St Clements Church
106 High Street
East Sussex TN34 3ES
The Cinque Ports town of Hastings in south-east England was at its most powerful in the 12th and 13th centuries. It had seven churches but only two of them have survived – St Clements and All Saints. The two churches form the Old Town Parish of Hastings and services rotate between them.
St Clement is the patron saint of Seafarers and Iron Workers. There has been a church in Hastings dedicated to St Clement since Roman times.
The original St Clements was owned by the French Abbey of Frecamp. It was built in 1080 much nearer to the sea, probably close to the present ‘The Anchor’ pub in George Street. In 1287 the church fell victim to the sea.
It was rebuilt further away from the shore on land donated to the French abbey by Alan the Cheesemonger and his wife Alice. St Clements is located in Church Square at the end of the Old Town High Street, surrounded by timber-framed and brick houses.
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The new church was damaged in the French raids in 1339 and 1377. The St Clements we see today was rebuilt in 1380 and was known as the ‘Town Church’ to distinguish it from All Saints on the hill.
St Clements is built of sandstone and knapped flint in a modified Perpendicular Gothic style. The plot of land was small and the church needed to accommodate as many people as possible. There is no chancel arch and the nave and chancel are all one space - there is no rood screen.
The crenellated tower is built over the body of the church. It is low and has an external polygonal turret staircase. The walls have an unusual chequered pattern created with knapped flints and sandstone blocks. This pattern is also repeated on the east wall of the church.
The interior has north and south aisles, each with six bays. There is a 15th century font and on the east wall of the south chancel chapel are figures of Moses and Aaron painted by Roger Mortimer in 1721.
Brasses for Rubbing
Two memorial brasses of men in civilian clothes dated 1563 and 1601 are available for rubbing.
There are two magnificent two-tiered brass chandeliers from 1763. The Mayor and Corporation were also Hastings Barons of the Cinque Ports. One of their Ceremonial privileges was the carrying a canopy with 8 silver staves over the King and Queen at the Coronation.
Following the crowning of King George III in 1781 the Barons sold the canopy and silver staves and bought one chandelier and the Townsmen of Hastings bought the other.
The church underwent some 19th century renovation. Wagon ceilings with carved bosses were installed and the chancel has a pretty mosaic reredos in a stone frame; the sedilia has a painted mosaic to match.
Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Rossetti, Pre-Raphaelite painter and poet was a frequent visitor to Hastings and married his model and muse, Elizabeth Siddal in St Clements church on 23 May 1860. No family attended and she died from a longstanding illness 20 months later. However, the Rossetti family donated an engraved brass sanctuary light commemorating the marriage. There is also a memorial to Dante Gabriel Rossetti in the church.
Stained Glass Windows
Before the Second World War the church’s windows were filled with medieval stained glass. Unfortunately, a bomb dropped on the nearby 14th century Old Swan Hotel, blew out all the windows.
A lady inspecting the rubble of the Old Swan found a piece of the medieval stained glass in the shape of a little angel. It has been incorporated into one of the replacement windows.
The beautiful windows at the East end are the work of the then Head of Hastings School of Art, Philip Cole. Philip Cole’s window above the altar is also a War Memorial. It depicts The Holy Spirit, emanating from Jesus Christ on the people of Hastings. The figures all represent real people from the town.
Visitors are welcome to attend Parish services.
Contact & Further Information
+44 (0)1424 422 023 (Rev. R Featherstone)
St Clement Church Hastings External Link
Google Maps - St Clements Church Hastings