Avalanche Memorial Church

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Avalanche Memorial Church

The Avalanche Memorial Church, also known as the Church of St Andrew, is a 19th-century Anglican parish church, located in Southwell village, on the Isle of Portland, Dorset. It was built in 1879 and remains active to date, as part of the Portland Parish - a host of three churches; the other two being St. John's Church (St John the Baptist) and All Saints Church.[1] The church, along with its boundary wall, has been a Grade II Listed building since September 1978.[2]

The church's design was of an early English style, by the architect and diocesan surveyor C.R. George Crickmay. Built by Lynham and Bayliss of Portland, was completed by 1879, and was consecrated and dedicated to Saint Andrew by the Bishop of Salisbury on 3 July 1879.[3][4]

It is not to be confused with the ruins of Portland's first parish church, the 13th century St Andrew's Church. Today, the church remains well-maintained and is open to the public during the peak season.


File:Avalanche Road, Southwell - geograph.org.uk - 1311849.jpg
Avalanche Memorial Church and surrounding area.

In September 1877, two ships, the SS Avalanche of the Shaw Savill Line and the SS Forest, collided off Portland Bill during stormy conditions. The Avalanche was taking 63 passengers to their homes in New Zealand. The Forest had a crew of 22. The tragedy claimed the lives of 106 people, and by the dawn local fishermen at Chesil Cove rescued the survivors and bring them ashore.[5] The disaster became national news, while relatives and friends of those who died requested that a memorial be erected on Portland. The rector of Portland suggested a new church for Southwell, and a national campaign followed, which raised £2,000 through donations.[3]

The church features memorials to those drowned and testimonials to the bravery of the local fishermen. Some of the windows, the lectern, and the pulpit were originally funded by relatives and friends of those who drowned. Artifacts have also been recovered from the ship. There is a picture of the Avalanche, an artist's impression of the two Portland lerrets coming into land after the rescue and a framed copy of the testimonial presented to William Flann. There is also a brass tablet listing the names and, where known, the descriptions of the passengers and crew of the Avalanche.[3] The most notable artifact is the large anchor of the Avalanche, which was raised and donated to the church in 1984.[2][6]


  1. "Find Us". Portlandparish.org. Retrieved 1 May 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 Historic England. "Details from listed building database (1281886)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 14 February 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 "The sinking of the Avalanche and the Forest". plus.com. Retrieved 9 June 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. The Dedicated Partnership - promoting tourism - http://www.dedicate.co.uk. "Avalanche Memorial Church in Portland". UK Attraction. Retrieved 15 September 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Collision of the FOREST and AVALANCHE 1877". Old-merseytimes.co.uk. Retrieved 14 February 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Southwell, Portland". Geoffkirby.co.uk. Retrieved 14 February 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

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