By the middle of the nineteenth century, Eastbourne was a growing town noted for its healthy climate. The railway had arrived in 1849 and an increasing number of people were choosing to live in the town or spend their holidays here. The Duke of Devonshire, who owned much of the land, was laying out a new town with wide streets, italianate terraces and fashionable villas. The old parish church of St Mary the Virgin was at some distance from the new town so the Duke gave land for the building of a new church which was completed in 1867. The architect was George Edmund Street who designed many churches at the time when the Church of England was rediscovering its Catholic heritage through the Oxford Movement. Hence the design of the church emphasises the centrality of the eucharist, surrounding the altar with glorious decoration in the form of colourful mosaics and fine stained glass windows. Perspective view published in The Building News, July 15th 1870.
“THIS church was built in 1866. It consists of a nave 36ft. x 92ft., aisles 10ft. wide, and a chancel 22ft. x 33ft. The nave ends at the east in an apse, the central arch of which opens into the chancel. The nave aisles are continued round its apse, and projections from them are formed for organ and sacristy. The chancel Is groined with a brick unJ stone vault ; the nave has a boarded ceiling, which is intended to be painted shortly. The chance1 walls have lately (1870) been arcaded, and an alabaster reredos erected at considerable cost, and the steeple shown in the drawing is als) just begun, Mr. Peerless, of Eastbourne (who built the church), having taken the contract for £3500. This steeple ia 24ft. square at base, and 165ft. high to top of spire. The lower stage is groined ; above this groining is a parish room, and over this again the bell-ringing floor. The whole will be executed in the same materials as the church — red brick with stone dressings.
The special feature in this church is the planning of the interior, which is so contrived as to make the altar and choir easily visible from all parts. The coat of the church, exclusive of the steeple, was about £7500, and it accommodates from 900 to 3,000 persons. Mr. G-. E. Street A.B.A., is the architect. “