South Street Free Church — History

At the turn of the 19th century, there was a growing congregation of Christians meeting in Grove Hall, Saffrons Road, looking for a permanent place to worship. Their Pastor was Rev George Thompson. They had left Pevensey Road Congregational Church in 1897 and moved to Grove Hall (formerly St Peters Church) which they hired from the Council. Whilst there, they designed and built the present Church building.

Eastbourne was expanding rapidly at the turn of the century, as indeed did this new Congregational Church. From a nucleus of 5000 Eastbourne grew to a town of 50,000, and before long the membership of the Church approached 200. Rev George Thompson, obviously a man of drive and enthusiasm, led the congregation into the new building in 1904. He retired in 1907. In 1914 the Trustees of the Countess of Huntingdon’s Connexion assumed responsibility for the building and Rev J. Westbury Jones became the Minister.

At the time of the First World War, 42 joined the Forces, of whom 7 were killed in action. Rev Frederick Hastings was appointed in 1918 and conducted his ministry until 1937. During the Second World War, the Church was closed for 5 years. Subsequently Rev Samuel Gardiner was appointed to re-organise; everything needed attention, including the fabric of the building. Later, Pastor John Lewis ministered for a short time, but he died suddenly after an evening visit to one of the congregation.

Rev W. A. Sinden was appointed in 1957, and continued until his death in 1970. Roger Davies, the manager of the then Eastbourne Christian Bookshop (now the Eastbourne Christian Resource Centre) became Pastor, and the Church began to grow numerically. He left to go to Bible College and then became Pastor of the Countess Free Church in Ely. Rev Michael Cox was appointed from Victoria Baptist Church, but owing to illness his ministry was cut short.

In 1983 Rev K. P. Morey became the Minister (he had been a missionary in Japan for many years), and under his ministry the Church continued to thrive. He left at the end of July 1993 to undertake missionary work in Romania.

After a four-year interregnum, Ewart Helyar (who had just retired from Lindfield Free Church) came for 3 years as Pastor. In April 2000 he became part-time and continued in office until his retirement in August 2005.

Philip Laver was inducted as Pastor in September 2005. Philip had previously been Pastor of the Javea International Baptist Church in Spain before taking up the appointment in Eastbourne. David Batchelor was inducted as Assistant Pastor in September 2009, and was made Pastor on Philip's departure in October 2010.