History of the Hall,
its Site and Ownership,
and Efforts to Save it

Timeline of the site and hall
Timeline of the site and hall


6th Aug 1850

William Cavendish, the Right Honourable William Earl of Burlington, granted the Minister and Churchwardens of the Parish of Eastbourne and their successors, the relevant piece of land in the Meads to the Parish of Eastbourne for a school for the poor (National School) built in 1849

National Schools were set up by the National Society (National Society for Promoting Religious Education)

Extract from The Age of Reform 1815-1870 by E L Woodward
Extract from The Age of Reform 1815-1870 by E L Woodward


Parish church of St John the Evangelist built nearby in a newly formed ecclesiastical district

The Building News report in 1868, on the chancel stone being laid for St. John the Evangelist, Meads
The Building News report in 1868, on the chancel stone being laid for St. John the Evangelist, Meads

12th Feb 1889

William Cavendish, now the Most Noble William Duke of Devonshire KG, gave a further piece of land in Meads Street, extending the boundary to today's site, presumably with a mind to extending the school

Site plan showing additional land gifted in 1889
Site plan showing additional land gifted in 1889

2nd Nov 1889

Order of the Board of Charity Commissioners vested substituted officials of the parish of St John for previous officials of the Parish of Eastbourne

Indenture between Duke of Devonshire and St Johns for the land to be used as a school under the authority of the Schools Sites Act

Photo of the Meads National SchoolPhoto of the Meads National School


The school in the Meads had become dilapidated and a new school was built on a remote site, in Rowsley Road, and the scholars and teachers transferred – the Meads school became known as the ‘Old School’ and continued to be used by St Johns for Sunday School, and as Parish Room for the community

The chimney at the present school in Rowsley Road, is quite possibly the original.

Photo of present Rowsley Road CofE school, possibly with original chimney
Photo of present Rowsley Road CofE school, possibly with original chimney

6th Feb 1912

The site was deemed to have reverted to the Duke’s estate when the school stopped being used for educational purposes, so that an Indenture is signed which grants Trustees (seven in number) use of the land, with conditions, including:

"The Meads Old School may be used for all or any of the following purposes but for no other purposes namely: (a) For a Church of England Sunday School (b) For classes or lectures of or for Confirmation or Communion or for otherwise imparting religious or other instruction (c) For all kinds of Meetings connected with the said Parish or the work of the said Vicar or Officiating Minister or for any clerical religious charitable or benevolent purpose connected with the said Parish"

Click to download the full 1812 IndentureClick to download the full 1812 Indenture

Lest there be any confusion, the site was not granted or gifted to St. John's church, as is often thought.

If the site was to have been granted to the church, or to solely church officials of the Parish, then clearly this would have been stated in the Indenture. Instead, the recipient was a committee of seven trustees, made up of the sort of people at that time who were generally though of as respectable, honorable, and most importantly, collectively capable of overseeing the construction and running of a parish hall. The vicar of St. John's being the lone church official, the others being a retired Indian civil servant, a solicitor, two schoolmasters, and both a Bachelor and Master of Arts (learned gentlemen, almost certainly monied).


Plans drawn up to demolish old school and build a large new parish hall for the local community for use by the ‘Sunday School, Band of Hope, Guilds, and Meetings’.

Record of an appeal, in June, to local community for funds to pay for construction - £1,117 received from parishioners (i.e the community).
Appeal cited 'with the kindness of the Duke of Devonshire and with the consent of other parties concerned, the site of the Old School has been transferred to seven Trustees for use for a Parish Room'

Click to download full copy of 1913 appealClick to download full copy of 1913 appeal

The project was shelved due the First World War (1914-1918)

c. Oct 1924

Click to download full copy of 1924 appealClick to download full copy of 1924 appeal

Committee of the trustees is reconstituted to take forward revised plans for a (smaller) parish room

An appeal in October 1924 stated that '.. the Committee issue this appeal with a very strong recommendation to all those interested in the welfare of Meads, a building of this character in this part of the town has long been desired, and only the necessities caused by the war have delayed its erection..'

More funds received / promised from parishioners and church


The 1912 indenture includes "Particulars of the stipulations and regulations affecting the hereditaments conveyed by the above written indenture." Notably point three:
"3. No new building of any sort nor any portion of any new building shall without the previous consent in writing of the Duke be erected on any part of the land"
No evidence appears to exist of such written consent.

13th Jul 1926

Foundation stone laid by Marquess of Hartington (eldest son of the Duke of Devonshire).

Parish Hall building plans are recorded as approved on 5th February 1926 (record in the Compton Estate Office).

c. Oct 1926

Updated appeal, to all householders in Meads, stated 'the new building contains a large hall with platform, a side Aisle--, a kitchen, a small classroom and two cloakrooms. In addition there is a large memorial room to the late Mrs Hilda Salwey. The same appeal stated “—while primarily intended for the Parochial Meetings, Sunday School, Scouts, Guides, etc, such a building will it is hoped be available for other times for social gatherings, etc'

Signed by three of the trustees on behalf of them all.

Click to download full copy of 1926 appealClick to download full copy of 1926 appeal

Feb 1927

New hall completed. The present building was built as most high class Church Halls of the period: a main hall large enough to seat about 100 people, marked out for a badminton court, a platform, a “Green Room”, a large memorial meeting room to the late Mrs Hilda Salwey, side rooms off the main hall which can be used as two separate rooms separated from the main hall and each other by removable timber partitions, kitchen, toilets, boiler room, store

Nov 1934

Further appeal made by the trustees for money from parishioners to pay for the upkeep of the hall

The appeal stated 'No parish life is complete without a parish hall. Parochial organisations must have a home, there must be some building big enough to accommodate the parishioners when they meet for business or social purposes, and it is further to the advantage of every neighborhood to have a building which can be hired by individuals dance, entertainments and wedding receptions. We in Meads are singularly fortunate in having one of the best halls in Eastbourne'

It is interesting how the chairman of the trustees (also the vicar of St. John's) mistakenly uses the church as the address at the top of the appeal.

Click to download full copy of 1934 appealClick to download full copy of 1934 appeal

1942 - 1957

WWII Intervenes

St John’s church severely damaged by fire during bombing and deeds to parish hall assumed to be lost.

The church met in the Hall throughout this period, until the new church was consecrated.

Photo of poppy wreaths
Photo of poppy wreaths

9th July 1974

Who owns the hall?

St. John's church try to find out who owns the parish hall, with the help of their solicitors.

A strange question since the church now claim to have been looking after it for a hundred years and would surely know. Either the original trust committee still existed in some form, or else there must have been records of it being dissolved. It could not have been gifted to the church at any point, since it has more restrictive purposes to those in the original indenture.

Copy of letter from solicitor in 1974
Copy of letter from solicitor in 1974


More inquiries into ownership, first with the Trustees of the Chatsworth Settlement.

A copy of the Indenture dated 1912 is discovered in the Compton Estate Office, and furnished to the church.

Copy of 1985 letter to Trustees of the Chatsworth Estate
Copy of 1985 letter to Trustees of the Chatsworth Estate

It would seem that at some point around this time, St.John's church saw fit to assume "ownership" of the Parish Hall from the rightful trustees and the community.
Evidence may well be held in a bank deposit box (vault Box 1081), whose location is currently unknown.

c. late 2002

Supposedly, a notice of intended vesting under the incumbents and churchwardens (trusts) measure 1964 section 3 by the Diocese of Chichester was served on the Rev. Canon G T Daintree.

This notice should have been publicly displayed so that objections could be raised.

Photo is of a draft found in the church files

Draft of Notice of Intended Vesting
Draft of Notice of Intended Vesting

The vesting went ahead, but should it ever have been allowed to since the hall was not an asset of St.John's church but of the community.
Had the Notice of Intended Vesting been widely publicised within Meads, surely someone would have objected. Was the correct procedure followed, or were the parish kept in the dark?

13th May 2003

First entry filed with the Land Registry. Title Number ESX267727. Registered proprietorer is the Chichester Diocesan Fund and Board of Finance. Charges register refers to 1912 conveyance but states it wasn’t produced on first registration

Whether the 1912 indenture would have cast doubt on the registration at the time is unknown.

Copy of charges register for Title ESX267727
Copy of charges register for Title ESX267727

29th Sep 2003

Letter from Charity Commission advising church’s solicitor that whilst the property was a church hall it was not being used exclusively for ecclesiastical purposes that it was held upon for trust in 1912 and for this reason advised an ‘Albermarle scheme’ which would allow the church trustees to lease the hall to other charity trustees for community purposes provided the right to use the property on specified occasions is reserved by the church trustees. The lessees would pay for maintenance / improvements. Given obligations of tenants, the rent is likely be less than full market rent.

Charity Commission letter of 29th September 2003
Charity Commission letter of 29th September 2003


correspondence between church and a local solicitor: ‘the Church has no relevant documents relating to the demolition of the Old School building and the erection of the new Parish Hall and none were brought to the notice of the Diocesan Solicitor when she communicated with the Estate Office. We are therefore unclear to what extent the stipulations and regulations appearing in the 1912 Indenture apply to the existing building.’

Copy of correspondence
Copy of correspondence

13th Nov 2007

Letter from church’s solicitor to the Compton Estate (the trustees of the Chatsworth Settlement i.e. Duke of Devonshire) inquiring whether there was another Trust Deed in or about 1926, or whether the 1912 Deed was still in force, and if so, whether the Duke could remove restrictive covenants made in 1912.

Letter to Compton Estate
Letter to Compton Estate

26th Nov 2007

Reply from Compton Estate confirms they have no later deed than Indenture 1912 and think it unlikely there was need for a further deed when the parish hall was built in 1926.

Letter from Compton Estate
Letter from Compton Estate

27 Jun 2008

Letter from Charity Commission to the church’s solicitor states: ‘The Trustees must comply with s36 of the Charities Act 1993 in relation to any disposal of the charity property. .. disposal must be authorised by us … the trustees must satisfy us that the proposal is in the best interest of the charity bearing in mind: the market value achievable for the property given the restrictive covenants. Etc.’ Note: a valuation surveyor advised the property could achieve £250m - £350m at auction but in my opinion, this reflects unrealistic ‘hope value’ that a developer could convert the building to residential use which I’d expect to be very difficult – can discuss further when we meet.

Letter from Charity Commission
Letter from Charity Commission


"People asking What is going to be done about the Hall? - with the buckets to catch the drips from the roof"

New Jubilee Hall opened next to the main church of St John’s, and the existing Pauling Room extended; new kitchen facilities and more toilets with disabled access provided. Church’s religious activities now accommodated in the new building. Parish hall activities are now (or had been for some time previous) secular – i.e. not purposes described in 1912 deed.

Extract from a letter by Cannon Geoffery Daintree
Extract from a letter by Cannon Geoffery Daintree


Parish Hall registered as an Asset of Community Value, again. (First registered in 2016)

Asset of Community Value letter
Asset of Community Value letter

9th Nov 2022

The end for the hall?

PCC of St. John's announce publicly they wish to relinquish responsibilities of running and repairing the Parish Hall. Two options put to the Meads Community Association: 1) to transfer the activities currently in the parish hall to the St John’s church site (Jubilee Hall) and to make the site available for development. 2) to lease the whole to a community group or trust which would take over the management of the hall with responsibility for repairs and maintenance. The church made it clear that the status quo was not an option.

Grim reaper comes for the hall
Grim reaper comes for the hall

c. 2023

Project Salwey

After Dennis Scard (Meads Community Associasion, MCA) met with the PCC on 2nd December 2022, the MCA setup Project Salwey.

The Project Salwey Steering Group secured seed funding and began a due diligence exercise. They lead exhaustive investigations into both premises and operations of the Parish Hall, whilst maintaining dialogue with the PCC on possible ways for a community takeover to happen.
The Steering Group also identified further sources of funding, and narrowed down the possible organisation for takeover to be a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO)

The volume of work done by the Steering Group and its working party volunteers cannot be underestimated. Without them the hall would have closed in 2023 and the site almost certainly on the way to being redeveloped.

24th Nov 2023

Temporary closure

The hall is closed by the PCC after concerns for the safety of users.
The Steering Group have been reporting concerns due to falling wood from the cupola, tiles from the roof, and stone from the windows, for some time. Additionally, a fire safety report earlier in the year had identified many concerns.
The breaking point was a gas leak in an external supply pipe.

29th Nov 2023

Petition of Support

An online petition was created to show support for the hall, with the fear that the current closure would be for good, and that the community would lose any chance of saving it.

Press clipping from Eastbourne Herald, December 8th 2023
Press clipping from Eastbourne Herald, December 8th 2023

16th Jan 2024

Charity Registered

Meads (Eastbourne) Community Centre registered as a Charitable Incorporated Organisation with the aim of taking responsibility for the hall and operating it on behalf of the community.

Copy of Charity Commision Registration Certificate
Copy of Charity Commision Registration Certificate

31st Jan 2024

Major Funding Application

MECC applied for a grant of £400K to the Community Ownership Fund (COF) to repair refurbish the hall as a community centre. If the application is successful, funding will depend on the the charity raising match funding of £100K.

10th Feb 2024

Photo of first public meeting of Meads (Eastbourne) Community Centre
Photo of first public meeting of Meads (Eastbourne) Community Centre

First Public Meeting for MECC

COF application was announced as part of MECCs first public meeting on the 10th of February 2024, where fundraising was also launched.

Folowing the meeting, members of the community have raised concerns about contributing without MECC acquiring the freehold, and we have requested that it be gifted to the charity for the community.

12 Feb 2024

Gift Aid

Notification received that MECC has been recognised as a charity for tax purposes, meaning that donations, since its application on the 16th of January, are potentially eligible for Gift Aid.

16th Mar 2024

Invitation to the PCC

MECC invites the PCC of St.John's to work together to have MECC registered as the sole proprietor for the site with the Land Registry, in order to secure the long-term future of the hall for the community.

This invitation was made after MECC received legal advice and confirmation from the Charity Commission that a charity to charity transfer is possible.

22 Mar 2024

Major Funding Success

MECC's application for a major grant from the Community Ownership Fund (COF), to repair refurbish the hall as a community centre, is approved by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC). Funding depends on the the charity raising match capital funding of £100K.

28th Mar 2024

How the PCC can transfer freehold to MECC

MECC solicitor writes to the PCC explaining how they can achieve their goal of disposing of the burdensome hall to MECC by a charity to charity transfer.

The easy route to save the hall, and what the community want.


19 Apr 2024

Rejection of the transfer

Solicitors for the PCC and Chichester diocesan board of finance argue against the idea of transferring the freehold.

Commentary of the historical facts is that of the author
If you have anything further to add, we would love to hear about it