During the course of the 19th and 20th centuries Brighton grew from a small fishing village on the Sussex coast to a large thriving city, popular with residents and visitors alike. Much building work went on during this time, but sadly many of the theatres, cinemas, dance halls and churches that were such a part of life in these earlier times have either been made redundant or converted for other uses or demolished.
One of the iconic buildings of the city is St Peter’s Church. When it was first built it stood at the entrance to the main part of Brighton, on the road that goes past the Royal pavilion to the Palace Pier. It was the first important design that Sir Charles Barry created. He later became one of the foremost architects of Victorian times being responsible for the Houses of Parliament and Highclere Castle (now known to millions of television viewers as Downton Abbey).
St Peter’s is a fine example of Barry’s work, but this book will record how a chancel was added to the north of the building seventy-five years after the original structure had been completed. We will also see how the incumbent of St Peter’s became Vicar of Brighton which put him at the centre of the building and development of other churches throughout the town.
In the twentieth century St Peter’s continued to be the spiritual hub for civic life in the town, but there was one occasion when the vicar failed to get to the church for the Sunday morning service. Later on the church suffered an arson attack, and the century ended with an extraordinary impromptu time of reflection in the early hours of 1st January 2000.
However as the new century began, it was recognised that falling attendances and failing masonry could lead to St Peter’s going the same way as other older buildings in the city. The church authorities did not have the financial resources to cover all the expenses that this grand old building was requiring, and thus St Peter’s came under the threat of closure.
This horrified the inhabitants of the city who saw St Peter’s as being just as much a part of the cityscape as the Pavilion and the Pier. To the great delight of all, the church was eventually saved through the last minute intervention of Holy Trinity Brompton Church in London. This book documents the story of a church that, amid many ups and downs along the way, has come to be much loved in Brighton, Hove and Sussex.