www.hastingsonlinetimes.co.uk     Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper

Postcard of Fairlight Church

Help ‘futureproof’ beautiful Fairlight church

Driving along the road to Fairlight, if you didn’t know it was there, blink and you would miss St Andrew’s Church with its majestic tower, historical graveyard and interesting architectural features. Yet this hidden gem is well worth a visit and conveniently located at the highest point of Fairlight in Coastguard Lane, where Fairlight Road and Battery Hill meet – just a 10-minute drive from Hastings and also on the 101 bus route. Lizzie May writes.

Visitors of all ages and nationalities regularly drop in to visit the open Church – ranging from coach parties of international students, daytrippers and holidaymakers to local walkers, schoolchildren and residents.

The stunning Church Tower is open on Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays from 2pm – 5pm. A bellringing experience is available between 2pm and 3pm and you can turn your hand to playing a tune using the bell-ringing ‘carillon’. Group tours can be arranged at other times by prior arrangement for adults, children over 8 years and students.

Bell-ringing Carollon

Bell-ringing ‘carillon’

St Andrew’s Church and Tower have a fascinating history. The original Fairlight Church dates from around 1180 but in 1845 was in a poor state of repair and so the current St Andrew’s Church, with its many architectural delights, was built in its place.

Stained glass windows

Stained glass windows

All carved from local stone, supplied by local land-owner, William Drew Lucas-Shadwell, the Church’s Nave has three arches supported by interesting octagonal columns – and its striking roof has an unusually steep pitch. Also popular is the beautiful East Window, adorned with stained glass lancets depicting the life of Jesus.  It is also well worth viewing the exquisite contemporary triptych (a painting on three panels) called ‘The Genesis Triptych’, created in oils by local eminent artist, Richard Baines.

The main doorway is outlined with a classical trefoil head. You can also view the remains of the beautifully painted imposing organ pipes (unfortunately no longer in use) above the small balcony. The Church furniture includes the Holy Table and Reredos, which were donated in 1927.

Triptych by Richard Baines

Triptych by Richard Baines

If you’re interested in local lineage, the Church registers which are kept at the East Sussex Record Office, date from 1651 and record all baptisms, marriages and burials since that date.

The Church regularly stages events: in July there will be an informal concert of popular music called ‘A Musical Delight’ from a talented team of musicians, an event which includes a cream tea. There are also regular Alpha Courses for those who are interested in finding out more about Christianity, as well as regular Sunday services at 10.30am. For more details, visit: St Andrew’s Church.

Churchandchurchyardlores

St Andrew’s Church and churchyard

Stepping into the Past

The Churchyard holds the graves of many famous and interesting historical figures, and local St Andrew’s stewards are always happy to help people locate them. Of particular interest, is the imposing Lych Gate which commemorates members of the Lucas Shadwell Family. Some notable people buried in the Churchyard include:

  • William 8th Earl Waldegrave – a direct descendant of William the Conqueror
  • Thomas Attwood Walmisley, Professor of Music, Cambridge University
  • Parents and sister of Cecil Rhodes who founded Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe
  • Major-General Sir Charles Menzies, founder of Newcastle in New South Wales, Australia
  • Thomas Farncombe, Lord Mayor of London in 1849
  • Richard d’Oyly Carte of the famous Opera company and founder of the Savoy.
  • Muriel Delano Martineau, first cousin to US President Franklin DelanoRoosevelt
Top of tower

Top of Fairlight tower

Towering Above the Rest

St Andrew’s ‘Fairlight Tower’ stands 616 feet (188 metres) above sea-level at the top of the tower and is understood to be one of the highest points in East Sussex. The Church Tower was an important landmark for both the British and the Germans during World War II which allegedly saved it from being bombed.

A donation of £2 is requested per adult visiting the tower to help cover the maintenance costs. Children must be supervised at all times by a responsible adult. Group tours of ten or more need to book in advance and children must be over 8yrs old. The bell-ringing room is midway up the circular flight of 110 stone steps, and here you can view the carillon, where a series of levers operate eight of the bells at a higher level of the Tower. An original bell from the 14th century inscribed “Sit Nomen Domini Benedictum” meaning ‘Blessed be the name of the Lord’ is still in use today and can be seen in the belfry above.

At the top of the Tower the 360 degree views are arguably better than from the Brighton i360. On a clear day you can see the coast to Dover and its white cliffs, Dungeness Power Station, across the English Channel, round to Beachy Head and inland over Fairlight Hall, Guestling, and the Downs towards Tonbridge. On very clear days you can also see France.

St Andrew's Church and Tower

St Andrew’s Church and Tower

Volunteers sought

St Andrew’s also relies on the church stewards who work in a voluntary capacity, taking visitors on the short guided tour where they share the heritage of the beautiful Church, fascinating graveyard and dramatic Tower. They need more volunteers in order to keep the church open and available – and are looking to the local community for help.

The Church welcomes applicants over the age of 18, including people who are currently without work, returning to work, working part-time, retired or studying. If you are interested in helping out, please call or email the church administrator on 01424  812799 or admin@fairlightandpett.com

There is a booklet about the churchyard which you can purchase at the church. If you have any information and can add to the knowledge of any of the graves, the church team would be very glad to hear from you. Please contact archivist: Paul Draper at  paulwpdraper@gmail.com

Welcome to all visitors

St Andrew’s is a small and friendly Church, and the Rector, Richard Barron says: “We welcome everyone from all walks of life, whether Christian or not. We want as many people as possible to have the chance to share our lovely old Church. Our fantastic Fairlight coastal location with tremendous views is the perfect stop-off for tourists and photographers. We rely heavily on the generous donations from visitors and our congregation to keep our heritage building and Churchyard maintained and to cover our administration costs.”

Posted 19:43 Monday, Jul 2, 2018 In: Home Ground

1 Comment


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  1. Laurence Keeely

    If there is to be any development for housing in hastings it should be 100% Community Land Trust, VISIT http://WWW.CAMPAIGN-FOR-CHANGE.CO.UK FOR details,no house to be more than 140,000,purchase them, but one cant sell them on.also I am trying to get the St Leo`s redundant church in St Leonards converted to become a safe haven for homeless people,
    If you would like to chat about it,please get in touch.
    Laurence Keeley,

    Comment by Laurence Keeely — Sunday, Jul 15, 2018 @ 21:03

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