Celebration of a Portsmouth church steeped in history

The Reverend Peter Hewis with Barbara McLeod, Jennie Parfitt and Russell Sturges at John Pounds Church
The Reverend Peter Hewis with Barbara McLeod, Jennie Parfitt and Russell Sturges at John Pounds Church
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MEMBERS of the Unitarian community celebrated the 60th anniversary of the foundation of the John Pounds Memorial Church.

The celebration, in Old Portsmouth on Sunday, involved a service led by the Rev Peter Hewis followed by a lunch.

Pat Huxtable, a leading member of the Portsmouth Unitarian community, said: ‘The service went very well, it was well organised and there was a good congregation.’

John Pounds is known as one of the founder of free education for all.

Born in 1766, he was disabled at a young age and became a cobbler.

From his small shop on St Mary Street, – now Highbury Street – he began teaching local poor children to read and write for free.

He has been credited with being an influence on Charles Dickens and for the Ragged School movement that eventually led to free state education in the UK.

Pounds worshipped at the Unitarian church that originally stood on the High Street site until it was destroyed in the Blitz in January 1941.

The church that stands today was erected and renamed in honour of Pounds and the work he did for the local community.

The Unitarian chapel assisted John Pounds in supplying books for the children and when the chapel opened a Sunday School, Pounds sent along his pupils.

He is buried at the site of today’s church and you can visit his workshop to find out more about the man of the millennium, as he people of Portsmouth voted him in 1999.

The church also has a connection to Charles Dickens who is believed to have been a member of the congregation as a child.

Each year the Dickens Birthday Lecture, by the Dickens Society, is held in February.

For more information about the church and the upcoming Harvest Festival, on September 25, go to johnpounds.org.uk.

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