12 January 2016

St Andrew's Old Church - Churchyard - Hove


Judy Middleton  2003 (revised 2017)

 copyright © J.Middleton
What remains of the south part of St Andrew’s Churchyard was photographed on 14 April 2015.

The first recorded burial in St Andrew’s churchyard was that of Emily Smith on 12 December 1539. For centuries it retained the ambience of a country churchyard. Revd F.W. Robertson of Brighton, a celebrated preacher, wrote a letter in 1850 that gives us an insight into how it used to be. He wrote that he needed some fresh air one evening and took a walk to the churchyard. He was pleased ‘to hear not a single human soul far or near. ‘The moon was rising, like glowing copper, through the smoke of Brighton, above there were a few dense clouds, edged with light, sailing across a marvellous blue … I heard nothing but the sea … falling with a most dissonant, heavy, endless clang upon the shore.’ Robertson’s sermons were so popular that theological students were urged to read one a day. Robertson certainly knew his Scriptures, having learnt the Gospels in English and Greek by heart while at university.

The old village of Hove clustered around Hove Street only had a small population and so the churchyard was adequate for their needs. This all changed with the rapid expansion of Hove in the 19th century. First there was Brunswick Town in the east part of the parish, then the Cliftonville area with names derived from the Isle of Wight as well as George Street; finally there was the laying out of the Avenues built on land that once formed part of the Stanford Estate. The population figures provide a graphic example of rapid population growth. In 1801 Hove had a population of 101 persons, by 1851 it had risen to 4,104 and by 1901 it was an astonishing 29,695.

Expansion

In the 1850s St Andrew’s churchyard was the only place for burial in Hove. Although St Andrew’s Chapel in Waterloo Street had some burial vaults, it would soon become illegal to use them. On 3 May 1858 the Ecclesiastical Commissioners purchased for £1,400 three acres north of the churchyard from the Vallance Estate. It should be remembered that the extended churchyard thus stretched north to the old flint wall alongside the pub in Belfast Street and south of its present boundary in Church Road, which meant that Church Road was not a through road. When there was a funeral emanating from Brunswick Town, the cortège had to go along the coast road and turn up Hove Street in order to reach the churchyard.

In 1880 J.G. Bishop described the churchyard thus: (It) ‘is a model of order and neatness (and) there are many interesting and beautiful monuments.’

But it did not take long before the expanded churchyard filled up and by an Order in Council dated 22 May 1883 the churchyard was closed to further burials with the exception of family vaults already in existence.

Hove Cemetery was opened in 1882 with the original 25 acres being on the south side of Old Shoreham Road. Today Hove cemetery covers 45 acres and lies on both sides of the road.

Road Widening

But a truncated Church Road remained a problem. The southernmost part of the churchyard was safe as long as Revd Walter Kelly (vicar from 1834 to 1873) was in charge. But when he died in 1888 the main obstacle was removed because the new vicar of Hove, Prebenday Peacey, was cut from different cloth and was in favour of the Church Road widening scheme. The Revd Walter Kelly’s son, also in Holy Orders, said his father would never have sanctioned such an act.

On 7 February 1894 a Faculty was granted to Hove Council to appropriate part of the churchyard for road widening purposes. The Town Surveyor was given instructions to arrange for the removal and re-interring of human remains, and the removal and re-erection of monuments.

 copyright © J.Middleton
 The fine wall in the background was probably constructed in 1832 when the gasworks were built, which was before the church was re-built.

Re-burials – 1890s

In July 1895 hoardings were placed around the south end of the churchyard. To many ordinary folk, the destruction of the burial ground was equivalent to sacrilege. While Prebendary Peacey might hold progressive views, many of his parishioners were steeped in traditional beliefs. In the same month the hoardings were erected, someone painted the message It’s a Real Sin three or four times on the wood. When Prebendary Peacey caught sight of the graffiti he was said to have ‘executed a hornpipe in his rage’. But as the local newspaper commented sarcastically, ‘judging from that gentleman’s size, we are inclined to question that statement.’

Someone also spread the rumour that two of the workmen engaged in digging up the bodies had succumbed to typhoid but that was refuted in the Press.

In one portion of the graveyard the soil was of such a clayey nature that the skeletons had turned the colour of terracotta.

There was also the delicate matter of jewellery. Apparently, in the third section when a body was being removed, a gold ring was picked up.

By August 1895 a total of 317 or 318 bodies had been removed from St Andrew’s churchyard and re-buried in the north east part of Hove Cemetery. The operation cost £3,250.

Some of the memorials went too. Evidence of this can be seen north of the circle with four fir trees. There is a tombstone in memory of Phillis, wife of Samuel Webb died on 18 July 1828 aged 53 and Samuel Webb died 28 November 1843 aged 67. There are a few other old tombstones in the vicinity although the lettering is now indecipherable.

But it appears most of the tomb stones never made the journey and were re-used locally for other purposes. For example, it was claimed that the steps and paving at 39 Medina Villas were grave slabs. In 1963 builders were knocking down the lower staircase at that house, when they discovered a stockpile of old grave slabs and used one as a temporary repair job in the pavement.
A new wall defined the churchyard’s new southern boundary. At first glance it looks like an ordinary flint wall with red brick dressings. But if you look closer you can see the unusual flint pattern was copied from the re-building of St Andrew’s in the 1830s. This pattern consisted of one boulder and one knapped flint used alternatively and it was a construction insisted upon by Mr Davies, clerk of the works. 

Demolition of most of the North Churchyard 1970s

copyright ©  Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove
A 1933 aerial view of St Andrew's north churchyard before it was destroyed and obliterated by the building of a Tesco's car park, school playing fields and church hall
copyright ©  Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove (apologies for modifying their photograph)
An approximate footprint of the Tesco's car park, school playing fields and Church Hall superimposed over the former St Andrew's north churchyard

It was unfortunate that by the 1960s St Andrew’s churchyard should be located in such a densely populated area and moreover that the church school of St Andrew’s should be crying out for more space. In the mindset of the 1960s Victorian artefacts held little value and eminent historians were of the view that Victorian architecture was not worth preserving – with the honourable exception of John Betjeman of course. The classic case at Hove was Alfred Waterhouse’s fine Hove Town Hall. When it was badly damaged by fire in 1966 it could have been rebuilt if the will had been there. But councillors decided on demolition and it was replaced by what some claim is a fine example of the brutalist movement.

If the question of getting rid of so many fine monuments and the peaceful green oasis had arisen today, there would be uproar and perhaps a national campaign to save it. Since then many old churchyards have become virtual wildlife sanctuaries where native wild flowers are encouraged. 

According to Henry Porter, writing in 1897, one of the most elaborate groups of figures in white marble in the churchyard was to be found on the tomb of Joshua Jepson Oddy who died aged 73 on 20 November 1869. But Porter thought the handsomest monument was the nearly life-size marble figures of Faith, Hope and Charity over the tomb of Edward Latham Brickwood.

By the 1960s the churchyard was a wonderful place for some but a nightmare for the tidy-minded or for those charged with the upkeep. There was a group of large deciduous trees in the centre that encouraged vociferous bird life and included a resident owl. Long grass waved everywhere and some of the monuments were decidedly shaky. But there was a certain charm in the déshabillé of the place with strands of ivy creeping up the obelisks and the crumbling angels. It was still possible to imagine oneself as being in a country churchyard.

But 2 ½ acres were to be sacrificed in the interest of providing new buildings for St Andrew’s School. It was a complicated issue because the redevelopment of the area also included the site of the former Gasworks, the Gas House and the site once occupied by the demolished gasholders with different landowners involved. What happened eventually was that the Malvern Street car park was closed and the new school built on the site. When that was ready for occupation, the old school was demolished and churchyard land became playing fields. Meanwhile, Tesco’s, who had played a part in building the new school as part of planning gain, constructed their gigantic store on the gasworks site while their extensive car park covered more cemetery land.

  copyright © J.Middleton
This photograph was taken on 30 January 2015, a bright but cold day. Note that most of the pigeons are huddled together facing into the wind.

Bring Up the Bodies … or Not

The takeover of churchyard land involved the delicate matter as to what to do with all the bodies. The modern Hove Council was never going to countenance the tremendous expense of removing some 2,000 human remains, as their predecessors did in the 1890s. Also there were not the religious sensibilities regarding the dead as there had been in Victorian times. Another factor was that Hove had a long tradition of transient residence and there was therefore unlikely to be an army of angry people whose forebears had lived in the place for generations.

But first of all there were legal matters to attend to. The Hove Corporation Act of 1966 stipulated that if any churchyard land was utilised for building purposes, then the graves thus affected must be removed. Therefore a Bill had to be presented to Parliament to amend it and allow the bodies to remain where they were.

Then a public notice had to be published concerning the graveyard and the possible removal of gravestones. This public notice appeared on 24 October 1972 and asked anybody with a claim to contact the authorities.

In the event only one family came forward. The Lurgan family vault contained five coffins. They belonged to:

Charles Brownlow, 2nd Baron Brownlow (1831-1882) 
Emily Anne Lurgan, widow of the above, who died in 1923
Roderick Cecil Brownlow, 5-week old baby who died in 1914
The Honourable Mary Emily Jane Brownlow (1854-1917)
Lieutenant Colonel the Honourable John Roderick Brownlow (1865-1932)

A remark in the church burial book dated 2 October 1932 stated ‘room for three more’.

On 1 May 1973 these coffins were removed from St Andrew’s churchyard and re-interred in Hove Cemetery. The operation was performed with the utmost discretion but even so one parishioner happened to notice what was going on and remarked to the verger about ‘the large funeral you have going on here’. The removal cost in the region of £1,500.

The rest of the interments were left undisturbed. When a building was erected on the former graveyard, it was built on a concrete raft.

A somewhat macabre event was when workmen were starting to build Tesco’s car park. They discovered that the coffins had not been buried as deep as they should have been; it was therefore necessary to raise the level of the car park to take account of this fact.

Before the memorials and headstones were destroyed, volunteers went about with pen and notepad recording every decipherable inscription for posterity. When completed, the results were typed up and three copies were made. One was lodged at Hove Library, the second was at the record office (now The Keep) and the third remained at St Andrew’s Old Church.

It is a matter of regret that at least one important grave was lost. Charles Augustin Busby, the architect of Brunswick Town, was buried here.

It is also a pity nobody seemed bothered about what happened to headstones, figures or monuments or where they went. Were they all broken up for hardcore? Perhaps somebody out there knows the answer.

More Churchyard Loss

copyright © J.Middleton
This wonderfully clear photograph dates from the 1950s and gives a nostalgic glimpse of the eastern portion of the churchyard, now sadly obliterated. 
Note also the old flint-built and gabled St Andrew’s Church of England School in George Street, now also gone.

copyright © J.Middleton
A closer view of the lost south-east corner of the churchyard, 
which was obliterated and built over.
A further piece of churchyard destruction took place in the south-east corner when a new church hall was constructed in the 1980s.

The most interesting of the monuments obliterated was a fine table tomb belonging to Sir David Scott of Sillwood House, Sillwood Place, Brighton. He died on 18 June 1858. He had been a director of the Honourable East India Company from 1814 to 1819. Later he became chairman of Brighton Magistrates. His widow, Lady Caroline, lived at 22 Brunswick Terrace; she died in 1870.and was also buried at St Andrew’s.

The final bill for constructing the church hall came to £185,000. It was much more than was envisaged at first and this was because of the expensive concrete raft that had to be laid so the burials were not disturbed.

In May 1983 Tim Sainsbury, Hove’s MP, officially opened the new church hall.

Tombs of Interest

Fortunately, there are a few tombs of interest still intact.

   copyright © J.Middleton
Copley Fielding
Copley Fielding – artist. His two daughters were buried here (see Lansdowne Place, number 2)

  copyright © J.Middleton
Charlotte Elliott
Charlotte Elliott –hymn writer (see Brunswick Square,number 31)

  copyright © J.Middleton
George Everest (central gravestone)
George Everest – After whom Mount Everest was named. His stone is the central one.   (see Hove and the Raj)

copyright © J.Middleton
Gore family
The Gore family tomb – (see Brunswick Square, number 26)

 copyright © J.Middleton
Admiral Sir John Hindmarsh
Admiral Sir John Hindmarsh – He lived at 12 Albany Villas.

 copyright © J.Middleton
John Olliver Vallance
John Olliver Vallance – Hove landowner (see Hove Museum)

 copyright © J.Middleton
Lieutenant James Webber Smith
Lieutenant General James Webber Smith – (see Waterloo Veterans)

 copyright © J.Middleton
 Admiral Westphal
Admiral Westphal – (see also St Andrew’s Old Church / Brunswick Square, number 2)

Mosaic

 copyright © J.Middleton
This mosaic work dates from 2002.
In 2002 a colourful mosaic was installed on a former blank wall on the north side of the church where ashes are interred. Karen Wydler was the designer with the assistance of children from St Andrew’s Church of England School.
Sources

J.Middleton Encyclopaedia of Hove and Portslade

Copyright © J.Middleton 2015
page layout by D.Sharp