with a moveable Lord’s Table
- the Sanctuary – the area beyond the wooden rails containing the original Lord’s Table
1853: The north and south aisles were added
1866: A Rector was appointed to the living of Rowland’s Castle
1909: First organ installed
1919: War Memorial dedicated by the Bishop of Southampton
1929: The Nave was extended west beyond the line from the porch to the south wall
1968: Current organ installed (originally built in 1933)
2008: Latest modernisation creating today’s flexible space
Church: Points of interest
- The East Window shows the Crucifixion with Mary and St John the Evangelist (the writer of St John’s Gospel). The ram is the symbol of St John the Baptist. The window is in memory of Francis, the eldest son of Revd George Austen and dated from 1885
- The South Window in the Sanctuary shows the Baptism of Jesus by St John the Baptist. The window is in memory of Louisa Lane Austen, the wife of George Austen and dates from 1895
- On the North Wall in the Sanctuary are two boards showing the Ten Commandments
- Note the brass plates on the South Wall in the Sanctuary commemorating Francis, Louis and Arthur Austen
- See the plaque giving words of caution and admonishment from the Psalms to priests
- Above the Lord’s Table are the ‘I AM’ sayings of Christ from the Gospel of St John
- Look at the sculpted faces on the columns in the Nave. Perhaps these could be the disciples, but one is the head of a woman. (There is a church in Chichester, now a public house, opposite the Cathedral, with similar faces, and is now being researched)
- On the Board of Rectors, note George Austen
The churchyard: The main grave
The Jane Austen connection is of particular importance and is appropriately situated near the church containing five members of the Austen family:
- George Heathcote Austen was the nephew of Jane Austen the novelist, and a rector here for 41 years (1856-1897). He was the son of Sir Francis William Austen CMG, (1774-1865), Admiral of the Fleet, who is buried in Wymering Church.
- Louisa Tragett married to George in July 1851, They had five children, two of whom are buried with their parents.
- Francis George Heathcote Austen 1857-1885 was the third son and Jane Austen’s brother. He is said to be the inspiration for the character William Price in ‘Mansfield Park ’. Francis never married and died aged 28, shortly after returning from India, where he had been working.
- Ernest Leigh Austen 1858-1939, followed family tradition, entering the Navy as a cadet in January 1871, retiring as Commander in December 1903.
- Rose Clarice Bowgen married Ernest in June 1911. They had no children.
A second grave
In another grave, near to the footpath leading to the church, lies Colonel Arthur Robert Austen CMG (1860 – 1939) of the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry. Arthur married Rose Price de Teissier, whose father was Henry Price, 4th Baron De Teissier. They married on 7th June 1891. Rose does not appear to have been buried with her husband.
Their third son, Arthur Neville Austen, died of wounds in 1918 and was awarded the Military Cross in 1918 (posthumously) for distinguished service in France and Flanders. He is buried in a war cemetery in France.
The church is in an interregnum at present awaiting a new vicar to be appointed. The church is fortunate to have Lay Readers who assist with preaching and worship: Mary Close, Terry Monahan, Bob Raley, Zoe Skinner and Chris Hollis. The vicar is assisted in the practical running of the church by 2 church wardens: Terry Monahan and Pam Ewing
The Parochial Church Council consists of the Lay Readers, and 9 elected members: Nick Granger-Brown (Treasurer), Gill Whatley (Secretary), Chris Churchley (Electoral Roll Officer), John Skinner (PCC Vice Chair), Pat Groves, Ian Hewitt, Lindsay Leggatt and Jonathan Nash
Annual reports and accounts
The Annual Parochial Church Meeting (APCM) is held in April every year, when the Annual Report and Accounts are presented.
The above information applies at the time of publication in June 2016. The St John’s Church website contains current information on activities, and can be reached on: www.saintjohnschurch.org.uk, or by telephoning: 02392 410111