Church of St Saviour


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:
Statutory Address:
Church of St Saviour, South Street, Eastbourne, BN12 4UT


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Statutory Address:
Church of St Saviour, South Street, Eastbourne, BN12 4UT

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

East Sussex
Eastbourne (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
TV 61092 98745


623/7/54 South Street Church of St Saviour

(Formerly listed as Church of St Saviour and St Peter)


II* 1865-6, steeple 1870-2, by G.E Street. 1892 baptistry. 1903 south chapel. 1954 church room.

MATERIALS: Red brick with Bath stone dressings. Clay tile roofs with polychrome patterning.

PLAN: Nave, chancel with semi-circular apse, north and south aisles, west baptistry, north west steeple with ground floor porch, chancel, south east chapel, north east chapel, south east vestries, south west parish room.

EXTERIOR: The church is built on a grand scale and draws upon the architecture of the late 13th century for its motifs. The majestic north west steeple doubles as a porch. The tower is of three stages, the lowest of which accounts for roughly half its height. It has angle buttresses with offsets. The entrance is on the north and has a tall gable with a moulded brick arch beneath. There is a two-light west window. The middle stage has arcading on the north, east and west faces, the three central arches having slit windows. The belfry stage has two-light, louvred belfry openings with narrow pointed arches on either side. There is a corbel course below the stone broach spire which has pinnacles rising from the broaches and two tiers of lucarnes. At the south east corner of the tower there is a circular stair turret rising to the base of the belfry and stage and which is capped by a stone cone. The nave is tall and has six bays. At the west end a superarch embraces three, graded tall two-light windows. At ground level there is a baptistry with a gable in centre over two two-light windows. The nave has a clerestory with three-light intersecting tracery. A stringcourse runs at the level of the springing of the arches and above it, between each window, is a roundel with blind tracery. The aisles have their bays demarcated by buttresses and within each bay are two two-light pointed windows. A stringcourse runs at the level of the springing of their arches. A distinctive feature is the canting in of the east bay of the nave. This provides the cue for the arrangement of the north chapel and south vestries which are set at 90 degrees to the canting and thus point north east and south east respectively. The chancel is lower than the nave and at the junction of the nave and chancel `the collision of the differently scaled elements is adroitly resolved, building up to the steep polygonal end of the nave roof' (Joyce). The chancel has a tall, sheer apse with buttresses demarcating the bays. The windows are, like those in the clerestory, of three lights with intersecting tracery. The south side chapel is under its own gabled roof behind a plain brick parapet. A highly distinctive feature is the polychrome treatment of the roofs with green slate diapering set against a grey slate ground. Attached to the church at the south west corner is a plain parish room of 1954.

INTERIOR: The walls are of bare brick although in the chancel the walls have been whitened. The entrance to the church is through the base of the tower. This has a coloured tiled floor and a rich portal into the north aisle with three orders of fleurons, moulding and dogtooth and three corresponding marble shafts with limestone foliage capitals. Above the porch is a quadripartite vault with stone ribs and brick panels. The interior has an impressively wide nave with relatively narrow aisles. The arcades have chamfered brick arches but with a stone soffit, and quatrefoil piers with moulded capitals. The nave has a horizontally-boarded roof. There is a low arcade from the south aisle to the south chapel: the arches have moulded heads and in the jambs are pairs of dark marble columns. The chapel is vaulted. It has a sacrament house of 1920 in the south east corner behind a wrought-iron doorway. The chancel arch has a moulded outer order and an inner chamfered one and rises from trefoiled responds. The chancel is also vaulted with the ribs springing from Devon marble shafts unconventionally arranged so that one of the ribs falls central to the altar with two high windows either side of it. Around the sanctuary is an arcade of niches under gabled heads containing mosaic figures of saints: on the south side the arcading turns seamlessly into triple sedilia. The sanctuary floor is laid with coloured tiles: the nave also has coloured tiles but with a more limited colour range. The chancel area has been projected forward by means of a large dias on which stands a forward altar.

PRINCIPAL FIXTURES: As a Tractarian church, St Saviour's was provided with many fittings and embellishments of beauty. The immediately striking feature is the painting at the east end of the nave. Over the chancel arch is a depiction of a seated Christ in Glory attended by adoring angels and the Evangelists. The flanking, converging sections of the roof have three tiers of figures of angels, Apostles and martyrs. The paintings were executed by Clayton and Bell. At window level there are depictions of the four Doctors of the Church, executed in 1890. Mosaics also play a key role in the church and are the work of Clayton and Bell. They occupy panels on the walls of the aisles, the baptistry and the niches in the chancel and depict biblical scenes, saints and other figures.

The circular pulpit was carved by Thomas Earp to Street's design: it has pierced trefoil openings and stands on a shafted base. The font, again to Street's design, is of Mexican onyx and has a counterweighted, tall Gothic cover with gables round the sides and a spirelet capping. On the north side of the south chapel is a recess with a brass to the first vicar, the Revd H R Whelpton (1833-1902), in whose memory the chapel was built in 1903. There is a very fine wrought-iron screen at the entrance to the north chapel (moved there from the west end of the south chapel). There is a muscular Gothic screen between the canted south part of the nave and the space beyond, presumably to Street's design. The body of the church is seated with benches (removed from the north aisle, west part of the south aisle and the east end of the nave) with simple, angular ends with elbows which provide a foil to the decorative riches of the church. The fine reredos is of 1937 (replacing a lost one by Street) and designed by W H Randolph Blacking: it has a series of small-scale niches showing Christ in Glory surrounded by other figures of saints.

The chancel windows by C Webb were installed in 1953 to replace ones damaged in wartime bombing. The window opposite the entrance to the south chapel has early 20th-century glass by Shrigley and Hunt, and there is some Clayton and Bell glass in its west windows (but not in situ).

HISTORY: Eastbourne was expanding rapidly, its development having been stimulated by the arrival of the railway in 1849 which encouraged people to live or spend time here in the summer. The seventh Duke of Devonshire, who owned much land in the area, had started to lay out a new town to the south and west of the old town. This new development was at a considerable remove from the parish church of St Mary the Virgin, and the establishment of a new Anglican place of worship was encouraged by the vicar of Eastbourne, aided by a local benefactress, Harriott Manby, and her wealthy friend, George Whelpton, whose son was to become the first vicar. The family fortune was made out of Whelpton's pills, a patent medicine produced by George Whelpton and Son in Louth, Lincolnshire. The site was given by the Duke of Devonshire. The foundation stone was laid on 17 October 1865 and the church was consecrated by the Bishop of Chichester on 31 January 1867. The churchmanship was in the Tractarian tradition, hence the attention paid to having fine architecture, fittings and embellishments.

The church is a major work by George Edmund Street (1824-81), one of the greatest figures in Victorian architecture, and who was often called upon by High Church clients. Although born and educated in London he was articled to the Winchester architect Owen Carter from 1841. He then spent time in the office of George Gilbert Scott from 1844 before commencing practice in Wantage in 1848. Growing success led to a move to London in 1856 and a career which saw him become one of the leaders of the Gothic Revival. Much of his work is characterised by a strong, muscular quality which was much admired from the 1850s. He was also an early pioneer of the use of polychromy. He was diocesan architect for Oxford, York, Winchester and Ripon. He was awarded the RIBA Royal Gold Medal in 1874. His fame and status is reflected in the fact that, like his former master, Scott, he is buried in Westminster Abbey.

In the 1860s Street was at the height of his powers with a string of important commissions which culminated in 1868 with his winning the competition for his most ambitious project, the Royal Courts of Justice in London. In the previous decade he had built the Church of St Philip and St James in Oxford where he introduced the idea of a canted east end to the nave. This he developed at St Saviour's and it helps give the church a very distinctive appearance. The church received further embellishment down to the early 20th-century, including the building of the south chapel in 1903. Street's reredos and cancelli were removed in 1928 and war damage meant, sadly, the loss of much Clayton and Bell glass. There was change in the late 20th century which has somewhat compromised the building, notably effect of the addition of the 1950s hall, and the clearing of the chancel fittings in a 1980-1990s reordering with a new nave altar, completed in 1993.

SOURCES: Paul Joyce in Peter Howell and Ian Sutton (eds), The Faber Guide to Victorian Churches, 1989, p 38. Ian Nairn and Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Sussex, 1965, p 487. Oliver Woodman, The Parish Church of Saint Saviour and Saint Peter, South Street, Eastbourne, 2000.

REASONS FOR DESIGNATION: The Church of St Saviour, Eastbourne, is designated at Grade II* for the following principal reasons: * It is notable red-brick church built in the late 13th-century style on a generous scale. It is a splendid design with fine proportions and inventive detail, notably the steeple, and the canted treatment of the east end of the nave. This is a major work by G E Street, one of the most important architects of the Victorian era. * It has an outstanding scheme of decoration, added over a period of time, with noteworthy painted decoration over the entrance to the chancel and a series of mosaics, all by the well-known firm of Clayton and Bell. * Although there has been change in the 20th century which has somewhat compromised the building this is not sufficient to detract from the outstanding quality of this building which forms an important landmark in Eastbourne.

This list entry was subject to a Minor Amendment on 08/10/2018


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

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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.

End of official listing

Images of England

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Date: 15 Aug 1999
Reference: IOE01/01418/22
Rights: Copyright IoE Mr Michael Nash. Source Historic England Archive
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