The group of local Christians who meet in the church building in Lagland Street are members of the church and we call the building our home. As such it has been the home of various groups of Christians for over a century.
It was purpose built in 1890 to be the home of the local Brethren and was named Mount Street Hall after the street in which it was then found. A year later it was registered as a place of worship and was opened on 11th February 1891. The cost of the land (£90) and building was borne by a retired military officer, Charles Ashston, who lived in the area. The total cost was £800! It is interesting to note that it was bought just over a hundred years later by Poole Christian Fellowship for £75,000. Throughout the two world wars (1914-1918 and 1939–1945) the building survived intact. Though Poole was bombed in the second world war and many buildings were either damaged or demolished, God saw fit to preserve the building from any kind of damage.
An old (about 1900) photo of the front of the building shows a large gas lamp above the front doors. Gas lighting was also used for the internal lighting and even after electricity was installed in the 1930’s, some of the old gas pipes remained visible on a number the walls for a considerable time. Even the ‘new’ electric lamps were not without their problems and during a mid-week Bible study (sometime in the 1950’s) one of the large electric lamps fell from the high ceiling. With great presence of mind the speaker paused briefly to make sure no-one was hurt and that there was no imminent danger, and then continued with his Bible teaching.
Over the years the name of the road/street in which the building is situated has changed. To accommodate those changes the church building was re-registered as South Road Chapel (in South Road!) in December 1958, as South Road Chapel (in Lagland Street!) in April 1974 and as Poole Evangelical Church (in Lagland Street) in November 1975. During these decades it continued to be the spiritual home of the Brethren, more latterly called the Christian Brethren and was known as an Assembly rather than a church.
The final change took place in June 1996 when it became the home of the Poole Christian Fellowship (still in Lagland Street!). The falling numbers of the brethren congregation was used by God to indicate that they should hand over the building and its contents for it to be used by PCF, and a small number of the remaining members of PEC joined the PCF at that time as members of their fellowship.
Weddings and music
The first wedding was conducted on 28th September 1892 and shortly afterwards the baptistry was used for the first time. It was set into the high (4 ft 6 ins) platform and covered by floorboards when not in use. Seating was provided for the congregation in the form of long wooden forms for eight (or six well proportioned!) members. Carpeting on the seats provided some kind of comfort though the younger generation especially, found it far from adequate!!! An American organ (harmonium) – foot pumped by bellows providing the ‘powerhouse’ for the notes to be played – was used to lead the singing. But there was no musical instrument for the hymns sung at the Breaking of Bread (Communion) on a Sunday morning. One of the brothers, acting as precentor, would start the hymns and others would then join in – as quickly as possible! The words were found in hymn books and chorus books. A piano was introduced in the 1960’s – after much deliberation and heart searching!
More latterly, since Poole Christian Fellowship made it their home, words were displayed from an overhead projector and are now displayed on the front wall by a digital projector. Songs and hymns are led by a music group who sing and play various instruments including a grand piano (a lovely gift from an elderly lady), guitars, drums, clarinet, etc.
Various scripture texts have been displayed on the walls from the beginning. For many years, from the 1940’s to 1970’s these were made from large hand-cut wooden letters. They certainly made a lasting impression on many minds as they were read – and – reread – many times – perhaps to pass the time when the sermon was not as interesting to young minds as it might have been. Above the platform for the congregation to see were the words , ‘He that heareth My Word and believeth on Him that sent Me hath everlasting life’. On the rear wall, to remind the speaker of his responsibilities, were the words, ‘He that hath My Word, let him speak My Word faithfully.’ Between the large side windows were four further texts. ‘All we like sheep have gone astray’; ‘Despisest thou the riches of His goodness’; ‘Because there is wrath, beware’; and finally ‘Your sins have witholden good from you’.
During the alterations to the building in the 1970’s these texts were removed and the single text, JESUS CHRIST IS LORD replaced them on the front wall. With the introduction of overhead and digital projectors and their use of the middle of the front wall, the same text is now displayed on the left hand side above the grand piano with more modern improvements to the lettering. Quite clearly there could be no improvement to the truth it states.
Needless to say the requirements have changed over the years and various alterations, mainly internal, have been made to try to adapt it and make it more suitable for those changed needs. However the front of the building, with its modernised new windows and doors, remains essentially the same and would be easily recognised by any of the many thousands who have entered either as members or as visitors. The passage on the right leading to the side entrance remains almost unaltered. The building occupies the total land space available and, sadly from one point of view, has offered no room for expansion or for extensions over the years. Inside, the old wooden benches have long since gone and were first replaced by light coloured wooden chairs and more recently by more comfortable upholstered chairs, some with arms.
Two major internal alterations to the building are of note. The first took place in the 1970’s when the sizeable platform at the front (which contained a raised baptistry) was replaced with a much lower and recessed platform. A below-floor level baptistry was built in front of that and continues to be used to this present day. At the rear (the front from the outside!) of the building, the entrance of the church was changed to allow for the addition of toilets and an upstairs balcony/gallery to seat some 25 people. An additional upstairs room was fitted behind the gallery/balcony for use of Sunday school and crèche activities. The old dark wooden beams that reached to the apex of the roof were hidden above a false ceiling thus greatly improving both the acoustics and the heating of the main hall below. Central heating was installed and radiators replaced large cast iron pipes that had previously provided heating. A major redecoration of the entire building also took place and the building was thus made more appropriate for the needs of the 1970’s and 1980’s though it still lacked a proper kitchen.
A further major alteration was undertaken by Poole Christian Fellowship in 2007 when the entrance foyer was revamped again, this time to include an office, store room and disabled toilet, along with improved wash-room facilities. The old kitchenette, underground cellar (the home of the coal fired ‘furnace’ that had provided the central heating for the building for sixty or seventy years!) and other small cupboard spaces which had been at several levels were combined to provide a 21st century kitchen. Alongside, the prayer room was also refurbished. With the new decorations all round we can welcome everyone to a building that is bright and friendly and more fit for the purpose that God has for it.
2015 and Beyond
In 2015 the decision was taken to relocate the Sunday morning meetings to Poole High school. our Lagland St building remains the churches home and is well-used during the week.
The local church is not a building, not can it be contained in buildings. But our building has been a special place where generations of Christians have met to worship him, and we trust that God still has use for the our building as we move on into the next phase of our church life.