Church History

The manor of Milton, then known as Mildeltune, is listed in the Domesday Book of 1086 and literally means “Middle Farm”. The village centre was centred around the Lymington to Christchurch road and had a village green and two coaching inns one of which, The Wheatsheaf, still survives. The first church was built in the mid thirteenth century, just to the north of the road.

By the mid nineteenth century there was a railway line between Southampton and Dorchester, but it wasn’t until the latter part of that century that the rising prominence of Bournemouth caused a line to be built from Brockenhurst to Bournemouth, via Milton and Christchurch. The Milton station was constructed about a mile north of the village in 1886 and shortly afterwards a new sub-post office opened nearby. To avoid confusion with the existing one in the village it was named ‘New Milton Post Office’ and the railway company decided to use the same name for the new station. Some years later the name was formally adopted and New Milton came into being, the original area around the Christchurch road is now known as Old Milton. Today, New Milton has a population of around 30,000 and stretches northwards to the edge of the New Forest and south to the coast, it includes the conurbations of Ashley, Bashley and Barton-on-Sea.

The New Forest is not really new at all. Part of an area of deciduous woodland dating back twelve thousand years, it is one of the largest remaining areas of open pasture land, heathland and forest in Southern England.

Situated in southwest Hampshire and southeast Wiltshire, it was claimed as a royal forestby William the Conqueror and features in the Domesday Book. ‘Commoning Rights’, granted at that time for the use of pasture etc., are still recognised today and controlled by official verderers. In the 18th century the area was an important source of timber for building ships for the Royal Navy a habitat for many rare birds, mammals and reptiles.

History of Our Lady of Lourdes

After parliament outlawed the Catholic Mass in 1559, records show that there was no resident Catholic priest in the New Forest for about 200 years, although there is documented evidence of continuous Catholic activity in the area. The village of Sopley, on the Christchurch to Ringwood road, was a centre for Catholic life during the 18th century, but the first parish church to be opened in the Forest was in Lymington in 1859.

In 1915 the Army commandeered the Marine Hotel on Barton-on-Sea cliff top to provide a military hospital for Indian soldiers who had been injured in France. The hospital had a chapel which was open to the public for Sunday Mass, but unfortunately for local Catholics this facility ceased in 1919.

Father Bernard Morris, parish priest of Lymington, established Mass on a regular basis in New Milton in May 1924 and for 18 months Mass was celebrated once a month in the drawing room of a house called ‘Little Barrs’ in Fernhill Lane. From October 1925, Mass was celebrated every Sunday in The Institute at OId Milton.

William Cotter, then Bishop of Portsmouth, began planning for a new church in New Milton in 1925 and Wilfrid C. Mangan, a Catholic architect from Preston in Lancashire, was commissioned to design the church. The Bishop and the architect decided on an English Gothic style, and Marchetti of Portsmouth were engaged to build it. Designed to accommodate around 160 people, the finished church had knapped flints set into the surface in a series of squares, creating a ‘chequer-board’ effect quintessentially typical of English chalkline architecture. Many such buildings are to be found all over Wiltshire, Berkshire and parts of Hampshire. On Sunday, 10th July 1927, Bishop Cotter celebrated a Pontifical High Mass and although there were perhaps only about 50 Catholics in the area at that time, the Church was packed to overflowing.

During the 1920s and 1930s New Milton expanded, increasing the population and affecting church numbers, so in 1935 a Church Extension Fund was started. Work finally commenced in September 1950 and was completed the following year, the enlarged church was consecrated in May 1955.

Until a few years ago a magnificent Monterey pine stood in the church grounds, thought to have been around one hundred and fifty years. A wonderful sight, it was much loved by both parishioners and local people. It proudly survived the ‘Great Storm’ of 1987 but unfortunately deteriorated in later years. When large branches began falling off in 2013 an inspection was commissioned which declared it to be in a dangerous condition and recommended it be cut down to avoid further risks.

The parishioners were naturally very upset to lose such an old friend and it was decided to retain a three metre stump of the old tree to be carved out to create a grotto to Our Lady of Lourdes. The grotto is now a wonderful addition to our church and is used as a focal point for outside celebrations, the first communal Masses following the recent Covid19 lockdown were celebrated there. Our old Monterey pine is still giving service at Our Lady of Lourdes.

We continue to celebrate Mass most days, with a Vigil Mass on Saturday evening and a Mass on Sunday morning. In normal times, prior to the Covid lockdown, Masses were very well attended and swelled even further by visitors during the holiday season and bank holidays. All visitors are warmly welcomed, as are the viewers all over the world who join in our Masses via our live streaming. This was installed in 2020, mainly to allow those parishioners unable to attend church to join in with our celebration before receiving Holy Communion in their homes from our Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist. Since then, it has evolved into a means of reaching out to people all around the world and in a typical month our stream is viewed by hundreds of people in more than thirty different countries.

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