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Listed Building
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Statutory Address:

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

East Sussex
Hastings (District Authority)
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:
TQ 80761 09226


757/22/413 MAGDALEN ROAD 14-AUG-06 St Leonards-on-Sea (East side) Chapel to the former Convent of the Ho ly Child Jesus (Formerly listed as: MAGDALEN ROAD St Leonards-on-Sea CHAPEL AT CONVENT OF CHRIST JESUS)

GV II* Former convent chapel. Lower parts of the walls of circa 1850 designed by Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin, completed with some alterations by his son Edward Welby Pugin. The church was consecrated in 1868 but work continued with the east window being completed in 1872, the reredos and corbels completed in 1874 and choir stalls installed by 1876. The organ was added in 1881. Gothic style. Built of coursed rubble with ashlar dressings and slae roof. The north aisle has been rendered.

PLAN: Five bay nave with bellcote and apsidal end, north and south aisles, large south porch and lower four bay choir with north chapel of two bays to the north and four bay vestry to the south.

EXTERIOR: The nave roof has a gabled stone bellcote to the west and cross-shaped saddlestone to the east. The west end has a rose window with sexfoil openings, an apsidal end and smaller rose windows to the aisles. The side walls have a clerestorey with windows with sexfoil heads and paired trefoil headed lancets obscured by the aisles. The aisles have arched windows with double lancets with trefoil heads nd trefoil lights above, on the south side divided by buttresses. There is a massive south porch, inherited from the earlier larger church foundations, with octagonal corner turrets with quatrefoil pierced parapet between and arched doorcase. The south aisle has an east circular window. The chancel has a cross-shaped saddlestone to the east and tall windows to north and south with paired trefoil-headed lancets and sexfoil heads. The south vestry has four paired trefoil-headed lancets. The north side has a two bay chapel with lancet window to the north and circular window to the east obscuring two of the chancel windows. The east end has a large traceried window with five trefoil-headed lights and three circular sexfoil openings above and end buttresses.

INTERIOR: The chapel vestibule has arched wooden double doors and glazed zigzag tiling in green, brown and cream. The nave has an arched arcade supported on clustered stone columns and both nave and aisles have roofs of arch-braced type. To the west is a wooden organ gallery. The west Dolours Chapel has an elaborate stone altar by the firm of Pugin and Pugin of the Seven Dolours incorporating a stained glass window of the Virgin Mary and a brass tabernacle door depicting a vulning pelican. The aisles have painted dado panelling and several elaborate altars including one to Our Lady of Good Counsel in a setting by the firm of Pugin and Pugin. The altars to St Walburga and St Theophila are also thought to be by the same firm. There are stained glass windows by Hardman and Co. There is an elaborate stone reredos or altar screen between the nave and nuns' choir incorporating a central statue of the Holy Child Jesus and tabernacle designed by Cuthbert Pugin, and two ornamental metal gates. The altar has green marble columns and a full size carving of the Deposition inscribed "MALFAIT. 1850." It is raised on three steps of red marble, the lowest step with elaborate glazed tiles. The nuns' choir has an elaborate ceiling of arch-braced type with painted boards. There are elaborate nuns' choir stalls with fretted wooden canopies and the fronts have elaborate C17 or C18 carved wooden panels of cherubs and pelicans, probably of Continental origin. The vestry has built-in Gothic style vestment cupboards and lamp racks.

HISTORY: In 1834 the convent side was purchased by the Rev. John Jones with a bequest of £10,000 from Lady Stanley of Puddington. Funds were raised to provide a Roman Catholic Church, a priest's house and a convent, which was originally proposed to be occupied by the Irish Sisters of Charity. Plans of circa 1834 survive for two imposing Italianate style schemes for a church and convent drawn up by the architect Charles Parker, the first with central church with eight Doric columns and elaborate clock tower, the second with central church with similar clock tower but only four columns. The scheme for the church was not in the end adopted although Parker's Italianate influence in a watered down version is shown in the west end and loggia of the convent building. A church or chapel was being constructed on the site in 1837, probably in the convent building, and by 1839 a Gothic design rather than an Italianate style chapel was being proposed. A Gothic style church was commenced but only the outer walls were completed, to the top of the aisle windows, buttresses and the entrance of the south porch. It remained in an uncompleted form between circa 1850 and 1856. A contemporary photograph shows its uncompleted state. It is thought to have been conmmenced by Augustus Welby Pugin and "The Builder" of 1850 refers to Pugin's "St Leonard's College chapel rood screen" drawing exhibited at the RA in 1850. In the event the Irish Sisters of Charity rejected the Rev. Jones offer of accommodation, but in 1848 the newly formed teaching order, The Society of the Holy Child Jesus, founded by Cornelia Connelly, moved to the convent at St Leonard's. Plans to complete the chapel by William Wilkinson Wardell, who was constructing buildings on the site between 1846 and at least 1856 were not taken forward and also designs by Goldie and an unknown Scottish architect were rejected. The convent refectory served as a chapel between 1850 and 1868 until Edward Welby Pugin completed the chapel in 1869. While shortening the earlier church, he kept the exterior of the retained sections exactly as they had been left. Work continued after the chapel was consecrated in October 1868. The carved corbels were not put in until 1874. The altars of St Walburga in the north aisle (with a tabernacle with phials of her oil) and St Theophila in the south aisle, a virgin martyr whose bones were found in the Catacombs and presented to the Society in 1855 where they reposed in a reliquary under the altar, are typical of the firm of Pugin and Pugin. The east window was completed in 1872 but the stained glass was replaced in 1950 after bomb damage. The present reredos/altar screen was installed in 1874 with a tabernacle designed by Cuthbert Pugin. Choir stalls were installed by 1876 but may have been replaced in 1886. The organ was added in 1881.

STATEMENT OF IMPORTANCE: An intact High Victorian Gothic interior of outstanding quality, including altars and reredos by the firm of Pugin and Pugin, Hardman and Co. glass, marble and tilework, painted walls and choir ceiling. It is also an example of an increasingly rare survival of a Roman Catholic chapel retaining the nun's choir. For its architectural quality, intactness and reflection of earlier forms of liturgy and devotional practice this chapel is listed at grade II*.

SOURCES: Pevnner "Buildings of England: Sussex". p.520.


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This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

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