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16 April 2018

St Leonard's Churchyard, Aldrington.

Judy Middleton 2003 (revised 2018) 
with additional research by D. Sharp 

copyright © J.Middleton
St Leonard's Church in the 1920s before the north aisle extension was built and the churchyard was just 40 years old

An interesting report appeared in the Sussex Daily News (6 December 1906). Stuart Witten, committee member of the Brighton and Hove Archaeological Club, ‘thought it quite feasible to believe that beneath the annexe to St Leonard’s Churchyard, Aldrington, there existed the remains of an old monastery, as had been rumoured. The contractor who removed the dirt from the newly opened graves asserted that he had frequently found human bones among the dirt. This, Mr Witten said, was only natural; as he knew at least two places in the churchyard where underneath the graves were passages leading into long disused smuggler’s caves.’

copyright © J.Middleton

If there had been a monastery in the neighbourhood, it was far more likely to have been located near St Andrew’s Old Church, Hove, where the several, magnificent pillars still to be seen are far too grand for an ordinary, country church. As for smugglers’ tunnels, there have always been numerous tales about their existence, especially in Portslade, and smuggling was once so prevalent in the area that the government had to build a Coastguard Station at Hove in order to stamp it out.

In 1911 it was reported that the rector, Revd E.J. Morgan, had presented to the Museum in Hove Library a fragment of human bone found in the churchyard that was pierced with and contained a fragment of prehistoric spear-head; it was discovered in around 1908. A flint hammer-head was also discovered in the churchyard and presented to Hove Library in 1914.

copyright © J.Middleton

According to Hugh Fuller’s Will dated 1 March 1851, he owned Aldrington glebe and churchyard. It seems that because the church had been in ruins for so long, the land had passed into private ownership. But in 1882 Revd Henry Manning Ingram re-asserted church ownership by enclosing the churchyard.

  Copyright ©  D. Sharp
These interesting sarsens in the north-west corner of the churchyard were probably moved from 'Stonery field' north of the church, so not to interfere with ploughing and intense farming of the 1800s. 
The sarsens could have been markers for boundaries or even a part of an unrecorded ancient stone circle, the fact the field was called 'Stonery' indicates these sarcens had a long association with this area from early times.

copyright © J.Middleton

Drowned at Sea

On 27th September 1864 a burial took place in St Leonard’s churchyard, something which had not occurred for 250 years. The day before, a verdict of accidental death had been recorded on an unnamed sailor who drowned in ‘the canal which runs into Aldrington’. From Whitby, he had been serving on a ship called ‘The Light of The Harem’. The funeral procession went from the Adur Inn (in 2005 renamed The Gather Inn), along the coast road, up Wish Meadow, past Wish Cottage to the church, where over 250 people attended the funeral, taken by Revd F. G. Holbrooke the Vicar of St Nicolas Church Portslade

On 29 August 1891 Thomas Cox Morris of the Oare lightship whose body ‘was cast up on the beach’ was buried in the churchyard.

 Copyright ©  D. Sharp
This anchor, chain and capstan which has suffered badly from erosion
is thought to mark the sailor's graves, little of the inscription remains
except:- '(unknown ?) in Tribulation' and 'Rejoicing in Hope'

 On 11 November 1891 the vessel John Roberts carrying a cargo of slates was wrecked and driven ashore by the Portslade Gas Works. On 16 November 1891 the three victims were buried in the churchyard under a simple memorial cross bearing the inscription ‘Died by shipwreck off this shore’. The three were Capt William Williams of Carnavon aged 45, his son William Williams aged 14, and John Griffith Thomas of Llanwnda.

Copyright ©  D. Sharp
The inscription ‘Died by shipwreck off this shore’.  Capt William Williams of Carnavon aged 45, his son William Williams aged 14, and John Griffith Thomas of Llanwnda.
(sadly the Cross has broken away from the plinth, Thanks to Mr M.Hill for locating this gravestone) 

Because of the heavy seas, the Shoreham lifeboat wasn’t launched and the Brighton lifeboat had to come by road. By the time it was launched, the ship had sunk. One man, John Henry Hughes, was rescued but the bodies of Capt. Williams and his 14 year old son were washed up on shore. In Wales, the captain’s wife was left with eleven other children. The National Lifeboat Institution later opened a public enquiry into the failure of the rescue. Capt. Williams and his son are buried in St Leonard’s churchyard. Local people set up a fund to help his widow.

Copyright ©  D. Sharp
Charles Nicholas Stredwick, Died in 1879 Aged 14 years

A Tragic Event

In August 1879, 14 year old Charles Nicholas Stredwick, the son of St Leonard’s Parish Clerk, Nicholas Stredwick and his wife Sarah, began his job as a porter at Portslade Railway Station. He worked for the London, Brighton & South Coast Railway. Another Stredwick worked there, so perhaps he had helped him get the job. There is a record of him being employed. Three months later, his name is again in a record book, one which shows staff who have left. On 28th November, 1879 he was hit by the 7.45 train from Ford Junction. He suffered head injuries and died soon after. In the record book is simply written ‘Killed, crossing line, 28/11/79’.


On 5 August 1897 one-month old Maud Colwell of Westbourne Street was buried in the churchyard. In a pathetic adherence to church rules, her tiny coffin was not brought inside the church because she had not been baptised.

 Copyright ©  D. Sharp
Wilton Dales d.1893 aged 4 months and 
Margaret Ada Farringdon d.1882 aged 18 months

 In September 1899 no less than eight babies were buried at St Leonard’s.

copyright © J.Middleton
Dame Elizabeth Adcock

Dame Elizabeth Adcock - born Elizabeth Watkin in 1825 the daughter of Richard Watkin a Battle of Waterloo veteran and London Policeman. She married Dr Hugh Adcock in 1866 who was knighted in 1901. Sir Hugh served as Chief Physician to His Imperial Majesty the Shah of Persia from 1896-1905 and later served as Consul General for Persia in Florence.
During his lifetime Sir Hugh received honours and decorations from Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Holland, Persia and Serbia. Dame Elizabeth died in 1908 and Sir Hugh died in Devon in 1920.

copyright © J.Middleton
James Compton Burnett

James Compton Burnett – In the front west part of the churchyard is the grave belonging to the parents of the noted novelist Ivy Compton-Burnett (1884-1969). Her father died on 2 April 1901 aged 60, and her mother died on 5 October 1911 aged 55. Dr Burnett was a conventional doctor until he discovered homeopathy, which was considered very eccentric in Victorian times. The doctor was married twice, having six children with the first wife and seven more with his second one. St Leonard’s Church had been a favourite destination for the doctor’s Sunday strolls from his residence in The Drive, while also allowing him to keep an eye on the many properties he owned in the area. A rose-marble cross marks the grave with Semper Fidelis in metal letters upon it.

copyright © J.Middleton
2nd Lieutenant Cyril Frederick Crapp

2nd Lieutenant Cyril Frederick Crapp – He had only joined up in July 1916 and was killed on 22 May 1917 in an aviation accident. Conditions were clear and bright when four aeroplanes were spotted high in the sky over Portslade. Suddenly, two of the planes collided, and plummeted to the earth, one ending up in Aldrington Recreation Ground and the other in the sands opposite Hove Seaside Villas. Both pilots of the Royal Flying Corps were killed, the other being 2nd Lieutenant William John Douglas Vince. Crapp’s grave is to be found near the south west boundary wall, and for many years a piece of wreckage from the plane rested on top of his grave.

 Copyright ©  D. Sharp
Mary Maria de Kantzow
and her son Hugh Winyett Bosanquet de Kantzow
and his wife Lillith Ruth and their son Barry.

Alfred de Kantzow – This Portslade poet was an extraordinary man who lived in Carlton Terrace for many years and became great friends with the eminent John Cowper Powys, and indeed was greatly esteemed by him. One of Alfred de Kantzow’s poems was entitled The Bells of St Leonard’s and poignantly records his deep feelings of loss at the death of his wife who is buried in St Leonard’s churchyard.

 Copyright ©  D. Sharp
Sir Charles Aubrey Smith, his mother Sarah and sisters Myrtie and Beryl
(in 2018 Sussex County Cricket Club financed the restoration of the gravestone)

Sir Charles Aubrey Smith – He was a man with many talents, being a fine footballer as well as a cricketer of note with skills in both bowling and batting and he captained the Sussex cricket team. He later became famous as an actor, settled in Hollywood and appeared in memorable films. But he made his acting debut on the stage in Hove Town Hall with the Green Room Players.

He died in Hollywood and his ashes were brought back to be buried in St Leonard’s churchyard and his grave lies next to that of Lieutenant Crapp. The Smith memorial takes the shape of a massive rounded slab laid on the ground while at the head there is a curious structure of rugged stones surmounted by a stone cross. The inscription on the slab reads With malice towards none; with charity for all / Sarah Annie Smith aged 86 / Myrtie Bedell Smith aged 26 / Beryl Crossley Hamilton aged 40 / 1948 Sir Charles Aubrey Smith, Knight, son of Sarah, brother of Myrtie and Beryl aged 85. A small inscription on the rugged stones reads Myrtie 20 July 1896 / Beryl 1 May 1912. 

 Beryl Crossley-Hamilton Faber - the sister of Aubrey Smith, was also an actor. She toured Australia in 1895 and appeared in many popular plays in England. She was married to Cosmo Hamilton, a leading playwright and novelist, and lived for a time in Medina Villas but sadly died at the age of 40 at the height of her career.

copyright © J.Middleton

Revd Roxborough Remington Smith - was born in Brighton in 1872, Roxborough Remington Smith was a brilliant scholar. He gained two degrees, went on to Cambridge University, won many academic prizes, took an MA, then went to university in Canada, to gain his Doctor of Divinity.
He wrote two books and was ordained in 1901. Starting as a lecturer, he soon became principal of two theological colleges and was then appointed principal of a college in Rangoon, Burma. In 1914 he returned to Britain to become a vicar in Dorset but seven years later, in 1921, he was appointed Professor of Divinity at the University of Lennoxville in Quebec, Canada. From 1924-1926 he was Chaplain to the Bishop of Quebec.

In 1927 he was appointed Diocesan Bishop of Algoma, in Canada. Visiting Britain in 1939 when war broke out, he decided to stay, and retired from the post in Canada. He served as General Secretary of the Church Union and spent his last working years as Rector of Lapford in Devon. Aged 70, he fully retired from the Church in 1942. Some time after this, he moved to St Keyna Avenue, Hove and died there in 1955. His obituary was printed in The Times.

Revd Maxwell Mochluff Ben Oliel - Originally named Mejluf, he was born into a Jewish family in Tangier, Morocco in 1832. His father was the physician, interpreter and advisor to the King of Morocco and later moved to Gibraltar to become the King’s Consul General.

In 1851 Mejluf was baptised in a Wesleyan Chapel in Gibraltar and took the Christian name of Maxwell. Like his older brother Abraham he served as a missionary for The British Society for the Propagation of the Gospel Among the Jews in the Holy Land and Morocco. There was a younger brother, Moses who was also a missionary for the Society in Oran, Algeria. A few years later Maxwell resigned from missionary service and became the pastor of the Congregational Chapel at Isleworth in Middlesex.

Maxwell was a gifted multi-linguist, speaking Hebrew, Chaldean, Arabic and Spanish. In the British Workman periodical of 1856, it reported that it was fortunate that the missionary Maxwell Ben Oliel was in Plymouth when three former slaves arrived in the port from Cuba. The periodical went on to say, Ben Oliel was the only person in Plymouth who could interpret for the freed slaves and address their good welfare while they were awaiting a ship to take them to the Gambia.
(The three former slaves had bought their freedom through a lottery scheme and paid the British Consul in Havana for safe passage to England. Slavery was not abolished until 1886 in Cuba.)

Maxwell left the Congregational Church in 1860 and entered an Anglican Theological College. He was ordained a priest by the Bishop of Carlisle and was subsequently Chaplain to the Duchess of Northumberland.

After serving as curate at a number of churches in the north of England he then took a temporary curacy at St Matthew's in Croydon. Ben Oliel had the reputation of being a brilliant theologian and preacher. His preaching attracted a large congregation who were keen on the idea of a new church with Ben Oliel as the incumbent. Ben Oliel left St Matthew's for a new church called St Paul’s which was set up in the converted Havelock Hall. The church grew and flourished.

Ben Oliel's brother in law, Robert Parnell, was a wealthy business man and guaranteed the money for a new church building to be erected in Canning Road. The new St Paul’s Church building was opened in September 1868 and Havelock Hall was sold. The Archbishop of Canterbury twice refused to license St Paul's and he, together with the vicar of St James, set up a new District with an ‘iron Church’ in competition to this ‘new’ St Paul’s.

June 1872 was a seismic moment in Ben Oliel’s ministry, when he announced to his very large evangelical congregation that all Services would now be conducted in the ritualistic Anglo-Catholic Tradition. There were protests from the congregation to the Bishop of Croydon and the Archbishop of Canterbury over the adoption of illegal ritualistic practices which culminated in the congregation leaving en masse. St Paul’s struggled to stay open and finally closed down in 1874 when it was sold to the Church of England.

For the following two years Ben Oliel took a curacy at St Michael's, a leading Anglo-Catholic church in Brighton. From 1876 until late in 1889 he served as a curate at several churches around London.

The Revd Maxwell Ben Oliel, although a very experienced priest, never achieved a status higher than a parish curate. He hardly endeared himself to the Archbishop of Canterbury when his ministry took him in a controversial Anglo-Catholic direction and he also made public speeches on the 'Disestablishment of the Church of England'. This is probably why his ministry took him to the Episcopal Church in the USA, the only part of the Anglican Communion that was disestablished from the Crown.

In 1889 he served as missionary for the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of California.
Some years later Bishop Nichols sent Ben Oliel, who was described as a very distinguished Biblical scholar and preacher, to St John’s Episcopal Church San Bernardino for a month or so as cover when the previous priest left. This cover as Rector in effect lasted just over two years.

1890s church notice  from The San Bernardino Daily Courier

On arriving in the Parish in December 1891, he found the Church advertised for sale, with debts of nearly $6000 ($150,500 in today’s values). Through clever management and the sale of Church property, Revd Ben Oliel put the Church on a sound financial footing, staving off the Sheriff’s sale of the building and even finding $500 to improve the Church’s interior. On Trinity Sunday in 1892, Bishop Nichols visited St John’s to conduct a Service of Thanksgiving assisted by Revd Ben Oliel and Canon Fletcher. While serving as Rector of St John’s, Revd Ben Oliel gave practical advice to the Diocese of California on the subject of Diocesan and Parochial organisation.

In 1893 Revd Ben Oliel wrote to the secretary of the Diocese of California giving news of his ministry since he left St John’s in August 1892, in which he indicates he seemed to be in high demand in the East.

I have preached, lectured and officiated in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Camden, Baltimore Jacksonville and many other cities and parishes, delivered altogether 137 sermons, lectures and addresses in 29 churches and other places. During Lent I preached every Sunday evening in St John’s Cathedral, Jacksonville, Florida and every Sunday morning in St Andrew’s Church in the same city. I have reason to believe that God has blessed my work, I had large congregations, sometimes the churches were full and overflowing.’

In 1894 Revd Ben Oliel accepted a permanent position in the Diocese of Rochester.(USA)

In an article in the Sun Weekly (California) newspaper for 4th February1900, it was stated ‘Revd Ben Oliel’s services to St John’s Church at such a critical time in its history, must be recognised as of great value’.

On his return to England in 1896 he founded the Kilburn Mission to the Jews and took Sunday services in various London churches. At the Church of England’s Church Congress held at the Royal Albert Hall in 1899, Revd Ben Oliel delivered a speech on the subject ‘The Social and Religious Conditions of Jews’. In 1901 he was elected president of the Hebrew Christian Alliance.
He died on 8th March 1907 aged 74, at the aptly named St Paul’s Lodge, 25 Walsingham Road, Aldrington, Hove.

 Copyright ©  D. Sharp
'Looking unto Jesus'
In Loving Memory of  Maxwell M. Ben Oliel, Priest
Who Entered into Rest,  March 8th 1907 Aged 74 years.

It may be thought a mystery as to why this much travelled priest, missionary, lecturer and author should retire to Aldrington. The possible answer could lie in the fact he knew the area well. The Revd Ben Oliel’s reputation must have been well known in the Brighton area for his name to appear on the list of guests for the official opening of St Bartholomew’s Church Brighton in 1874. The largest and tallest Anglo-Catholic church in England.

Revd Ben Oliel was friends with the Priest in Charge of St Andrew’s Church Portslade by Sea, the Revd Richard Enraght, a controversial Anglo-Catholic himself, who later served a prison sentence in 1880 for opposing the Government’s Public Worship Regulation Act.
Revd Ben Oliel and Revd Enraght would have known each other from their days when they were both curates in Brighton. Revd Ben Oliel was invited to preach on numerous occasions at St Andrew’s Portslade. Geographically St Andrew’s Church Portslade was the closest church to the people of Aldrington in the days before their own church was rebuilt in the late1870s.

Canon Henry Theodore Mogridge – was born in Loddington, Leicestershire in 1891. He became Rector of Goadby from where he moved to Sussex to become the Rector of St Leonard’s Church in 1926.
Under Revd Mogridge’s stewardship St Leonard’s Church doubled in size with a new north nave, baptistry, lych gate and spire added to the tower. In 1956 he left the Parish to become Rector of Thakeham and died in 1970. Revd Mogridge was St Leonard’s longest serving Rector and because of his love of Aldrington, requested that he be buried in St Leonard’s churchyard.

Raj Connections

There are at least two connections with India in the churchyard. Frances Jane Young died at Hove on the 9 March 1907 and she was the youngest daughter of the late Richard Young of the Bengal Civil Service.

 Copyright ©  D. Sharp
Catherine Emma Cooke

Catherine Emma died on 4 January 1908 aged 69. She was the widow of E.R. Cooke, Inspector of Schools in the Punjab.


F.A. Crouch designed the lych-gate and it was erected in 1949 as a memorial to those killed in the Second World War. See also Aldrington-St Leonard's War Memorials page for further details and name listings.

 Copyright ©  D. Sharp
Plaque reads:- This Lych-Gate reminds all who pass through of 
the sacrifice of those who lost their lives in the 1939-1945 War.

St Leonard's churchyard  'Secret Garden Group'

 Copyright ©  D. Sharp

In the north-east corner of St Leonard’s churchyard there is a former unconsecrated memorial garden, which over time has become an overgrown waste land .

In February 2013 the Secret Garden Group transformed this area through tremendously hard physical work into an organic community allotment. The Secret Garden volunteers have created raised bed vegetable gardens, herb gardens, a wild life pond and a wild wooded area.

The Group’s Secretary Joi Jones stated, “We hope that, once again, it will be somewhere where people can sit peacefully and reflect, and a great place to learn about food and how it’s grown, as well as a place to meet other members of the community and share knowledge and ideas.”
For more information, news of future events and activities see the Secret Garden Group's facebook page

 Copyright ©  D. Sharp
 Copyright ©  D. Sharp


British History Online:- churches & chapels  
British Workman (1859) periodical
Internet searches
Kelly's street directories
Lancaster, B - The Reverend Ben Oliel and the troubles at Addiscombe
Los Angeles Herald
Middleton, J Encyclopaedia of Hove and Portslade
Sussex Daily News (6 December 1906)

Many Thanks to Jenny Watts for access to her Aldrington research material.

See St Leonard's Church website and also St Leonard's Aldrington facebook page

Copyright © J.Middleton 2018
page layout by D. Sharp.