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Church of St Mary Magdalene

A Grade II Listed Building in Hastings, East Sussex

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Latitude: 50.8532 / 50°51'11"N

Longitude: 0.565 / 0°33'53"E

OS Eastings: 580640

OS Northings: 109102

OS Grid: TQ806091

Mapcode National: GBR PX9.KMZ

Mapcode Global: FRA D62V.7XP

Plus Code: 9F22VH37+7X

Entry Name: Church of St Mary Magdalene

Listing Date: 14 September 1976

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1043430

English Heritage Legacy ID: 294069

Location: Central St. Leonards, Hastings, East Sussex, TN37

County: East Sussex

Electoral Ward/Division: Central St Leonards

Built-Up Area: Hastings

Traditional County: Sussex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): East Sussex

Church of England Parish: Christ Church and St Mary Magdalen, St Leonards

Church of England Diocese: Chichester

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St. Leonards


(Formerly listed as:

1852 by Frederick Marrable. 1872 SW tower.

MATERIALS: Semi-coursed, semi-dressed local rubble with limestone dressings. Slate roofs

PLAN: Nave, lower chancel N and S aisles, SE tower, vestries (N), N porch.

EXTERIOR: This Decorated-style church is in a prominent position in St Leonard¿s, looking down obliquely from high ground into Warrior Square. Its dominant feature is the four-stage SW tower. This has angle buttresses up to the base of the belfry stage and an embattled octagonal stair turret that rises above the level of the plain parapet of the tower. The S face has a large arch in the ground stage with a moulded head and nook shafts and which formed the entrance to a porch in the base of the tower. The second and third stages of the tower have a variety of single-light windows. In the belfry stage there are paired lancets with trefoils in their heads. The W front, facing Church Road, has a fine five-light window with a large traceried wheel in the head. In the gable there is a traceried oculus. The lean-to aisles are divided into bays by buttresses with offsets and each bay has a two-light window with flowing tracery of varying patterns. At the E end there is a five-light window with rich tracery combining Geometrical and flowing elements. There is a clerestory to the nave and which has two-light reticulated windows.

INTERIOR: The interior walls are of limestone ashlar. Between the nave and aisles are five-bay arcades with quatrefoil piers on high bases and with rolls between lobes. The capitals are moulded and the arches have multiple mouldings. The chancel arch has a multiple-moulded head and engaged shafts with shaft rings. On the first floor of the tower there are two (now blocked) arches which probably served to house an organ originally. The roof covering the nave is four-sided and is divided into panels by moulded ribs. The main trusses are arch-braced and spring from stone wall-shafts. The aisles have lean-to roofs with arch-braced main trusses. Over the chancel there is a single-hammerbeam roof.

PRINCIPAL FIXTURES: As the church is now used by the Greek Orthodox community, the focal item is the iconostasis which was installed in 1983 and which bears images of saints. A number of items survive from the original building. In the former sanctuary there is a fine stone-carved reredos whose centrepiece is a depiction of the Last Supper. Nearly in the S wall is a triple sedilia and piscina with crocketted, ogee arches over each division. The pulpit also has ogee heads to each of its recessed panels. The font is octagonal and has a carved sunk on each face. The pews are no doubt original to the 1852 building and have shaped ends with small rounded elbows. At some later stage tip-up seats have been added to them in an effort to increase the amount of accommodation. At the W end of the nave is an unusual bank of raised seating. There is extensive stained glass throughout the church, perhaps the most notable being a window of 1882 by Morris and Co depicting St Mary and St Elizabeth (S aisle, second from E).

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: To the NW is a plain brick hall of 1935.

HISTORY: Moves to build the church were in progress by June 1850 when an application for a grant was made to the Incorporated Church Building Society. Until then the only place for Anglican worship was a chapel that had been erected in 1831 at private expense. As Bexhill grew this came to be thought very inadequate. Action was further stimulated because a `Roman Catholic Establishment' had recently been erected. The site for the new church was given by the lord of the manor, Charles Gilbert Eversfield of Denne Park, while the vicar subscribed £400 and the bishop of Chichester £200. The building was planned to hold 822 people (340 appropriated seats, 346 free seats, 110 children and 26 seats in the chancel). No doubt it was expense that delayed the building of the tower for twenty years. A design exists showing a tall spire but this was never built.

One of the names on the building committee was that of Sir Thomas Marrable who was Secretary of the Board of Green Cloth (responsible for organising royal visits) for Kings George IV and William IV. Although, interestingly, no donation by him is actually recorded in a printed subscription list, it is perhaps not coincidental that his son received the commission to design the church. Frederick Marrable (1818-72) was articled to Edward Blore in 1835 and is best known as the first superintending architect to the Metropolitan Board of Works, a post he held from 1856 (the year he became a fellow of the RIBA) to 1862. He designed the Board's offices (now demolished) in Spring Gardens which became the first County Hall for the MBW's successor, the London County Council. Marrable, an associate of the Institute of Civil Engineers, died suddenly of heart disease aged 54.
The church was taken over by the Greek Orthodox community in 1983.

Incorporated Church Building Society papers, Lambeth Palace Library, file 4285.
D. Robert Elleray, The Victorian Churches of Sussex, 1981, p 63.
Ian Nairn and Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Sussex, 1965, p 522.

The church of St Mary Magdalene, Hastings, is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* It is a large and imposing early Victorian church in the Decorated style and is a good example of the archaeologically correct Gothic that had come to be regarded as the correct way of building Anglican churches in the 1840s. It offers some fine examples of ornate window tracery and a harmonious and spacious interior.
* It contains a number of fittings of interest survive from the 1850s building.

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