St Mary in the Castle is a grade II* listed former Church built in the Neo-Classical style. It was converted into an arts centre in 1998 after substantial refurbishment by Hastings Borough Council and English Heritage.
The building sits as the centre piece of the delightful Pelham Crescent above the regency Pelham Arcade on Hastings Seafront. The arcade is currently undergoing works to restore it to its original form and now houses the St Mary in the Castle Restaurant. With its restored lantern roof the restaurant is a bright and welcoming space.
Past the restaurant lies the enigmatic and atmospheric crypt, now used as one of the most interesting and unusual exhibitions spaces in East Sussex.
The auditorium with its domed roof, box pew gallery, cupola and original stained glass windows is used to stage events ranging from contemporary live music to classical, opera and theatre.
St Mary in the Castle aspires to be one of the most unique arts and music venues on the South Coast, showcasing international and local performers in a range of artistic disciplines whilst maintaining the buildings historical integrity.
The new trust has the interests of local people at its core, but has national and international aspirations too. We truly believe that St Mary in the Castle can put Hastings on the map as a hub for live music, theatre and the arts, enabling people to enjoy the building we all love so much long into the future.
In 2015 we have had The Fall, Courtney Pine, Fairport Convention, The Full English, The Freedom Theatre of Jenin, Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, an amazing exhibit highlighting the works of Lee Miller and Rupert Penrose, and countless other incredible shows and exhibitions.
We’ll continue to put on all of your favourite local community events, like the brilliant Hastings Philharmonic Choir, and you can still get a coffee and Danish on a Sunday morning when you come along to a jazz breakfast; and as a centre for the arts we aim for our program to be diverse, bringing interesting, exciting, thought provoking work from across the music, film and art worlds here to Hastings.
In 1824 the Earl of Chichester, Thomas Pelham saw an opportunity for development of his land at the bottom of the West Hill to house the ‘discriminating population’ of Hastings. He engaged Joseph Kay as architect and work began, including the excavation of a large section of the cliff face. The development would include a crescent with grand town houses overlooking the seafront, and a neoclassical fronted church as its centrepiece; beneath the crescent a shopping arcade would complete the grand design. The arcade was opened in the same year with the church being completed four years later in 1828.
In 1951 St Mary in the Castle was made a grade II* listed building and was followed by a period of decline. St Mary in the Castle was deemed surplus to requirements as a Church of England place of worship in 1970 and by 1986 was close to being put on the dangerous buildings register. After a campaign by a group of locals to save the building, Hastings Borough Council acquired the freehold to St Mary in the Castle and number 7 Pelham Crescent.
In 1988 the Pelham Arcade was recognised as a grade II listed building and English Heritage, with the support of the Queen Mother, embarked on plans to restore St Mary in the Castle. After extensive restoration works the building reopened as an arts centre in 1998.
In 2012 Hastings Borough Council put the lease out to tender and the proposal from Buckswood School in Guestling was approved by the council in December of that year. A charitable trust was established in 2013 and in June 2015 a ten year lease was signed by them to safeguard the future of the building as a centre for the arts.
St Mary in the Castle would not be able to put on its wide range of events without the support of our fantastic team of volunteers, and we welcome the help of enthusiastic people to steward live events and invigilate exhibitions. In the near future we’re hoping to open a box office which will also be staffed by volunteers. Being part of the friendly team of volunteers offers an opportunity to become actively involved in St Mary in the Castle alongside like-minded people.
If you would like to volunteer please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org