Christ Church New Holland

The history of New Holland and the frustrated desire for an Anglican church of its own is one indication of the Church of England's attachment to past rural (even feudal) structures and its inability to adapt to the changing nature of Victorian society, where a settlement developed as a result of the railway interchange with the Humber ferries. Being within Barrow's rural parish, New Holland was neglected regarding having an Anglican church for some fifty years. Indeed the church was not fully licensed for all functions until 1990.

Church services were first held in the first class waiting room at the railway station under a licence issued by the Bishop of Lincoln from 10 May 1849. This was the time of the origin of a resident population in the railway village.

Sir John Fowler, a local landowner (and a railway engineer of the Forth Bridge and the London Underground), sold land for what was a combined Chapel of Ease for "Divine Worship and Sabbath School" and a Day School during the week, built in 1851. This had been made possible through public subscription. This building was demolished in 1985.

Clergy and prominent people perceived a need for an actual church. Donations were made and villagers approached for subscriptions. In 1875 Cannon R. Bullock (1866-1878) launched a fund for a new church but matters stalled until the Reverend John Parker MA (1895-1918) was made incumbent. The church even received land for a parsonage or church hall (where the scout hut was built) in 1898 but nothing came of this.

John Parker put a lot of effort into fundraising which was long and hard in the low paid community. His curate S. Andrews served throughout the building programme (he left in 1907 to become Vicar of Goxhill). Various fundraising schemes were employed, including publicity, choir singing on the ferry during church days out, and bazaars.

A New Holland engine driver who had emigrated to the Indian railways sent a good donation. So did Reverend Torry, who claimed to be the first child born in New Holland, the son of a ferry terminal manager who himself generated interest for a new church in the village.

This time Sir John Fowler intended to give land (rather than sell it) for the church to mark Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee celebrations in June 1897. Unfortunately he died, and so did his eldest son, so it was 1901 before the land was transferred and building could begin.

Another spur was that the Primitive Methodist church was built about this time, which in those days was a competitor to the Church of England and perhaps closer to many an ordinary villager. Incidentally the Methodist Church had a membership of less than ten in 2002. In recent years it and the Anglicans co-operated, with a number of joint services, and the primary school is of joint denominations. The chapel closed in 2006.

The foundation stone was laid in May 1901 by Bishop Edward King, Bishop of Lincoln. The church was built from local bricks and a clay tile roof. Its 27 inch thick walls contain a builder's time capsule. Building costs during 1901 were £4000 which were kept down by leaving out non-vital structures (the tower), potential features (a spire) and extensions (additional aisles) until later. The original intention had been to build a spire on top of a tower with a clock chamber. The bishop returned on the 15th January 1902 to dedicate the new church and preach at the opening service.

Pillars and arches were incorporated into both walls of the nave in case of expansion into two aisles, raising the seating capacity from 200 to 440.

Robert Love, manager of the Yarborough Hotel (later the Lincoln Castle, now Howarth Timber's offices) gave the east window, the lectern and the organ in memory of his wife and mother in 1908, selling two terraces of houses he owned at the time.

The debt for building was cleared by 1907. The need to concentrate on essentials within the budget meant that even the tower was not completed until 1920, made much smaller than intended by inadequate foundations into the Humber clay sub-soil (the tower roof collapsed in 1960). So there was no spire and only a small bell placed inside the tower.

The organ pump mechanism was electrified in the 1930's when also electric lights replaced gas lights (the gas made and supplied by the railway).

Electrical infra-red heaters replaced original the steam boiler in 1960.

The organ was renovated completely in 1960 when the collapse of the tower roof led to flooding of the organ loft and pipes. There was internal and external refurbishment and redecoration.

Congregational numbers have always been low, considering that only 900 people live in New Holland (from a high of 1300). Finances have therefore been fragile. In 1989 the Parochial Church Council decided that for financial reasons the church should close but the Archdeacon allowed time for recovery.

Then in 1990 an anomaly was put right: the church became licensed for marriages instead of having to send everyone to Barrow-on-Humber two miles away. The first marriage took place in 1990.

Rejuvenating the church building (and keeping its weekly service) has meant a re-orientation towards more community use that is alongside (or even instead of) the church. In 1992 half the pews were removed and replaced by stackable chairs giving more flexibility for community use and fund raising. Toilets, storage and a kitchen were built. Many different age groups use the church.

The electric heaters were replaced as part of a wider restoration in 1994 by mains gas balanced flue heaters.

The weekly service used to be held at 18:30 on a Sunday, alternating each fortnight between the 1662 Communion and 1662 Evening Prayer, with sometimes at the end of the month a more informal afternoon service if there is a baptism. Now it exists as a community space and has only occasional services.

A more complete history is given by Roy Cook (Warden, 1961-2001), Sue Girchen (ed.), (2002) A Short history of Christ Church New Holland, local booklet. This book supplied some source material for this summary.

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The scheme was supported by the New Holland Community Development Association, and the picture here appeared in Issue 3, July 2001, with some additional colouring here for effect.

My (Adrian) involvement with the church has been extremely mimimal, attending three times in seven years despite living less than one minute's walk away. Arriving in 1994 I did enter some artwork into an exhibition (the pews had been just partially removed) but the evangelical preaching of the then incumbent about New Holland people living in sin was arrogant, offputting and comical. It certainly did not appreciate the wide variety of religious opinions and types of human relationship evident within the village.


Adrian Worsfold

Pluralist - Liberal and Thoughtful