Groups at St. Mary’s

Bell Ringing

For centuries it has been an English tradition to ring bells to summon parishioners to church.  Bells are also usually rung for weddings, funerals and special occasional.  The presence of bells at St Mary’s came about following a visit by Queen Elizabeth I to her royal residence at the castle.  She discovered that the church had no bells, so ordered some.  As a result, the belfry now contains three bells, the earliest one dated 1589 which bears the inscription ‘Obey God and the Prince.’

The bells are still rung regularly by an enthusiastic team of bell ringers under the captaincy of Robert English.  They practice each Monday evening at 6.15pm and new ringers are always welcome.

It is part of our vision to get a new set of bells, and for these to be increased to six or even eight. 

If you are interested in bell ringing, please contact Robert English via the office

More information is available from The Winchester and Portsmouth Diocesan Guild of Church Bell Ringers


Hand Bell Ringing

Castle Hand Bell Ringers are based at St. Mary’s Church, Portchester and have been performing together since the early 1990s. The team currently has 8 ringers, 3 of whom are founder members.

We play music from a wide range of genres to a wide range of audiences, including weddings, local hospices, nursing homes, WI groups, the Lord Mayors of Portsmouth & Fareham, The Mary Rose Museum, Titchfield Abbey and even the officers Christmas ball at HMS Collingwood.

The bells themselves were made by John Taylor & Co of Loughborough and there are 31 altogether, giving a 2½ octave range.

If you would like us to come and play for your group or are interested in giving hand bell ringing a go, please contact Robert or Margaret English via the office.

We are always looking for new members and no previous musical experience is necessary, just a sense of fun, enthusiasm and a willingness to learn!



Flower Arranging

Everyone is welcome to come along and discover a new skill, learn to arrange and enjoy flowers. We hold friendly practical workshops, creating “up-to-the minute” designs and also have demonstrations by experienced flower arrangers.

There is also a small group who help to regularly decorate St. Mary’s church.

We meet every second Friday in the month (except August) at 7.30pm in the Parish Hall, Castle Street. Please contact the club Chairman, Margaret Andrews via the office for more details.

House Groups 

Listening to sermons is good, but there are other ways of engaging with our faith.  Small groups offer the chance to discuss, think about new things and hear different viewpoints, all of which might have new insights to offer.

Small groups also give us the opportunity to share among trusted friends, our own struggles and questions, and to find that others have the same doubts, but together we are on a journey of discovery.

Small groups also give us a better chance of getting to know people in the church at a deeper level, and many good friendships are born from this.

Small groups also allow us to discover that we might also have gifts of leadership, teaching and encouraging, and these can be developed in a way where Sunday services would never give us this opportunity.

There are almost 100 people from St Mary’s who belong to such groups, and that’s almost one third of the church!  Please join an existing group or even start a new one. Contact Emma for more information. We have groups that meet in person and also online. 

Tea & Company

This group is particularly for those who have been bereaved and who would appreciate a little social gathering with those who have gone through similar experiences.

We meet on the first Sunday of month from 2.15-3.30pm and use the small room in the Parish Hall. We share a cup of tea or coffee, homemade cake and a friendly chat or opportunity to share how we feel with a trained listener. We might be able to arrange a lift if transport or mobility is difficult.  Please contact Emma in the office for more information. 

Theology Group

Meets on the first Thursday of each month (except July, August and January) from 10.30am – 12noon at the Parish Hall, Assheton Court.

The group is open to everyone. Usually a speaker gives a paper, or in some other way opens up a new subject to us, or a different way of looking at an old idea.  They are delivered in a way to challenge our stereotypes and make us think.  This is followed by discussion.  Those who benefit tend to be open-minded, thinking people. We have mature Christians and thoughtful non-believers and everyone in between.

Previous subjects have included:

Do all religions lead to God?  (The uniqueness of Jesus and multi faith),  “God on our side”  (Christian Ethical issues around war),  “The wrath of God was satisfied”  (Theories of the Atonement)

Men’s Breakfast

On the second Saturday of each month, from 8.00am – 9.45am in the New Room, around 20 men gather together for a light breakfast, a time of fellowship, short worship and a speaker. We’ve had speakers from a variety of churches and many different subjects: mission trips to Africa, Prison chaplaincy; Naval chaplaincy; being a Christian in the workplace, drug and alcohol recovery, bible study and much more.

We give a warm welcome to all men.  There is no charge, but there is a donation box to cover the costs of the food.  Anything left over is donated to charity. You don’t need to book, just turn up and you will be made so welcome. 

The Friends of St Mary’s

The independent charity called ‘The Friends of St Mary’s’ was founded in 2015. We hope to appeal to a wide range of ‘friends’ out there who, while they do not worship with us, still feel the need to maintain St Mary’s as an ancient monument and enhance the fabric and fittings of the church so that future generations can enjoy and admire, and to foster the interest and enthusiasm of the local community and the many visitors.

 It raises funds through the subscriptions of the members and through a series of concerts.  So far the ‘Friends’ have contributed towards a new sound system, and purchased a fabric Easter banner in memory of the charity’s founder, David Williams who sadly died in 2019. 

 We hope you might consider joining the Friends, and details can be got from the office or at the church.

Social Events

St Mary’s church family is also about enjoying life and having fun together. The early church enjoyed ‘fellowship’ (Acts 2:42) which is friendship.  We don’t separate the sacred from the secular, and believe that God wants to bless all we do.  We have some of these events in the church, or outside in the churchyard, and sometimes we use other halls.

 Here are some of the social events we have had in the past couple of years, and some of the we hold annually.

 Burns Supper, D-Day Commemoration dinner; American Thanksgiving Dinner; Skittles evening; walking group; outdoor games; BBQ; Passover Meal; Late Summer High Tea; Curry Nights; Mexican Nights.