Responding to the rapid growth of Hastings as a holiday destination, Thomas Pelham, Earl of Chichester, seized the opportunity to develop his land at the bottom of the cliff below the Castle. A large part of the cliff had to be removed, a task undertaken by John 'Yorky' Smith who was also responsible for building several Martello Towers along the coast in the early 19th century.
Pelham employed Joseph Kay and building work began in 1824, with St Mary's foundation stone being laid in 1825. The Classical style building is finished in stucco and has an Ionic Portico. The photograph below has been electronically corrected to straighten the lean of the pillars caused by perspective distortion.
Internally, the building has circular western galleries. The altar was remodelled by H Weston and M Tickner in 1893. The baptistry is fed by a spring.
The last service was held at this church on September 13th, 1970. After a brief tenure by the Assemblies of God Full Gospel Church (until 1978), it was sold. By 1986 it had been allowed to deteriorate and was on the verge of being declared a dangerous structure.
Fortunately the Hastings Borough Council bought the site, together with 7 Pelham Crescent, and with the help of English Heritage restored the building. After heroic efforts by local people, money was raised and the building was re-opened in 1996 as an arts centre and concert venue, the first concert being held in October 1997.
The Arts Centre has its own web site, here.
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