John Colson, the Winchester-based architect from the 1830s to his death in 1895, was born in Southampton in 1820. Colson, a prolific architect of mainly churches, parsonages and church schools, was responsible for a number of projects in his native town. An undated lithograph by James Kellaway Colling is titled 'The proposed new church at Chamberlayne-Town, Southampton', with the byline 'John Colson Archt. Winchester', and is probably a design for a church commissioned by the Reverend Frederick Russell for the fast-expanding district of Newtown in the parish of St Mary.
The church was to be built near the southern end of the Avenue. It lies chronologically between a design by William Hinves and Alfred Bedborough for a church in 1850 in Alfred Street and the church of St Luke's ultimately built by John Elliott on Lower Cranbury Place in 1852, building tenders for which were advertised in August 1851.
The next two commissions were for the Reverend Joseph Cotton Wigram, rector of St Mary's and archdeacon of Southampton. St Mary's National Schools in Grove Street had been opened in 1841 to designs - in the Elizabethan style - by William Hinves, and enlarged in 1845. In 1856, Colson designed a new classroom, with gallery, along the
Grove Street frontage, with additional classrooms in 1858/9. Crabniton Industrial National Schools were a larger project. They were opened, with designs by Colson, in 1856.
The fourth local commission by John Colson was St Mary's Church, Sholing. The foundation stone was laid on 21 July 1865. The church was consecrated on 1 November 1866, the fourth Colson-designed church in Hampshire to be consecrated that year.
In 1869 he was contracted to improve the fabric of Highfield Church following an anonymous offer of financial aid. Specifically he was to make the roof weather and air tight, ventilate the building, mitigate the draught and promote the general convenience of the congregation and ministers. It is a list that questions the quality of the original build. He was also involved in 1877-78 in drawing up plans for a re-design of the church to rectify its organisational defects.

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