Alton, Hants

The first attempt to mission Alton was in 1835 by the Bible Christians. William M. Bailey (1795-1873; e.m. 1818) of the Surrey/Farnham Mission attempted to preach there, but was driven out by the mob. Between 1850 and 1855 they had a meeting in the village of Holybourne, but this does not show up in the Religious Census.

Both the Wesleyans and the Primitive Methodists came to Alton in 1840. Despite their presence in Farnham, the Wesleyans made no attempt to mission Alton until Isaac Harding (e.m. 1836; d. 1897) came from Guildford that year, preached in the Market Place and was stoned out of town. Henry Needle (e.m. 1846; d. 1891) began regular visits from Liss in 1842 and in 1844 the Minutes of Conference decreed that John Tucker of the Guildford Circuit should 'reside at Alton'. After meeting in various other places, a WM chapel was opened in High Street early in 1846. This was enlarged, with a gallery at the High Street end, in 1886. In 1851 the Religious Census recorded adult attendances of 60 in the morning and 92 in the evening.

Alton WM Circuit was formed from Guildford in 1860, but became part of the Surrey and North Hants Mission in 1900. There were increases in membership, but decline set in after World War I. A separate Alton Circuit existed again between 1917 and 1937, but was then linked with part of the Aldershot and Camberley Circuit to form the Farnham and Alton Circuit.

Alton was missioned by the Micheldever PM Circuit in 1840, but this seems to have had limited success, except at Holybourne, where a society was formed and a preaching house registered early in 1841. An itinerant moved to the village and in 1842 it became part of the Winchester Mission. But bitter opposition from local farmers led to the cause being abandoned early in 1843. A fresh attempt was made in the spring of 1844 and by the end of the year there was a society of nearly 40. However, despite the presence of at least one itinerant in the village, by the end of 1845 membership had dwindled to 6 and the meeting moved north-east to Froyle. By the time of the 1851 Religious Census a small group of Bible Christians were meeting in a private house in Lower Froyle and there was no trace of PM work in the town..


'On Sunday Week I went to the Market Town of Alton and attempted to preach, but was driven out of the town by a mob and stoned for upwards of two miles by more than two hundred men and boys. Last Sunday a gentleman having published that I should preach, more than two thousand people collected in a filed near the town, but as I knew nothing of their assembling together they were disappointed. They have since met requesting me to come again and promise to protect me. Many in the town wish us to come.'

William M. Bailey

  • David L. Woodcock, Christ is our Cornerstone (1996)