The Church of St Thomas of Canterbury and English Martyrs is the Roman Catholic church serving St Leonards-on-Sea,. The present church, which combines a plain, unadorned Gothic Revival exterior with a lavishly decorated interior featuring extensive early 20th-century paintings by Nathaniel Westlake, is the third building used for Roman Catholic worship in the seaside resort. James Burton’s new town of 1827, immediately west of Hastings, was home to a convent from 1848; public worship then transferred to a new church nearby in 1866. When this burnt down, prolific and “distinguished” architect Charles Alban Buckler designed a replacement.
Work on this present church Construction started on 30 March 1888, although the foundation stone was laid on 21 July of that year. Builder Edmund Boniface executed Buckler’s design, and the new Church of St Thomas of Canterbury and English Martyrs opened to the public on 6 July 1889.
Between 1908 and 1911, Nathaniel Westlake painted the interior with a range of vivid murals depicting scenes from the Bible. Much of this was stencilled, but the work is unusually extensive and it is unusual for such designs to have survived in churches. Weather damage necessitated repairs in the 1950s, but by 1981 the murals’ condition was so poor that whitewashing over them appeared to be the only course of action. Enough money was raised for a full restoration to take place; artist Charles Camm was responsible for this
English Heritage has listed it at Grade II for its architectural and historical importance