HISTORY & ARCHITECTURE
The present building represents the fifth place of worship for the congregation of this church. The following account gives brief details of the former church buildings and elaborates in greater details on the present building.
The First Church
The first Christ Church Parish Church was built around 1629 on a site close to the coast of Dover. The first building was a wooden structure and was destroyed by a flood in 1669 and washed into the sea. There are still four family burial vaults dating back to 1672 remaining on the site in the first church yard.
The Second Church
Seeking a more secure location, the second church was built on this present site overlooking Oistins with a seating capacity for 300 persons. It was destroyed completely by the hurricane of 1780.
The Third Church
Some time after 1786, the third church was built on this site but it suffered a similar fate to the second church building and was destroyed by the hurricane of 1831. Six other churches in the island were also severely damaged by this hurricane. The communion plate, velvet clothing and the font were the only items saved. Church services were held in the homes of various parishioners until permission was granted by the Commissioner of Fortifications for the use of Oistins Fort where a chapel was prepared for public worship.
The Fourth Church
The corner stone of the fourth church was laid by the Bishop of the diocese on 1st October 1835 and the new church was consecrated on 4th July 1837 by Bishop Coleridge. On the western gallery of the church was an engraved sign: Rebuilt and Enlarged MDCCCXXXVI
Plans were being formulated for the first celebration of the 100th anniversary of that building on 1st October when tragedy struck once more on Saturday March 2nd 1935 and the church was destroyed once again, this time by fire. Very little of the fabric was saved. Most of the records suffered water damage but the sacred vessels, vestments and altar linen were saved from the vestry. The only thing saved in the nave of the church was a marble memorial tablet erected by John Randall Phillips Esq. which can still be seen on the northeastern wall of the nave, by the pulpit. It was repositioned here to make room for the Stations of the Cross. This tablet and two brass standards are the only remaining relics of the fourth church.
The Fifth Church
This is the present building of the Christ Church Parish Church. Three of the walls from the burnt church as well as the western tower were retained. The foundation stone for the new chancel was laid by the Lord Bishop on 1st October, 1935 and can be seen on the outside of the building on the northeastern side of the church. There is also a bronze inscription plate in the wooden panelling of the north-east end of the sanctuary as near as possible to the spot where it was found during excavation marking the laying of the cornerstone of the fourth church, exactly 100 years previously.
Present-Day: Architecture & Furnishings
Loyal members of the congregation rallied around and gave of their time and talent in the rebuilding of the church. Gifts received included:
The Altar, given by Mr. Joseph Webster in memory of his late wife, Louise Webster and a piano which served as the musical instrument for services which were conducted in the Boys’ Foundation School for nearly two years.
The beautiful stained glass window over the high altar of the Ascension was a gift from the Honourable Dudley Leacock and Mrs. Leacock.
The magnificent carved mahogany pulpit was made by Mr. Charles Leslie Codrington (the last carved creation before his death) and donated by Mr. Birt Evelyn and his sister, Miss Florence Evelyn.
The Lectern was carved out of Barbadian mahogany by Mr. Milton Browne of Coombes House, White Park, and was a gift from Mr. Codrington Reece, an old chorister of the church.
The first Bible was donated by Mr. Willis Legall, prominent shopkeeper and farmer in the parish.
The cross, vases, candlesticks and the east panelling behind the altar were donated by Mrs. W. H. Alder and her family.
The brass processional cross was a gift from the congregation of St. Andrew’s Parish Church.
The beautifully carved Stations of the Cross were imported from the United Kingdom, and Mr. & Mrs. H. St. G. Ward paid to have them erected.
The bell, located in the tower, was donated by Mr. E. L. Ward of Cane Vale, Newton and Maxwell Plantations.
The Chancel screen was manufactured by Jones and Willis at a cost of $1,480.80. The Font was built by the workmen on the construction site and supervised by Mr. John Bright Deane. The Font carries a row of cement tiles of liturgical signs which were left over from the chancel. In January 1938, the Vestry agreed to raise a loan of £750.00 to supplement the amount needed to buy and erect the pipe organ which was supplied by Wm. Hill and Son and Normal and Beard Ltd. of London, England.
All the Church fabric was donated with the exception of the pews, the western balustrade and half the cost of the new organ.
This church was rebuilt at a total cost of $43,123.80. Everything was in order and in place and this house of Prayer was consecrated by Bishop D. W. Bentley on the Feast of the Transfiguration, 6th August 1939 in the presence of a very large and representative congregation.
Since the consecration of this building, two more stained glass windows have been erected in the sanctuary; over the North and South windows. Their beauty depicts the Nativity and the Crucifixion of Christ. The vestry has also been extended.
The Chase Vault
Mystery is linked to the Chase Vault in the churchyard. It appears that on three occasions when the vault was opened for burial, the leaden coffins within were disturbed. Then in 1819 the Governor, Lord Combermere, affixed his seal in cement at the entrance after the coffins were again replaced in proper positions. Later when the seal was broken and the vault reopened, the coffins were again found to be disturbed. The affair remained a mystery for some time as those involved could find no plausible suggestion for this situation. A possible explanation is that the gases from decomposing bodies enclosed in the leaden coffins were responsible for all the disturbances. The empty vault remains to this day as a reminder of events which rocked Barbados 200 years ago.