St. Clements Church

From Historical Hastings
General information
AddressCroft Road
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St. Clements Church

The first St Clements Church was under the cliff towards the Harbour, possibly near the Light Steps[1]. Owing to encroachment of the sea (although Cole claims it was destroyed in 1236[1]), it moved to its present location in 1286 on a rood of land given by "Alan the Cheesemonger and Alice, his wife" to the Abbot of Fécamp[2] (An alternate source gives the donor's name as "Alan De Ches-mongre" [1]). This site was in turn destroyed in 1377 when the French raided the town and the present church erected on the same site in 1380[3][4][1]. The lower part of the tower and part of the south aisle may be surviving remnants of the 1286 building[2].

15th C. Altars

As constructed, the "new" church contained at least five altars; the Jesus altar, that of the Holy Trinity, a chantry dedicated to John and Margaret Salerne and at a third altar a chantry known as "Gawthren's chantry - presumably founded by John Gawthron who was rector in 1414. The 1516 will of John Floure reveals that there was an altar of St. Margaret and a projected chapel of St. Anthony. The side altars and later the rood screen were removed following the Reformation[2].

18th Century Works

During 1721, the stone windows were replaced by sash windows with wooden frames, the arches of the tower were blocked up and the projecting portions of the sedilia were removed in order to panel the chancel. This work was funded by Archibald Hutcheson, a Baron of the town[2]

19th Century works and current appearance

The principal Altar piece is painted by Roger Mortimer; in the centre is the decalogue, with painting of Moses and Aaron to the left and right respectively.[4] The ceiling represents the heavenly regions and has figures of Faith, Hope, Charity and Fortitude in the corners.[4]

There is an octagonal font at the west end of the church, decorated by the instruments of our Saviour's passion on the sides.[4]

Originally, there was an pulpit cover made from part of the canopy used at King George I's coronation, but this was removed due to it appearing 'too showy'[4]

Two chandeliers, removed and sold for brass value in 1838, used to hang from the ceiling.[4]

Between 1850 and 1875, the church was thoroughly restored with much of the 18th century works being removed to revert the church to close to the original 15th century style[2]


Access to the belfry is via 52 serpentine stone steps[5]. Plans to replace the peal of five bells with a more-appropriate eight bells were mooted on the 9th of January, 1857. A subscription was started to raise the estimated £300 cost of the replacement, however, by the 5th of May in that year, only about half the required sum had been raised. As a result, the subscribers had their money refunded and the replacement work was postponed[6]

Eventually, the bells were replaced by eight steel bells in 1860[7]. There was a rumour[5] during the 1930s that the bells of St. Clement's were transferred to the higher church, All Saints, but this is unsubstantiated. The steel bells were subsequently replaced in 1966.


1414 John Gawtron[2]
1638-1643: William Carr[8].
1626: Rev. Jermie Woodman[9]
- 1852: Rev. W. W. Hume [10]

In 1882, when the assistant minister, the Rev. W. B. Bennett, was about to resign, the parishioners organised a committee to present him with a leaving testimonial. In total the sum of 100 sovereign[11]s was raised and presented to the minister during the Christmas period[12].

Civil War

Both All Saints Church and St Clements Church were both occupied by Cromwell’s men during the Civil War. The Royalist rector fled in what was Hastings’ only serious Civil War incident.


In 1720, a combined French and Dutch fleet bombarded the town. This event is memorialised in the form of the two cannonballs embedded in the tower of the church on the site facing Hill Street.[13]


Digital organ now at St Clements.

On the floor are two brasses, with the following inscriptions :- “Here lyeth the body of Thomas “'ekes, late Jurat of Heating, and Margery his Wyf, which Thomas dyed the Xth day of November, in the year of our Lord and God 1563. they had issue of hyr body on Daughter named Elizabeth.” The brass of the female figure is gone. The other brass carries the following inscription in Roman capitals: “ Here under lyeth buried the bones of John Barley, late of this town and port of Hasting mercer; and of Thomas Barley, his sonne, and Alyce his daughter. by Mary his wife, daughter of Robert Harley, which John died the last day of March, 1601, being of age the 41 years, and the said Thomas died the first of April, 1600, being 19 years of age, and the said Alice died the 15th day of June, 1592, being of the age of 7 years, to whom God grant a joyful resurrection.”[14]

1850s Restoration

In 1854, where various parts of the flint facing had been replaced by brick due to vandalism, the church was restored to its former appearance during February of that year. Just prior to this, there had been a number of additions to the church; - funded by a bequest from the late Rev. J. G. Foyster - a new doorway and window in the west face of the tower; and a reredos and memorial window at the west end of the chancel[15].

WW2 Damage

The bomb that destroyed the nearby Swan Hotel, together with others nearby caused damage to the fabric of the church, particularly the Lady Chapel window and the east window. These were replaced by windows designed by Philip Cole

2012 Restoration

In 2012 a major restoration project commenced on the church, necessitating its closure for several months. The Philip Cole stained-glass windows were restored, a new marble floor was fitted, and a large glass-walled multifunction room was installed in the rear portion of the nave. Steps up to a Gallery with seating above were also installed. This provided flexible spaces for meetings, kitchen, toilets and new vestry. A new bellringers platform was also installed with access via a spiral staircase. Finally, the original Brown organ was replaced with a digital Viscount Regent 356 3 manual and pedalboard organ with 56 stops voices (rocker tabs). This organ could play back pre-recorded midi files from a usb pen-drive, through an audio system largely based in the eastern end of the north aisle, the church re-opening at Easter 2013.


References & Notes

  1. a b c d The Antiquities of Hastings and the Battlefield (Thomas Cole 1864) Pg. 44 Google Books - 1864 ESCC Library. A later edition is also available: ESCC Library - 1884
  2. a b c d e f The History of the English Towns - Hastings (L. F. Salzman 1921)
  3. Hastings Survey of Times Past and Present (Anthony Belt F.L.S.) 1937 pg.43 ESCC Library
  4. a b c d e f A Guide to Hastings & St Leonards (Thomas Ross 1835) pg.5 Google Books
  5. a b Hastings & St Leonards Observer 3 September 1932 pg. 10
  6. Brett Manuscript Histories Vol. 6 Chap. 58 Pg. 214
  7. Hastings & St Leonards Observer 16 May 1942 pg. 2
  8. Sussex archaeological collections relating to the history and antiquities of the county Internet Archive
  9. Brett Manuscript Histories Vol. 1 Chap. 11
  10. Brett Manuscript Histories Vol. 4 Chap. 47
  11. An explanation of old currency and coinage may be found at the following website Pre-decimal currency, accessdate: 16 June 2022
  12. British Newspaper Archive Hastings & St. Leonards Observer 4 February 1882 Pg. 0003
  13. Hastings past and present with notices of the most remarkable places in the neighbourhood (Mary Matilda Howard) pg. 26 Google Books
  14. Osborne's Visitor's Guide to Hastings and St Leonards c1854 3rd ed. Pg. 30 Google Books
  15. Brett Manuscript Histories Vol. 6 Chap. 56