All Saints, All Saints Street, Hastings

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All Saints stands east of the castle hill and reconstruction after the raid of 1377, probably on the previous site, was leisurely – a will of 1436 calls it ‘new’ and it does not follow that it was then finished.  Built of local stone, some of it greensand, it forms a single whole.  Re-used stones, some carved with chevrons, suggest its predecessor contained C12 work.  In the early C19 the south porch is said to have had a rounded arch, but it can hardly have survived from this earlier church, though some foundations of uncertain purpose and date found nearby might have.

The nave arcades of the present church confirm that the rebuilding was mainly in the early C15, for the heads of two moulded orders spring from upward extensions of the octagonal piers, a device more common in the C14.   The aisle windows are renewed, but the Sharpe Collection drawing (1797) shows similar openings and the complete original east window in the north aisle shows the tracery is accurate.  The rood-stair at the east end of the south aisle is contained in what looks like a big buttress.  There is space for a clerestory but no windows and though there is flint and stone chequerwork decoration on the south side, the roof on the north side in 1797 was continuous, so this may not be original.  Only the north aisle retains some old roof timbers.

The chancel, like the nave, has three-light side windows with panelled tracery.  The chancel arch has thin abaci, chamfered responds and a head of two wave mouldings.  All north windows except one are concealed by C19 vestries, entered by an original four-centred doorway that formerly led to the outside.  The C19 east window differs from the three-light one in the Sharpe drawing, which was not original as it had wooden mullions.

The tower was almost certainly built last, possibly as an afterthought or at least after a gap, for its north and south walls incorporate large buttresses belonging to the west end of the nave.  Despite much restoration, it is handsome with a north east stair turret, a four-light west window with a castellated transom and a doorway with shields in the spandrels.  Window and doorway are contained in a single arch, separated by a quatrefoil-frieze.  The tower arch has a head of two moulded orders and in the tower space is a star-vault, springing from grotesque corbels.  The large central opening, surrounded by the signs of the zodiac, allowed the bells to be hoisted up.  The two-light windows with ogee heads and finials of the second stage are doubtfully C15 and may be C19, but are invisible on the Sharpe drawing.  Beneath them to north and south are big flintwork crosses.  The third stage has chequered battlements, a tiled cap and square, uncusped bell-openings divided by transoms, which look later C15.

Changes to town churches after the Reformation were frequent, particularly in prosperous times, as the C18 was in Hastings.  The Sharpe drawing shows most north windows had been altered from their original condition by 1797 and Nibbs’s engraving (1851) confirms that the rest had been treated similarly.  The south porch noted by Horsfield probably dated from this period, though a C15 predecessor in so large a church is likely.  The Sharpe drawing also shows a dormer at the north west corner of the nave, which would have lit a gallery.

Restoration started in the chancel, though no date is known – in 1868 Sir Stephen Glynne noted its windows had been restored and the roof is probably contemporary.  The presence of C A Gibbs’s glass of 1865 in the east window probably provides an approximate date and it is conceivable that W Butterfield did this earlier work, though it was A Gibbs with whom he usually worked.  Butterfield certainly undertook the rest in 1869-70. In 1869 he was already controversial and in reviewing his work here The Architect (1 p158) hoped he would not introduce any painted decoration.  In fact, at All Saints he respected the existing fabric and his work did not extend beyond replacing the panelled tracery in the aisle windows, most roofs and the south porch.  The main later alteration was a north vestry and organ chamber by A J Style in 1894 The organ was placed behind one of the retained windows of the chancel.

B C G Shore was responsible for repairs between 1954 and 1958. [Information thanks to Sussex Parish Churches web site]

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