‘Basingstoke Churches and the People’
The title of this item is taken from the headline of reports which appeared in the 21 March and 4 April 1903 editions of the Hants and Berks Gazette. In the first the findings of a census of churchgoing undertaken in Basingstoke by the newspaper were presented. While in the second the results were compared with those from a earlier census carried out in 1882, with attention being drawn to the fact that in the 21 years between them the population of Basingstoke had gone up by 43.5 percent, while the increases in attendance at places of worship in the morning and evening were only 1.9 percent and 14.5 percent respectively. The observation was also made that ‘of all the denominations in the town’, it was the Established Church that ‘had made the greatest advance.’ Nevertheless, the censuses did show that at the time they were undertaken many denominations were represented in the ecclesiastical landscape of Basingstoke, thereby contributing to the diversity and richness of the religious heritage of the town. The results of the two censuses, together with those of the 1851 national religious census, provide historians with valuable insights into the relative strength of the churches both collectively and individually during the second half of the nineteenth century and the early years of the twentieth. It is a great pity that similar surveys were not undertaken in subsequent years.
(For full details of the censuses please see the asset)
Roger Ottewill, March 2019
Content derived during research for the new VCH Hampshire volume, Basingstoke and its surroundings.