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Parish of Cove history

The Parish of Cove and South Hawley

For hundreds of years Cove was a small community in the great heath land of the Surrey-Berkshire-Hampshire borders. The manor of Cove existed by the time of the Norman Conquest and its name is recorded unchanged in the written records from the Doomsday Book to the present day. But apart from the written record Cove has left little mark on history except as one of the sites for the production of border ware pottery, produced on the Surrey-Hampshire border and found widely across south-east England and even in the early American settlements. The area was off the beaten track and it was not until 1840 that a main transport route came near when the railway from London to Southampton was driven through the settlement, dividing the tithing of Cove into two roughly equal areas.

Through the previous centuries the religious needs of the scattered inhabitants of Cove and Hawley had been met by the church at Yateley but in 1841 a committee was established to raise the money to fund a new church building and the services of a permanent clergyman church for the tithing of Cove and the southern part of the tithing of Hawley. There were delays and difficulties but these were overcome and the church of St John's was dedicated in 1844 to serve the ecclesiastical district (later parish) of Cove and South Hawley with Revd J Laurell as the first minister.

Ten years later, in 1854, the Government purchased several thousand acres of land centred on the hamlet of Aldershot to establish the first permanent army training area and camp and this marked the beginning of the end of the isolation of Cove. Now the population began to increase quite rapidly with most of the development being in the area we now often refer to as Cove village, well away from St John's. With the coming of war in 1914 the government purchased more land to the north of Cove Common and in 1917 the Rafborough estate was built to house workers at the rapidly expanding Royal Aircraft Factory. It was now clear that a new church was required in this part of Cove and St Christopher's was established in a temporary building and dedicated in June 1918, the present permanent building being completed in 1937.

Beginning in the late 1950's a succession of new estates was built on the land north of the railway and today virtually the whole of the parish is given over to housing apart from playing fields, a golf course and the airfield. This further huge population increase led to a review of the parish organisation in 1979 and a decision was made to create a team ministry. The Revd Tony Ashdown became the first team rector in 1980 and he was joined subsequently by two team vicars. In 1994 a third worship centre was established in Southwood giving the parish structure that we have today.