This “neat Wesleyan chapel” stood on the north side of Alfred Street, between numbers 6 and 8, and appears on the 1846 Town map. The site is now occupied by part of the Royal South Hants Hospital.
It was opened in 1846, a gift to the circuit by William Betts of Bevois Mount, a generous supporter of the Wesleyan cause. The Hampshire Independent reported on the first anniversary of the Sunday School in April 1848, celebrated with Sunday services and a Monday fundraising tea “in the commodious school-room,” followed by a public meeting. In the interval between the two, some visited the playground attached to the day-schools, and others “sought the more pleasant walks around the neighbourhood.” (Hampshire Advertiser 22 April 1848) The Newtown area was only just beginning to be developed, and the chapel was still surrounded by fields and orchards. St Mary’s Road was still “Love Lane.”
The chapel seems to have been an ambitious project: a surviving plan covering March-June 1847 shows services at 10.30am and 6.30pm on Sunday, 7pm on Wednesday, and at 11.30 for the day school on a Monday. The pulpit was usually filled by the ministers of the circuit and by unnamed “Special Supplies.” In the four months covered by the plan, only four local preachers took services there.
The Rev Thomas W Smith was the superintendent minister 1846-1848, and he was uneasy about the status of the chapel. He left notes for his successor in the Circuit schedules of statistics, saying: “Newtown Chapel is not yet settled on the model deed.” In other words, it still belonged to Mr Betts and not to the Wesleyan church. “Mr B[etts] offered a lease of it for seven years, which a Special Circuit Meeting agreed to accept; but I have never seen it my duty to yield to such a proposition, especially as the proprietor promised by letter to settle the premises on the Conference Plan, if the Circuit obtained the appointment of a 4th minister. See his letters on the subject.” The Southampton circuit did indeed have four ministers from 1847 to 1854, but returned to three thereafter. “An interest is arising there in a very uncertain future.”
“It is announced on the board of Newtown Chapel that it is licensed for the celebration of the Marriage Ceremony. This, however, is not the fact. I had prepared a certificate of notice to have it done, but it will cost £ 3. I have not been able to raise so much money: a collection was made on a Sacramental occasion during the "Special Services" but it amounted only to a few shillings and was carried to the general account as will be seen by a reference to the Society Book in the hands of Mr Scott.
“Newtown Chapel yields about an average of £ 9 per quarter Pew rents, and when current expenses are paid, the balance is paid into the Society Book. The total amount paid by Newtown Society and congregation to the Quarterly Board is £ 17. 10 and tho' we have some difficulty in raising this amount heretofore, I do not imagine any difficulty in future, as the cause is rising. Attention however will be required to the class and ticket monies, the quarterly Collection, and the current expenditure of the Chapel, and even then, it may be found necessary to obtain a small amount in the Winter quarter from the Sacramental Collections which are generally more liberal than required by the necessities of our poor members. Special attention will be required to the consumption of gas in winter. See Circuit Book for amount of calculated incomes from Newtown Chapel and Society.”
Mr Smith had reason to be doubtful about the future of the chapel. It closed early in 1850, and the “neat Wesleyan chapel” description comes from the Hampshire Independent, 18 May 1850, when William Betts Esq. was disposing of it “on liberal terms (together with some adjoining property), for the purpose of being converted into a new district church” for Newtown “that populous and increasing part of Southampton.” In the 1851 religious census, the Rev Frederick Russell wrote “purchased by me of Mr Betts for the sum of £800 for temporary use until the church is erected, after which it will be converted into the District School.” For a while what the 1851 Religious census called the "Newtown Proprietary Chapel" was listed in the directories as "St Matthew's Church", but Mr Russell's parish actually became known as St Luke’s, and St Matthew's was a different and later parish. St Luke's Church was built 1852-3, and St Luke’s School continued until 1900, when it was taken over by the School Board, although still being used for St Luke’s Sunday School. The School Board used it as the Central School of Handicraft until the early 1920s, after which it continued as St Luke’s Hall until 1940. It did not survive the war.

see also
Bevois Town Wesleyan Chapel


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