History of the Parish
'The Roman Catholic Church - an elegant Gothic structure consisting of nave, chancel, aisles and south porch, was built in 1875 (architect J A Crawley) at a cost of, including the erection of the school and presbytery, £3,000. This was raised by subscription, augmented with the proceeds of a sale of property here. The church, which will seat 300 persons, contains a magnificent altar and a fine organ. This description of St. Joseph's Church in West Street, Havant, appeared in Waite's History Gazetteer, published in 1878, when the Church was only three years old.
At the opening of the Church, nearly all the Bulbeck and Corney families were present. Admission was by ticket only, the tickets costing five shillings each, a great sum in those days. Nevertheless, the Church was crowded with people, including "many of the poorer members of the faith." See Hampshire Telegraph report
For his sermon preached at the opening, Cardinal Manning, Archbishop of Westminster, took as his text a quotation from Isaiah illustrating the continuation throughout penal times of the Catholic ministry in the Havant area. Interestingly enough, the music for the occasion (from Mozart's Mass No. 2 in C) was not provided only by the "magnificent organ", but by "a well selected string band". The choir was that of Arundel Cathedral, assisted by local vocalists.
The next great occasion for the Church was its Consecration in 1907. A handwritten document found in a house opposite the Church gives a good contemporaneous account of the occasion. See account of consecration. Other documents contemporaneous with the consecration particularly mention the significant connection with Havant of the Blessed Margaret Pole who was beatified by Pope Leo XIII in 1886.
By the time the move was made from Brockhampton Lane to West Street, the Mission had become once more a one priest mission. The opening of other Catholic churches in the neighbourhood had diminished the area that the Havant priests were expected to serve, although baptisms at Portsmouth are recorded in the Registers as late as 1877. However, although the area served by St. Joseph's could never again be as wide as that served by St. Joseph's, Brockhampton, as Havant grew and Leigh Park Estate was built, the number of people in the parish became very much greater than at any time in the past.
Into this changing Parish came Canon Scantlebury in 1950. Immediately upon his arrival a Mass Centre was started in Emsworth, and soon afterwards in Leigh Park. It quickly became obvious that it was no longer possible for the priest to manage without a curate. On a hastily arranged visit to Wonersh, Canon Scantlebury met two young men about to be ordained. One of these impressed him so greatly that he made a direct request to the Bishop (Bishop King) that this should be his first curate. The request was granted and Father Targett arrived in the parish in 1952 to take up his appointment.
Until recently, the parish has always been served by at least two priests, even though Leigh Park became a separate parish in 1966. See complete list of priests of Havant.
There have been many changes but all of them external. The Faith of the Catholic community remains essentially unchanged. The 1975 St. Joseph's Centenary celebrations, the highlight of which was the Mass celebrated by Bishop Derek Worlock on the evening of July 16th, mark not only the centenary of the Church building, but also the centuries of devotion of Catholic men and women, whose faith and endurance laid the foundation upon which the modern parish is built.
A member of the Bulbeck family, John Bulbeck of Sinah, Hayling, was educated at Douai College and imprisoned during the French Revolution. He was lucky enough to escape and came to England to try to open a school at Emsworth. Unfortunately, the Rector of Warblington, a Mr. Norris, prevented him doing so, as the law of the time 'forbade any Catholic to keep a school.'
There were not a great number of Catholics at Emsworth during the 19th Century. Those that were, came to Langstone and later to Brockhampton to hear Mass.
"Old Mrs Jones used to trudge every Sunday to Brockhampton, umbrella in hand, until she could trudge no longer." (Bulbeck MSS)
Masses were not said regularly in Emsworth until after Canon Scantlebury's arrival at Havant in 1950. The Canon recalls that he had not been in his new parish a week before someone came to him asking when they could have a Mass in Emsworth. Canon Scantlebury's reply was, "Find me somewhere to say Mass, and I'll come and say it." A place was quickly found. Permission was given for Emsworth Catholics to use the British Legion Hall, for a modest fee of five shillings a Sunday. It was in this hall, near the Post Office in North Street, that Mass was said for about ten years.
A note in the Havant registers records, '21.5.59 Building of Emsworth's St. Thomas of Canterbury and St. Thomas More began today. price quoted £8.000.' As it turned out, the total cost including the fittings was just over £10,000. The land for the Church was given by Stacey and June Gare and the builder was a brother of the organist at Portsmouth Cathedral.
On 2nd December 1959 the new Church was blessed at 11.00a.m. by Canon Scantlebury, who said the first Mass there. Bishop King had been forced by ill health to cancel his planned visit, but the ceremony was attended by priests from seven nearby parishes; Copnor, North End, Fareham, Waterlooville, Shanklin, Newport, Petersfield and Hayling Island.