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The Coach House and The Servants With Jesus


Let’s travel back in time 1,241 years to 772 A.D. when by royal charter King Offa II of Mercia, in the company of two other kings and a number of bishops, dedicated a large expanse of land at Bexhill, “To serve the praise of God.”

A church, St. Peters, the parish church of Bexhill, was built and the land was so utilized until the Norman invasion of 1066. After the Norman Conquest, Robert Croel, a relative of William the Conqueror, returned the land to the Church.

The Manor of Bexhill, situated a stone’s throw from St. Peters, was then owned and used by the Church for 400 years until the Reformation under Henry VIII. The Bishops of Chichester used the manor as their residence when they were working in the eastern part of the large Sussex diocese.

In 1559, however, the manor fell vacant and passed to the Crown. In 1570, Queen Elizabeth 1 granted it to Thomas Sackville, then Baron Buckhurst and who became the first Earl of Dorset in 1603. The third Earl later permitted it to be used as the Bexhill parish vicarage, although he added a wing for his own use.

When the male lineof the Earls of Dorset died out, the manor passed in 1813 to the fifth Earl De La Warr upon his marriage to Elizabeth Sackville.

The property was rented out until in 1892. Then Gilbert Reginald Sackville, Viscount Cantelupe, who became the 8th Earl De La Warr, lived in it after having extensive renovations carried out. It was during this period, about 1886, that The Coach House was built to garage his horse-drawn coaches and to house his servants.

The manor, including the coach house, was rented out again from 1902 until 1912, when the Countess De La Warr sold the property to Sir Robert Leicester Harmsworth. And it stayed in the Harmsworth family until 1966 when the Borough of Bexhill bought it in order to demolish the manor building and widen the road, which then carried all coastal traffic.

The manor house had to go as it abutted right up to the roadway; and it was demolished in 1968.The council created Manor Gardens and incorporated into them some of the manor house ruins. The coach house, manor barn and stable buildings were kept.

The vision for the founding of the Servants with Jesus and the restoring of The Coach House came in 1971 as preparations were being made for celebrating the 1,200th anniversary of the Bexhill Charter. The Servants saw The Coach House as a home for their ministry, one that had been part of the old Manor of Bexhill, on land that had belonged to the Church for hundreds of years and that was part of King Offa’s charter-gift “to serve the praise of God.”

It was the only surviving manor building suitable for restoration, remodelling and occupation as a home for Christians; and God impressed on the founder of the Servants with Jesus, Sister Eileen Wheeler, that it needed to return to Christian ownership across all denominations in unity. It would be prophetic of the revival that many believe is coming and will spread quickly along the south coast of England, then throughout the United Kingdom and across Europe.

The Servants with Jesus finally purchased The Coach House from Rother District Council in 1977 after much prayer, patience and faith; and miraculously they opened it for ministry just a year later.

The building was virtually a wreck and needed substantial repair, renovation and redesign for their ministry purposes; but it was all accomplished in just a year, again through prayer and faith. The Servants with Jesus had no money; but they proved that God always funds and completes the projects He initiates, and thereafter He sustains them too – through prayer and simple faith. This is how The Coach House still runs today.

The Servants with Jesus were formed in 1972. Their underlying aim is to work and pray for love, unity and renewal among Christians, to pray in agreement with Jesus that all His people will be one so that the world will believe that the Father sent Him (John 17:21), and to seek, by their example in all they say and do and in how they live their lives, to lift Jesus up to the world that He may draw all people to Himself (John 12:32).

Their logo is “SJW” i.e. with Jesus at the centre. And their signature Bible verses are Mark 10:45, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many,” and Luke 22:27, “For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.”

The story of the founding of the Servants with Jesus and of their successful quest for The Coach House is a real faith story and is told in Sister Eileen Wheeler’s book, ‘The God Who Speaks.’ It’s a very exciting read. She has written a sequel called ‘The God Who Keeps His Promises.’