I don’t suppose there are too many Portsmouth people who can remember this beautiful building – St Paul’s Church, off St Paul’s Road where there is now St Paul’s Square, Southsea.
This truly magnificent building, known as the Mother of Southsea churches, has some personal connections as my grandmother and her family, including my mother, used to attend services there.
Sadly it was destroyed by bombing on the night of January 10/11, 1941, as was my grandmother’s house in Diamond Street on the corner of Flint Street which stood just across King’s Road.
The church cost £16,000 of which £2,000 was raised by public subscription. It was consecrated on October 24, 1822. There was room for nearly 2,000 parishioners.
On August 24, 1824, the Italian opera singer Madam Angelica Catalina, the most famous singer of her day, appeared at the Portsmouth Theatre and afterwards took part in a concert of sacred music at the church.
She was a soprano with a range of nearly three octaves and attracted an audience of 1,000 paying 10s 6d for a seat in the gallery or 7s 6d in the body of the church.
Four pinnacles, one on each corner, soared 80ft into the Southsea skyline.
After the bombing the interior of the church was destroyed, but the outer walls stood firm and from a distance one would have thought there was not a lot wrong with the building.
There was a plan to restore the church to ‘as built’ condition, but I suppose with the need for housing so desperate after the blitz, the church and the area around it was razed and flats built.
It remained a gaunt reminder of the war until demolition in 1959.