The Founding of St Martin's Church in Saltdean
It was at a meeting in 1947 at the then Ocean Hotel that talks took place regarding the building of an Anglican church for Saltdean. During the war years, a monthly service had been held at Telscombe Village but this was felt to be inadequate and it was clear that Saltdean badly needed a place of worship of its own. A long struggle lay ahead to raise funds for this and the Presbyterian Church.
In 1941 two residents of Saltdean, Miss Adele Angeloni and Miss Nora Fielder, opened their home in Rodmell Avenue for a small Sunday School to prevent children having to undertake a journey to Telscombe or Rottingdean. As the number of children grew the venue was moved to another bungalow in Bevendean Avenue which, at the time was being used and a small private school named 'The Dean', and from the 6th July 1941 services were also held there. it was from that year that the church building fund was launched.
Mrs M. Mclachlan, a church sister from Kemptown, Brighton, managed to obtain permission for worship to be held at the derelict lido. Services were held in the former men's dressing room and the ladies dressing room was used by the Sunday School children. A man was paid to be on duty each Sunday to prevent children from falling into the empty pool! Worshipers lent oil stoves for heating. As there was no tap water,it was fetched in jugs and teapots from the home of Mrs Block, a nearby resident. Sometimes in winter, torches had to be used for the congregation to be able to see their hymn books. Elders meetings were held just across the road at the Sunkisk Cafe and it was on 20th February 1949 that the last service was held at the lido.
£1,000 towards building a church at Saltdean had been given by the South Coast Presbytery in 1948. £5,000 was raised from one source and another and St Martin's Church Hall, Longridge Avenue, was built and dedicated on 25th February 1949. Members came from as far afield as Ovingdean and Newhaven. As St Nicholas was still to be built, the hall was also made available to that community on occasions when not needed by St Martin's.
A few years later, it proved possible to erect a further building alongside the church hall to be used as the church proper - the first church in Saltdean - and it was dedicated on 15th June 1957. It was called St martin's Presbyterian Church in keeping with the first Christian church in England. Because of the high winds on the south coast, the plans had to be altered and the tower which was designed originally was never built.
The beautiful pulpit was given in memory of Mrs McLachlan by the congregation and the pews in memory of Miss Fielder and other members. Another gift presented was a striking stained glass window which had come from the Congregational Church at Forest Green, Dorking. All these gifts and many others are recorded in a memorial book which rests on the communion table and is still in use today.
It was agreed by all members in 1971 to join the United Reformed Church (an amalgamation of the Congregational and Presbyterian churches which was launched nationally on 5th October 1972).
Over the years membership grew and in 1965 there were 169 members plus many adherents. Sadly,like most churches these days, the passing years have seen a decline in members. With the passing away of many folk and very few young people staying on after adolescence, the membership is now down to 40.
In 1978, it was found that St Martin's and Telscombe Cliffs URC could no longer support a minister of their own so a joint pastorate was established. This lasted until 1987 when Rev. Graeme Allan was ordained as minister and is residing today.
June 1995 saw the formation of the Brighton Area Group of United reformed Churches. A coming together of five churches with four ministers, namely Telscombe Cliffs, Saltdean, Lewes Road, Brighthlem and Portslade.
St Martin's has always been a very friendly church and the guiding principle remains the same as it did in the days of Misses Angeloni and Fielder - "That is should always be a place where all denominations could worship together."
1940-50 Mrs Mclachlan (church sister). Rev, Buchanan Barrow. Rev. W McLaughey. Rev. S F Yeo. Rev. Dewi Rhys.
1950-66 Rev. J Morgan
1966-69 Rev. D Alasdair-Pratt
1970-77 Rev. Brian Treharne
1978-82 Rev. Rev. R Boulder
1983-87 Rev. David Clark
1987- Rev. Graeme Allan