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Church of St Mary

A Grade I Listed Building in Eastbourne, East Sussex

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Latitude: 50.7727 / 50°46'21"N

Longitude: 0.2659 / 0°15'57"E

OS Eastings: 559863

OS Northings: 99460

OS Grid: TV598994

Mapcode National: GBR MV7.G1L

Mapcode Global: FRA C7F1.KDY

Entry Name: Church of St Mary

Listing Date: 27 May 1949

Grade: I

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1293915

English Heritage Legacy ID: 293546

Location: Eastbourne, East Sussex, BN21

County: East Sussex

District: Eastbourne

Electoral Ward/Division: Old Town

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: Eastbourne

Traditional County: Sussex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): East Sussex

Church of England Parish: Eastbourne St Mary

Church of England Diocese: Chichester

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Listing Text


(Formerly listed as:


Late C12- c1500; restored 1851 by R.C. Carpenter.

Partly flint and stone rubble with stone dressings, partly ashlar. Tiled roofs on nave, chancel and tower; lead roofs on aisles and vestry.

Nave with N and S aisles, N and S porches, and N rood stair tower. Chancel with N and S aisles and E vestry. The N porch is joined to the Old Parsonage by a covered passageway. The S aisle is wider than the N, and the chancel is at a slight angle to the nave.

Three stage, embattled W tower of ashlar. Continuously chamfered W door in a square frame under 4-light Perpendicular W window. Small stair turret on S side.

All the windows are heavily renewed. Both N and S nave aisles have 4 2-light Decorated windows with reticulated tracery, those to the W of the porches larger. The eastern 4 bays of the nave clerestory on each side have early C13 lancets with nook shafts with stiff leaf capitals; the western window on each side is C14, two ogee lights in a square frame. The former W quoin of the clerestory is still visible on the N. Gabled S porch. C14 S door with many tiny mouldings on small shafts. Outer hood mould with head stops. The small N porch is joined to a C20 passageway to the Old Parsonage. Polygonal N stair turret for the former rood screen, at the junction of nave and chancel on the N.

The chancel chapels have 2-light C14 windows, those on the S with ogees, those to the N without. The chancel clerestory has 3 2-light windows with simple Y-tracery on each side. E window with Geometric style tracery. S chapel E window very early C14 of 3 lights. N chapel E window also 3 lights, mid C14.

Low late C15 or early C16 E vestry under the E window, with a 4-light E window with a depressed head and a small E door.

Nave with 5-bay N and S arcades. The eastern 4 bays, including the E half of the 4th pier on each side, are c.1200 and have pointed arches on alternating round and octagonal piers with early leaf capitals. The arcades were extended by 1 bay to the W in the early C14. The 4th piers, originally the western responds, were formed into full piers, and the newer, western part of their capitals have stylised leaves imitating those on the earlier part of the capitals. The W responds have C14 moulded capitals. The arches of the W (5th) bay on each side also have a slightly different, more complex, profiles that those to the E. Nave roof has crown posts on tie beams with arched braces standing on corbels between the clerestory windows.

There are transverse arches in the middle of each aisle. That on the N has a chamfered arch dying into the wall, while that to the S has a short cross wall and an arch on a head corbel. There are small niches on the E responds of both nave arcades, that on the S is smaller and C13, that on the N is larger and has a C14 ogee head. There is a rood stair at the E end of the S aisle, including a piscina at upper level. The aisle windows have rere-aches with nook shafts with moulded capitals and hood moulds with curled ends.
Low pitched, probably early C16, aisle roofs have foliate bosses at the junction of the principal rafters and the ridge.

Tall C14 tower arch with a continuous chamfered outer order and a chamfered inner order on half-round responds with moulded capitals like those at the W ends of the aisles. The ground floor of the tower has a pointed barrel vault.

Round, late C12 chancel arch, moulded on both sides. The nave face has a cusped outer order on nook shafts with foliage capitals, the inner order has chevron on polygonal responds with stiff leaf capitals. There is hyphenated chevron on the chancel face of the arch, and small rolls on the soffit. Late C15 or early C16 ogee-headed door at S end of chancel E wall leading into the E vestry, with a matching 4-centred ogee niche to the N. Additional ogee niche behind the altar, and a matching set of fittings including 3 seat sedilia and integrated piscina on the S and an Easter Sepulchre on the N.

The 3-bay chancel arcades are also late C12 and have round arches with hyphenated chevron and small rolls on alternating round and polygonal piers with a variety of leaf and crocket capitals. The chancel chapel windows have rerearches like those in the aisles, and the tomb recess in the S chancel chapel has a similar hood mould. The E ends of both chapels are enclosed with C14 parclose screens. The chancel chapels open to aisles through chamfered arches, that on the S on corbels, that on the N on dying mouldings.

Very fine C14 parclose screens to the N and S chancel chapels. The dado is panelled and supports a traceried arcade with a brattished cornice. Both screens retain their original doors, and the E part of the N screen is said to incorporate part of the old rood screen, but they have been moved eastwards as the S screen cuts a C14 tomb niche.

C14 square font on a square panelled base with shafts at the corners. Early to mid C13 piscina in S chapel, with a trefoiled opening. Mid C14 piscina for former rood loft in SE corner of the nave above the S arcade E respond has a trefoiled ogee head. A suite of late C15 or early C16 chancel fittings, heavily restored. In the E bay of chancel S arcade, a 3-seat sedilia with adjoining piscina, has ogee arches, blind panelling and super mullions. Matching Easter sepulchre in E bay of chancel N arcade has a 4-centred, ogee opening in a square, enclosed canopy; there are contemporary depressed ogee niches in the chancel E wall, and the E door to the vestry is similar.

C19 polygonal stone pulpit on marble shafts. Brass eagle lectern, a copy of that in Holy Trinity Coventry, given in 1878. C19 nave benches with square ends and fold out seats on the ends.

Some good C19 and C20 glass, including S chapel E window by Douglas Strachen of the mid C20 and N chapel E window also mid C20 by Hugh Easton.

Many interesting monuments, including a C14 tomb recess in the S chancel chapel, possibly associated with the C14 rebuilding. Brass of 1455 to John King, an inscription without figures reset in a marble slab of 1826.

At W end of S aisle, but formerly in Easter Sepulchre in chancel, unsigned bust of Henry Lushington, d. 1763 in Patna, having survived the Black Hole of Calcutta, set within a Gothick surround; attributed to Sir Robert Taylor. In the N chapel, a large C17 wall tablet to Katherine Gildredge (d.1625) and her two infants, Corinthian columns supporting a complex pediment with reclining angels. Also in the N chapel, a small wall tablet to the noted Cornishman Davies Gilbert (formerly Davies Giddy), MP, d. 1838, an engineer, author and president of the Royal Society. Nearby several other C18 and C19 wall tablets to members of the Gilbert family. Many C18 and C19 other wall tablets and ledger slabs of the C17 and C18.

Royal arms of George III. Several hatchments of the Cavendish family in the chancel, including the 1st Earl of Burlington of the 2nd creation.

The church is in Domesday Book, and while the earliest visible fabric dates to the late C12, irregularities in the setting out of the chancel suggest that the present building was rebuilt around an earlier core. The chancel, including both chancel chapels, was built in the late C12. The nave, aisles and nave clerestory were built c.1200, presumably replacing an earlier, unaisled nave. Some further work on the chancel was carried out in the mid C13, when the E window was installed. The chancel clerestory is probably also of this date. The nave and both aisles were extended by an additional bay to the W in the early C14, when the tower was also added. At about the same time the outer walls of the nave and choir aisles were reworked and given new windows. The S porch is also early C14. A contemporary tomb recess in the S chancel chapel may be intended as a patron┬┐s tomb. There was further work in the late C15 or early C16 when the E vestry was added. Evidence for C17 and C18 work has been lost. The church was restored in 1851 by R C Carpenter, and some fittings were added in the later C19. There was further minor restoration following damage in WWII.

The church at Eastbourne, then known simply as Bourne, is in Domesday book, and the settlement was the administrative centre of a Hundred. No visible trace of the Anglo-Saxon church remains, but its presence probably explains the irregular setting out of the chancel. The whole church was rebuilt on a grand scale in the late C12 and early C13, indicating the importance of the place, and perhaps suggesting that it was intended to be a collegiate church of some form. It was held as a prebend by the Treasurer of Chichester cathedral. The S chancel chapel is dedicated to St Margaret and St Bartholomew, and is said to be associated with Batholomew Badlesmere, 1st Baron Badlesmere and his wife Margaret, who held the manor of Bourne in the early C14. The construction of the vestry in the early C16 may be connected with the contemporary rebuilding of the vicarage, now know as the Old Parsonage. Eastbourne became known for sea bathing in the late C18, and grew enormously from the mid C19, but the main development was to the east, so the area around St Mary's church retains a village-like feel.

Buildings of England: Sussex (1965), 483-84

The church of St Mary, Eastbourne, Sussex is designated at Grade I for the following principal reasons:
* Outstanding, and very large, late C12 and early C13 parish church with fully aisled nave and chancel, remodelled and extended in the C14, and restored in the C19.
* Excellent fittings including superb C14 parclose screens.
* Very good C20 glass at the E end.

This text is from the original listing, and may not necessarily reflect the current setting of the building.

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