Once again an accidental discovery, and one that has a surprisingly interesting history. Jesus Chapel is situated close to Scholing, Woolston and Bitterne, although I came through Scholing to get to it. It has the unique distinction of being the first new church to be built in England after the English Reformation, and is the oldest Anglican church anywhere in the world.
The original buildings date to 1618 and it was dedicated in 1620. although in its current form it is difficult to know what is original and what was added over the many years that it has been in existence. There is quite a large graveyard surrounding the church, and that was really where my interest was. However, the church does tie in with St Mary’s in Southampton, as well as the famous Holy Rood Church. It was not destroyed during the blitz either and while not exactly a massive cathedral is really quite famous in its own right, I visited the graveyard on two separate occasions, and it was very overgrown the first time around. However, it does have some very nice headstones although their legibility is not very good.
The back of the church is still being used as a Garden of Remembrance, although I suspect burials today are carried out at St Mary’s Extra Cemetery, South Stoneham Cemetery, or even Hollybrook.
The one interesting memorial found within its grounds is one dedicated to Richard Parker, who was part of the crew of the yacht Mignonette which sank in 1884. He holds the dubious distinction of having been eaten by his fellow castaways. The case made legal history, and Richard Parker went down in the history books. Recently his name was used in the movie “Life of Pi” which also features a shipwreck as well as a hungry tiger.
One of the more impressive monuments in the graveyard is that of the Rosoman family. It somehow does not really fit in with the graveyard. It is the sort of memorial I would have expected to find in Southampton Old Cemetery.
My one regret is not being able to see inside the building, and given its age I expect it could prove to be very interesting. It is always nice to find little gems like this hidden away, and to know that in spite of their age there is enough documented to give more than a glimpse into the life and times of the people who lived in this area.
Sadly, the Blitz did a lot of damage to the history of Southampton, the devastation of what was known as “Itchen Ferry” caused the loss of a whole village, and one of the reasons for this church arose from the dangers associated with crossing the Itchen River.
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