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Visiting South Street Free Church, Eastbourne, England: Gothic building by Henry Ward, dating from 1903

Updated on March 4, 2016
Flag of England
Flag of England | Source
South Street Evangelical Free Church, South Street, Eastbourne, East Sussex, England
South Street Evangelical Free Church, South Street, Eastbourne, East Sussex, England | Source
Map location of Eastbourne, East Sussex
Map location of Eastbourne, East Sussex | Source

Recalling an 18th century patroness

South Street Free Church is in Eastbourne, in England's East Sussex. The structure is executed in a combination of red brick and stone, in strips known as banding.

The architect was Henry Ward (1854-1927), who was well known in Sussex for the many local buildings which he designed (1).

The style of the building is generally Gothic; it has been described more precisely as 'Free Gothic', since the architect has clearly been innovative. For example, some of the arching looks more elliptical than pointed (as would likely be the case with 'traditional' Gothic), but the pointed gables and spire are still overall suggestive of this popular and time honoured style.

The building was completed in 1903. Its style has been credited for setting the tone for further building work in South Street.

South Street Free Church started as a Congregational church, and continues as part of the Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion: a patronage trust, of a variety formerly more common in England than today. This particular trust is named for Selina, Countess of Huntingdon (1707-1791) (2), whose personal view of Scripture led her to support prominent Methodists such as George Whitfield and John Wesley, and other well-known figures also. In some ways, the history of Selina, Countess of Huntingdon and those whom she patronized, prefigures the manner in which denominational boundaries were in later centuries increasingly crossed with ease during the church activities of Christians who held to the basic tenets of Biblical Protestantism.

January 19, 2013


(1) Other buildings designed by Architect Ward include various churches in Sussex, and the Plummer Roddis building in Hastings; Gothic proved to be a leitmotif for several of his structures.

(2) Married to Theophilus Hastings, 8th Earl of Huntingdon (1696-1746). Selina, Countess of Huntingdon had family aristocratic links which were very complex; for example, her daughter Elizabeth Rawden (1731-1808), Countess of Moira, was Baroness Botreaux, Baroness Hungerford, Baroness de Moylens, Baroness Hastings of Hastings and (intriguingly) Baroness Hastings of Hungerford, some of these titles being held in her own right rather than by marriage.

Also worth seeing

In Eastbourne itself, other, noted church buildings include: St Saviour's church, also in South Street; the 12th century Church of St Mary the Virgin in Old Town; the Italianate All Souls Church; among many other attractions are included: the Beachy Head cliffs; Eastbourne Pier; the Redoubt fortress; the Martello Wish Tower; the 19th century Town Hall; and many others.


How to get there: United Airlines flies from New York - Newark to London Heathrow Airport, where car rental is available. (Distance from London Heathrow to Eastbourne : 146 kilometres.) For access by road, take M25/M23/A23/A27. There are rail links to Eastbourne from London Victoria railroad station. Some facilities may be withdrawn without notice. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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