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An Old Town by the Sea 3

  A STROLL ABOUT TOWN by TB Aldrich (continued)

St. John's at the corner of Chapel and Bow Streets, Portsmouth, NH /

The churches of Portsmouth are more remarkable for their number than their architecture. With the exception of the Stone Church they are constructed of wood or plain brick in the simplest sty1e. St. John's Church is the only one likely to attract the eye of a stranger. It is finely situated on the crest of Church Hill, overlooking the ever-beautiful river. The present edifice was built in 1808 on the site of what was known as Queen's Chapel, erected in 1732, and destroyed by fire December 24, 1806. The chapel was named in honor of Queen Caroline, who furnished the books for the altar and pulpit, the plate, and two solid mahogany chairs, which are still in use in St. John's. Within the chancel rail is a curious font of porphyry, taken by Colonel John Tufton Mason at the capture of Senegal from the French in 1758, and presented to the Episcopal Society in 1761. The peculiarly sweet-toned bell which calls the parishioners of St. John's together every Sabbath is, I believe, the same that formerly hung in the belfry of the old Queen's Chapel. If so, the bell has a history of its own. It was brought from Louisburg at the time of the reduction of that place in 1745, and given to the church by the officers of the New Hampshire troops.

The Old South Meeting-House is not to be passed without mention. It is among the most aged survivals of pre-revolutionary days.

Neither its architecture nor its age, however, is its chief warrant for our notice. The absurd number of windows in this battered old structure is what strikes the passer-by. The church was erected by subscription, and these closely set large windows are due to Henry Sherburne, one of the wealthiest citizens of the period, who agreed to pay for whatever glass was used. If the building, could have been composed entirely of glass it would have been done by the thrifty parishioners.

Portsmouth is rich in graveyards -- they seem to be a New England specialty -- ancient and modern. Among the old burial places the one attached to St. John's Church is perhaps the most interesting. It has not been permitted to fall into ruin, like the old cemetery at the Point of Graves. When a headstone here topples over it is kindly lifted up and set on its pins again, and encouraged to do its duty. If it utterly refuses, and is not shamming decrepitude, it has its face sponged, and is allowed to rest and sun itself against the wall of the church with a row of other exempts. The trees are kept pruned, the grass trimmed, and here and there is a rosebush drooping with a weight of pensive pale roses, as becomes a rosebush in a churchyard.


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Tuesday, January 16, 2018 
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