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Portsmouth: young families growth prompts expansion

Young families are flocking to a church in Fareham, Hampshire, in such numbers an extension is being planned ...

A church in Fareham, Hampshire, is growing so much that it needs to build an extension.
Worshippers at St Paul’s Church, in Barnes Lane, Sarisbury Green, are welcoming so many young families each week that they need to create new meeting rooms, toilets and a kitchen.
Over the past three years, the church has welcomed around 25 families every Monday for its Under-Fives group. And around a dozen parents with young babies come each Thursday morning for its Under-Twos group.
Many of those same families also turn up for a monthly ‘Tea Service’ that has been developed on Sunday afternoons. Parents and children enjoy craft, singing, prayers, a talk and some tea together. On Good Friday, around 100 family members packed into the church for a special Easter-themed Tea Service.
Having so many parents and young children in the building has highlighted the need for extra rooms and toilets. At the moment, there is only one toilet, which also doubles as the disabled facility and the baby-changing room, meaning queues can get quite long.
The church wants to create an extension to the south of the existing building, which will provide two small meeting rooms, three extra toilets, an office, a kitchen and some storage space. The £200,000 project will also include revamping the existing vestry to create additional kitchen and storage facilities.
The extension will involve building on part of the churchyard, in a space that includes some older graves. All of these graves are more than 100 years old, and none will be disturbed – the idea is to float the extension on top of the ground so that no digging below ground is necessary.
Worshippers do, however, want to move some of the older headstones a few feet in each direction. They are therefore trying to discover if anyone in the local community has any family link to any of these graves.
The vicar of St Paul’s, the Rev Sandy Matheson, said: “The fact that the church is growing is obviously good news. We love having the church full of children and young families, and our commitment to them is shown by the fact that we are employing a new children and families’ worker, Debbie Boyt.
“But of course, that has highlighted our need for better kitchen and toilet facilities, as well as some other rooms. There is no church hall, so everything we do happens in the church itself. This extension will give us the flexibility we need.
“And it’s not all about young people. We also welcome elderly people here each month for a group called Encompass, and these facilities will also help that group.
“The handful of graves that will be directly affected are all ancient and there is no evidence that anyone is tending them. And we have no intention of moving any graves – just the headstones. But if anyone comes forward who is related to the person buried there, we’d want to be sensitive to their feelings.”
The names on some of the headstones have worn away, but the project manager, Phil Rutt, has been checking the records to see if he can discover who is buried there. The graves identified are:

Elizabeth Jane Bunday, Beatrice Caroline Bunday and William George Bunday (1880, 1880 and 1881 in one grave)
Amy Howard (1881)
Ann and Edward Powell (1850 and 1860 in one grave)
Martha Parsons (1877)
William Osman (1872)
Elizabeth Russell (1865)

St Paul’s Church was originally built between 1825 and 1835, and has grown in size over the years in piecemeal fashion. Its chancel and memorial chapel are both later additions.
Its new extension would be linked to the church via a glass passageway, and would be approximately 10 metres wide by 10 metres long. The money to do this work has been made available from legacies left by former church members.
If you want to contact the church in relation to any of the graves directly affected please contact them by the end of May via or phone Phil Rutt on 01489 580562.

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