History: Page 4

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1947 to 1962

The move to our current building…

Whilst the search and wait for a new Minister took from July 1947 to August 1948, Rev. Franklin Chambers, retired minister of West Cliff Baptist Church, helped look after RPBC. 71

Eric Peter Sharpe led the worship one Sunday in January 1948, was invited to preach again, and then offered the job of Minister after his ordination in July that year.72

One of the practical changes made during his ministry was making a creche available for morning services.73 The move to the new building, and the alterations needed to the new building took up large chunks of the deacon’s and Minister’s time, as you can imagine.

Rev. Eric P. Sharpe, Minister at RPBC 1948 to 1955. Photo property of RPBC.

In 1949, church membership was 252 people; and by 1953 there were 317 members!74 In 1951 the church members of Rosebery Park Baptist Church were at last able to make the much-needed move to a larger building. They sold the Morley Road chapel to the Bournemouth Society for the Deaf, and bought the current building on Christchurch Road, which they were able to do as though the valuation for it was £30,000, the asking price was a generously low £6,000. Up until that time the Christchurch Road building had been an Independent Baptist Church, but its Minister and congregation felt unable to maintain the two halls, a sanctuary for 450 worshippers, two vestries and two other smaller rooms that made up “Keswick Hall”.

Closing morning and evening services were held at Morley Road on 30th September 1951. The evening congregation overflowed into the vestibule and chairs placed in the aisle, with about 200 people sharing in the closing Communion service. The first sixty years of Rosebery Park Baptist Church had seen the membership increase tenfold!

Keswick Hall was built in 1931 by this Independent Baptist Church, on the same site on Christchurch Road as the original Freemantle Baptist Mission Chapel, from which the Rosebery Park Baptist fellowship emerged!75

Here is evidence of the name ‘Keswick Hall, Boscombe’ in the Bournemouth Graphic newspaper, 1934.

PDF of the newspaper articles and documents is available here. They are images, and not plain text, but they can at least be enlarged for easier viewing this way.

Drawing from booklet ‘Rosebery Park Baptist Church: The First Hundred Years’ by Robert J. Jeans.
After the Morley Road chapel was sold to the Deaf Club it was known by the name Lockyer Hall76. Source: Alwyn Ladell Flickr.
Newspaper image © The British Library Board. All rights reserved. With thanks to The British Newspaper Archive.
Rosebery Park Baptist history map, 1889 to present day. On Old Ordnance Survey Map Godfrey Edition ‘Boscombe & Pokesdown 1923’.

1. In the 1880s ‘Freemantle’ was the name for the area between Pokesdown and Boscombe. The nucleus of the original Rosebery Park Baptist fellowship came from the Baptist Mission Chapel at Freemantle, opened in 1889, on the very same site now occupied by the present building (812-814 Christchurch Road).
2. In 1891 the new fellowship met in a rented school room in Stanley Road, which later had its name changed to Livingstone Road.
3. The chapel on the corner of Harcourt and Morley Roads, on the Rosebery Park Estate, was built in 1892. It was expanded in 1897 and 1925.
4. The present home of Rosebery Park Baptist Church in Christchurch Road was built in 1931. It was known as Keswick Hall and it was an independent Baptist Church. Rosebery Park Baptist Church moved from the Morley Road chapel into this much larger hall in Christchurch Road in 1951.77

Here is a timeline of some local and national events, to help picture what was happening when at Rosebery Park Baptist Church:78

There is a PDF plain text version of Timeline 2 available here.

In March 1952 the church undertook an evangelistic campaign, where 3,000 homes were visited three times in the preceding weeks with invitations to a week’s public meetings. The overall theme was ‘The Case for Christianity’ and it was part of a broader Baptist Union “Baptist Advance” programme.79

As Reginald E. White explains in the magazine “The Baptist Quarterly”:80

ADVANCE AND REUNION – The turn of the half century has confronted Baptists with the painful dilemma of two apparently contradictory challenges. One comes to us from denominational headquarters; the call to Baptist Advance. It is essentially domestic, internal, immediate; a challenge to throw off the last excuses and confusions of wartime and address ourselves to our still unfinished task, to face up to developing denominational responsibilities, and rally to the Baptist flag.

oil painting of Ernest Payne, General Secretary of the Baptist Union from 1951 to 1967

As Rev E. A. Payne [General Secretary, Baptist Union of Great Britain, 1951-1967] has finely said: “It is clearer to Christian people today than at any previous period . . . that the followers of Jesus Christ should be in the closest possible fellowship with each other. A world divided by racial, national and economic antagonisms looks wistfully to Christians to show it the path to unity and to give it the power to walk along that path. But already apart from this, Christians have felt resting upon them the eyes of One who prayed for His disciples that they might be one. However ancient and deep-seated the divisions, they cannot be accepted as final by one who ponders these words.”

Rev. Ernest Payne, General Secretary Baptist Union of Great Britain 1951-1967.
Source of oil painting: Art UK.org See note 80a Sources of Information

Other outreach events included:

A series of monthly Sunday evening guest services each winter;

The post-war years were the peak for seaside holidays. In the early 1950s almost 70% of domestic holidays were taken by the sea.81

Church volunteers (including Rev Sharpe and his wife, Gwen) ‘meeting and greeting’ holidaymakers as they arrived at the train station and coach stop, handing out leaflets with suggestions for exploring the area and “with particular reference to where they might worship on Sunday”;

Broadcasting community hymn singing from the church for twenty minutes before evening services in the summer months.

1959 Bournemouth Tourist Guide. Source: PineappleRetro.
Photo taken 19th April 2021 for RPBC.

Meanwhile, back in the church building, the fantastic baptistery we have today was decided on in 1952, and installed and ready for use for the first time on 7th September 1953. The then Church Secretary, Walter Povey, was an artist with a firm of stonemasons, and he cut this lettering himself:82

In October 1956, Rev. Cyril Smith came to preach, and a month later was invited to become the new RPBC Minister. He started his ministry here on 16th February 1957. At this time there were 332 members.

Two of the outreach activities were renting twenty five large poster sites in Pokesdown and Boscombe for three months at a cost of £20. And a house-to-house visitation programme conducted jointly with Boscombe Baptist Church and Boscombe Congregational Church.

In April 1960, after less than three years in the role, Cyril Smith announced he would be resigning at the end of August to take up a job at Bournemouth School.83

Rev. Cyril Smith, Minister at RPBC 1957 to 1960.Photo property of RPBC.

The copy and paste citation for this page: The History of Rosebery Park Baptist Church and Pokesdown, Page 4. Author: Michelle Fogg. Date: June 2021. Url: https://roseberypark.org/history/incl-pokesdown-page-4/

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Rosebery Park Baptist Church, 812-814 Christchurch Road, between Boscombe and Pokesdown, Bournemouth, BH7 6DF