St Helens Ore, Hastings


The Old Church: The overgrown ruins of the old church near Ore Place are recognisable from the Sharpe Collection drawing (1797) and that by Adelaide Tracy (1857 or earlier).  The architect of the new one, E P L Brock advised that they be keep  the sill of a small window by the C14 segment-headed doorway shows the north wall of the nave is early C12.  Later in that century the tower was added, though the almost flat head of the plain tower arch has been altered.  The suggestion that a blocked round-headed window above, flanked by roundels, shows the form of the west end before the tower was added is less likely than that it is connected with a west gallery added in 1816 which may be the date of the head of the arch.

The plain tower with low clasping buttresses and square north stair is like the late C12 one at Guestling.  The resemblance was greater when there was still a pyramid spire, as the Sharpe drawing shows.  Two north lancets in the chancel show it is C13, though there is no sign of any chancel arch.  Between them a cusped recess marks the position of the Easter sepulchre, which was probably no earlier than the C14.  It could have been inserted when the church was more generally remodelled at that time, though there is no sign of any extension.  The most obvious feature of this date is the east wall, which stands to its full height with a two-light window of ogee-quatrefoil tracery, which largely survives.  Also of this date is a two-light square-headed one with pierced spandrels in the nave, visible on the Sharpe drawing.  Between 1797 and 1857 an additional one appeared, as Adelaide Tracy shows.
This may have happened in 1821, when J Booth rebuilt the south aisle, replacing one shown on the Burrell Collection drawing (1781), of which nothing is otherwise known.  According to Sir Stephen Glynne, Booth’s aisle was built of grey stone with an arcade ‘of Tudor form’, of which nothing survives.  Other attempts at improvement included the west gallery of 1816 and new openings and a south doorway in the tower, but Booth’s aisle was damp.  As the church was too small and ramshackle for a growing district, the new one was built on a more convenient site.

Brock’s advice was only partially followed, in that the old church was kept, but effectively abandoned.  Indeed, it is possible that the nave and aisle were deliberately dismantled, since so little survives by comparison with the tower and even chancel.  The site became overgrown and difficult of access, but it is now in the hands of the Sussex Heritage Trust.  In 2012 the Trust started work on consolidating the ruins and graveyard.
New Church

The new church is directly on the busy road along the ridge above Hastings and was built in 1869 in local brown stone with brick end walls, to Brock’s design. It has gabled aisles and windows with spiky and varied tracery.  The tower is east of the south aisle on the side of the short chancel, with heavy two-light bell-openings.  The top was altered in 1966 from a stone spire with giant lucarnes and corner spirelets to the present plain pyramid.  Only the gargoyles at each corner recall the previous arrangement.

Brock’s work can be heavy and even clumsy and the arcades, with big crocketed capitals on piers that are rather too slender and have big rings half way up, are typical.  So are the fussy roof timbers with long wallposts and the shafts, corbels and mouldings on the chancel arch.

There were further repairs in 1974-75 by the Stevens Partnership, the responsible architect being J F Woodward
Features of the new church – Brass: (North chancel) Small canopied brass of a civilian and his wife, removed from the old church.  They are believed to be John Halle (d1421) and his wife. Glass: East window J Powell and Sons, 1916. South nave, first and third and fourth windows J Powell and Sons, 1907-19,North nave, first to fourth windows) J Powell and Sons, 1916-54. North nave, fifth window) Maile Studio, 1974.South nave, fifth and sixth windows Incorporating restored C19 glass.  A Wright [Information thanks to Sussex Parish Churches web site]


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