all saints' church, basingstoke

Modern Times

A Growing Parish

Life at All Saints’ continued busily into the 1960s, and reports of its activities in the Parish magazine led one commentator to note “…the congregation expressed from time to time a certain independence of spirit from the parish church”. However, this did not preclude All Saints’ from continuing to support the aims of the whole Parish, especially with the growth of Basingstoke in the 1960s as it was planned to become an “overspill” town from London. In the 20 years to 1981, the population of the town increased by almost 60,000. New industry arrived in and around the town, with new roads and houses (not to mention shopping) being built as older properties were demolished. In the town centre, where St Michael’s had once stood opposite a grand Methodist chapel, it now faced one entrance to a new shopping centre. Where All Saints’ once had streets of houses to its north and east, these disappeared to be replaced by ground-level car parking. (“At least,” as one person said, “you can now see All Saints’ from all sides!”.)

view of All Saints’ from the now demolished Oxford Terrace (aka Victoria Park Road), looking south to Fairfields School c. 1963

To cater for the spiritual needs of its growing population, the Parish of Basingstoke became a Team Parish. With St Michael’s as the parish church, and All Saints’ standing at the “Top of Town”, new Anglican places of worship rose at St Peter’s on the South Ham estate, St Gabriel’s on the Popley estate, and the Church of Christ the King for the Brighton Hill estate. A Team Vicar took the leadership role at each church in the Team.

All Saints' first Team Vicar in 1973 was Rev. Peter Murphy, who was much loved and respected for his inclusiveness and down-to-earth attitude. As well as his ministerial and pastoral roles, he  took responsibility for the Parish News Sheet (a daunting task in those days BC (Before Computers)), and his artistic talents came to the fore as the news sheet and other material became adorned with his cartoon creations. His successor as Team Vicar also had a great interest in art.

The Team Vicar for All Saints’ from 1981 was Rev. Keith Walker who had a passion for ministry and art. He considered the church building to be “…architecturally, a minor masterpiece…”. Watching a television interview with the sculptress Dame Elisabeth Frink inspired him to approach her regarding the possibility of installing a piece of her art in Basingstoke. The result was the Head of Christ that, in 1983, was placed above the font at the west end of the church. This was after some debate with the “powers-that-be” with regard to the cost and viability of this project. The financial support of Lord Sainsbury played a major part in the works’ completion.

As if the Frink head was not enough, Rev. Walker initiated a project to put stained glass in the windows at the west end of the church. (When All Saints’ was constructed in 1915, there were insufficient funds to accomplish that.) The design was produced by Cecil Collins and was interpreted by Patrick Reyntiens. Over £46,000 was raised to achieve this project that was figuratively (as opposed to literally) “unveiled” by Lord Denning in 1988.

During the period from 1987 to 1991, the Church Hall (the original "Iron Church") was given a revamp to extend its life.

In the early 1990s, the perimeter of the church grounds was landscaped as part of the Fairfields Conservation Area project.

The ethos of All Saints' has always tended towards the "catholic" wing of the Church of England. While remaining "traditional", All Saints' has always been liberal in its teaching and theology. Its style of worship has not prevented its congregation from being in the forefront of movements within the church - from the Sung Eucharist introduced in1906, Series 3 HolyCommunion in 1972, a female deacon attached to the church was ordained as a priest in 1994, and the congregation's decision to register with Inclusive Church in 2014.  In June 2021 the building was used for the filming of some scenes for the drama production "Life After Life" that was screened on BBC2 at the end of April 2022. (See here for more details)

Although All Saints', Basingstoke is not an ancient foundation, it has had an interesting history during its relatively short life. And it's not all about the building - the church community has continued to maintain a welcoming and caring approach to all that it does and all who visit. 

The "Priests' Board" was a gift to the church from Brian and Eileen Spicer, long-time members of the All Saints' community and the Basingstoke Parish.