Eastbourne Local History Society - members visit All Saints

MEMBERS of the Eastbourne Local History Society recently enjoyed a visit to All Saints' Convalescent Hospital Chapel.

The hospital was built in Meads over 1867-69 in Gothic revival style and in 1874 the magnificent chapel was added both with Henry Woodyer as architect and Wheeler's of Reading the builders.

The Bishop of Chichester refused to attend the hospital opening because he didn't agree with women playing an active part in the church, so the Bishop of Winchester officiated.

It was run by Anglican nuns following the great mid-1800s movements in the church – the Tractarians and the Evangelicals – not just to be holy and have high standards of worship but to help the needy and bring the Word to the new cities.

Harriet Brownlow Byron (1818-1887), of an enlightened family, professed as a nun in 1851 in the All Saints' sisterhood and took to ministering to the poor and begging for help.

In 1857 she fell ill and came to Eastbourne to recover and was so impressed by the town that she determined to establish an All Saints' sisterhood.

The town was delighted for all resorts prided themselves on being healthy and to have your own convalescent hospital proved the point.

The hospital flourished and a children's hospital (St Luke's) was built nearby and opened in 1890 by the Prince of Wales.

All Saints was taken over in both world wars and St Luke's did not reopen as a hospital after 1945.

Dolphin Court was built on the site in the early 1960s.

By the 1950s donations to the hospital had fallen off and noviciates were not coming forward, hence in 1959 the hospital closed and was eventually taken over by the NHS. It finally closed in 2004 and Berkley Homes have now tastefully adapted the hospital for some 50 apartments and another 50 new builds on the site.

The finely proportioned and spacious chapel in Gothic revival style is admired and inspiring. Rich in polychromatic decoration whether it be of the screen (Julius Frank), the encaustic tiles, the brickwork or the Hardman stained glass, it is the best example of Victorian Gothic in Eastbourne ,although some have called it Eastbourne's own St Pancras station.

Concerts are held there when the excellent acoustics are enjoyed and it is listed Grade II* but it needs protection and most of all a purpose.