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The History of St. Mary's Part 1



1843 6th September. The cornerstone of the church was laid by Mrs. Dwyer, wife of the Commandant. There is a brass plate in the porch to commemorate this.
1844 First Royal Navy Chaplain, the Revd George Bellamy arrived.
1845 The Admiralty instructed the Commandant to enlarge the entrance of the church now under construction and to complete the work as soon as possible.
1846 The main body of the church completed, making it the second oldest existing Anglican church in the Diocese, second only to St James, St. Helena, 1674.
1852 Contingency plans made for Episcopal visit. In the event of a Bishop visiting Ascension an eleven gun salute was proposed!

Petition sent to the Bishop of St Helena from A.N. Burnett, Captain in charge, Geo Webb, Captain of Marines, and Revd. Arthur Geo Berry, Chaplain, asking him to consecrate the church.

Bishop Cloughton arrived on H.M.S. Buffalo to "consecrate the same edifice in all time coming to the honour of God and to his Worship and Service only by the name of St Mary's Church." Ascension Day, May 9th. Confirmation of 34 African servants, cooks and labourers. Consecration of Bonetta, Georgetown (Deadman's) and Monkey Rock cemeteries.

17th June. H.M.S. Iris arrived bringing the printed Registers for Baptisms, Marriages and Burials which are still in use!

1862 Revd. Robert Hind chaplain.
1865 Revd. James Robinson chaplain. Complained that the church was too small, accommodating only 250 out of a population of 500.
1868 Revd. W.A. Richmond chaplain.
1870 Revd. J.T, Westroff chaplain. Removed old pulpit and reading desk and replaced them by a lecturn. Replaced pews with open seats. Altar and rails installed.
1872 Revd. George C Waller added a seat in the chancel.
1874 Cambridge Paragraph Bible purchased through "Island Fund", also Prayer Book and a large Hymns Ancient and Modern, all bound in Russian leather. The Bible is still in St Mary's church with Latin inscription.
1876 Revd. Hamlett Wm Millett chaplain. Island Fund purchased 2 brass 3-candle standard lamps and 18 spare glass shades for 13, 14 shillings and 6d.
1877 4 more standard lamps purchased. Revd. Millett designed a mahogany pulpit which was made by a Marine carpenter. Installed December 20th. 20 bracket candle lamps installed.


Iron safe with two sets of keys received from Paymaster of Stores for safekeeping of Registers. New Bible and Prayer Book supplied by Admiralty. Bishop rules that the Marriage License Fee (10 shillings) can be kept by the Chaplain.

Revd. John McG Ward Chaplain. He was married on the island on July 24th 1880 to Ann Halifax, aged 20, a yeoman's daughter.

1879-1880 Church restored and Chancel built. A.G. Roe Captain in charge., W.H. Poe Lieutenant RMLI Officer in charge of works.
1880 Revd. George Sutton Chaplain.
1884 Revd. John Cavanagh Chaplain. Opened a "Subscription List" for the replacement of the American Organ - which was impossible to tune - with a harmonium. He states that the officers all subscribed and all sections of the community with the exception of the Marines who thought that the Admiralty should provide a new instrument. The List raised 15 and 8 shillings, a concert given by Mesdames Gribbill, Cavanagh, Hilsey, Sparm and Littlejohn raised 1, 8 shillings and 6d, and a further 2, 13 shillings and 6d had to be taken from the Offertory to make a total of 20. The Admiralty had agreed to add 10, and with the 30 in hand a former Chaplain of the Fleet, Mr. Lang, purchased a 15-stop Alexander Harmonium, catalogued at 50 including a tar lined case and transport to Sheerness. Free passage had been offered by H.M.S. Wye, but in the event the instrument arrived by the Emma Ernest, and was installed on Sexagesima Sunday (the second before Lent) in 1888.
1887 Revd. Arthur Hill Chaplain. Some controversy at this time as the Captain in charge, R.H. Napier wanted to take some services himself, and seems to have done so in St. Mary's Church when Mr. Hill was busy taking Holy Communion to the folk on Green Mountain. Correspondence with the Bishop clearly indicates that lay persons may take some services but only with the consent of the Chaplain. Cpt. Napier was unwilling to be beholden to his Chaplain, and wrote to the Commander in Chief that "Mr. Hill has not been in all respects an influence for good on the Island." (29th July 1889) By March 1888, Mr. Hill had made an Altar Cross and candlesticks in brass, raised the Altar, erected a retable, polished all the brass in the church, had the church decorated and the chancel floor painted, and the duck-covers to all the seats washed in time for Easter Day. He also obtained permission from the Bishop to hold services on Green Mountain ' in any room or building fit and convenient for this pious and sacred purpose' as well as and prior to the regular 'forenoon' service at St. Mary's. The old organ was sold with the Bishop's permission and Admiralty consent for 5 and 10 shillings, and an Alms Dish, Red Cloth for the desks, a lecturn and new duck for the kneelers bought with the proceeds. Mr. Hill left the island on December the 3rd 1890.
1890 Revd. Thomas Austin chaplain.
1893 Revd. Alwyne C.H. Rice chaplain.
1895 Chancel paved with tessellated pavement under the superintendence of Capt. Ernest D Chown RMLI.
1896 Revd. William V. Rainier chaplain. The present brass lecturn subscribed for by the inhabitants and from the Church Offertories was placed in the church.

(April) Stained Glass East Window installed by Capt. J.E. Boyland, Captain in charge. Thought to replace one now in the Museum, laminated painted glass of the Victorian era.

Revd. Henry P Dawson chaplain. On Christmas Day his mother, Mrs. Arthur Dawson presented an oak Litany Desk to the church.

1900 Easter Day. Stone Font presented by the congregation, placed at the entrance to the church. New Green Frontal etc. In July, the children present a brass ewer for the Font.

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Last revised on the 1st of September 2002. For any comments or questions about the Society and its work, or this website, please e-mail us via this link in Ascension.