The German Church
Just prior to demolition in January
Snow surrounds the newly built
St Birinus Church in 1915
St Birinus Church - unused in 1960
The new church hall in 1970
The bell comes down - it'll soon
be ringing in Africa
Dorset's only German speaking church was established
in Bournemouth in 1949.
The congregation of around a hundred was a mixture
of former prisoners of war, servicemen's wives, refugees, students
and other expatriates.
It worshipped at several local churches until it
finally got its own building at the junction of Malvern Road and
Easter Road in 1963.
Renamed as the Martin Luther Church, the building
was formerly the St Birinus mission church, an offshoot of St
John's in Moordown.
It was built in 1914 at the start of the First
World War, but had been redundant for many years.
The grey stone exterior was soon renovated and whitewashed
to look like the kind of church you will find in any German town
The congregation grew to include more than just
the members of the German and Austrian community. It was boosted
by other Lutherans from Latvia, Estonia, Scandinavia and Hungary.
Services were held regularly and the highlights
of the year were the traditional Christmas Eve service and the
Martin Luther Day celebrations held every November 10.
In 1970 a modern hall was built next to the church.
It was opened by the German ambassador.
As the congregation declined through the the 80's
and 90's the hall became vital to the church's existence.
It was used by the Rita Jenvey School of Dancing
who rented it for 27 years. The income paid for repairs and upkeep.
When the church celebrated its 50th anniversary
in 1999 there were already worries about costs. By 2006 it became
clear that the church building was no longer economically viable
and it was decided to sell it.
The last service was held in January 2007. Exactly
twelve months later the building was demolished and the plot turned
over to a housing development.
The small congregation continues to hold services
at Holy Epiphany Church in Castle Lane West every 2nd Sunday in
the month at 3pm.
The building may have gone but thanks to the generosity
of the German community its memory lives on in several ways.
The church bell was donated to church in South West
Africa and now calls congregations to prayer in Windhoek, Namibia.
Many German books belonging to the church have been
given to the Bournemouth and Poole libraries.
The church organ is now at the Bishop of Winchester
School in Mallard Road, North Bournemouth.
And every Christmas the congregation at the Holy
Epihany Church will see the large crib that once belonged to the
Martin Luther Church in Easter Road.
The Martin Luther Church congregation