St Leonard's Church
As you walk down Church Street from the Station you’ll notice a flint-walled building on the right, now the Old School Surgery and a nursery school. It was built in 1878 to take the girls who were originally in the National School in Steyne Road. Pupil numbers in the growing town had overflowed the single site, so it became boys only once the girls had departed for Church Street. Ten years later the site was increased again to the north, and provided for an Infants’ School. Yet a further addition was built in 1895, also to the north. In about 1938 it became Seaford Primary School.
Enter the church grounds through the lych gate. The church itself is (usually) open in the mornings until midday and is well worth a visit even if for its history alone. One Saturday morning a month it opens as a come-all-ye cafe.
Although Seaford is not mentioned in the 1086 Domesday Book, the church is thought to have been started soon after the Norman conquest of 1066, and probably complete by 1090. Situated on rising ground above the old quayside (The Steyne), the first church was of simple cruciform plan, probably with a central tower.
Seaford was a prosperous port in the 13th century exporting wool and corn and importing wines. However the Black Death, French raids during the Hundred Years war and piracy saw the town reduced to poverty and many of its buildings gutted by fire. All that remained of the church was the nave and the north aisle. However by the 15th century a 68 foot tower was added with four levels to house the clock and the bell chamber. There are 8 bells, the heaviest (the tenor) being thirteen and a half hundredweight, or 686kg.
This new found prosperity appears to have ceased once the Ouse broke through its bank out to sea at Newhaven. The town lost its income from being a port and the population declined. It was not until the middle of the 19th century that Seaford began to revive with the coming of the railways, which brought visitors who wanted to enjoy the new fashion of sea bathing. The Church was restored and enlarged.
Parts of the current building are Norman (the nave, aisles and clerestory), and the north and south arcades and most of the clerestory windows are Early English. The tower is 15th century, its upper part is perpendicular gothic while the transepts and apse are gothic revival additions.
Next, emerge from the lych gate and pass the Old Plough on the left. The pub is also an old building from the 19th century. Turn next left just before the cafe, into Church Lane.