The seaside town of Hastings sits on the south coast of England in East Sussex, its shingle and sand beaches washed by the English Channel and its buildings tumbling down towards the seafront on a series of low hills. A medieval Cinque Port, it became popular with tourists in the nineteenth century, and today still draws much of its income from visitors. Unusually for these times, it has the largest beach-based fishing fleet in the UK.
The town has many beautiful buildings in a mix of architectural styles and periods, but one of the most imposing is the mid-Victorian Holy Trinity church building designed in the Gothic Revival style so popular in the nineteenth century. With a town centre location, the ornate exterior and opulent interior so typical of its architect, Samuel Sanders Teulon, and its Grade II listing, when structural changes need to be made, many challenges present themselves. This is now occupied by a Holy Trinity Brompton church plant, which is growing fast. However, its work from the building is limited by these challenges.
Round the corner from this another mid-Victorian building of architectural interest, but thankfully not listed, is The Tabernacle. Church Growth Trust (CGT) were gifted this property in 2018 by the outgoing congregation and The Tabernacle is proving to be the answer to Holy Trinity Hastings’ prayers. Jonny Heaney, CGT’s architect, takes up the story.
“We knew that we would have to carry out works at this building to provide better access for people with disabilities. My predecessor at CGT produced a set of drawings around the beautiful front entrance porch. She faced several challenges, as this part of the building is architecturally important and we had to make sure the design was sensitive to that. Given the constraints of existing levels and limited space at the front, it would not have been possible to create a ramp through the front of the porch that complied with Building Regulations. We decided that a side entrance, with the shallow ramp running in through the side of the arch in the porch, was the most appropriate way to carry out the work. Keeping the planners happy was quite a tricky job, but working closely with them and the church, we feel happy that the building is now accessible and secured for the future.”
Holy Trinity Hastings (HTH) took on the tenancy of The Tabernacle, primarily to house their children’s and youth work having not been able to adapt their main building for this. They have refurbished the basement, put in a kitchen and café area and redecorated the main hall. CGT have installed an accessible WC, as well as the new ramp to ensure it is compliant with disability legislation. Edward Gosnell is responsible for all of HTH’s buildings.