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20. THE CHURCH HOUSE IN WARTIME

At 7.50 pm on the night of 14 October 1940, a high explosive bomb fell upon the inner edge of the Dean's Yard block of buildings, demolishing rooms on the fifth and fourth floors and exploding on the third floor. It wrecked part of the Club premises and made a breach about thirty yards in length in the circular wall of the Assembly Hall. The Hall's ornamental ceiling and its furniture were destroyed, the lantern and the copper roof were broken and the place was filled with debris.

The remainder of the building was largely undamaged, owing to its steel framework construction, and three hundred people sheltering below in the basement were uninjured, but tragically six people in the building above were killed by falling masonry.

In January 1941, the Censor released the names of those who had been killed. These included two members of the Council, Lionel Hichens and Murray Buxton, also the latter's brother, the missionary Alfred Buxton, and the recently appointed Assistant Secretary of the Church House, Henry Hall. A bronze memorial plaque, designed by the architect, was later placed in the vestibule to the Chapel.

Bronze memorial 'Sacrifice' by Charles Wheeler
Bronze memorial 'Sacrifice' by Charles Wheeler.
'They were carried off like Elijah "in a chariot of fire."
Sir Herbert Baker

Lionel Hichens had been persuaded by Dr Lang and his close friend Sir Herbert Baker to serve on the building committee, and his business acumen and personal charm had contributed greatly to the success of the rebuilding scheme. But, if the building stands as a memorial to any one man, that honour must go to Frank Partridge. 'There is no man,' said Dr. Lang at the 1940 annual general meeting, 'to whom we are more indebted for this House than the Bishop of Portsmouth. In a sense this is his House. It is a contribution made by him to the Church of England, with which his name will be forever associated. No one knows better than I do that it would have been impossible to conceive a scheme on this scale, and still more impossible to carry it out, without that remarkable combination of faith, imagination, and administrative business power that marks the Bishop of Portsmouth.'

Dr Partridge resigned his position as Secretary at the end of July 1940. He died a year later, at the age of sixty-three, while working in his study at Bishopswood, Fareham. In the funeral address, Dr Lang spoke of Frank Partridge's courage and faith when the building that he had been planning for years was destroyed by enemy action. His See of Portsmouth, with its naval connections, also suffered heavily from air-raids, and this too caused him much sorrow. In 1948 the Council decided to rename the North Hall 'Bishop Partridge Hall' in his honour.

From the Book "The Church House 1888-1988 - A Moment in the Life of the Church"
Published by the Corporation of the Church House in their Centenary Year