Coventry Patmore, a Victorian poet who lived in what is now Old Hastings House, was a Roman Catholic Convert. Unfortunately, the nearest Catholic Church was St Thomas of Canterbury and the English Martyrs in St Leonards – this was a long uphill journey for Patmore and he asked the Pallotine Priests, or the Pious Society of the Missions as they were known then, to build a Church in Hastings for the growing Catholic community there and also as a memorial to his late wife, Marianne.
Patmore donated £5,000 towards the cost of the construction and on the 25th October 1880 the Pallotine Priests purchased a 17th Century farmhouse on the High Street for £2,500. They employed the services of the architect Basil Champneys, a friend of Patmore who had worked on buildings such as the John Rylands Library in Manchester and the Church of St Peter-le-Bailey in Oxford – it was decided to build the church in a Gothic style.
In order to compensate for the sharp slope towards the East, a crypt was built that ran the entire length of the Church. This was divided into a central hall with two rooms on the side. This Crypt was used as the church during construction of the main church and then turned the St Mary Star of the Sea Catholic School that was open until 1955, when it moved the location on Magdelen road where it remains today.
The exterior of the Church is covered in pebbles from the local beach, these were collected by children who were payed a farthing for each bucket of pebbles.
The foundation stone was laid by the auxiliary Bishop of Southwark, William Wethers, on the 28th March 1882 and the Church formally opened on the 2nd July 1883 in a ceremony that was attended to by 3 bishops, 23 priests and the Rector General of the Pallotine Fathers who travelled from Rome for the occasion.
Overall, the Church cost £15,000 to build without furnishings