St Mary’s hopes to return to roots as wedding venue

COUPLES could soon be tying the knot at St Mary in the Castle as trustees hope to bring the iconic building back as a venue for weddings.

Zoe Ashdown, managing director, has applied to East Sussex County Council to ask if the building can be used to hold wedding ceremonies and civil partnerships.

A public notice appeared in last week’s Observer announcing her plans and she should hear within weeks if she and her board of trustees have been successful.

St Mary in the Castle already holds a variety of cultural events and Miss Ashdown said its use as a wedding venue would run alongside its current uses.

In 2012 Buckswood School was given permission to take on the lease of the Grade II listed building in Pelham Crescent from Hastings Borough Council (HBC) and run it through a charitable trust.

The keys were handed over in March this year, after a temporary licence was granted to enable the team to hold events while the application for charity status was processed.

St Mary in the Castle was granted charity status in July.

Miss Ashdown said: “We applied around a month ago to the county council because we are looking at ways of making St Mary in the Castle as versatile as possible so weddings and civil partnerships were an obvious choice.

“It’s such a beautiful venue and has that grandeur and sense of occasion making it suitable for weddings.

“If we get the go-ahead we will be one of the biggest venues in Hastings to hold wedding ceremonies and civil partnerships as the main hall can house up to 540 people.

“Because St Mary in the Castle was built as a church the acoustics in the main hall lend themselves well to spoken ceremonies.”

She added that several people had already sent her old photographs of weddings being held at the venue

St Mary in the Castle used to be a parish church until 1970 and a Gospel church until 1979, holding weddings.

Its origins date back to the early 19th century. Building work began in 1824 and the foundation stone of St Mary in the Castle church was laid in 1825 by Thomas Pelham, Earl of Chichester.

The building opened in 1828 as a church for worship and attracted large congregations, seating 1,500 people.

After the Second World War the population of Hastings began to shift away from the town centre and attendances at St Mary in the Castle dropped.

In 1951 Pelham Crescent and the Church were granted the status of Grade II listed building. By 1953 the church was sharing a vicar with Emmanuel Church in Priory Road. The final services took place on September 13, 1970.

It was then taken over by the Assemblies of God Full Gospel Church, but by 1978 maintenance costs had outstripped their means.

In 1982 the Church Commissioners sold St Mary in the Castle.