Hastings Battleaxe visits All Souls Church, Clive Vale, Hastings

Near us there is this impressive church, All Souls, in Athlestan Road. It is now redundant and empty. It was deconsecrated in 2008 and has been deserted ever since.  This morning we were lucky enough to be shown round the building. I’m not going to dwell too much on the history here, but just share the poignacy of such a beautiful abandoned building.

Well, I say abandoned, but we were shown round by the current caretaker, John Barker, who has lived opposite the church all his life, visits it every day and keeps a very close eye on it – he is also a mine of information about its history.  We understand that the church is in the process of being sold. A good time to visit before it goes into private hands.  The building is Grade 2* listed, so will be preserved whatever happens.  Our other companion this morning was local historian Brian Lawes, who is planning to pull together a history of the church.

 

Another reason I wanted to visit was that the church, built in 1891, was designed by Victorian architect Sir Arthur Blomfield, who also designed the ornate Christ Church in St Leonard’s, described by Battleaxe in this earlier post.  Philosopher wanted to see a particular stained glass window in All Souls, ‘The Light of the World’ – which in fact turned out not to be the same as Holman Hunt’s painting….

The main body of the church is in in remarkably good condition, but covered in massive quantities of dust and pigeon dirt.  It has a beautiful mosaic reredos above the altar, very reminiscent of the mosaics in Christ Church, and an ornate wrought iron screen and railings around the chancel. Of course, there was no electricity in the church, so many of these photos were a bit dark. It was also not a good light for photographing the beautiful stained glass windows – sun shining through.  The hammer beam roof of the nave is very lovely. The building felt sad and neglected, but not at all spooky, as one might romantically imagine an abandoned church.

 

 

 

 

Parts of the church looked as if the congregation had just left – the children’s corner, decaying hassocks and cushions on the pews.  But other 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. It was high Anglican, like Christ Church, with daily masses and provision for confessions.  On the face of it it looked much plainer than Christ Church, and it is red brick rather than stone, but if all the fittings were in place, it was clean, and the sanctuary lamps were all hanging from the ceiling, it would have looked very impressive.

 

The WW1 War Memorial is impressive, designed by local artist Philip Cole. It is sad to think that this neglected memorial was passed over during the 2018 centenary.

The Lady Chapel is sadly more weather-damaged. The organ console is still there – it was probably the first pneumatic pipe organ to be operated by electricity. The wiring looks alarming – I don’t somehow think that would ever be restored.

After, we went to John’s house for coffee – he showed us loads of old photographs of the church. I liked this church parade, probably from the 1920s, making its way down Athelstan Road.

Just a final word about history – the building of the church was financed by a wealthy widow, Elizabeth Mason, in memory of her husband, Thomas Mason, who made his fortune via the Dent’s glove making company.

It will be interesting to see what happens to the church in the future….

Here are a final few photos. I know there a a lot, but this is a special opportunity to capture something that may soon disappear…

 

 

 

 

 

16 Comments

  1. Janet Walls
    February 17, 2019 / 7:31 am

    Very interesting post, thanks Stephanie.

    • February 17, 2019 / 2:37 pm

      It was indeed very interesting. Many of the features I photographed will shortly disappear for good…

  2. Linda
    November 10, 2019 / 5:45 pm

    Thank you for the articles and photos. I have fond memories of attending services for many years. I have a distinct memory of, when I was about 8, looking up at the trowel on the wall and working out how old I would be on its centenary. I loved the stained glass archangels….Michael, Gabriel, Raphael and Uriel.

    • November 10, 2019 / 5:59 pm

      Hello Linda

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post. As far as I know the church is still empty…

    • January 12, 2020 / 12:07 pm

      Hi Roy

      Thnaks for the comment – have just read your write-up – very comprehensive!

  3. April 29, 2020 / 7:19 am

    Thank you for this. My uncle was the vicar here for a time. As a teenager I used to visit him and my Grandmother who lived with him in the Vicarage in Berlin Road.
    It was a special treat to go and play the organ at his churches and this one was very special. The notes played sounded a full second after they had been played which I remember being very confusing. After a bit one’s ear became disassociated from the hands and it was a joy to play.
    In those days (1970’s) my uncle still had a sizeable congregation, and he led annual groups on pilgrimage to the shrines of Italy. It was very lively then. However it was a very big church not in the centre of town and I have often wondered what happened to the church and its wonderful decorations. Thank you. It has brought back many happy memories!

    • April 29, 2020 / 8:02 am

      THat is really interesting… I am sure your uncle would be sad to see the current state of the church. Let’s hope it can be restored.. What was yur uncle’s name by the way? I could pass it on to the current caretaker, who will doubtless remember him.

    • Dianne
      January 15, 2021 / 6:22 am

      I was in the choir when your uncle was the vicar. I remember him well. We lived round the corner on Edmund Road and he often popped round for a cuppa. Fond memories.
      The choir did a sponsored hymn sing which went on all night but I cannot remember the cause we were helping.
      I also remember there was a huge painting of Sebastian in the church which still haunts me.

      • E J White
        July 31, 2021 / 2:40 pm

        I haven’t yet found my scrapbook with the photo of us all and the write-up in the Hastings Observer, but I have found a list of the hymns with the signatures to prove we’d sung them. My friend Sonia & I organized it with the help of her dad. We were always up to something! I remember we sent letters to everyone we could think of – the Queen, the Prime Minister, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Leslie Crowther …. The bishop then contacted the vicar to stop it going ahead! But Fr Armitstead must have smoothed things out because in the end we were allowed to do it.

        When I think about it now, it was such a vibrant community supporting it’s young people. Although it’s all finished now, that church helped to form us, and in a good way.

  4. Philippa Windsor
    December 8, 2020 / 10:45 pm

    Hi. We’ve just moved a few streets away. Love your photos. Old buildings are fascinating. I think the pigeons are benefitting from the disuse! Such a shame. It’s a huge space. Would love to know who looks after the building now.

    • December 22, 2020 / 8:36 am

      Thanks for the comment and sorry for delay in replying. I believe the diocese have some vague responsibility for the building, but sadly very little is being done. Where have you moved to?

      • Richard Payne
        June 29, 2021 / 5:01 pm

        Is there a contact number for anyone who owns this I’m a YouTuber love to come and film it

  5. Mick Funnell
    January 11, 2024 / 11:32 am

    Sad to see All Souls now, I was born at home in Harold Road in 1942 and was baptised by Fr. Pemberton and later confirmed at All Souls when Fr. Eric Ogden was there. At that time we lived in Edmund Road and I became a server. I was also in the scout group, 7th Hastings (Ore), which met in the church parish room across the road. I attended mass at All Souls up until the family moved out of Hastings in 1959, that was when Fr. Eric Andrews was the priest.
    By a strange quirk of fate, Eric Andrews followed us to St Peter’s Church in Sleaford a few years later!

  6. Mick Funnell
    January 11, 2024 / 11:35 am

    Apologies for a typo in my post.
    Sleaford should read Seaford!

  7. Jamie Coniam
    March 28, 2024 / 8:21 am

    Absolutely fascinating. This church dominates the skyline from my lounge window and I wanted to learn more about it. I came to the right place. Beautiful pictures. Thank you

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.