King's Mead School, Seaford, East Sussex (1914 -1968)

Having recently moved to live not far from Seaford, I have heard of plans to 'develop' the main buildings of what used to be King's Mead School, now St Mary's Nursing Home, namely by pulling them down. Currently being used as a nursing home, alterations need to be carried out to match the standards set out in new legislation for such homes. Westminster Healthcare, who own the nursing home, have assessed that it would be more cost effective to demolish and rebuild rather than to carry out internal upgrading. To my knowledge, no plans exist as yet for a new building. Sadly the school chapel is in a sorry state of disrepair with scaffolding propping up some of the internal beams.

When I lasted visited the school, about 10 years ago, the main buildings, were intact, virtually unchanged. The main dining room was still used as such and still had all the boys names on wooden panelling around the walls. The chapel was left untouched and was also still in use. The billiard table had been sold (as a present to an old boy of the school from his daughter - he subsequently died and it is believed that the table now graces a snooker club in Eastbourne). Some of the painted wooden panels have been stored in an attic above what used to be the 'sick wing'.

The local press has given some cover to the plight of the chapel as the result of protests from Mrs Ann Hubbard, formerly Miss Sandeman, who was a matron and also taught during the 1960's and who still lives in Seaford. A funeral service for her mother was held in the chapel in the early 1990's but for the last 7-8 years the chapel has been used little and is now sadly in a state of disrepair. There are at present no plans to rescue it. As Mrs Hubbard has pointed out there are many memorials to boys from the school who gave their lives in the war and these would also be lost if the building is pulled down and the site developed for some other purpose.

Until the chapel is pulled down, however, there are a number of options:-

(a) for it to be made safe and allowed to be used once again as a place of worship - and even try to get it listed

(b) for parts of it to be rescued, for example the war memorials, and for these to be incorporated into some sort of memorial room on the new site when the main building is developed

(c) to discuss with the local church or museum whether any parts of the chapel could or should be rescued. I understand that Westminster Healthcare have the help of the Seaford Museum in storing relics from the school and from the chapel. It is hoped that some of these will be incorporated into the new building.

(d) to do nothing

I have many happy memories of the prep school where I and two brothers went in the 1960's. The school chapel has considerable charm, but there would be obvious and considerable costs involved in keeping it safe, costs that the owners do not want to bear. Whilst little can be done about the main school buildings, I am happy to help coordinate moves to save part of or all of the chapel, and would like to hear from anyone, old boys or otherwise, who have ideas or suggestions.

Dr David Maxwell

September 2001

Postscript: In February 2002 English Heritage rejected our application to have the chapel building listed. The chapel was then pulled down along with the school buildings and the area was turned into a housing estate. A memorial garden in the area of the swimming pool was created, commemorating those boys at the school who subsequently lost their lives in World War II.

e-mail: dlmaxwell 'AT'

Address: 3, Old Camp Road, Eastbourne BN20 8DH

Tel: 01323 643711

Letters from Seaford Town Council and from the Seaford Museum


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