30 March 2017

St Helen's Church, Hangleton.

Judy Middleton 2003 (revised 2017)

copyright © J.Middleton
St Helen’s Church is bathed in sunshine in this photograph taken on 18 July 2010.

St Helen

The church was named after St Helena (c.255-c.330) mother of Constantine the Great. In A.D. 292 Constantine’s army in York proclaimed him Emperor and he gave his mother the title of Dowager Empress. This must have mitigated the humiliation suffered by St Helena of having been divorced by the Emperor Constantius Chlorus for no other reason than it was politically expedient to do so.

There is an old tradition that St Helena was born in Britain and might have been the daughter of the British king of Colchester, Coel. This may explain why she was chosen to be patron of the little church at Hangleton. Other sources claim a more humble origin, namely that she was the daughter of an innkeeper in Bithynia.

St Helena is supposed to have travelled to Jerusalem where she discovered the true cross, buried near the site of Calvary. She is also credited with founding the basilica on the Mount of Olives as well as the basilica at Bethlehem.

Architecture

 copyright © J.Middleton
This old coloured postcard view shows the tower of St Helen swamped with ivy.

St Helen’s Church was probably built in the late 11th century although some experts consider it might have originated in earlier times. Similar to many Downland churches, it was built of flint with Caen stone used for quoins, door and window dressings.

In the south wall flints were laid diagonally and then in reverse direction in a pattern known as herringbone. This style was favoured by Saxon builders and led the author Barr-Hamilton in his book Saxon Sussex to conclude that St Helen’s was one of the best examples of Saxon herringboning. Other authorities are not so convinced; for example, E.A. Fisher in Saxon Churches of Sussex prefers to leave the question open as to whether St Helen’s had Saxon or Norman origins. Colin Laker is of the opinion that herringbone work was ‘a common feature of Norman churches’.

St Helen’s was built as a simple rectangle with a length of 62 feet and a width of 17 ½ feet; the walls being an impressive three-foot thick.

The brick-paved floor slopes upwards from the west towards the chancel; St Nicolas Church, Portslade, and St Margaret’s Church, Rottingdean, also share this characteristic. Another feature that St Nicolas and St Helen have in common is a low-side window. There is still some debate about the purpose of a low-side window. A popular theory was that it enabled a leper to observe Mass being said without entering the church. More prosaically, a low-side window might have been fitted with a hinged shutter that could be opened and a bell rung to summon the faithful. Perhaps it was used for confessions, with the priest hidden from view inside the church and the penitent outside.
The roof has a steep pitch indicating that the original roof was thatched. The roof was re-constructed in the 13th century although some of the original timbers might have been retained.  

copyright © D.Sharp 
There are three carved objects on the south facing tower, a head in the centre, which could represent one of the various people connected to the Church, such as the Prior of St Pancras who may have financed the tower's building, a stonemason or the parish priest, below the head is a shield shape carving which could be a spade or an upturned stonemason’s mallet, to the left and above the head is an indeterminate creature’s head.

In around 1300 a tower was erected at the west end while a new chancel was built at the east, the old Norman one being destroyed. The chancel windows with their trefoil heads thus date from this time. The present chancel roof was constructed in around 1700.

It seems that there were once four windows, two on either side of the nave. For some reason during the re-construction work of around 1300 they were blocked up. It was not until 1969 that two of the windows were unblocked, revealing early painted decoration that had been preserved by the blocking-up. The other two windows were left concealed.

 Another feature that remained hidden until modern times was the north door. It was discovered when a new vestry was being built.

St Helen's Church is the oldest surviving building in the City of Brighton & Hove.

Wall Paintings

It is interesting to note that there were three different periods of mediaeval wall paintings at St. Helen’s. There were also wall paintings at St Nicolas, Portslade. It is tempting to speculate that the same hands were responsible for the decoration in both churches. Unhappily, in the latter case the wall paintings are deemed to have been lost forever because of successive coats of lime-wash.

But at St Helen’s traces have been retrieved successfully. The earliest style dates back to the 13th century with scroll-work worked in red with some yellow lines.

  copyright © D.Sharp
The 15th century figure of  St Christopher in reddish garments can be see at the left of the photograph

 copyright © D.Sharp
The 17th century
rear quarters of a lion
A tall figure of St Christopher was painted on the north wall in the 15th century; his staff rested on top of the window that had been filled-in by then. Black was used to depict the grass while the riverbank was brown. St Christopher was a popular saint of the period and was nearly always painted on the wall facing the main entrance. People believed that by looking upon his image, they would be saved from harm or sudden death that day. An extension of this idea exists to this day when many people like to have a St Christopher medallion about their person to protect them in their travels.

On the west of the north wall there was a painting dating from about the 17th century. All that was visible was the rear quarters of a lion and so it was presumed to have formed part of a royal coat of arms.

In 1521 the Pope granted Henry VIII the title of ‘Defender of the Faith’, Royal Coats of Arms of the King or Queen of the day were painted on some church walls or hung in the form of painted boards or plaques. It would remind a congregation in a visual way, that after the split with Rome, the monarch was the head of the Church and not the Pope. St Helen’s royal coat of arms would have probably been painted over in the time of Oliver Cromwell when the link between Royalty and the Church was broken. At the time of the English Civil War 1642-1651, Hangleton was in the part of Sussex that supported the Parliamentarians.

copyright © D.Sharp
The south doorway of St Helen's
A Scratch Dial

The Sussex Archeological Collection reported in 1962 that there is a scratch dial situated on the top stone of the east jamb of the south door. It is a very worn specimen and mounted upside down and is one of sixteen scratch dials in East Sussex.

Scratch dials were a primitive form of a sun-dial; they worked on the same principle whereby a gnomen cast a shadow over the face, not intended to tell the time but to indicated the time of Mass and in most cases Vespers.

It is interesting to note that scratch dials are also to be found on some of the older churches in Normandy.

By the end of the 15th century clocks had come into use and so scratch dials were no longer of importance.

Richard Bellingham

copyright © D.Sharp
The monument depicts Richard Bellington and his wife Mary at their devotions, kneeling at a prie-dieu with a book open on either side. A line of small sons stretches behind Richard; they are Edward, Richard, Henry, John and Timothy. Five daughters knelt behind Mary; they are Mary, Jane, Dorothy, Margaret and ?.

In the south east corner of the chancel there is an interesting monument that Colin Laker identified as belonging to Richard Bellingham who died at Hangleton Manor in 1597. The monument depicts Richard and his wife Mary at their devotions, kneeling at a prie-dieu with a book open on either side. A line of small sons stretches behind Richard; they are Edward, Richard, Henry, John and Timothy. Five daughters knelt behind Mary; they are Mary, Jane, Dorothy, Margaret and an unknown daughter's name. Nine children might seem an enormous family to present day sensibilities but the Bellinghams had five more who died in infancy. They are not forgotten either and four daughters and one son are represented wearing their christening robes (to signify death in infancy) below where Richard and Mary kneel.

Charles Clayton writing in 1885, suggested the long speech ribbons 'would have had the customary ‘Jesu Mercy’, but these have been sadly obliterated over time by accident or design'. The word ‘Mercy’ is just discernable today from Richard Bellingham's speech ribbon.

There was once a similar monument in St Peter’s Church, Preston to the memory of Anthony Shirley, his wife Barbara and their children. The couple also knelt at their prayer desks while their seven sons and five daughters were shown grouped below them. The boys were identified by their Christian names. This monument remained extant until the early 19th century.

Ann Norton

The earliest ledger stone set in the floor of the aisle belongs to Ann Norton who died in 1749; she was the daughter of John Norton of Portslade and his wife Ann. Perhaps she was also a relative of Revd Robert Norton who was rector of Hangleton from 1755 to 1757.

Font

There used to be a font made of lead dated 1717 inside the church; it remained until at least 1865.

Church Bell

Mears & Co of London cast the bell in 1863.

Sir George Cokayne

 copyright © J.Middleton
The bleakness of the spot occupied by St Helen’s at the head of a windswept valley is emphasised in this photograph.

copyright © J.Middleton
This map was drawn from the 1870 Ordnance Survey 6 inch map 
and shows the position of St Helen's, the lost medieval village
 and Hangleton Manor.
St Helen’s Church was fortunate in escaping the attention of zealous Victorian restorers and thus it retains more of the appearance of a mediaeval church that other old churches in the Hove and Portslade area.

Although Hangleton had once been a prosperous parish with people earning their living by growing crops and keeping sheep on Downland pastures, the ravages of the Black Death in 1348 and 1349 led to a dramatic decline in population; by 1428 there were just two households in the entire parish.

Charles Clayton writing in 1885 reported “The Sexton tells me that he finds it quite impossible to dig in any part of St Helen's churchyard (not a very small one) without disturbing previous interments, and the whole ground is full of bones up to the top, This hardly seems accounted for by an average population of Hangleton of 30 or 40 souls. It may possibly be that the Black Death (1348-9) or some similar pestilence nearly exterminated the parish, but no reference appears to show this."

An official report of 1724 stated that there were only five families living in the parish. The largest family were Quakers and therefore had no interest in the parish church. The altar stood against the wall but there was no rail in front of it as there should have been. But then no service of Holy Communion had been celebrated there within living memory.

On 30 March 1851 a Religious Census was undertaken. At St Helen’s it was recorded that there were 95 seats in the church and 25 of them were free. On Sunday morning there were fourteen souls in attendance and not surprisingly there was no service in the afternoon. The value of the tithes was put at £299.   

By the late 19th century St Helen’s was in a poor state with the tower open to the sky. It could have been left to quietly moulder away were it not for the intervention of Sir George Cokayne, Clarenceux King of Arms. It was he who in 1870 paid for the church and roof to be repaired and thus saved it for future generations.

Stained Glass Windows

copyright © D.Sharp
left:- St Helena, centre:- Thou art the King of Glory. O Christ (Tu rex gloriae Christe), 
lower centre:- angel holding an image of first Easter morning, right:- St Nicolas

copyright © D.Sharp
The Great War 
memorial window
The three-light window has been altered twice, once in 1876 and again in 1910 when the present stained glass was inserted. St Helena is depicted in the left-hand light, crowned and holding a cross while St Nicolas occupies the right-hand light. The risen Christ is the theme of the upper part of the central light and a small angel kneels below holding a framed picture of the first Easter morning.

W. Bainbridge Reynolds designed and executed the glass and Walter Tapper, architect to York Minister, was responsible for the tracery and stonework.

The window was in memory of Sophia Courtney Boyle and it was stated that ‘330 sorrowing friends’ subscribed to the cost. Miss Boyle died on 14 June 1908 and she was the sister of Revd Vicars Armstrong Boyle, vicar of St Nicolas Church, Portslade and rector of St Helen’s Church, Hangleton. According to the memorial tablet at St Nicolas ‘she was his constant companion and fellow worker, brave, intelligent, faithful, simple, generous’. The Bishop of Lewes dedicated the window on 26 March 1910.

The stained glass lancet in the north wall was given in memory of men who died in the Great War.

Reredos, Screen and Panelling

In 1925 widowed Mrs Nevett donated the reredos, screen and panelling in memory of her late husband William Nevett. A plaque with these details was placed on the west side of the chancel.

copyright © D.Sharp
The 1925 reredos, screen and panelling, on the north wall of the sanctury is the William Willet stone Pietá 

 copyright © D.Sharp
William Willett (1823-1905)
On the same side there is a delightful stone Pietá; it was given as a memorial to William Willett (1823-1905) a successful Brighton brewer who amassed an extensive collection of English pottery that he later gave to Brighton Museum and it still has pride of place. It is perhaps a strange coincidence that one of the pieces is of the celebrated Dr Kenealy who lies buried in St Helen’s churchyard.

Edward Kenealy QC., an Irish born Barrister and writer lived at 163 Wellington Road, Portslade, with his wife and eleven children from the 1850s until the mid 1870s. Kenealy commuted to London and Oxford for his law practice but returned at weekends to be with his family. He chose Portslade because of his love of the sea, of which he wrote,

"Oh, how I am delighted with this sea-scenery and with my little marine hut ! The musical waves, the ethereal atmosphere, all make me feel as in the olden golden days when I was a boy and dreamed of Heaven".

While living in Portslade he wrote the greater portion of his unorthodox theological works. He came to national prominence in 1874 when he acted as leading counsel for the "Tichborne Claimant", which became one of the most notorious 19th century trials in British legal history, leading to Kenealy being disbarred from his profession.
In 1875 Edward Kenealy was elected MP for Stoke which he held until the 1880 General Election. He died later that same year.

It is a mystery as to why Dr Kenealy was buried in St Helen’s churchyard. He lived in what was then the separate Parish of St Andrews Portslade which did not have a churchyard although Portslade Cemetery was available. If he had insisted on a church burial, the only option available would have been St Helen’s in the united Parishes of Portslade & Hangleton as St Nicolas churchyard had been closed for burials since 1872 .

copyright © D.Sharp
Edward Vaughan Kenealy's marble tomb  in St Helen's churchyard

Documented History

An early mention of the church occurs in 1093 when William de Warenne donated St Helen’s along with five other churches to the great Cluniac Priory of St Pancras at Lewes.

St Helen’s also gains a mention when Siffrid II, Bishop of Chichester (1180-1204) granted a charter to the Priory of St Pancras.

In 1386 Thomas Rushoke, Bishop of Chichester, excommunicated Nicholas Sprot, rector of Hangleton. His offence is not known and although excommunication was a serious punishment, the fact that many other clerics were in the same boat suggests it was likely to have been a dispute about tithes or clerical subsidies. Revd Nicholas Sprot was rector from 1380 to 1403 and so whatever the circumstances, he managed to keep his benefice.

In 1634 John Bridge, Parson of Hangleton and Vicar of Portslade, donated 10 shillings for the rebuilding of St Paul’s Cathedral London, (22 years later the medieval St Paul’s Cathedral was completely destroyed in the 1666 Great Fire of London, 10 shillings would pay a craftsman’s wages for two weeks)

Early Bequests

Some early bequests to St Helen’s Church were as follows:

Richard Scrase wrote his will on 25 February 1486/7 and left 3/4d for the maintenance of the high altar, and 5/- for general repairs.

Another Richard Scrase wrote his will 21 February 1499/1500. It seems he neglected to pay his dues towards the church and it must have bothered his conscience because he left 5/- to the high altar ‘for tithes forgotten’; he also bequeathed 6/8d to the church.

In 1516/17 John Sommer of Portslade left the church a quarter of barley.

In 1550 Richard Bellingham of Newtimber left five marks for church repairs while 6/8d was to be put in the poor box.

Revd Henry Boner, vicar of Patcham, wrote his will on 17 March 1551/2 leaving ‘my grett sylver spone’ (sic) to Sir Henry Hornbye, parson of Hangleton.

Advowson

The advowson (patronage) of St Helen’s Church originally belonged to the Prior of St Pancras, Lewes, until the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1537.  

From 1537 until his excecution in 1540 Thomas  Cromwell, Earl of Essex was the patron. 

In 1541 the Crown granted the patronage of St Helen’s to the former Queen, Anne of Cleves for her lifetime. When Anne died in 1557 the patronage passed to the Bellingham family.

Mary Whitstone inherited it from Edward Bellingham. But in 1599 Mary died and the advowson reverted to Thomas Sackville, Lord Buckhurst, who had purchased Hangleton Manor and property two years previously.

On 22 October 1785 John Frederick, Duke of Dorset, sold some property to his trustees, including the advowson of Hangleton church together with the tithes.

In 1815 Revd Henry Hoper became vicar of Portslade and rector of Hangleton. It was Charles, Lord Viscount Whitworth, and Arabella, Duchess of Dorset who presented him to the benefice of Hangleton.

Defence of the Realm

It may be an amusing footnote to us, but at one time clergy were expected to provide towards the cost of defending the realm. For example, in 1612 the Roll of Armor (sic) stipulated that Mr Boone of Hangleton and Glynde (he enjoyed a double benefice) must provide a ‘musquet furnished’.

Non-attendance

In 1674 the churchwardens of St Helen reported to the authorities that Arthur Hoader had not attended church and moreover he had not receive the Sacrament at Easter.

Register Troubles

A fascinating but mutilated note survives to this day dated 16 June 1679. It states ‘At ye Request of my Neighbour Tutt … to let you know yet we have neither Reg(ister) …belonging to the parish church of Hangleton … had any Marriages, Christ’nings or Burials … there of severall yeares last past’. (sic)
Revd John Temple wrote the above note and it was addressed to a Mr Jones. 

  copyright © J.Middleton
It was the same Revd John Temple who recorded the following event in the Portslade Parish Register:
 ‘By the Sacred Providence of Almighty God the old Church Register of Portslade was burnt by lightening together with ye Parsonage House of Hangleton on 31 May 1666’. 
 Ironically, it was in the same year as the Great Fire of London.

More is known about Revd John Temple than any other of the early priests at Hangleton. He was inducted as rector in 1660 and became vicar of Portslade on 26 June 1669. His wife Elizabeth was buried on 27 March 1683. But confusingly his second wife must have been called Elizabeth too because the birth was recorded on 24 April 1707 of Elizabeth Courtney, daughter of John Temple and Elizabeth. Temple became a property owner at Portslade and this included a rood of land known as The Weare. On 24 May 1705 there was a poll for the knights of the shire at Lewes and at Portslade there were just five voters, with Temple being one of them; Temple voted for Sir Henry Peachey and the Honourable H. Lumley. By 1707 Temple had retired and a new priest had taken over his priestly duties. Temple was buried on 12 February 1708 and his widow did not wait even six months before she re-married. Her bridegroom was Revd Lewis Beaumont, rector of Pyecombe, and the marriage took place on 25 July 1708. Mrs Beaumont sold The Weare to Revd John Tattersall, the next incumbent at Portslade.

In 1954 when excavations were being made prior to building the present church hall, some remains of the old parsonage came to light, thus adding weight to Temple’s testimony. The old parsonage was situated to the north east of the church.

A remote Downland Church

copyright © Brighton & Hove City Libraries
An Edwardian view of St Helen's in a remote and rural setting

It is difficult to realise now quite how open the landscape was before the late 1930s house building boom, which went on continuously through to the 1960s.
Arthur George Holl, writing in 1897 said,
‘everyone who has journeyed by the Dyke Railway will have noticed a short distance after leaving the main Portsmouth line and to their left hand side a sacred edifice (St Helen’s Church) standing absolutely alone, open to all the elements which pass over these wind swept Downs'.

Ongoing Repairs

St Helen’s was repaired again in 1929. But the beams remained hidden behind coats of plaster and thus nobody could see what sort of condition they were in. The quandary was resolved some years later when a chunk of plaster fell down and a close inspection revealed the presence of death-watch beetle. Indeed, so serious was the situation that the church had to be closed temporarily because the roof was deemed unsafe.

The new roof cost around £2,500, a considerable sum in those days when it was possible to buy a house for that amount. Some ancient timber was used for the beams that came from an old property being demolished around this time. St Helen’s re-opened in 1949.

However, repairs were by no means complete and during some severe winter weather, snow descended upon the altar and choir stalls. At last by 1951 the restoration was finished and moreover there was electric light and heating, a great boon in the winter. Lady Dance made the latter possible by providing the funds.

United Parishes

  copyright © D.Sharp
St Nicolas Church c.1170, is less than 2 miles from Hangleton, is a similar design to the older St Helen’s, 
albeit with a much larger floor area

Hangleton had a long history of being run in harness with another parish. In the 1550s Henry Hornby was the priest of Hangleton as well as being vicar of St Nicolas Portslade.

On 9 June 1585 Archbishop Whitgift (the see of Chichester being vacant) united the benefices of Hangleton and Blatchington.

In 1590 Revd Richard Mann had the living at Newtimber as well as at Hangleton.

In 1612 Hangleton was in the care of Mr Boone who was also vicar of Glynde. Revd John Bridge followed him and he was also vicar of Portslade.

Revd John Temple was in charge of Portslade and Hangleton from the 1660s.

On the 28 July 1864 Hangleton and Portslade were formally united under Order of Council.

Revd Richard Enraght who lived in Station Road was Curate-in-Charge of St Andrews Portslade with St Helen's Hangleton from 1871 to 1874. Fr. Enraght’s belief in the Church of England's Catholic Tradition, his promotion of ritualism in worship, and his writings on Catholic Worship and Church-State relationships, led him into conflict with the Disraeli Government's Public Worship Regulation Act, for which he paid the maximum penalty under the Law, of prosecution, imprisonment and eviction with his young family from the Holy Trinity Church vicarage in Birmingham in 1880. He became nationally and internationally known as a "prisoner for conscience sake".

When Revd R.C. Desch was inducted in 1946, the Bishop of Chichester said he intended to separate the parishes of Portslade and Hangleton. But the legal and financial position proved difficult while the Ecclesiastical Commissioners refused to sanction the separation of the parishes until Hangleton had a much larger population. Legally, the Bishop could not make Hangleton a conventional district but he did appoint a priest-in-charge. It was complicated because legally the vicar of Portslade was still officially rector of Hangleton. Although he derived 60% of his income from its endowments he had no control or responsibility for the welfare of the parish.

In 1955 St Helen's had its first Parish Priest appointed for over 400 years when the Parish of Hangleton was formally separated from the Parish of Portslade by Order of Council on the 15 April 1955. 

Revd Peter Bide

The first Parish Priest in 1955, was a Fr Peter Bide, previously a curate at St Nicolas Portslade for six years. Fr Bide was a close family friend of the writer C.S. Lewis from their college days.

At Oxford in 1957 Joy Davidman, whom C. S. Lewis deeply loved and had married a year earlier in a civil ceremony, was coming to the end of her life with cancer. C. S. Lewis had never acknowledged that his own civil marriage was in fact a valid marriage at all, as it was only used as an act of expediency to prevent Joy Davidman, an American divorcee, from being deported. With Joy’s health now becoming critical, C.S. Lewis asked his friend Fr Bide to visit him at Oxford. Lewis had heard that Fr Bide had once healed a suffering parishioner, and wanted him to anoint Joy. After the Service of Extreme Unction (Service for the Dying), Lewis immediately ask Fr Bide to marry them as it was Joy’s dying wish to be married in a church. Lewis had previously asked several Oxford college chaplains to do this, but all had felt inhibited by the Bishop of Oxford’s decree that the church’s prohibition of re-marriage for divorcees should be upheld in his diocese.

Fr. Bide carefully considered the request and, since he was not under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Oxford, went ahead and administered the Sacraments of Holy Matrimony and Holy Communion in the hospital ward the following day.

Fr Bide later reflected: "I had no jurisdiction in the Diocese of Oxford. The example of my fellow priests showed that I should be guilty of a grave breach of Church law. I asked Jack (C. S. Lewis) to leave me alone for a while and I considered the matter. In the end there seemed only one Court of Appeal. I asked myself what He would have done - and that somehow finished the argument..."

After the Service of Extreme Unction and the marriage the following day, Joy Davidman made an apparently miraculous recovery. The cancer went into remission, although it returned in 1959. She and Lewis had three years of idyllic happiness until her death in July 1960. C.S. Lewis died three years later on the 22nd November 1963. The reporting of the death of one of the greatest Christian writers of the 20th century was over-shadowed by world events, as this was the same day that President Kennedy was assassinated.

The Bishop of Oxford was furious and severely reprimanded Fr Bide for performing the marriage ceremony, and reported the matter to the Bishop of Chichester, George Bell, who gently rebuked Fr Bide and immediately removed him from his living at Hangleton.

Bishop Bell followed this action by appointing Fr Bide as Vicar of the larger Parish of Goring by Sea !

Fr Peter Bide's wife is buried in St Helen's churchyard.


********

Today, the Vicar of Hangleton also has responsibility for St Richard’s Church but at least it is in the same parish.

In Locks Hill, Portslade on the front of the Brackenbury Primary School (the former St Nicolas CofE Junior School which was re-built next door in the late 1960s and vacated these premises) there is a present day reminder of the once united Parishes of Portslade and Hangleton in the form of a stone plaque which states,
  copyright © J.Middleton
The school is a present day reminder of the former 
united Parishes of Portslade & Hangleton 
which was founded for the poor children of the Parishes

“These Schools were erected by Hannah Brakenbury for the benefit of the Poor of the united Parishes of Portslade and Hangleton
A.D. 1872”

The plaque states 'schools', meaning boys and girls were educated separately in the same building and the schools were specifically for the children ‘of the labouring, manufacturing and other poorer classes of the united Parishes. The 'poor' children of Hangleton would have had to walk on unmade roads and dirt tracks, an incredibly long distance by modern standards to get to the Brackenbury Church School in Portslade (which was renamed St Nicolas Church Schools in the 1880s)

Hannah's tomb is in the Brackenbury Chapel in St Nicolas Church

St Helen's Churchyard on the 'Silver Screen'

James Williamson (1855-1933) was one of the early pioneers of British film making and ran his Williamson Kinematograph Company studios at various locations in Hove until 1902 when he finally located his studios in Cambridge Grove off Wilbury Villas. Williamson's dramas and comedies were sold all across Europe and America. In 1909 Williamson produced the film ‘The Boy and the Convict’. This 12 minute length silent drama film was a very condensed version of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations. The scene with the boy at his Mother’s grave and his meeting with the escaped convict was filmed in St Helen’s churchyard by the west wall.

Windfall Money

In the 1990s St Helen’s received a windfall in the shape of compensation paid by South Coast Power for the disruption caused by laying a gas pipeline to the new Southwick Power Station. According to Brighton & Hove News the money amounted to £10,000 but according to the Argus (29 February 2000) there was a grant of £27,000.

The money paid for restoration work on the wall paintings and stained glass windows, repairs to the stonework, and for floodlighting the exterior.

See also St Helen's Churchyard

Sources

British Film Insitute
Christine & Phil James
Encyclopaedia of Hove and Portslade
Laker, Colin A Guide to the Parish of Hangleton and its Churches (1964)
London Gazette
Sussex Archaeological Collections
The Parish of St Helen's & St Richard's Hangleton
Additional research by D.Sharp

The Friends of St. Helen's campaigning group, has been set up to raise awareness of the plight of St. Helen's, which is the oldest surviving building in the City of Brighton & Hove, as there is a very real threat,  and a distinct possibility that this beautiful 11th century medieval church may have to close due to dwindling finances, To become a member of the Friends of St Helen’s only requires a modest membership fee annually, you do not have to live in Hangleton or Sussex or even in the UK to become a member of the Friends of St Helen’s.
 see:- The Friends of St. Helen's web page for more detailed information.

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