Dennis Bill’s Family History

Researching the BILL and WISEMAN families in UK, Ireland, USA, Canada and wherever
Dennis Bill 2024

The Crinoline Church

This is the only book ever to be written about this remarkable prefabricated church building. It had three ‘lives’ serving as three different churches in three different locations across Portsea Island. It was initially erected in 1858 as a temporary church for St Bartholomew’s, a church that was being built to serve a new development called Havelock Park. Three and a half years later, when St Bartholomew’s was completed, the church was sold to the trustees of another new Southsea church, St Simon’s. It was dismantled and transported just over 1 Km and re- erected on a site adjacent to Waverley Road, Southsea. It served its community here until the new St Simon’s was eventually competed in 1866. The next purchaser was the Admiralty and the church was dismantled again, this time by the Royal Marine Artillery, and re-erected just outside their new barracks at Eastney. Here it served the Royal Marines for nearly 40 years until the completion of the new St Andrew’s in Henderson Road in 1905. The building was of a complex design for a temporary building having twenty ‘sides’ and gable windows. Its conical shape quickly earned it the nickname The Crinoline Church after the dress style of the period. Originally designed to hold a congregation of 600 the capacity was increased to 800 when the Marines built a gallery to house the bandsmen and drummer boys. There are a number of stories that have become part of the church’s legend, the most popular being that it was originally built for, or actually served in, the Crimean War. After four years research in local and national archives I have shown this to be a myth and that its true origins are much more obscure. My project began by my transcribing the whole of the baptism register from 1866 to 1905. This is a complete transcription of all the data in the registers not just an index and provides information on the place of baptism (not all were in the church), the date of baptism and birth, parents names, father’s rank or occupation, the Chaplain’s name and other information added by the Chaplain, for example “private, child dying”. This infomation is unavailable elsewhere except by viewing the original document at The National Archives. During the course of my research I found that the Church’s very first Chaplain at Eastney, Rev Samuel Beal, had an entry in the Dictionary of National Biography; he had an interesting career and his service on China Station led to him later becoming Professor of Chinese at London University. This discovery led me to investigate the lives and careers of all the Chaplains, naval and civilian, including one who played in the FA Cup. This in turn led me to think what stories must lie within the lives of the 2000-odd marines and their sons who appear in the register. Researching them all would be an impossible task and so I restricted my research to those that had been awarded gallantry medals and the Meritorious Service Medal. In all there are 150 mini-biographies in the book and specifically for family historians like myself who are not expert naval historians I have included background information on the Royal Marines and the Naval Chaplain’s Service and the technological and social changes experienced by the Victorian navy.

Where to Buy

You can buy the book direct from the RMHS: Online: By post: Royal Marines Historical Society, ℅ National Museum of the Royal Navy, HM Naval Base Portsmouth (PP66), PORTSMOUTH, PO1 3NH, UK By phone: 023 9289 1370 ext 2122 (10:00 to 13:00 Thursdays only) The price is £15 plus £3 p & p for mainland UK. Please contact RMHS for postage costs outside this area. The Crinoline Church, Eastney Barracks, Author: Dennis Bill Publisher: Royal Marines Historical Society, Special Publication No 44 ISBN 978-1-908123-13-8
CONTENTS Foreword Acknowledgements Introduction Part One - The Church Chapter 1 The Building First Life - how it came to Southsea Second Life - A short move Third Life - Last resting place The Memorials The Artefacts Other denominations Chapter 2 The Myth Unfounded Stories Origins of the Myth Chapter 3 The Architect The London Links George Truefitt John Blizard Peter Thompson Whodunnit? Part Two - The Biographies Chapter 4 Introduction and Historical Background Introduction The Victorian Navy The Royal Marines The Navy Chaplain Service Chapter 5 Permanent Chaplains’ Biographies Chapter 6 Deputy Chaplains’ Biographies Chapter 7 The Fallen Chapter 8 The Gallant and the Irreproachable Chapter 9 The Lucky, the Unlucky and the Musical Part Three - The Baptisms The Baptisms List Appendix A - Chaplains’ Baptisms Chart Appendix B - List of Sources Appendix C - Bibliography and Internet Links back to top
Picture by permission of St Simon’s Church