Landmark Eastbourne church to be demolished

The future of an Old Town church has been decided by church bosses.

Tuesday, 20th November 2018, 11:53 am
Updated Tuesday, 20th November 2018, 5:17 pm
St Elisabeth's Church in Old Town is to be demolished in autumn next year
St Elisabeth's Church in Old Town is to be demolished in autumn next year

Sitting derelict for years, St Elisabeth’s Church in Victoria Drive will be finally knocked down in September 2019. It is set to be replaced with housing.

This comes after the Church of England’s Church Commissioners carried out a consultation as to whether the disused church should be destroyed and its site redeveloped.

Having sought permission, they have now set an official deadline for it to be razed to the ground.

Pilgrim's Progress, a mural on the church's crypt wall, is hoped to be saved

The commissioners also ruled the building’s rare Feibusch mural – located on the walls of the crypt – is to be removed and relocated prior to demolition by Director Alex Gray of Martys Gallery and Project Space in Lewes.

Meanwhile the congregation moved into the hall next door some time ago and is a bustling hub of the community.

The news has been welcomed by former MP Caroline Ansell, who says the scheme will see ‘much-needed’ housing built.

She said, “I’m glad Church Commissioners have now set a time deadline on this and it will bring years of dilapidation to a close while also giving the community one final chance to save the murals.

“A sensitive, sympathetic development of the site is now the challenge ahead and I’ll continue to champion the community’s interest in this.

“Of course, there will be mixed feelings on the demolition of St Elisabeth’s because it’s such a strong feature in the local landscape and it could not be more local to me either as it’s been the view from my bedroom window these last ten years or more.

“But the truth of it is that, over the years, there have been many attempts to develop the site, working around and keeping the original building, but all initiatives have failed.

“If these murals can be removed and a new home found where they can be displayed and appreciated, then that is another huge positive. Where they are now is barricaded off for safety and they are failing into ruin.”

Historians have described the church’s Pilgrim’s Progress mural, painted by renowned artist Hans Feibusch as a ‘unique Holocaust memorial’.

Feibusch was Jewish and fled Nazi Germany in the early 1930s.

He painted the mural between 1943 and 1944 and experts say, although the painting charts the Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan, many understand it also illustrates Feibusch’s own journey – as a Jew escaping the Nazi’s, finding himself in a strange land and having to make his way.

He remained in Britain and died in 1998.

• Visit to find out more about what’s going on at St Elisabeth’s.