In 2011 a gigantic step was taken when the Sandleheath Methodist Church and the St. Aldhelm Anglican Church began worshipping together in the Methodist Church as the St. Aldhelm’s Church building was being closed. The process started with the Methodist Church becoming a Welcoming Church and the Anglican Church signing a document of intent as both work together towards an official Local Ecumenical Partnership (LEP).*
On Sunday 6th March 2011 there was a service of Thanksgiving and Praise which started at St Aldhelm’s Church conducted by the Rector, Rev. Mark Godson, and the Rev Tracy Robinson. Afterwards the congregation processed up through the village carrying emblems, artefacts, and significant items like the Bible and a Cross, to the Methodist Church where the Service was continued by the then Methodist Minister, the Rev, Lesley Valliant
Subsequently on 23rd June 2011 there was a memorable Service of Celebration when the Arch Deacon of Bournemouth, the Venerable Dr. Peter Rouch, and the Chairman of the Southampton Methodist District, the Rev. Dr. Andrew Wood joined us as we signed the official documents.
Methodism started in Sandleheath when Primitive Methodist preachers visited the village, some folk responded to the Gospel and wished to have a church in the village. It is reported in the Primitive Methodist Magazine, February 1845, that a “movable” chapel had been built at Sandhill Heath (in Scats Lane). It was only 25ft. by 15ft and had “two good pews and eight sittings with railed backs”. It nearly closed in the 1880’s but some devoted teenagers from Rockbourne came and supported the cause. It grew in numbers and the present chapel was built in 1884. In 1932 it had to be extended and this coincided with the national reunion of the various factions of Methodism into “The Methodist Church”. Sandleheath was noted for its strong youth involvement.
In 1971 with the cause flourishing, the building had a major refurbishment and again in 2005 a toilet for the disabled was built and a new Kitchen was fitted. Throughout it’s 169 years the Church has faithfully witnessed to the glory of God as shown to us in His son Jesus Christ.
The Church of St. Aldhelm was built on land given by the Hulse family (Breamore House) and Lady Hulse laid the foundation stone 14th June 1907. The church was built by local labourers and craftsmen. The bricks used were probably made in one of the five brick yards in Sandleheath at the time (though some may have come from the Hulse Brickyard at Breamore). For a period It was led by an officer in the Church Army - a much loved Captain Barber and was associated with Sandle Manor School. It became a familiar sight to see the pupils marching to the church each Sunday during term time. In the early 80’s St. Aldhelm’s faced a crisis when it was discovered that a new roof was needed. It seemed that the church would have to close but the members would not hear of it. They organised a money raising campaign and the village responded. The church was given a new roof and was refurbished. There followed a period of renewal, resurgence of worship and service. Later the Methodist Church and St. Aldhelm’s held monthly united services. On the 14th June 2007, to mark the centenary, many in the village shared in a service of rededication conducted by the Revd. Michael Scott-Joynt the then Lord Bishop of Winchester. Of course, the folk of the church of St. Aldhelm were sad to see their building close - however they know that they themselves are the real church so the witness and commitment to serving their Lord and the community continues.
*Until the Church becomes an official Local Ecumenical partnership legally the church remains a Methodist Church but for day to day running we act as though we are one now.