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Visiting the Parish Church of St Andrew, Norway, Eastbourne, England: when is a hamlet no longer a hamlet?

Updated on September 7, 2013
Flag of England
Flag of England | Source
St Andrew's Church, Norway, Eastbourne
St Andrew's Church, Norway, Eastbourne | Source
Selwyn College Chapel, Cambridge, England
Selwyn College Chapel, Cambridge, England | Source

A lesson in English terminology also

In England's Eastbourne, East Sussex, there are many church buildings of note, particularly Anglican; among these are St Andrew's Church.

This is a parish church which particularly prides itself in its ritualist practices, although its history has contrasting origins. The present building is now over a century old, dating from 1911/12, but a previous structure, made of tin and used by the congregation, stood on its site on Seaside (as a major road artery of the town is called); this structure was previously used by decidedly un-ritualist baptists.

The area of town in which St. Andrew's is located is known as Norway. In the 19th century Norway, within walking distance of the former Marine Village, was referred to as a hamlet, and according to English custom a hamlet was an settlement without a church building (that is, without a visible, Anglican church).

So what about baptists or independent Christians meeting in a low-key manner in (maybe) a hired building? would this be 'enough' for the 'hamlet' to be referred to as a 'village' in popular parlance?

Well, no; as part of the Established Church, Anglicans needed to build a permanent, conspicuous structure, and then the term 'hamlet' could be set aside in favour of 'village'.

In 1881, Anglicans began to meet in a schoolroom in Norway Hamlet. But no, this arrangement did not attain an architecturally significant enough profile for Norway to be able to drop its 'Hamlet' status.

Then a few years later baptists reliquished a tin structure, to which reference has already been made, and so between 1885 and 1911 the local Anglican congregation met in this simple building.

The fact that Eastbourne's urban tentacles were spreading eastward along Seaside in the Hastings direction, also meant that Norway could increasingly be regarded as a suburb of the town.

It also tactfully leaves unsaid the question of whether Anglicans, meeting in a simple tin structure, considered against baptists meeting in it, would somehow make a difference to whether a settlement's hamlet status could be 'upgraded' to something else. (But, anyway, in such questions undoubtedly lay a great deal of civic and congregational pride...) Interestingly also, while today St Andrews is noted for its ritualism, there were actually court cases in the 19th century designed to prevent ritualist practices in the Established Church of England; although 19th century Anglicans of a Protestant outlook would themselves in many ways have been far from baptist in their outlook.

In any case, English church history can be very absorbing.

Executed in red brick with some stone facing, this Perpendicular-style building by W H Murray incorporates features such as prominent, Gothic flying buttresses. In very general terms, I am reminded of the Chapel of Selwyn College, Cambridge, from approximately the same period, with its similar red brick, and conspicuous use of the flying buttress.

September 7, 2013


(1) Other designs by W H Murray included that of St, Mary's, Hampden Park (destroyed in World War Two).

Map location of Eastbourne, East Sussex
Map location of Eastbourne, East Sussex | Source

Also worth seeing

In Eastbourne itself, other, noted church buildings include the Italianate All Souls Church, the Church of St Mary the Virgin in Old Town, dating from the 12th century; other attractions include: the Beachy Head cliffs; Eastbourne Pier; Holywell; the Redoubt fortress; Sovereign Harbour; 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. Please note that some facilities may be withdrawn without notice. You are advised to 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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