Rosebery Park Baptist Church, 1923 to 1947…
Rev. James Greig Douglas oversaw further expansion work on the chapel, with the addition of a pulpit, choir stalls and a gallery in 1925. For the three months this building work was being carried out, the Sunday services were held in the Technical Hall. A new organ with an electric blower was installed. Up until then Mr. Addoo had received fifteen shillings a week as the organ blower! The issue of women being allowed to be deacons was discussed, but rejected at this time. As of 1926, the membership had grown to 120.47
Rev. J. Greig Douglas, Minister at RPBC 1923 to 1929. Photo property of RPBC.
The 1920s and 30s were economically unstable years. There had been high unemployment after the Great War. An article from December 1919 explains there were 1,800 on the local labour exchange, and the difficulty arising from so many of the returning service men being unskilled owing to them entering the services before becoming trained workmen; in addition, many of the men were partly disabled.48 Post-war unemployment levels were reduced, so that by April 1925 there were only 400 unemployed in Bournemouth49, but trade disputes were so bad that by May 1926 the General Strike had begun50. Britain also suffered in the aftermath of the American 1929 Wall Street Crash. Historic-UK explains: “In the first few years after the crash, British exports fell by half which had a disastrous effect on employment levels. The numbers of unemployed in the years that followed was astronomical, rising to around 2.75 million people, many of whom were not insured. The high levels of unemployment and lack of business opportunities were not equally felt across Britain, with some areas escaping the worst of it, whilst at the same time others suffered terribly.”51 Bournemouth was not among the worse hit, due to not being an industrial area. In Bournemouth, there were 1,023 people unemployed in February 193052, and that was up to 1,418 by May 193153.
This snippet from Streets of Bournemouth’s ‘Bournemouth’s People’ 54 paints a picture of one Pokesdown man’s ‘signing on’ ritual (year not given):
“There were many unemployed people in the 1920s and 1930s. Among them was George Veal who described the queue at the Labour Exchange in Yelverton Road as four deep and stretching from there down to Old Christchurch Road and up as far as Dalkeith Steps. A gap was left outside the Cadena Café for the morning coffee trade. ‘Signing on’ was a twice weekly ritual. Walking back to Pokesdown, Mr. Veal and others would scour the roads for enough ‘fag ends’ to make a cigarette. At the Pokesdown Technical Schools, they could buy a cup of tea and a bun for a penny and if they were lucky get one free. This was a time when street singers, buskers and pedlars were a common sight.”
The Illustrated London News, 8th April 1933, has a double page spread of drawings showing ‘Social services on behalf of the unemployed in the South and South-west of England’. One of the scenes is ‘Cutting timber for logs, Pokesdown Centre, Bournemouth’:
Yet also, as ‘Streets of Bournemouth’ ‘Tourism & The Town’ explains, during the period from 1925 to 1937, the proportion of workers who had some sort of paid holiday rose from 17% to 47%. The Holidays with Pay Act 1938 increased that to 60%. By the time war broke out again in 1939, annual holidays of a week or longer were well established as a part of family life.
A daily Manchester to Bournemouth railway service was introduced by the London & North
Western and Midland Railways in October 1910, but from 26th September 1927 it was to
become known as the named passenger service, the Pines Express, leaving Manchester at
10am before the long journey to Bournemouth West station.55 Plus daily trains from London Waterloo.56
Poster from RailwayPosters.co.uk.
Rev. Ernest Rudman served as Minister from 1929 to 1936. In a tribute to him the September 1936 Church meeting summed up his seven years at Rosebery Park with the following minutes: “During E.G. Rudman’s ministry, membership doubled, there were sixty-eight baptisms; the debt on the buildings was removed; the premises renovated and Moordown and Iford Churches were established.”
The stats for 1933 were: 219 in membership; 83 children; 14 Sunday School teachers; and 3 lay preachers. In 1934 a six month series of evangelistic services were held on Sunday evenings at the Palladium Cinema, Seabourne Road, in joint arrangement with Boscombe Baptist Church. During the winter of 1935/6 further evangelistic services were held, at the Astoria Cinema (on the corner of Queensland Road and Christchurch Road, Pokesdown) once a month and speakers included author and journalist Hugh Redwood, the MP Ernest Brown, and founder of the Peace Pledge Union and first ever radio chaplain, Dick Sheppard. These were Big Names of the time and attracted large crowds.57
Rev. Ernest G. Rudman, Minister at RPBC 1929 to 1936. Photo property of RPBC.
In the early 1930s, Jeans writes in the church’s history booklet, “There is no doubt that the activities of the Church were important in, and to the residents of the Rosebery Park Estate, and a suggestion to change the name to Pokesdown Baptist Church found no support.”58 But I58a wonder if Jean’s “no doubt” about the importance of the church’s association with the Rosebery Park Estate is an assumption based on the church member’s rejecting the name “Pokesdown”. And there could be another reason for that. As far as I am aware, the names of the original Victorian building estates, such as Rosebery Park, weren’t in common use by this time (1930s). I haven’t seen the name “Rosebery Park Estate” used during the twentieth century in any of the local history literature or newspapers. I’ve seen “Freemantle” used until the early 1920s,59 and “Boscombe Park” used in 1928.60 Perhaps the estate names served a useful purpose at the time, defining for investors what parcel of land and building project they were committing to, and as a marketing tool for the sale of individual building plots or newly completed buildings. But then were made redundant as the names of the roads became common knowledge? Is this why a change of name was being discussed? Because by 1930 few people could remember the origins of the name “Rosebery Park” and therefore in conversation its location was not clear? If that was the case, why reject the sensible suggestion of changing the name to “Pokesdown”? I speculate that the rejection of the name, “Pokesdown”, had more to do with what J.A. Young calls a “long-standing reluctance”61 on behalf of local residents to be tied to the name, “Pokesdown”. There is evidence of this! (See page, Pokesdown: name and boundary).
A more “modern” look came to Bournemouth with the trolleybuses! After a successful 1933 experimental trolleybus route from the Square to Westbourne it was decided that all the tram routes would be converted to trolleybus operation over a three year period. As the Local Transport History Library describes:
“After the opening of the Bournemouth Square to Christchurch route on 8th April 1936, tram services ceased. Tram number 115 was the last tram to run from Bournemouth to Christchurch carrying the Mayors of the two towns along with other officials. At Tuckton Bridge, the borough boundary, the official party boarded the first passenger carrying trolleybus to run into Christchurch.”62
The Second World War years
Rev Richard Fry found himself Minister during the Second World War – that meant a plan to build a new two storey building (where the original small chapel is) had to be put on hold due to war time building restrictions; a War-time Membership Roll was started for people who were temporarily in the area to add their name too; hospitality was offered to Forces personnel and blitzed or evacuated people from London; a strict blackout needed to be applied to the building.63
An alternative building extension plan for the chapel was rejected by the Town Council in 1943. Sites for a new, larger building were considered in nearby Harewood Avenue, Cromwell Road, and next to the main railway line at Christchurch Road, but all came to a dead end for different reasons. The Independent Baptist chapel, called Keswick Hall, in Christchurch Road, also came up as a possibility in April 1943, but the idea didn’t develop into anything definite. Church membership stood at 237 people and continued to grow – larger premises were becoming a necessity!64
Other events during Rev. Fry’s Ministry include the election of the church’s first lady deacon in 1943; moving from using the Baptist Church Hymnal to the 1933 Revised Edition (and subsequently having to learn new hymn tunes!); a fellowship meeting for men called ‘Men’s Fireside’; a 1945 Children’s Mission.65
When Rev. Fry left to lead another church in Brighton, it was written of him in the church magazine: “Mr. Fry holds the highest conception of his calling, has pursued it with constancy, and under the blessing of God has seen rich fruit to his labour. He has been supported in all his ministry by a gracious partner [his wife, Peggy] to whose sacrifice and faithfulness he paid high tribute”.66
Taken from M.A. Edgington’s booklet, ‘Bournemouth and the Second World War’, here is what was going on more generally in Pokesdown: the Salvation Army Hall in Norwood Place provided recreational facilities for evacuee children, and a “British Restaurant” providing a three course meal for one shilling was opened in a building specially built in Seabourne Road.
The Army Cadet Force had a platoon at the Pokesdown Boy’s Club; they provided basic army training for boys aged 14 to 16, then at the age of 17 they could join the Home Guard. The firemen made toys from scrap material to distribute to children at the Pokesdown Fire Station children’s party. Pokesdown fell victim to one night of bombing, on 2nd September 1940, when seven bombs were dropped over Seabourne Road, Southville Road, and Christchurch Road: three shops were hit and two houses destroyed, and in all 173 properties were damaged; three civilians were killed and five injured.67
In July 1949 a memorial to those who died in the war was unveiled in the church; their names are engraved on the brass plate on the front of an oak lectern: Leonard W. H. Addoo, Stanley Brown, Sidney Cass, Percy G. Gwinnell, Arthur W. Harrison, Arthur G. Hicks, Ralph F. Jesse, Stanley M. Parks.68
Leonard W. H. Addoo appears on the Roll of Honour war memorial list, which gives the following details:
“Sergeant 55033601, 2nd Battalion, Hampshire Regiment. Died 9th October 1944. Age 27. Son of William Charles and Mary Elizabeth Addoo, of Bournemouth; husband of Renee Linda Eileen Addoo, of Pokesdown. Buried in CORIANO RIDGE WAR CEMETERY, Italy. Plot XV Row F Grave 5.” 69
His parents are the couple who in the early 1920s and before were working for the church, Mr William Addoo receiving fifteen shillings a week as organ blower, and Mrs Mary Addoo receiving eight shillings a week as caretaker, plus rent-free accommodation.69a In 1911 (census year) they were living at 27 Morley Road, Pokesdown, along with their then 6 month old daughter, William’s widowed mother (Jane nee Francis) who was 74 at the time, and a lodger by the name of Robert Hackett, working as a carpenter, who was 20 years old. William’s job is listed as builder’s labourer.70
The copy and paste citation for this page: The History of Rosebery Park Baptist Church and Pokesdown, Page 3. Author: Michelle Fogg. Date: April 2021. Url: https://roseberypark.org/history/incl-pokesdown-page-3/
Rosebery Park Baptist Church, 812-814 Christchurch Road, between Boscombe and Pokesdown, Bournemouth, BH7 6DF