Freemasons step in to take over at Purbrook church

Police are investigating the cause of an unusual smell in Portsmouth and surrounding areas. Picture:

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Police investigating reports of unusual smell in Portsmouth

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A HISTORIC church with an uncertain future looks set to remain in the heart of a village.

Purbrook Methodist Church opened on February 19, 1932, in Stakes Road, Purbrook.

But three years ago it closed, partly due to a dwindling congregation.

That left a question mark over the site’s future, with many people fearing the attractive building – which residents wanted to be listed – could be bulldozed or redeveloped.

Now plans have been submitted to Havant Borough Council to retain the site for use as a masonic centre and as a community hall that can be hired out by organisations.

Developer Portsmouth Cornerstone Ltd, which has drawn up the plans, has said the external building will not change and the application is only for a change of use from a church.

Pam Cooper, from Purbrook and Widley Residents’ Association, said: ‘It’s very good. We have one community hall, Deverell Hall, and that is fully booked. It’s part of the history of Purbrook.

‘There was concern about the organ but I understand that’s going to another Methodist church.’

The Methodist church still owns the site, but could sell it to developers if plans are approved.

Mrs Cooper explained that the church has an interesting history. It was built by the Fielder family, who were brought to the area by Lord Deverell, the former Lord of the Manor who owned most of Purbrook in the 19th century.

Mrs Cooper said: ‘The Fielder family were shoe makers. Their leather shoes were very hard-wearing.

‘Deverell was a philanthropist and he wanted the poor children in the area to have good shoes. The Fielder family were strict Methodists.’

The building would be used for masonic meetings and also recreational activities and private functions.

A report from Blake Lapthorn, agents for the plans, said: ‘There will be no operational development that results in a material alteration to the external appearance of the building.’