Thursday, 2 April 2009

The Chapel Royal in Brighton

Situated on one of Brighton's main thoroughfares, the Chapel Royal is easy to miss: it's facade blends in with the shopping street: it could be a bank, or a small civic building. But, steeped in history, it is a welcoming and peaceful place to visit, to escape the Saturday shopping crowds, attend a concert, sit quietly or, of course, to worship.

The Church itself - adjacent to the side entrance of the Royal Pavilion - was founded in 1794 to cater for the rich and famous, drawn by the circle of the Prince Regent (later George IV). He laid its foundation stone, and attended the opening in 1795. It remained the fashionable place to worship until a new private chapel was opened in the Pavilion complex itself in 1822.

After this, the Chapel Royal went into a gradual decline during the rest of the 19th century, before gaining a new role, first as the local church for an increasing town centre population, and subsequently ministering to the needs of workers and visitors. It is now the parish church for most of the North Laine area, as well as the ‘Lanes’ part of the City Centre, the Steine, North Street, the Cultural Quarter, and the Albion Hill estate.

The present building is the result of extensive restoration by the notable Victorian architect Arthur Blomfield, commissioned when demolition of a row of houses along North Street opened up this dide to view for the first time. The exterior is a slightly strange amalgam of red-brick and terracotta Victorian Romanesque, with Gothic detailing over the doors. The tall, imposing clock tower has flint detailing and is a distinctive landmark of North Street. But the interior still feels Georgian, with its simple, light colour scheme and vertical emphasis. Although the floor area is small, the ceiling rises to an impressive square lantern which, together with the clear glass and spacious galleries, gives a feeling of light and space.

The church hosts a friendly coffee shop on Saturdays (home-made cakes!) with the proceeds going to charity and regular concerts. The excellent web-site has good photos, and details of events and services.

North Street, Brighton, BN1

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