Old Church Hall, Hollingdean Terrace

The Mission Hall in a sad and sorry state, October 2006
Photo: J. Whittam

This article originally appeared in Hollingdean News December 2006 issue – an independent community newsletter produced and distributed by Hollingdean residents.

In November, I asked if anyone knew the history of a rundown building at the Dip end of Hollingdean Terrace as it currently has an “under offer” estate agents sign and will no doubt be demolished for redevelopment. Two readers kindly got in touch and their memories, along with a trip to the local planning office, gave me the following background.

Church mission hall
The building was purpose built as a Church Mission Hall (possibly in the 30s) and was run in connection with what is now known as The United Kingdom Evangelization Trust, a charity with Christian Brethren roots set up in 1906. The site backs onto land which was developed to build Adams Close, a relatively recent addition off Hollingbury Crescent.

One reader who grew up in Hollingdean Terrace recalls going to the ‘Chapel’ Sunday school in the afternoon from 1941 onwards and also to craft activities such as basket weaving on weekdays after school, in sessions which were open to all. These were very popular, with upwards of 35 children attending and predated any youth clubs in the area. At that time the hall was run by a Mr. Maxwell and his daughter Ruby and had a garden round it which was eventually concreted over. At the back of the hall was a room used as a library also open to local people.

The Crusaders
Another reader remembers a church run youth club at the hall called the ‘Crusaders’ which was popular before the advent of the first Hollingdean youth and football clubs based at St. Richards Church, which was built in the early 1950s.

Air raid shelter
During the war, there was an above ground air raid shelter built at this end of Hollingdean Terrace next to the hall and with good reason – vibrations from the impact of a bomb dropped on the ‘Dust Destructor’ at Hollingdean Depot site were felt in houses in the road.

The hall seems to have ceased function as a Chapel in the early 1950s, was later used for storage and over decades has fallen into a derelict state. A long running dispute over ownership of the land between the church and an individual has complicated redevelopment. Outline planning permission (now expired) was granted in 1989 for sheltered flats, and in 2005 a planning application was submitted for a rebuilt community hall and three terraced houses, by trustees of the original church organisation, with the use of the hall to be run by another Brighton church group. This application was subsequently rejected in January 2005.

Comments about this page

  • I attended prayer meetings at ‘Hollingbury Hall’ (as it was called then) up until I was 14/15 years old which means it was definitely in use as a place of worship until 1961/62 and probably longer. Originally I went to the Sunday School meetings in the main hall, and then when slightly older to a side room and became a ‘Covenanter’ (not Crusaders). I introduced quite a few of my local school chums, some I remember were Phil Morgan (Stanmer Villas), Trevor Davis and Dave and Ray Pollard (all Hollingdean Terrace). Dave, Trevor and I went to a special summer camp for Covenanters near Truro in Cornwall, I still have some photos of us!  I’m sad to see what a delapitated state the hall has fallen in to. I used to live in Hollingbury Crescent, but have lived in Lymington in Hampshire for many years now.

    By Gary Murphy (11/10/2007)
  • I, too, along with my sisters, attended the Mission Hall in the 1950s and subsequently became covenanters. I look back now and realise that our mum probably sent us to Sunday School so that she could have a break on a Sunday afternoon. And who could blame her with five children. On Wednesday evenings at the Hall, we spent the time playing rag hockey – bean bags and upside down walking sticks, kept solely for this purpose and not ‘borrowed’ from anyone needing to use them – one hopes! We were also supposed to sew small items to sell to raise funds for those less fortunate than us. I think those in charge had their work cut out though, trying to drag us from the fun of the hockey and personally I can’t remember taking part in any sewing activity at all.

    By Linda Harris (nee Keats) (14/11/2007)
  • I can put a later date on the use of the hall. We listened to Spirit in the Sky by Norman Greenbaum in 1970 as we did basket making. Mrs Richardson from No. 82 also played piano at a later date for services. I once found a tortoise at the gate of the hall that went unclaimed and became a pet!

    By Yvonne Bish (Hollingdean Terrace) (15/08/2008)
  • It was still in use well into the 70s. I remember going to Sunday School in about 76-77. We sang “In your heart there rings a melody” every week. My house backed onto the yard at the back of the place, we called it “the dump” because it was full of junk.

    By Andy Marsh (17/11/2008)
  • I live in Hollingdean Terrace. I have been told that the if the developer was prepared to build another church hall then they could have the site for free! As of today, 24th Nov 2008, they are building two nice terraced houses quite in keeping with the street and what looks like might be a good size church hall. I hope the new Hall will be used again fior the benefit of the community. On another note can any one explain some perculiarities of the houses on the east side of the lower half of Hollingdean Terrace. They have drive-in space/garage via the twittern at the back. Half of the ceiling is reinforced concrete of about 7 inchs in this space. In the kitchen above there seems to be provision in the original structure for two external doors. Some local people claim this was used by barrow boys from the meat market but I doubt this. Does any one know what these house were first used/built for?

    By Liza Dodds (24/11/2008)
  • The hall has since been redeveloped with houses. The hall has been retained and redeveloped also, and it looks very nice and fits in with surrounding area very well. It was a shame to see it so neglected. I also went to the Covenanters in the late forties – early fifties and enjoyed all the activities there. I remember making a ‘stained glass window’ out of coloured foil, paper and black paint – don’t know what happened to it though.

    By Lynda (07/07/2009)
  • I, too recall the building and could not see why someone didn’t rennovate it and put it to good purpose, so I am delighted to hear something seems to be happening to keep a hall there. I have left Hollingdean Terrace after living there for 52 years but I recall several visits to Sunday School there and winning a chocolate biscuit for giving the first correct answer to some Bible question (I was pleased but just puzzled why I didn’t get the packet!) and I also returned there once after a number of years to the healing service of a travelling Evangelist. I also remember well Yvonne Bish, who has posted a comment here, from my infant school days!

    By Julie Tolman (18/07/2012)
  • Hollingbury Hall From 1942 until 1962 I was associated with Hollingbury Hall as a Sunday School scholar, as a covenanter and then from 1955 as a member. We went back for a year in 1970 on returning from work overseas. My memories are of a group of dedicated Christians serving and evangelising, and a lively youth work. I remember Mr Maxwell leading the Sunday School. I do not know when the church went into decline but I remember valiant efforts by Don Lewis to keep the work alive in the 70s. This was the place where faith began for me and I am grateful to the leaders and teachers of that church to which I owe so much under God. I have many happy memories of Hollingbury Hall.

    By Peter M. Grinham (01/03/2013)
  • My parents were regular attenders at Hollingbury Hall until the late 1970s and I was taken as a child through the 1950s to Sunday services. I attended Sunday School and later Covenanters and the very active and lively Youth Group. 40 years ago on 14 April 1973 we held our marriage reception at Hollingbury Hall. My Christian faith began here and I was sorry to hear of the derelict state of the building.

    By Elisabeth Atkins nee Grinham (05/03/2013)
  • 1946-49, I lived with my aunt at 37 Barnett and at Mr Maxwell’s Jucos on Sunday. (x-RAF brothers Les and Ted?) I painted a window ‘frame’/foil for a play – The Man With no Face, set against an upturned table-tennis table. Cubs at 2nd Bton St Matthias ’47 and Scout. Later SL 31st Westdene. Amazing! 

    By Raymond Thatcher ex 37 Barnett Road (06/03/2015)
  • I was brought up in a Christian home and used to attend Covenanters during a Sunday Afternoon then going to a service in the evening with my married sister and her husband. Also remember going to a Covenanters camp during August 1961 at the age of 16. I came across the badge I still have 57 years later. At the age of about 14 I made a profession of Faith in our Lord Jesus and have sought to have him at the centre of my life for the subsequent years he has given me.

    By Paul Taylor (17/01/2018)
  • I remember the Chapel.  My great aunt lived next door to it at 119 Hollingdean Terrace.  I’m sure we were at school together, Elisabeth Grinham.

    Rita nee Ashdown

    By Rita Barren (06/05/2018)
  • We lived at 29, Roedale Road. One Christmas I remember Father Christmas coming out of the ‘loft’ bearing gifts for us all. I also remember playing musical chairs, and of course Sunday school all in the early ‘70s. Shocked when I saw it all overgrown with bushes when visiting my old neighbourhood.

    By Lee Siffleet (31/05/2019)

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