St Leonards Parish Church

01StLeonard-churchSt Leonard’s Church is an Anglican church in the St Leonards-on-Sea. The main church serving James Burton’s high-class mid 19th-century new town of St Leonards-on-Sea, was designed by Burton himself just before his death, and it survived for more than a century despite being damaged by the cliff into which it was built; but one night during World War II, the sea-facing building was obliterated by a direct hit from a damaged V-1 “doodlebug” which had crossed the English Channel. The Gilbert Scott brothers’ bold replacement church was ready in 1961; they had several postwar churches and unexecuted schemes to their name, individually or jointly. They generally worked in a “simplified modernistic Gothic Revival” style, which was their chosen motif for St Leonard’s Church. Adrian was principally responsible for the design, and construction began in October 1953. The building was ready to be opened for worship in April 1955, although it lacked the intended south tower: this was added in 1960–61 and the church was reopened. Adrian Gilbert Scott was apparently inspired by the unusual sea-facing site (the church is the only one on England’s south coast to have a direct, uninterrupted sea view from its entrance): he stated “no architect could wish for a more romantic or inspiring site on which to build a church”. The rector of the church at the time of the bombing, Canon Cuthbert Griffiths, was responsible for the internal decoration: soon after the old church was destroyed he dreamed that Jesus was preaching to the church’s congregation from a boat on the Sea of Galilee (Matthew 13). Soon afterwards, he travelled there, and in the village of Ein Gev he bought a boat whose prow had been converted into a pulpit. He arranged for it to be brought back to be used in the new church.

English Heritage has listed the building at Grade II for its architectural and historical importance.

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