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This was only the third church to be built in Eastbourne and the first in the town’s East End. This neighbourhood was very different from the grand and exclusive resort constructed by the Duke of Devonshire. It was characterised by poor housing and health, high unemployment and a sad lack of schools. With so many needs failing to be met by the authorities, the church played a pivotal role in helping the community to cope with its hardship.
Taking 1907 as a snapshot, the Christ Church parish was home to around a third of the town’s population of 53,000. It was the most populous parish in the entire Chichester Diocese. This brought enormous challenges to which the church responded in so many positive ways.
Looking first at religious needs, it had created two satellite churches (chapels of ease) at St Philips and at St Andrews (Nor’way) to cope with the burgeoning numbers. These were complemented by a mission hall and seven bible classes. Local children were able to attend three day schools attached to these churches as well as Sunday schools, youth clubs and girl guide groups.
A support network of men’s clubs, mothers’ meetings, penny banks and provident banks was well-established. The church also operated a soup kitchen and a coffeehouse. Two parish nurses were employed to assist and visit the sick as the area had only doctor who had arrived in 1903.
The church always had a close association with the fishing community. The vicar blessed the nets at a special ceremony each year. At this time it was also the garrison church for the local military.
In all these ways, the church was not only the spiritual heart of its community but also an essential provider of welfare for its disadvantaged population. All this was delivered by a clergy team of five and two hundred local volunteers.