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Life at Saint Saviour’s – foundation to the present day

The church itself is the people. Their activities both devotional and social are recorded in the parish magazines. There are incomplete runs of the earliest years archived at the County Records office but since the 1950s they provide the best indication of life at the church. Social events have always been popular with an increasing number of music events and recitals in recent years building on the strong musical tradition which has been written about elsewhere.

The monthly calendar for November 1869 advertises Holy Communion at 8am within the Morning Service for the four Sundays. On Wednesdays there is Morning Prayer at 11am with an additional morning prayer on All Saints day.

Given equal prominence is the shoe club at 12 midday on Tuesdays, the Penny Bank 6 to 7pm on Mondays, The dispensary – admission 7pm to 8pm each Saturday evening and the Lending Library at 4pm on Friday. There are no arrangements for Thursdays but the doors are open.

Eastbourne was extensively bombed in the Second World war District Visitors were appointed to ensure that poorer people in the district took advantage of the facilities offered. Additional services were held in the summer but these were frequently packed with people.

Although Saint Saviour’s had a clear high church bias the kind of services held appealed to a wide range of people, visitors to the town residents within and outside the area. Choral services with congregational hymn signing were very popular n both evangelical and catholic revivals of church life towards the end of the nineteenth century,

The main Sunday There was an earlier celebration too. Eucharist was at the end of the morning service choral morning prayer. There was an earlier celebration too. Services at Saint Saviour's significantly increased the opportunities for Anglicans to attend Holy Communion in the town. However, a daily mass was a long way off. The first daily celebration at an Anglican church was at the newly opened permanent St.Peter’s in May 1897.

Money was available to support poorer parts of the town particularly those served by Christ Church, Seaside.Cash was also raised for the relief of distress in the East End of London and in Ireland. The last twenty years of the nineteenth century were the best financially for the church in real terms then and later in relative values.

The national economic recession seriously affected building work in the town. This led to significant – unemployment particularly during the 1880s.By the mid 1890s the town was a municipal borough with effective local government and much less affected by the activities of the Chatsworth Estate. After the death of the seventh Duke it developed as ‘The Empress of Watering Places’ in the years between 1900 and 1914.

Within a few years of foundation people were being turned away from services despite additional hall accommodation being used. Informal gatherings were arranged at the National School in Furness Road directed at the needs of servants  – a large occupational group. Successful missions lasting over several days began in the 1870s.On a Mission Sunday in 1877 4000 people attended services at the main church and hired halls. It attracted many local people. A temporary building was planned as a memorial to its success. This became St Peter’s chapel opened in 1878 in Saffrons Road behind the later Town Hall it was later sold to the borough council and renamed Grove Hall. It remained in use until the 1970s.Much fund rising was required Bazaars and concerts were very popular. According to Neville there was ample justification for this extra church ‘in the increase of the congregation; but as so often happens the daughter church soon developed its own distinctive characteristics both ecclesiastically and socially. It carried the Anglo Catholicism of S.Saviour’s one stage further; and it tended to a lower social class’. It was from such a ‘lower social class ‘that the large congregations at the extra services derived.

By 1887 the first Sunday communion at St.Peter’s was at 7am a second at 8am .Morning prayer and sermon were at 11am followed by a third at 12.15pm.during August and September There was morning prayer and sermon at 10am.At 3pm there was ‘catechising’ followed by Evening Prayer and sermon at 6.30pm.Additional services were held on holy days>there was a mothers’ meeting on at 2.30pm on Mondays. A ‘Bible Class for the Young’ was at 1230pm on Tuesdays.

On Wednesday the District Visitors met in the vestry at 11.45. Like at Saint Saviour’s district visiting was a fundamental part of the mission. The Guild of St Michael met at 8.30pm on the first Wednesday of the month at 8.30pm. The Band of Hope met at 5.45pm on the second Friday and the communicants Guild at 8pm on the third Thursday. A comprehensive range of activities both devotional and practical.

An important innovation at Advent 1909 was the Eucharist becoming the principal Sunday service setting the pattern for the present day. This was encouraged by Cecil Waldegrave Horsborough. He was an influential assistant curate from 1908 at Saint saviour’s and editor of the magazine since October 1911. No magazines of the period have been found.Horsborough became vicar of St Peter’s in 1922.

By 1920 Catholic societies were in evidence amongst the list of parochial activities. The Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament met for the office on the second Thursday of each month. The Guild of All Souls and the Guild of the Holy Cross for girls was founded. Other well established organisations were the Mothers’ Union and the Church of England Temperance Society.

There was a strong Temperance movement within the district linked for many years with Holy Trinity. A Coal and Clothing club was available to which regular contributions could be made and donations by the wealthier members of the congregation were received. A Shoe Club presided over by the vicar could help poorer people in the district with financial planning. There were two Sunday School sessions one at 10am and another at 2.30pm.


On most weekdays two celebrations of the Eucharist took place at 7 and 8 am with a third celebration on Thursday at 11am. Evensong was daily at 5.30pm.on Sunday the Solemn Eucharist had moved to 10am to be followed by matins and sermon at 1130. This pattern continued for twenty five years despite wartime conditions. The church remained open throughout the Second World War. It is only known to have been closed on one day when an unexploded bomb came to rest in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel.Although there was other damage every effort was made to keep the doors open.


St Peter’s had from the start moved in a more Anglo Catholic direction than Saint Saviour’s, but external features of such practice including wafer bread and incense was not in use until around 1917. Stations of the Cross were put up in St Peter’s in 1926.Stations were erected during Lent at Saint Savour’s but not permanently left in place until after the Second World War.

Reservation of the Blessed Sacrament particularly for regular communicant parishioners who could not attend church because of illness or other infirmity was like so many issues in the Church of England controversial. Anglican Bishops often had unsympathetic views. Although the official position on reservation was often ignored it did not become a common practice until the 1920s.Saint Saviour’s Sacrament House is an example of this approach which became usual after a change in approach. The south chapel of 1904 now called the Blessed Sacrament chapel was an extension to provide a ‘morning chapel’ to provide space for weekday Eucharist celebrations rather than use the larger church space. It

Church government changed significantly after the great Wat.Parochial Councils were set up. The vicar and churchwardens had essentially been in charge locally. There were regular informal meetings of parishioners but no electoral roll. The new arrangements gave many more people a share in church government.

Urling Whelpton presented Claude Williams as his successor in 1928. He had been a minor canon at Westminster Abbey and previously Preceptor of Christ Church Oxford. He made some changes to the music including the introduction of The English Hymnal although Hymns Ancient and Modern was still used.

He made the church appear more ‘Catholic’ in appearance internally with the introduction of six candlesticks at the high altar. Street’s original gothic reredos was covered with hangings in coloured fabric. Times of Confession appeared on the cover of the Magazine a minor, but important emphasis on an important catholic facility .It had been discreetly advertised as available in accord with Anglican practice since the time of Urling Whelpton. It would have been well known before then by word of mouth. Midnight mass was introduced from Christmas Eve 1928. The magazine became increasingly a teaching resource with articles on scripture and theology.


The post war restorations and improvements gave new life to the church. A modest programme of musical events in the restored building was the beginning of the current regular programme of events which renewed the musical tradition of past years which had to some extent been lost by the closure of the choir school in 1937.

The new chancel windows were by Christopher Webb installed after war damage. The northeast one depicts the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple as the main subject with the Annunciation and Nativity below. The south east window shows the finding of the child Jesus in the Temple with the carpenters shop at Nazareth below. The windows  at the sided of the apse are lighter in design to the north is St Richard of Chichester in Eucharistic vestments framed within the arms of the province of Canterbury and the Diocese of Chichester, his personal arms and those of Keble college Oxford patrons of the living since 1944.

The south window shows an angel with a scroll noting that the windows were installed during Coronation year 1953 which was also the seventh centenary of St Richard of Chichester. The angel is surrounded with the arms of the county of East Sussex, the county borough of Eastbourne, the Duke of Devonshire and the badge of the Royal Sussex regiment.

After war damage much attention was given to the chancel. The wall decoration was sadly painted over some of which was restored in the 1890s The Clayton and Bell wall painting above the chancel arch depicts Christ in Glory and the Church Triumphant. It was restored in the 1991 by Howell and Bellion. It was the gift of Mrs Manby friend of George Whelpton and the church to commemorate the confirmation of her godchild Eva youngest child of the first vicar. In 1890 the four figures representing Fathers of the Church were added, also a Manby gift.

Wall decoration in the chancel by Clayton and Bell was obliterated after the war. The groined roof of this area had eight medallions of angels with musical instruments with ten of angels holding shields with emblems of the Passion including the Cross and the Crown of Thorns. At the west end is a mural of the Archangel Michael given in memory of George Ambrose Wallis together with mosaics near the font. These are around 30 years later than the other Italian mosaics – created by visiting craftsmen – which were added progressively from the 1870s.

The reredos is a memorial to canon Henry Urling Whelpton .It was designed by W H Randoll Blacking constructed in mahogany and white wood given by subscription in 1937. The original Street Reredos was removed to the Anglican chapel at Langney cemetery, Eastbourne. It had been covered by a curtain since 1929. The glass mosaics in the chancel apse by Clayton and Bell are by Salviati from the Murano works in Venice. The present altar was part of a reordering as a memorial to the sixth vicar Derek William Allen. A plaque records this.


In 1987, the altar (now returned to its original position) had been moved forward to provide space for the Eucharist to be celebrated facing the people from 1987 as Saint Saviour’s adopted revised liturgical practices.

The floor has many of the original Godwin’s 'encaustic' tiles still in place to Street’s designs. They were made with a process perfected by Minton in the 1840s as an inexpensive durable manufacturing method with coloured patterns inlaid rather than painted on the surface gaining great popularity for floors in all areas of domestic property. The choice of such flooring at the church showed that it was a modern building. Street left light constructional girders to support the internal span of the roof. There was a cavity in the walls and an attention to warmth and ventilation. This attention pointed to a modern building in the 1860s.

Most of the mosaics on the nave walls were designed by Clayton and Bell and executed by a Capello.The north aisle displays the parables.

The first was the Prodigal Son given by parishioner Miss E M Wood gate who like Mrs Manby made many gifts to the church. At the north door there is an angel with a scroll bearing the words: ‘he spake many things unto them in Parables’

West of the door is the Sower in memory of Herbert Elliot churchwarden and proprietor of Elliott’s Stores the main branch of which was formerly in South Houses opposite the west end. This is followed by the Pharisee and the Publican applied in 1891.The Talents to commemorate the incorporation of the Borough of Eastbourne in !883. It was given by George Ambrose Wallisand the Good Samaritan in memory of Rev S Kettlewell a Leeds clergyman who had retired to Eastbourne and had written on Thomas a Kempis.

In the spaces between the figures from the early church including Epaphroditus Onesimus and Philemon. Some of the mosaics are ceramic rather than glass. They are an important feature of the church mentioned in the listing documents. The image of Our Lady with Jesus by Louis Grosse was also given by Miss Woodgate. This is in oak. An oak eagle lectern was used at first .In 1874 it was replaced by the present double sided rotatable worked by Potter. It is inscribed

‘a gift of gratitude to Christ’s Holy catholic Catholic church MLW'

The south aisle includes a variety of subjects. The most easterly now under the 1920s ‘organ loft’ is a memorial to Dr W H Sangster, organist.

The Organs

All of the organs have been by Walker, The first was partly fronted by wainscot oak with pipes fully exposed of bright metal. It was 16 feet high by width 14feet and depth 12 feet.There were 728 pipes in the great organ, in the small organ 536 and pedal organ 130. Dr Walter Farquhar Hook Dean of of Chichester Cathedral preached at the inauguration of a new organ. As vicar of Leeds he re-founded the choir in 1841 which had been established by Richard Fawcett in 1815 almost certainly the first English parish Church to have a surpliced choir since the Reformation era. The first organ was considered the best in the area the second even better. When Walter Hay Sangster who contributed to two editions of Hymns Ancient and Modern was appointed as organist and choir master in 1878 proposals to make major additions to the original were changed. An entirely new organ with a fourth manual was commissioned. The case was designed and built by Spurrell and Field of Eastbourne. The church now had an instrument considered by many to be amongst the finest in the south of England. The cost of £2000 was a cause for adverse comment in the town. A hydraulic engine replaced manual blowing when the second organ was commissioned. No longer was a man employed on Sundays to do the work.

The new organ had 2688 pipes and 54 stops. A gallery for a remote console using the then latest electro-mechanical technology was opened on the south side of the chancel in 1928.

Other Features of a fine building

The original position of the font was at the immediate west end of the central aisle. The Baptistery was built in 1896 as a memorial to George Ambrose Wallis .It developed out of a design to build a central western porch as a defence against the serious draught problem frequently complained about by congregation members. The church was originally built with a lean to porch arrangement with doors at each end.

The revised project became a fine setting for the font designed by Street. The marble bowl was given in memory of the infant son of Henry Robert Whelpton. The wooden cover with crane lifting device is by Robinson and the ironwork by Potter. It replaced the original stone font which was moved to St Peter’s and later to the original St Mary’s church Hampden Park which was destroyed in the Second World War.

The choir was sited in the relatively small area of the chancel apse which was extended out into the nave with a low alabaster screen in front. This feature can be seen in other churches of the period. The Magazine in April 1871 mentions this.

‘Due to either an oversight or a miscalculation on the part of the architect who did not leave sufficient area for choir seats the necessary prayer desks and stalls for the officiating clergy’

The reordering of the chancel became necessary upon the success of the choral services. After completion of the works the same magazine continues…

‘there is now provision for four officiating clergy, eighteen boy choristers and sixteenth men’

Adverse criticism of George Edmund Street so soon after the opening of the building and before the steeple was erected may imply a breakdown in the relationship between the Whelptons and the architect they had commissioned. That no parsonage or school was designed by Street and the lack of internal decoration may also be factors. The family would have experienced financial uncertainty in the mid 1860s after the banking crisis.

The War Memorial

The war memorial in the churchyard was dedicated in 1920. It was constructed by Bainbridge of Eastbourne to the design of C H Murray an architect practising in the town. The figure is the work of a J Oakley. The octagonal base is on Portland stone and brick. The names inscribed are of service personal both connected with the parish and the immediate locality.

In 1937 the church continued to rely heavily on weekly connections. There was only £57 from endowments including the original £15 from the transfer of the parsonage house to the commissioners now the Church Commissioners. There was £4.11s from investments (£4.55).

Treasurer Mr. H B James wrote on 12th November 1937 to the ecclesiastical commissioners about establishing an endowment fund to augment the vicar’s stipend which had to be paid. The Whelpton would not have drawn stipends because of their wealth. The letter sets the scene in a parish which had experienced better time:

​‘Until a few years ago Saint Saviour’s was a wealthy parish but social conditions in it (except in side streets of small dwellings mostly held under copyhold tenures) have changed completely since then.”5 years ago the church stood at the heart of the fashionable quarter of Eastbourne surrounded by large houses which were occupied by wealthy supporters .Today these houses are either boarding establishments or congeries of flsys and those who survive have left the town.Their successors are little, if any, better off financially than the dwellers in the side street and the position would indeed be grave were saint Saviour’s wholly dependent upon them for support. Fortunately the Church continues to be attended by worshippers from other parts of the town but, even so the aggregate financial means of its congregation is exceedingly low’


Eastbourne was extensively bombed in the 1939-45 War. Three local churches were destroyed whilst Saint Saviour’s was seriously damaged, but remained open for worship throughout the war. A surface air raid shelter in Spencer Road just outside the church yard boundary received a direct hit during one of the ‘hit and run ‘ raids of spring 1943. All the occupants were killed. Members of the congregation living in nearby Hardwick and Lushington roads also died in air raids. The vicarage (the Whelpton parsonage house) was severely damaged and out of use for several months.

The third vicar Claude Williams left in 1944 .The advowson or right of presentation to the living was with Mrs Edith Beatrice Whelpton widow and executor of Henry Urling Whelpton the second vicar who had presented Claude Williams to the living.Mrs Whelpton found the responsibility somewhat burdensome. After some negotiation the advowson was transferred without fee to Keble College, Oxford where it remains. Guy Hetherington was the first Keble incumbent. He was much involved in the reconstruction of the church and parish life after the conflict as people returned to the town. There were disagreements within the church community about the restoration and reordering works proposed. Some matters had to be resolved in formal ways. A scheme to convert the chancel into a chapel was very controversial .war damage in the apse had put it out of use. The church had a nave altar and singing was accompanied by piano. The organ which was placed on the north side of nave and played from an elevated console on the south side was destroyed although much was salvaged and restored o a new position at the west end. The case designed by W Randoll Blacking was not completed. The apse with new stained glass and organ were in place for Coronation year 1953.

By 1950 there was still a Sunday matins said at 9.40am the main Sunday service was the Solemn Eucharist and sermon which was followed by Childrens’ Church at 1140am. The number of children attending had increased since before the war. Up to 80 children attended each Sunday. As new housing estates were built on the edges of the town the numbers declined from the mid 1950s. There are now very few children connected with Saint Saviour’s.

A purpose built church room was opened in 1957 providing the first on site facility since the founding of the church. A room at the vicarage had been used and accommodation in the upper part of South Street. A new vicarage was completed in 1964 replacing the original parsonage house by H E Rumble a local architect who had also designed the National School in Furness Road and the church of St John, Meads.The new building was designed by D Clark.

Funding the original parsonage had proved difficult as mentioned above. Pitman believed it to be part of the package to be paid for by George Whelpton. Street might have designed a group of parochial buildings adjacent to the church but this approach favoured by the exponents of Victorian Gothic did not happen.

The daughter church of St Peter was declared redundant in 1971and demolished. The site is now occupied by Redman King House. A united parish of ‘Saint Saviour and Saint Peter’ came into being.


Restoration of war damage in the 1950s was followed by repairs to the tower and spire completed in 1982 by the Cathedral Works Organisation. Father Derek Allen became vicar in 1976. Since that time there was a move towards a modern catholic style of worship reflecting trends in the Universal Church and latterly as a member of 'The Society' and a Forward in Faith parish. A cell of The Society of the Holy House of Our Lady of Walsingham was also set up in 1980. A three day annual pilgrimage to Walsingham is now well established.

The electoral roll had been around 400 by the 1950s. This has declined to around 130 in recent years of mainly elderly parishioners. The church, as always, attracts visitors looking for Anglo Catholic worship with a choir and organ. The musical tradition of the church has been written about elsewhere and it remains strong. Parishoners and friends enjoy many social events throughout the year. and weekday masses are an important feature of the calendar.

Liturgy is based on Chichester's interpretation of the Roman Missal, so the worship is familiar to many people with a loyal team of altar servers in attendance at the solemn mass on Sundays. Saint Saviour’s after over 150 years is in good heart to praise the Lord in a fine Grade II* listed building which continues to be maintained by generous giving.

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