About the Parish

A little bit of history

The Catholic parish of Gosport is the 4th oldest in the diocese having started as a Mission chapel on a site near the present police station in 1750 under the care of Father Philip Wyndham of Havant who regularly rode over to say Mass. It moved to the present site when the land was bought behind some cottages in what was then Middle Street (now High Street). The church was enlarged in 1830 by Father John Clarke and again in 1834 when the exiled Carlist Queen Isabella of Spain died and was buried in what is now Lady Chapel. When her husband died in 1885 in Trieste, her body was moved to lie with his. A plaque on the wall of the Lady Chapel marks her grave.

In 1849, Dr Angelo Baldasconi was appointed parish priest and he was responsible for the construction of the present church. The much-loved Canon Doyle who started the school in what is now Minnitt Road to conform with the new Education Act succeeded Baldasconi as parish priest in 1870. He also completed the church with the installation of the stained glass window.

Canon Doyle died in 1898 and due to a shortage of priests, Gosport did not get another parish priest until 1902 when Canon Watson came. He it was who bought the ground at Ann’s Hill and built a brick school and corrugated iron chapel beside it. The old St Mary’s school was closed during the First World War and became a clubhouse. It was demolished in 1965 after St Mary’s Hall was built. The current school was built in 1964 on its Norman Road site and the old brick building became St Joseph’s Church in 1971.
Over the last 50 years following the repair of the bomb damage many other alterations and modernisations have taken place. Just recently, the presbytery has had some much-needed modernisation.

We have been fortunate during the 250-year history of the parish to have had priests who cared for the fabric of the building. The War Memorial on the front of the church was erected in the 1920’s.

Following the building of a number of housing estates in the north of the town in the 1950’s, a mass centre was established in 1954 in Bridgemary and originally formed part of the parish of Lee-on-Solent. As the number of parishioners increased the parish of St Columba’s, Bridgemary was set up to serve both Rowner and Bridgemary.

From 1997 onwards, the parish priest of St Mary’s, Gosport was also appointed priest-in-charge of St Columba’s, Bridgemary. On 16th July 2016 the Parish of St Mary and St Columba was erected by decree of Bishop Philip Egan and Fr Serafino Lanzetta, superior of the Marian Franciscans, was appointed priest-in-charge of the new parish which was to serve Gosport and Bridgemary and its surrounding areas.

On 1st December 2019, Fr Pio Idowu, also a religious of the community of Marian Franciscans, was appointed as parish priest.

Following the relocation of the religious community of Marian Franciscans, Fr Matthew King was appointed as priest-in-charge on 29th September 2022. He was later joined by Deacon John Cumpsty in early 2023. They serve the parish community in Gosport and Bridgemary.

List of Parish Priests

  • Rev Angelo Baldacconi (1849–1868)
  • Canon Doyle (1868–1898)
  • Canon Watson (1902–1928)
  • Rev J P Murphy (1928–1946
  • Rev Abban Quinn (1946–1967)
  • Rev Tom Foley (1967–1997)
  • Rev David Adams (1997-2007)
  • Father Peter Glas (2008–2016)
  • Father Serafino M. Lanzetta (2016–2019)
  • Father Pio M. Idowu (2019–2023)
  • Rev Matthew P. King (2022–Present)