All Souls Church

From Historical Hastings
All Souls Church
LocationAthelstan Road
Founded2 November 1889
Founder(s)Elizabeth Mason
DedicationAll Souls
Consecrated16 July 1891
Closed4 November 2007
ParishChrist Church Ore
DeaneryRural Deanery of Hastings
ArchdeaconryArchdeaconry of Lewes and Hastings
DioceseDiocese of Chichester
Dedication Plaque

All Souls Church, was an Anglican church that was consecrated on the 16th July 1891 by the Right Reverand Richard Durnford, D.D, Lord Bishop of Chichester. It has been described as one of the best works by the ecclesiastical architect Arthur Blomfield who also built Christ Church St. Leonards. It features Heaton, Butler and Bayne stained glass, an unusual, possibly unique Norman and Beard (Norwich) organ and an elaborate mosaic reredos. The church is Grade II* Listed[1]. The ​building​ itself is an imposing brick edifice on the corner of Athelstan Road and Berlin Road.This was the last of the major parish churches to have been constructed in the town.[2]

Endowment and Location

Image of Mrs Mason from her restored gravemarker[3]

A resident of Lynwood, Old Roar Road, St. Leonards-on-Sea, Elizabeth Mason, provided £15,000 for a church to be built in memory of her late husband, Thomas Mason[3]. The particular location was chosen at the suggestion of the Rev. Canon H. D. Jones, in part due to the location of the Parish Rooms in Athelstan Road, which for a time was a mission hall. The neighbourhood of Clive Vale was being developed rapidly at this time on land that was part of the Rev. Milward-Sayer's estate.[4][5]The foundation stone was placed on All Souls' Day (2 November) 1889 with a brief service attended by several hundred people and a number of clergymen including; the Revs. Canon Whelpton (Eastbourne), G. A. Foyster, H. B. Foyster, Archdeacon Noyes, C. L. Vaughan, Rev. H. U. Whelpton (vicar designate), C. W. J. Wilson, A. Macdona, H. L. Beardmore, E. Clowes, A. Hodges & J. Orlebar accompanied by a Mr H. W. Eaton who also was the organist for the consecration. Mrs Mason was intended to attend the service but was indisposed.[5]


Construction work began in 1890, the firm of Messrs. Goddard of Dorking being selected as the main contractor at a cost of approximately £11,000. The site itself was donated by the Rev. Milward-Sayer, occupying a site sloped diagonally across the plot, and the designed capacity was for up between 800 and 900 parishioners.[5]


Bell Chamber

The church is a tall structure, there being a minor difference in height between the nave and the chancel, and the chancel arch is modest in form. It is constructed almost entirely of red brick, with an estimated 40 different moulds being used in total with responds on the walls[6]. It is believed that some of the bricks originated in Tunbridge Wells due to a makers mark being found on two bricks within the structure.[6]

View looking down the aisle

The aisles have five bays, each with paired lancet windows, projecting below the clerestory with paired lancets and an oculus to the first and fifth bays and three stepped lancet windows in the remaining bays. The east window has five lights in a distinctive layout, all set in an arched recess: the middle window is a tall lancet, and the flanking pairs have y-tracery.[7][8] Similar tracery also appears in windows in the Lady chapel and the west wall. Some of the clerestory windows have plate tracery.[7] The north side has an organ chamber in the form of a transept, lit by narrow windows and an oculus. One bell is held in a gabled wooden chamber. At the west end is a baptistery in a canted apse, a typical feature of Blomfield Churches.[8]

Roof beam detail

There were plans to construct a tower on the south east corner, however this did not come to fruition due to insufficient funds being available.[6][8]The spacious interior has a high-quality roof of open timberwork with pronounced cusping, this being one of the main characteristics of Blomfield's work. Virtually all of the interior is in brick except the abaci of the piers.[8] One local historian described the interior as "the finest red-brick interior" in the county.[9]


  1. (East window and south aisle seventh and eighth windows) Heaton, Butler and Bayne.[6] The east window (1893) depicts Christ the King, flanked by saints.[10] Those in the south aisle date to 1893. They are derived from famous paintings including Holman Hunt’s Light of the World and were added by Mr W. H. Miller.[11] One or more of these (or the baptistery window below) is likely to be the additional glass by the company recorded in its own catalogue of 1902 [12].
  2. (Baptistery, centre window) Heaton, Butler and Bayne, 1892-93 [6].
  3. (West window) J Powell and Sons, 1908[6]. The Te Deum is depicted. The designer was C Hardgrave [6].Following the passing of Elizabeth Mason, a bequest of £700 was made from her estate for this window in 1907[13]
  4. (South chapel, fourth window) Shrigley and Hunt, 1893 [14]. Delicately drawn figures in a late Pre-Raphaelite idiom.[6]
  5. (North aisle, seventh and eighth windows) Saints by P. Bacon, 1905 (one signed). The heads are curiously photographic in appearance, as if portraits of actual persons.[6]
  6. (War Memorial) Two lights by local artist P. W. Cole, 1934 (Dated) [6]. These are in the idiom of early mediaeval glass with three small-scale medallions. The windows frame a representation of St. George and the dragon.Reredos: Marble and mosaic and tall. It is by J Powell and Sons and dates from 1897[6].

Screen: Open ironwork and incorporating the pulpit and lectern, of a type favoured by Blomfield.The seating in the body of the church has ends with an inverted Y-profile.[6][7]At the west end the font has a marble circular bowl on a quatrefoil base with green marble shafts.[6][7]Post-closure, many of the fittings have been removed by the Diocese – the High Altar has gone to Worthing, the large crucifix, the stations of the cross and other statues to other churches[6]

War Memorial

This is listed with the CWGC, however is not currently recorded by them as being potentially at risk[15]

Names Listed:

Frank Alesworth Henry George Hazelden French Brice Selwyn Martell William Thomas Sands
Albert Bilsby William Garner Claude Rutherford McCormick Thomas John Selwood
Percy Bristow Charles Gower Hugh Rutherford McCormick Archibald Stoakes
Fred Burgess Arthur Ernest Harman James Rutherford McCormick Frederick Charles Stanley
Bertram Frederick Collins Norman Hinell James Mercer George Surman
William Walter Collins Thomas Hope Hubert Pain George Tomlin
Edward Cooper Fred Hudd Reginald Pain Ernest Edward Willard
Robert William Edwards James Ingram John Bernard Paine John Martin Williams
Edward George Evans William Richard Isted Alfred Rogers Cecil Wood
Herbert Henry Jones Oliver Rogers Ernest Wynne
George Henry Sands

List of Incumbents

1889 - 1895 Rev. H. U. Whelpton
1895 - 1915 Rev. E. F. P. Durnford
1915 - 1924 Rev. H. Collinson
1924 - 1930 Rev. H. B. Bentley
1930 - 1950 Rev. B. H. Pemberton
1951 - 1954 Rev. E. G. Ogden
1954 - 1963 Rev. E. C. Andrews
1963 - 1978 Rev. G. A. D. Armitstead
1978 - 1999 Rev. B. Trill
1999 - 2003 Rev. K. Mepham


Construction of what has been described as a unique and essentially unaltered Norman and Beard (Norwich) organ[16] started during 1893 under the direction of the then organist, Edward Kennard and featured a moveable console, operating on the Hope-Jones system attached to the main instrument by over 100 feet of cabling and powered by batteries[6], with the air being pumped in the traditional manner via bellows. This is one of the earliest examples of an electro-pneumatic organ.[2] The initial costs of funding this were partly met by the sale of a series of photographs taken by the local photographer G W Bradshaw.[10]

Rank of organ pipes
Detail of console

The first public hearing of the organ occurred on the 6th of April 1893 with a recital given by the organist after a short benediction service.[17]. The lower manual (of three) of the organ was never completed. Had this occurred, it would have been the largest in the area.[18]. As it was, the full construction and installation of the instrument took almost as long as the church to be completed with fund-raising efforts continuing through to 1895. There was a complete breakdown of the blowing apparatus for the organ in October 1930, preventing use for a period, with repairs estimated to cost £1,000.00.[19]

Decline & Closure

By the late 20th century, population shifts and declining church attendance meant the provision of Anglican churches in Hastings was excessive. Four were demolished between 1964 and 1986, and others were closed. The first indication that All Souls Church may close came in August 2002, when structural problems were discovered, forcing the entrance on Berlin Road to be shut. Repairs were estimated at £200,000—too much for the now only 25-strong congregation to raise[20]. Furthermore, the church was already supported by large grants to keep it going. It remained open for a few more years, but the final service was held on 4 November 2007 and a temporary closure notice was served.[21] It was formally declared redundant by the Diocese of Chichester on 1 March 2008. The parish was joined to that of Christ Church Ore after closure.[8]Secretary of All Souls parochial church council, John Barker, lives opposite and has been a member of the congregation for over 60 years[6], and his parents before that. "It's almost an extension of my home,". Mr Barker is currently the caretaker for the ​building​.[21]

Current Condition

Water ingress in Lady Chapel
Water ingress in Lady Chapel

The roof has lost a number of ridge tiles, with water and pigeons gaining access causing damage to both the flooring and the reredos. In the Lady Chapel, there is clear indications of water seepage, with vegetation growing down one of the pillars. There have also been unsuccessful attempts of lead theft with one of the lower roofs being badly affected. The ​building​ was listed in the Victorian Society's top ten list of endangered ​building​s in 2014 with repairs then estimated to exceed £1.2 million.[22]== Future == There has been interest expressed in the ​building​ by a sculptor who wishes to set up an exhibition space for his work, although at the time of writing, this is in the early stages.[23]

Anecdotal History

Led by the Vicar (the Rev. E. P. F. Durnford), carrying a small pistol fully loaded, a search party ransacked All Souls Church in the early hours of Sunday morning on the 18th of July 1909 following an alarm that a burglar was within. Residents in the neighbourhood were disturbed by hearing police whistles violently blown and crowd in varying stages of undress collected outside the church. A plain clothes detective had given the alarm and a number of police constables came and helped in the search. Nothing was found missing from the church and there were no signs of forcible entry, and the searchers concluded it was a false alarm.[24]


References & Notes

  2. a b An Illustrated History of Clive Vale (Brian Lawes) pg. 46
  3. a b
  4. Hastings and St. Leonards Observer - Saturday 06 January 1912
  5. a b c Sussex Agricultural Express - Tuesday 05 November 1889
  6. a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p John Barker
  7. a b c d
  8. a b c d e​road​/
  9. Elleray, D. Robert (1981). The Victorian Churches of Sussex.
  10. a b Hastings and St. Leonards Observer - Saturday 06 May 1893
  11. Hastings and St. Leonards Observer - Saturday 29 July 1893
  12. Bayne p126
  13. Hastings and St. Leonards Observer - Saturday 28 September 1907
  14. retrieved 4/3/2013
  16. I Bell, `All Souls Parish Church, Hastings: A Report on the Organ'
  17. Hastings and St. Leonards Observer - Saturday 01 April 1893
  18. Hastings and St. Leonards Observer - Saturday 09 September 1893
  19. Hastings and St. Leonards Observer - Saturday 11 October 1930
  21. a b
  24. Hastings and St. Leonards Observer. July 24th, 1909