The Friends of Highland Road Cemetery The Friends of Highland Road Cemetery



Reverend Charles Russell Tompkins

Gravestone Inscription

In Loving Memory of
OCT 23RD 1903

Charles Russell Tomkins was the first vicar of St Peter's Church on Somers Road, Southsea.
The need for a new church in Southsea arose because the major church of the time, which was St Judes on Kent Road, designed and built by Thomas Owen, was serving a parish of 11,000 souls which it could not accommodate. In 1871 the Church Council decided to erect a temporary church for the poorer classes. A plot of land had been reserved by it's owner, Mr J Godman Temple who was selling St Peter's Park, to be given free for the construction of a church. It was to this site, or close to it, that an "Iron Church" was built.
It was purchased, erected, furnished, decorated etc for the sum of £789. It seated 350 people but very soon even this was not enough and by 1879 a committee was formed to oversee the raising of funds for a new permanent church. This was considered urgent "...because of the possibility of the nonconformists beginning to build if the neighbourhood were left unoccupied". By July 1881, some £5500 had been pledged and an agreement was reached with the Architect, Mr Hudson of Kent Road, to erect the church in no more than one year.
Reverend Tomkins had been curate in charge of the "Iron Church" and so naturally became the first incumbent. He was a man of independent means who at one time had loaned nearly 600 to the church.
Additional Information from Tim Hannah (Great Grandson of Reverend Tomkins)
Charles Russell Tompkins was born in the West Sussex parish of Poling in 1833. His father, John Cole Tompkins, was a farmer and landowner. He had served as Mayor of Arundel as did his father and his father before him.
Charles's name is recorded in the 1841 Poling census but not in the 1851 when he would have been 19. It is likely that he was at university at this time. His brother Richard Francis Tompkins, who was 4 years older, had gained a B.A. degree at St. John's College, Cambridge. A newspaper article later credited Charles with an M.A.
In 1857 he married Elizabeth Sadler in her home village of Mid Lavant near to the West Sussex town of Chichester. Like Charles, she was from a prosperous farming family. In the same year Charles was appointed as a naval instructor to the training ship, HMS Excellent based in Portsea.
During the next 20 years, Charles continued to serve as a mathematical instructor at the Royal Naval College. He was also a temporary Superintendent of Chronometers and in charge of the Royal Naval College Observatory. Throughout this time, Charles is noted as being an Arithmetic examiner at the Portsea Diocesan School.
During the 1870s, Charles was a prominent member of the Portsea Island Society for the Culture of Science and Literature. In May 1874, the committee elected him vice-president of the now named Portsmouth Literary and Scientific Society.
Charles followed his brother, Richard, in becoming a Church of England clergyman. He was a curate at St. Jude's in Southsea at the southern end of Portsmouth from 1876 before becoming the vicar of St. Peter's, St. Jude's new daughter church, in 1883.
Charles Russell Tompkins was a prominent member of the Southsea community and was active in the organisation of the Southsea Hospital for Sick Children, the Southsea soup kitchen as well as developing the parish Sunday schools.
He died on October 23rd, 1903 at the age of 70 having been the father of 7 daughters.
[Tim Hannah also provided the earlier portrait of Reverend Tomkins (see right)]
Further information about St. Peter's Church is available on the History in Portsmouth website