History of St Marys

The Church of St Mary the Virgin, Hampden Park, arose out of the growing expansion of urban Eastbourne at the end of the nineteenth century.

Essentially in 1900 there was very little of the current Hampden Park residential and business area. The station had been built in 1888 but its original purpose was as a halt for visitors for the nearby Ratton estate. In fact until 1903 it was officially known as Willingdon Station.

Since the mid-nineteenth century Ratton had been the home of the Freeman-Thomas family. Mark Martin & Sons had completely rebuilt the house after a fire in 1899. At the turn of the century Eastbourne Council wanted to provide an area of recreational parkland for its growing number of inhabitants. In 1902 Mr Freeman-Thomas negotiated the sale, for £3,000, of part of his land to Eastbourne Council for this purpose. All the local council had to do was extend the road out of town from Lewes Road. This extension was named Kings Drive in honour of the accession of Edward VII who visited the town in 1904.

Almost immediately this led to the development of residential housing in the area closest to the park


In the last twenty years of the nineteenth century churches in the town like St John's Meads, Holy Trinity, Christchurch and St Andrews, Norway had been established.  Now in the early years of the twentieth century there was a clear need for new churches in the growing suburban areas. The district was created out of the parish of St Mary the Virgin, Willingdon which had previously dominated the whole area along with St Mary, Old Town. In fact at this stage it stretched across to Pevensey. By now there were already 500 inhabitants in this part of the parish.

On the 6th June 1906 the Vicar of Willingdon, the Rev. O Tudor who was Vicar of Willingdon for 41 years from 1888 to 1929, gathered his parishioners together to discuss establishing a mission church.

Rev Owen Tudor Vicar of Willingdon 1880s to 1920s

The land for the church was donated by Mr Freeman Thomas MP. The Freeman-Thomas family was enthusiastic in encouraging the foundation of St Marys. Mrs Freeman-Thomas organised a concert which was held in the town hall in the presence of HRH the Princess of Battenberg and which raised £200; a very considerable sum in those days.

Lord Willingdon, as he became in 1910, took his responsibilities as benevolent squire very seriously and as late as 1910 when inaugurating the Hampden Park Institute and Miniature Rifle Club he said that he took it his duty to look at the whole development of the area for the benefit of the people who lived in Hampden Park.

The architect of the original church was W Hay Murray. It was made of redbrick with stone dressings and brown tiles. The original projected cost of building the church was £1,484.

The foundation stone of the original church was laid by Mrs Freeman-Thomas in on May 2nd 1908 and it was dedicated on November 18th 1908 by the Bishop of Chichester, the Right Reverend E J Ridgeway who had only become Bishop of the diocese earlier that year.

Among the dignitaries at the dedication were the Rural Dean of Eastbourne Canon Goodwyn, the Vicar of Willingdon, his curate the Rev F Lewis and the honorary secretary of the fundraising committee; the Rev J W Hatton of Knowle House.

The dedication service was in the form of shortened evensong and took place at 5 pm in the afternoon and included contributions from a number of local clergy. The first curate-in-charge, the Rev E G Hawkins, offered the prayers.

Rev Hawkins was the previously the curate of St Peters, Eastbourne and Headmaster of the Eastbourne Municipal School for Boys. Later, in the 1920s, he became Vicar of Wilmington. The singing at the service was led by what the Eastbourne Chronicle referred to as the "surpliced choir of Willingdon". Later still the Rev Hawkins retired to a house in Huggetts Lane called Abbots Leigh. His wife Ada died in 1946 and is buried in St Mary's, Willingdon Churchyard. 

The service included the hymn "The Churches' one foundation" which was also sung at the consecration of the later church in 1953.

As the local newspaper reported; "The structure is well arranged in every way: the walls are thick and solid: and the roof of red tiles looks strong enough to remain weather-proof for many a long year."

Everyone present at the dedication of St Marys in 1908 expected the church to eventually become the Church Hall of a much larger and permanent church on the site. This was alluded to by the speeches of not only the local clergy but also by Mr. Freeman-Thomas and the bishop.

It was also a theme taken up by the Eastbourne Chronicle: The site is an acre in extent so that there will be ample space for the large church which will in due season complete a scheme which must do much to promote the cause of true religion.

The Bishop also took the opportunity to talk about what he called true socialism; the fact that everyone is absolutely equal before God.

Interestingly, Hampden Park consisted of just five roads; Rosebery Avenue, Nevill Avenue, Glynde Avenue, part of Brassey Avenue and part of Brodrick Road (then called Station Road).

Many of these road names emanated from names in the Freeman-Thomas family. Lady Willingdon was formerly Miss Mary Adelaide Brassey. Brand Road is named for Lord Willingdon's mother.

Hampden Park itself is named after Lord Hampden; he was a Speaker of the House of Commons and Lord Willingdon's grandfather. Nevill Avenue was named after a nineteenth century mayor of Eastbourne.

It was not until 1911 that Hampden Park became incorporated into Eastbourne. In fact they had asked to subsume Willingdon parish but this was rejected and to this day has not occurred.

The first baptism to take place in the new church was of Noreen Augusta White from 47a Church Street, Eastbourne.

However there is no extant marriage register until 1919. The baptism registers do however date from 1909 and two people still associated with the church, Peggy and Joan Thwaites were baptised on the 9th October 1910 and 20th October 1911 respectively. The church was given a new font in 1924 and this is recorded in the register by Mr Davis.

EG Hawkins stayed in the parish until 1915 when he became Vicar of Wilmington. He was described as energetic, earnest and well-liked. He was replaced by the Rev W Johnson Jones in 1915 and he remained throughout the Great War until he was replaced by the Rev Richard Claude Davis. Johnson Jones went on to be vicar of St Richards Haywards Heath and Claude Davis to another rural parish in Sussex.

Under Mr Hawkins it was definitely the mission church of St Mary-in-the-Park within the parish of Willingdon and he seems to have been very much involved in the wider parish. However, from 1915 on it was referred to in the registers as the conventional district of St Mary Hampden Park in the parish of Willingdon.

The curate called himself Curate-in-charge until the 30s when Arthur Brookes referred to himself as incumbent in the registers.

The life of St Mary's Hampden Park during the years leading up to the Second World War seems to have been very vibrant. For many years from 1916 onwards there was a Childrens' Service at 2.30 pm every Sunday afternoon. This was very well attended by mothers and their children.

Annually in the twenties there were two major social events that were eagerly awaited by members of the congregation. Firstly there was a Parish Ball held in the Hampden Park Hall (now the Community Centre).

Secondly there was the Church Garden Party held on a Wednesday afternoon in June in the garden of Mr and Mrs Mark Martin the builders of the original church. The children of the church were always excused school to sell buttonholes to adults for this occasion.

Mr Mark Martin in fact became the churchwarden of St Marys although he had had a long association with All Souls Eastbourne. He died in 1924 but interestingly his son E C Martin was mayor at the time of the dedication of the current St Marys in 1953.


Mr Mark Martin in fact became the churchwarden of St Marys as early as 1909 along with Mr J W Pearson although he had had a long association with All Souls Eastbourne.  He died in 1924 but interestingly his son E C Martin was mayor at the time of the dedication of the current St Marys in 1953. 


The Martins lived in Holly Grange; a large house in Park Avenue where Clifton Close now is.  After they gave up Holly Grange they went to live in Three Gables in Brand Road.   Along with the Eastbourne Artisans Dwelling Company Mark Martin was responsible for much building in the Hampden Park area including the Hampden Park Community Centre.  When died in 1924 the Willingdon Parish Magazine recorded;


“IN MEMORIAM-Alderman Martin- another valued parishioner, onetime Mayor of Eastbourne. He was the 1st Sidesman and Honorary Churchwarden of St. Mary’s in the Park, of which he was the builder.   Every year he lent his large gardens  (Holly Grange) for the Sale of Work and Fete in aid of the Church Funds for St. Mary’s in the Park. Funeral at All Souls Eastbourne, on June 14th – officiating clergy included Rev. W. Johnson Jones (formerly of St. Mary in the Park, Hampden Park)  and the Rev. A. Claude Davis ( Curate-in-charge of St. Mary’s in the Park). Before interment in Ocklynge Cemetery.”


Another recorded event for 1924 was the annual parish parade once again described in the parish magazine;



Annual Parade and open air service- procession leaving Red Lion Street early in the afternoon- Hailsham Town Prize Band, Stone Cross and District Brass Band, Polegate Boy Scouts and Bugle Band, E/B Royal Engineers Cadet Corps. etc etc. Collection taken en route. Service in one of the fields adjoining the Park. Conducted by Rev. Claude Davis Curate-in-charge of St. Mary’s in the Park. After parading round the principal roads of Hampden Park, return to tea in the Memorial Hall- proceeds to local hospitals.”


In 1922 a Girl Guide Company and a brownie pack were established and thrived for a number of years. The group, the 30th Eastbourne, still exists but is no longer attached to the Church. 


Arthur Brookes, usually referred to as Nobby, took over from Richard Claude Davis in June 1928 while Owen Tudor was still Vicar of Willingdon.




In 1931 the PCC were already considering the extension of church work into the eastern part of the district; the other side of the railway line. Apparently this had first been raised by the Curate at the APCM of 1930.  The APCM of 1931 decided to look for an appropriate site.


It is interesting that only one name which is mentioned in the account of the original establishment of the church still occurs in the council minutes of the 1930s and that was the name of Boldero.  Mr Boldero was member of the Willingdon Parish Council in the Edwardian era and Mrs Boldero was re-elected to the PCC in 1931. 


Miss Boldero was also involved and was indeed St Mary’s first Sunday School teacher.


However, I have subsequently discovered that Mr R H Bowkeley was already resident in the parish at 5 Brassey Avenue from 1908.  He later lived with his sister in Rosebery Avenue and served on the PCC until well into the 1950s.


It was 1931 that saw the establishment at Mr Brookes' instigation of a Parish Missionary Committee for the first time.


Obviously the Depression sweeping the country was being felt in Hampden Park.  In April 1931 the PCC Minutes mention the distribution of clothes within the parish and also the work of the Holy Family Homes among the poor.


One interesting item from May 1931 was that although the PCC welcomed the invitation to a Church Army Officer to preach they were not prepared to agree to the taking of a collection in support of the Church Army.


May 1931 also saw another innovation; the first use of an actual rota of sidesmen was proposed but very soon collapsed because it was seen as very much the role of the male members of the PCC who happened to be in church on each occasion.


September of 1931 seems to have seen the introduction of a choir for the first time and cassocks and surplices were purchased.  Also Mr Brookes set about obtaining old choir stalls from St Michael's church.


I am not sure how clergy were paid in those days but at the Archdeacon's visitation in 1931 the Archdeacon informed Mr Penny, the churchwarden, that Mr Brookes' salary was inadequate.  The PCC agreed to do something about it when possible.




By early 1932 the church itself was feeling the financial pinch.  Mrs Boldero who had resigned through ill-health wrote to the PCC complaining that the customary £15 annual donation to the Church of England London Missionary Society had not been made.  Dr Porter had to point out that the church was in no position to make such a donation.


At about the same time the PCC had determined to charge scouts and other organisations £6 for their use of the Church Room.  This was complained about but the PCC stood firm.


In May 1932 the PCC discussed a campaign to reduce the current financial deficit.  At this time Dr Porter had to seek an overdraft of £50 from the bank.


1932 saw one of those events that characterised church life in those days; Lantern lectures; on this occasion in aid of missionary work in the Holy Land.


Even in 1932 the church had difficulties with the wall between the church and the adjoining property which belonged to Canon Keeley.


In the early 1930s the pattern of Sunday Services seems to have been 8 am said Communion, 10 am Sung Communion, 11 am Matins and Evensong at 6.30 pm.




1933 opened with two contrasting pieces of news; one sad and one hopeful.  Firstly the organist, Mr Reader, died but secondly Eastbourne Council agreed to give the church an option on any land that it wanted to buy east of the railway line.


Mr Reader was obviously missed because the PCC minutes recorded; "It was decided to have new curtains for the Sanctuary of the Church, to be dedicated to the memory of our late, beloved organist."


Reading between the lines of the minutes 1933 must have been a fairly tough Depression Year because again a number of requests were made for money including supporting the Sussex unemployed.  At the APCM on the 15th April 1933 Mr Brookes described his hopes of building new church room accommodation partly as a way of creating work for the unemployed people in the parish.


J Arthur Brookes as he always signed himself took the APCM to task about attendance at Communion.  In a parish of 3500 souls only 260 had taken Easter communion and the early celebration on Sundays at 8 am only attracted between 12 and 40.  A good sign however was that the Sunday school, the St Mary's Girls Club and the Men's Group were all growing and thriving.


In October 1933 they had to call an emergency PCC meeting to discuss major works on the organ which was removed from one end of the old church to the other.  All kinds of work amounting to nearly £50 was carried out but unfortunately it was too expensive to restore it to its proper pitch.




1933 had been a successful year for St Mary's financially but obviously the Depression was till biting hard because the church had taken to opening a soup kitchen on Thursdays run by that lay stalwart of the 1930s Mrs Gilpin.


In his annual report delivered in 1934 Mr Brookes declared himself full of hope for the future in the light of the thriving organisations. 


With co-opted members the PCC in 1934 numbered 34 members.


In the decade from 1910 to 20 the church from the evidence in the registers served a small district comprising Rosebery, Glynde etc but extending to Hampden Avenue and other roads close to the shops.  It was in the mid 20s that roads the other side of the line such as Percival seem seem to have been developed.


Arthur Brookes was obviously a man of missionary zeal.  Many collections were allocated to missionary causes and he was constantly urging the PCC to raise money to build a new Church Room and a new mission church in the Hydneye.  In September 1934 they had £70 towards the new room and started a Kalendar Fund to raise more.


It was also in Sept 1934 that Messrs Bowkley, Donnelly, Chandler, Miss Bagnald and the churchwardens formed a Church Extension sub-committee.


By the end of 1934 they had raised £139 which had grown by 1950 to nearly £4,000.


At the same time they took on the responsibility of the repairs to the parsonage in Nevill Road.  The Curate cryptically changed the minutes writing "the PCC acknowledged it was their legal responsibility".




At the APCM Mr Brookes is recorded as having appealed for greater attendance at the 10 am Sung Communion… how times have changed !


1935 also saw several problems with the Church Room and grounds.  There were problems with the walls surrounding the parsonage and the church.  Mrs Gilpin said that the Church Room was now dated and proposed charging groups for their use so as to provide better heating, lighting, etc.  Amazingly the PCC could not agree rates and authorised Mrs Gilpin to make individual arrangements with different organisations.




Mr Brookes regretted the size of congregations in his report to the APCM and stressed the need for funds to carry out the work in the Hydneye.


By the end of 1936 a site had been purchased with the £308 raised and a provisional name of St Nicholas given to that proposed church.  This was in accordance with the wishes of the late Mr Charles Powell who had originated the fundraising.  He himself was commemorated by a flagstaff in the grounds of St Mary's




1937 seems to have been a year when things just continued smoothly along until two momentous events occurred; the boiler burst and had to be repaired immediately and the People's Warden Mr Taylor died.  He had taken a keen interest in the fabric of the church.





In those days of course boilers had to be stoked and organ bellows had to be blown.  Throughout the thirties references are made to the fact that the verger needed to attend meticulously to his duties and in 1938 they were concerned that the verger was not in the right place to blow the organ at the right time.


The PCC also complained about the introduction of new chants and settings to services.


1938 saw the first Parochial Outing… to Canterbury and major difficulties over raising money for the replacement of the organ and the building of the new church at the Hydneye.




1939 saw major changes because Arthur Brookes was appointed as Vicar of Jarvis Brook.  The APCM re-appointed the two churchwardens but within a month before his departure even Mrs Gilpin resigned.  I presume that this was due to ill-health.


Mr Brookes seems to have been well-loved and an enthusiastic pastor who inspired the beginnings of lots of activities in the district.  He was clearly hampered by financial difficulties and the Depression.


He seems to have been helped all along by the same committed band of helpers; Mrs Gilpin, Mr Bowkley, Mr Reader, Dr Porter, Mr Vellenden and so on.  Dr Porter was in fact treasurer throughout the time of Mr Brookes and Mr Overs.  In the thirties the most significant events of the year seem to have been the annual Fete in the Summer and the Sale of work in the Autumn.


I believe that Arthur Brookes married a girl from Brand Road but Mrs Brookes is never mentioned in the PCC minutes.  He was replaced in the middle of 1939 by Rev H. Overs.



Mr Overs must have arrived full of enthusiasm and hope in July 1939.  Someone had just donated £1,000 towards the building of a new St Mary's Church, it was about to become a parish in its own right and it was also about to build a daughter church in the Hydneye.  They had £2,500 or 80% of the cost towards the Hydneye venture.


He also seems to have been the first incumbent with a car because the first thing the PCC did was to build him a garage in the parsonage garden.


All of these three were to halted by the outbreak of war on Sept 3rd 1939.




At his first PCC meeting on July 18th he declared his main aim was to see the building of the new Hydneye Church.  He also had to report that he fallen out with the organist and wanted in future to act as choirmaster himself.


With the outbreak of war the Church Room started to be used a classroom by the education committee presumably for children evacuated to Eastbourne.


At the second PCC meeting on 25th September all the great plans for the eastern end of the parish had to be abandoned on the advice of the Bishop and the architect.


In the December meeting Mr Overs had to report that unfortunately they could not proceed with the official setting up of the parish of St Mary in the Park because all such procedures were in abeyance for the period of the war.


The same meeting saw the sanctioning of the use of the Reserved Sacrament because of wartime conditions.  This was asked for by Sister Grace who was continuing in her role as the licensed Lady Worker as she had been under Mr Brookes.




In 1940 Mrs Boldero returned to the PCC.  This name the sole link with the establishment of the church in 1906.


From now on Mr Overs I referred to in the minutes as the Padre.


Dig for Victory !!!!! On 28th April 1940 they held a Blessing of Allotment service.  This was on the Hydneye site which had been taken over by the government for food production.


One of the problems faced by the parish was that people often left at short notice because they were called up for war work.  This happened to Mr Byers, the secretary, just a month after election.


It is my impression that Mr Overs was a very dedicated priest and that his wife really assisted in all he did.  In early 1940 he instituted a weekly service of intercession (Thursdays) and also a regular celebration of Compline.


By September 1940 the war was beginning to squeeze the finances of the parish.  There were continual requests for almsgiving and the yet income was diminishing.


On the 10th October 1940 at 3.30 pm the church was destroyed by a direct hit while two ladies were still clearing up from the meal.  The bomb went through the roof and left only the east wall with the bell standing. Luckily both the ladies, Mrs Hall and Mrs Page,  were unhurt but one other person was hurt in the raid which affected 23, Park Avenue, Mayfair, Kings Drive and Decoy Drive.  The church’s records were all lost in the air raid.  Remnants of the church hymnbooks were even found on the other side of the railway line.  The trees in the gardens of Nevill Avenue and the top of Brassey Avenue had hassocks hanging in their branches.  Sadly these bombs also destroyed some houses in Brassey Avenue killing some Canadian soldiers who were billeted there.


2nd December 1940


The first meeting after the bombing raid which destroyed ST Mary's.  It was held in the Presbyterian Church in Elm Grove.  This had been given up by the Presbyterians and Doctor Reid offered it to Mr Overs rent free for the duration.


Apparently many valuable effects were rescued from the Old Church.  Where are they now.




Everyone rallied round the homeless congregation and here is an interesting fact.  If St Mary's was still only a daughter church of Willingdon then it would have been any parishioners right to be married etc in St Mary's Willingdon; but no the words in the minutes are; "the Church of Willingdon had been lent by the Vicar of Willingdon for weddings, funerals and other rites and ceremonies."


At this time the church was also operating a communal kitchen overseen by Mrs Overs.  After the bombing this was carried on partly from Mrs Hawley's home.


The Church Room had not been completely destroyed and the church stored all the articles from the church there although all wood and bricks were salvaged by the borough engineer for use elsewhere.


1941 APCM


Rev Overs said: "they little thought at the 1940 AGM that…… Eastbourne would be an evacuation rather than a reception area, that services would be held in a different church, that the Church Room would be a Communal Feeding Centre, that the church would destroyed and the congregation scattered but thankfully there was no damage to themselves.  In that he saw the hand of God."


He revealed that finances were dire… they might be able to continue only until June.


He had offered himself as an RAF chaplain but was too old.  He thought of going on munitions but when he saw that the Church was in the front line he decided to stay.


Nevertheless the church was still very much alive; there were 27 baptisms, 3 weddings, 14 funerals and 50 children in the Sunday School.


By the time the July meeting of the PCC came along it was clear that the immediate financial problems were eased mainly by the efforts of the Women's Working Party.


The life of the church continued and in the autumn of 1941 the Suter family energetically assisted by Mr Overs put on a dancing display which raised £55 for the church.




Early in 1942 the organist, Miss Savage, was called up and had to be replaced by Mrs Ranks and Mrs Godfrey.  By the middle of the year Mrs Godfrey was both sole organist and sacristan.


Early in 1942 also the church opened a canteen for soldiers run jointly with St Lukes.


Otherwise 1942 seems to have been a very quiet year indeed.  Congregations continued to decrease because of the involvement of people in war work but income was maintained.




At the APCM Mr Overs announced that there had been 39 baptisms, 6 people confirmed, 5 weddings and 16 burials in the past year.


During this year the church began to claim the Church Room back from the military and social events were held there as well as an Evensong on the anniversary of the bombing of the church.


At the same time the idea began to be discussed that it should be used as one of the famous British Restaurants.  This was considered over many months before the change in the progress of the war removed the need for it.


Mrs Overs had fully supported her husband and to such an extent that she was an unpaid Lady Worker.  In October 1943 he announced that she could no longer cope with this work on her own particularly because of the way the neighbourhood was evolving and the "moral questions arising from the war".




The year began with positive ideas for raising money and social events; a whist drive and a social evening.


On Feb 20th the Vicar decided to shelve his plans to employ a Lady Worker for the present because the parish seemed unprepared to meet the finances.  By this meeting too they had managed to restore the Church Room to a working state and Mr Overs decided to use it for lantern lectures during Lent.


At the APCM that year the Vicar was obviously not too optimistic because so much stood in the way of progress and particularly the lack of a lady worker but also poor attendance at church.


In the middle of the year it seemed at last that the Church Room would be opened as a British Restaurant in the mornings with the church having use the rest of the time.  Outstanding repairs were to be undertaken by the Town Council.


In October that year Mr Overs was at last able to confirm that the Bishop considered the re-building of St Mary's a priority.




The Bishop visited the Church in January 1945.  At the APCM Mr Overs remembered the death of the former churchwarden Mrs Gilpin during 1944 and pledged himself to the further development of the work of the church now that they had returned to their own building.  Deaconess Saumary was joining the church as a voluntary worker but half-way through the year she withdrew because of practical difficulties.


Also this year Dr Porter gave up being treasurer after at least 15 years.


By now the church was making use of a military nissan hut in the church grounds to store various items.


In July 1945 the Diocesan Board of Finance wrote to Mr Overs about whether the rebuilding of St Mary's was in fact a priority.   He stressed that it was there being no other Anglican church within two miles.


In October the Vicar started adult Bible classes on Thursday evenings after Evensong and the showing of religious films on Sunday evenings.


At a meeting in November the PCC looked forward to the arrival of a new Lady Worker and also wrote to the Bishop once again stressing the need for the district to be made into a parish.


By the end of the year they had gained a nissan hut and something called the Cook House which became St Mary's (Temporary) Church.




On 22nd January 1946 there was a Special Parish Meeting with the archdeacon who stressed that out of eight destroyed churches in the diocese St Marys would have priority.


St Marys was unable to become a full parish because it no longer had a parish church but under an 1843 Act of Parliament it could become a Peel District which gave it the status of a parish with a vicar.


The archdeacon told the meeting they would need about £8,000 towards a new church.  Later that month the council met with Mr Murray the architect to discuss the matter.


At the APCM that year warm tributes were paid to Mr and Mrs Overs for the way in which they had ministered to and inspired the parish during the war years.  This included opening the parsonage to all manner of people all the time.


Mr Overs for his part looked forward to the provision of a permanent church.


Sister Pegg had now joined the parish as an official Church Army worker.


They now began once to more to also look at the provision of a church on the Hydneye site.


On October 7th 1946 Mr Overs announced he was leaving the parish and that he would replaced by the Rev H G Woodall who came from the parish of St Luke's  Guildford.


Extracts from Mr. Overs Farewell Address


"Looking back over the seven lean years of my ministry here there are many things to be thankful for; the loyalty of the church worker, the spiritual life of the faithful, especially those who can find it in their hearts to worship in a lowly room and the almsgiving of the congregation which enables me to say to my successor - there are no debts to hand over to you. 


There are signs of a revival of activity among the young, especially the Sunday School which fills the Church every Sunday - the devout worship of the little congregation at 10 am every Sunday - both old and young combing in the Lord's service.  It is devoutly to be hoped that this service will not only continue but grow.


It is my opinion the secret of spiritual life in a congregation - the rule of the Lord's service on the Lord's Day and the training in habits of worship of the young. 


There is also Sister's work among the women which is steadily growing and the work of the guild of helpers started by my wife for maintaining the financial life of the church which is a necessity. 


  Cloud Callout: St Marys during the late forties and early fifties Incumbency of Rev. H. G Woodall.




Bad news came at the beginning of 1947 with the news that it would be three years before they could have a permanent church.  The diocese suggested using a nissan hut rather than the Church Room and getting a temporary building for the Hydneye.


One of Mr Woodall's first positive proposals was to ensure that the diocesan quota was paid in full.


At the APCM in 1947 Mr Woodall was encouraged by the size of the congregation but frustrated by the lack of progress in reconstruction.


By 1947 Mr Bowkeley was the one name who had featured in the minutes right from 1931 onwards.


The last meeting of 1947 saw the formal adoption of the Scheme K by the PCC whereby they contributed £100 pa to the Vicar's stipend and this was doubled by the diocese.


Work at the Hydneye was still held up because the land was still requisitioned for use as allotments.


This must have been a very frustrating time; so many plans but always held back by the national need to concentrate on the re-building of houses first.




At the APCM the Vicar reported steady growth.  One gets the impression that he may have been put into St Mary's to achieve a more business-like approach and certainly finances.

He explained that the Bishop had stressed that building the Hydneye Church must take precedence over re-building St Marys because of the great increase in the population in that part of the parish.


Nevertheless, the temporary St Marys was now established in a nissan hut and the old Church Room as a parish meeting room.  Finances were good and he looked forward to developing work amongst young people.


Soon Mr Woodall introduced a corporate monthly communion for members of the PCC.


In 1948 came the only mention I have found of an intervention of St Mary's Willingdon, the supposed mother church, in the affairs of St Mary-in-the-Park.  They had written to the Bishop stressing the need to re-build the church.


For sometime it is apparent from the minutes the Diocese had disapproved of the church's choice of architect for the new St Marys.  The reason is not apparent.  In December 1948 the Bishop suggested Mr Mause, the architect of Guildford Cathedral. 




Mr Woodall was in a positive mood at the 1949 APCM.  The financial involvement of Willingdon in rebuilding St Marys and having a national architect was excellent but there was no sign of when the church would be rebuilt. 


The plans for the Hydneye Church had been rejected because they included an asbestos roof and the land was still requisitioned.


The Parsonage was badly damaged but could not be repaired until the War Damage Commission had assessed liability.  In order to do that the foundations had to be exposed.


All this time Mr Woodall was encouraging the parish to do more to use Free Will Offering as its main source of income rather than relying on fundraising events.


By the end of 1949 the Parsonage was deteriorating badly with crumbling walls as a result of war damage.

At about the same time the Ecclesiastical Commissioners made a loan of £2,500 free of interest over 20 years towards the Hydneye Church.


In December they accepted a tender for £9,209 from Miller and Selmes for the building of the Hydneye Church.




At the APCM Mr Woodall described the past year as "mediocre" because of the lack of progress over the Hydneye, problems with the Parsonage and now Mr Ranks retirement as churchwarden and choirmaster.  This is not explained in the minutes.


Happiness, however, loomed in the shape of his forthcoming marriage.


In 1950, too, Mr Woodall had to announce the retirement of Sister Pegg.


By the end of the year he was able to report more progress with the building of the new churches.  Hydneye was likely to be started in early 1951.  The War Damage Commission had at last given £255 towards repairs to the Parsonage.  The only gloomy news was that Miss E H Roles had died and they were £6,000 short on the money for the new St Marys.  He announced that he was about to launch special appeals to raise the extra money.




In February 1951 the PCC agreed that to reduce the cost of the building they would leave out the lady chapel and vestry.  Further problems were already occurring with the clay on the site that the new St Marys was to be built on.


At the APCM Mr Woodall lamented the £3,500 required to make the site suitable for building but he looked forward to the arrival of the new Church Army Sister; Sister Vye to carry on Sister Pegg's excellent work.


The Church Girl's Brigade had just been inaugurated and was thriving under Mrs Hutchinson.


I July Mr Woodall gave the PCC a challenge.  Any money they could raise towards the new St Mary's up to £1,000 would be matched by another donor.  A sub-committee under Sister Vye was set up to organise these events.  These were some of the events which they organised; a Christmas Market, a Gift Day, Collecting and selling waste paper and jewellery, carol singing and a sale of bricks.


The Mayor of Eastbourne had been asked to unveil the foundation stone of the new Hydneye Church Hall on 27th October.  Hydneye was to be dedicated to St Nicholas.  Then there was to be a procession to St Mary's for the laying of its foundation stone.  The Bishop of Lewes was to be the main church dignitary.




1952 therefore began on a very high note with plans for a concert and a Summer fete in Hampden Park itself.  One gets the distinct impression that the building of two church centres at once was a great strain on the Vicar.  The minutes of the PCC do contain a hint of dissension in as much as Mr Richards, though very capable, was not the most popular or compliant treasurer.


There were constant disappointments; the work at the Hydneye had to be severely compromised and scaled down because of expense; the work on the new St Marys was delayed because of problems with the land it was being built on.


On Monday 7th July 1952 it was announced that Mr Woodall was leaving the parish.  He was to replaced by the Rev Donald Carpenter from Hove who took office on the 1st November 1952.



This year saw the departure of Mr Larkin as churchwarden and the death of Mrs Norton-Dowding.


In May 1953 the PCC for the first time introduced monthly meetings instead of the traditional and statutory quarterly meetings…. and on Fridays as well.


By the end of June 1953 the church had spent £10,000 on the Hydneye and £16,554 on the new St Marys.  In September because of spiralling cost the parish had take out a £5,000 loan.


Mrs Norton-Dowding who had recently died had left £1,000 and this was to be commemorated by a plaque on the organ.


At the same time a parishioner donated a flag to the church but the main event of the year was the dedication of the new St Marys Church.  This was an all-ticket affair.


There is nothing in the PCC minutes of interest in 1953 except problems of loans and the temporary vestry for St Marys.


At the time of the dedication of the new St Marys there were discussions about how this would affect the work of the Hydneye Church Centre.


However, to begin with at least the two churches shared the main services.  St Mary's had 8 am communion and Matins and Hydneye had 9.30 am Parish Communion and Evensong.  Donald Carpenter declared that he would do his best to ensure that services continued in both places although at that stage he had no curate.




In May 1954 the Vicar looked forward to the retirement of Sister Vye and the PCC asked the Bishop to provide the parish with a curate as well as a Lady Worker.




In January 1955 the Vicar reported that an anonymous donor had agreed to complete the building of the church; that is the vestry and Lady Chapel.  At the APCM he hoped that this would be completed by August 1955.  One firm asked to tender were the builders of the original St Marys; Mark Martin & Sons.  Their tender was accepted but in September the Vicar had to announce that the parishioner could not now maintain the promise to pay all the money.




In 1956 there was an amazing 341 members on the electoral roll.  This year saw the completion of the vestry and lady chapel and the appointment of Rev Walters as curate.


Obviously in this year there were problems at the Hydneye because the committee there was disbanded and the administration taken directly back to the PCC.


In 1956 Mr Overs revisited his old church and his name is recorded in the visitors' book.




By now the electoral roll was 381 and the Vicar mentioned increased congregations in his report.


In 1957 too they began to consider plans for the building of the New Church Hall put forward by Mr Burton Cooper but these were rejected.


They also wrote to Sir Edward Mause complaining about the heating, light and exterior walls of the church.  There are constant references to this correspondence in the late fifties but it wasn't all one-sided because Sir Edward complained about the way in which the PCC looked after the building.  He had visited the church as early as 1954 and had written a letter of complaint to Mr Richards.


Another complaint was from Mrs Powell of 67, Decoy Drive about the wall between the properties.


Unfortunately the continuous records of PCC meetings from 1931 onwards ceases here.  There records for just two more years 1960-61 covering the secretaryship of Mr Tuppen when the church was primarily concerned with finding a way of building a new Vicarage and a new Church Hall.  By now the old wartime nissan huts were decrepit.  In 1960 correspondence was still passing between the church and Sir Edward Mause about their care of the church.



910, interestingly, Hampden Park consisted of just five roads; Rosebery Avenue, Nevill Avenue, Glynde Avenue, part of Brassey Avenue and part of Brodrick Road (then called Station Road).