The following is an extract of an article from the winter edition of ‘The Organ’ magazine and is reproduced here with the kind permission of John Matthews DL BA(Law)

Early History of Totland and The Wooden Church Building

Until the middle of the 19th Century, Totland Bay was little more than a collection of fisherman’s huts. It began to develop into a small seaside resort from the latter half of the 19th Century, but even today, Totland is still just a large residential village with a modest influx of seaside visitors in the summer.

An Anglican presence was established in Totland in 1869, when the Rev.Christopher Bowen, a retired Anglican clergyman then residing in the village,donated land for a church and school and generously endowed it. The original Church was a wooden structure which lasted from 1869 to 1875. The building still exists. It was removed to Totland beach and for many years served as the village hall and reading room. Now it is a popular restaurant.

The Formation of the Parish of Totland and The Building of Christ Church

The present building dates from 1875 and has been extended on three occasions up to 1945. It is a somewhat featureless building of no architectural merit, but its high roof promotes good auditory presence. The Church is Evangelical in sympathy, but for many years has been supportive of music. In the 1970s there was a large and good choir. The choir exists today, but sadly much smaller. It is affiliated to the Royal School of Church Music. The Church is host to other music meetings from time to time. Arthur Starke has been organist of Christ C for the past 20 years. For many years he has organised the very popular summer organ recitals at the neighbouring parish of All Saints’, Freshwater, where there is a Speechly organ substantially rebuilt in 1959 by Rushworth and Draper, which attracts the attention of Organists of Cathedral stature. In addition, Mr. Starke is the owner of a very large house organ, the foundation of which was built as a temporary two manual organ for Westminster Abbey by Harrison and Harrison, after which is was installed in St Albans Abbey.

Christ Church itself has little claim to any fame. Its first minister (in the wooden building days) was the Rev. Arthur Sewell, who wrote a book of hymns and whose other claim to fame is being the oldest Anglican clergyman. He Lived from 1841 to 1947. The church has associations with Prebendary Wilson Carlisle (1847 – 1912) the founder of the Church Army.

For more information about Christ Church’s early history click here.