Starting the Church in Coldean
In February 1953 Fr Cyril Bess was appointed to the Parish of Moulsecombe to minister to the people of Coldean. A Sunday school was started in Coldean Infant and Junior School early in 1953. Fr Bess lived at 1 Coldean Lane, which was the first vicarage, and was used for church meetings.
Fr Bess started by holding services in the school on Sunday mornings and evenings and used a portable altar for his services. In the first year of Fr. Bess’ ministry at Coldean the Bishop of Lewes confirmed 19 candidates at a service in the school on a Sunday evening in October which was attended by about 300 people.
The church family grew rapidly in Coldean and it was decided that a permanent church building was needed rather than hiring the school for services.Charles Yates drawing of the barn shows it as it appeared in the 1940’s when it was still in use. By the 1950’s the flint barn had fallen into disuse and was derelict.
The Diocese of Chichester decided to buy land at Coldean farm from Brighton Corporation, as the derelict barn was thought suitable for conversion to a church. The Flint Barn has been dated c1800 and was shown in a field called New Barn field on a map surveyed and drawn in 1799 and 1800 by William Figg of Lewes for the Stanmer estate.
Converting the Barn
The foundation stone was laid on Saturday 2nd April 1955 by the Archdeacon of Lewes (the Venerable J. H. E. Morrell). By the 7th November 1955 an altar from St Michaels Church had arrived but needed enlarging.
St. Mary Magdalen, Church at Coldean, was dedicated by the Bishop of Lewes (the Rt. Rev. Geoffrey H. Warde) on Tuesday the 20th December 1955.
The picture above of the church taken in the 1960’s shows the toilets and small kitchen built on the left to match the Lady Chapel which was on the other side of the church. Two small cloakrooms were built on the near end of the church.
The Lady Chapel above was added to the barn when it was converted into a church in 1955.
The Reredos at Coldean was installed in May 1957. It had been part of an elaborately carved high altar in St. Anne’s Church, Eastbourne. St Anne's Church, consecrated in 1882, commissioned a new high altar in 1896 and the work was undertaken by John Ninian Comper, a Scottish architect whose design reflected his enthusiasm for German fifteenth-century Gothic art.
In 1940 St. Anne’s Church was destroyed by bombs and the parish finally came to an end in 1955. Of the original altar only the middle panel survived and was placed as a Reredos in St Mary Magdalene's Church at Coldean.
Reredos in St Mary Magdalen Church
Coldean Church - part 2
The first St Mary Magdalen Church in Brighton was in Bread Street