Saturday 20 August 2011

St Thomas' Church, Portsmouth

Looking for old cards with trees, I found plenty of views but none had much of a story to tell until I came across this one showing St. Thomas' Church in Portsmouth on the south coast of England. The card dates from somewhere between 1902 and 1909 because it allows "for INLAND communication" only. that regulation applied in the UK from 1902 but not in the rest of the world for a few years, France followed in 1904, Germany in 1905, with 1907 for the USA.

I didn't recognise the church at all and assumed that it had been destroyed, like so much of Portsmouth, during World War II.  A little investigation made me realise that I had missed an opportunity to visit it because it is now, greatly extended, Portsmouth Cathedral.

The original church dates all the way back to the early 12th century and was dedicated to Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury assassinated by Henry II in Canterbury Cathedral.  It was attacked by the French in 1337; it was closed for a time when the whole town of Portsmouth was excommunicated after the Bishop of Chichester was murdered in Portsmouth; it was damaged by cannon fire during the Civil War 1642–1651. The cupola on top was added in 1702.

It wasn't until 1927 that the church was chosen to be the cathedral for the newly created diocese of Portsmouth.  It obviously had to be enlarged but the work was suspended at the outbreak of war in 1939.

It survived the Blitz but the building works remained incomplete until 1991. 

I used to live in Hampshire and while there I did take this photo of the cathedral.  It's very different now, as you can see, but I like to think the large tree on the right could possibly be at least related to the one shown on the card.

Apparently Ronald Reagan once said, "A tree's a tree.  How many more do you want to look at?".  You can find out how many more there may be at Sepia Saturday.

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  1. Without that tree we would not have had the chance to learn about the cathedral. Good too see more trees round it, descendants or not.

  2. Very interesting, thank you. Lovely cathedral and I'd really like my own cupola on top of my house...imagine if houses could only have them more often then they do!

  3. That church sure has had a long and interesting history.

  4. A lovely card and knowing the history makes it even better.

  5. What beautiful photos! Thanks for doing the research for us ... you are right, the first one doesn't look like the finished cathedral. It is amazing that it is still standing firm after all of these years.

    Happy Sepia Saturday!

    Kathy M.

  6. I like the delicate colouring in the first card, but how lovely that you are able to compare and contrast with your own photograph. I know Portsmouth, as my son was at university there, but not the cathedral; I must look it up next time we visit England.

  7. When I saw 'Portsmouth' I just had to look as my parents were born and lived in that area in their early married life. My father played the organ in many of the churches there and, of course, he was in the Royal Navy.

  8. Great story and history lesson. I have come to realize how post cards do carry so many history lessons. I am a history buff and particularly love novels written around historical places and people. That is the advantage of a theme, I think, we look for many things in a photo. Great post.

  9. And just think, looking at what's running for office in today's Republican party, Reagan would be considered a genius.

    I am always amazed by the age of buildings because the US is still so young. We get excited when something is one hundred years old.

  10. Hee hee, I love that "whole town of Portsmouth was excommunicated"!! History is so funny sometimes. I think you are right, I think that tree on the right is either the same tree or is related.

    I love your photo - it is a postcard in itself!

  11. An interesting narrative, I didn't realise there was a cathedral in Portsmouth, although I've visited the city often enough!

  12. A nice story well told, thank you.
    Reagan was wrong, but I guess you know that!


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