The foundation stone of the Chapel Royal was laid in 1793 by the Prince Regent, the building opening for worship in 1795. The church was built as a Chapel of Ease to St Nicholas, the old Parish Church, which was no longer large enough to accommodate the large number of people then visiting Brighton during the summer owing to the Prince Regent's patronage of the town. For this reason the Chapel Royal was only open from June to September in its early years, however following an Act of Parliament legalising it as a Chapel of Ease, the building was consecrated on August 16th 1803.
The original building was a plain square Georgian edifice, designed for preaching, with an entrance in Princes Place.
It is said the Prince Regent stopped attending the church following his displeasure over a sermon on immorality in the nation, however it was a popular venue for Regency Society. In later years the Prince Regent caused a Royal Chapel to be opened in a converted ballroom in Castle Square, a building which has since been moved to Montpelier Place.
Here is a view of the inside of the chapel.
As the town ceased to be a destination for royalty, the centre of Brighton became increasingly inhabited by poor people and the Chapel Royal became more concerned with the problems of poverty and deprivation. Much of this occurred during the long ministry of the Rev. Thomas Trocke (1834-75), who also had the splendid central lantern light (below) put into the building.
This painting of the adoration of the Magi is mounted on the outside of the tower. It is by John Armstrong, who has works at other churches in and around Brighton.
By 1876 the building was in a poor state of repair, and when North Street was widened by the demolition of the shops on the south side, urgent work was required. The Rev. Seymour Penzer employed the noted Victorian architect, Arthur Blomfield, to supervise repairs and improvements. He had one interior gallery removed and new brick facades erected on the south and east elevations. It was also at this time that the clock tower was erected. In 1897 the Chapel Royal was designated a parish church and a small area around the pavilion was designated the Chapel Royal Parish. Winston Churchill was a member of the congregation while young, from 1883-5.
As the population has moved out of central Brighton, the church has ceased to have many local residents. The work of the church is now focussed on visitors and workers. The parish ceased to exist in 1978 when it was amalgamated with St Peter's, the Parish Church of Brighton. Since 1990 there have been lunchtime concerts and in 1993 the chapel was substantially reordered to mark its bicentenary.
Here is a view of the organ, which is to the left of the stage.
Prior to 1992, the woodwork was all stained pine and the communion table and choir stalls were on the raised area, now used as the stage. Clear glass was introduced on the street front, which allows passer's by to observe the interior of the building. The lantern, the painted ceiling, the roundels, frieze and its lettering (all dating from 1880) were restored by Campbell Smith Ltd in the 1993 work, and the metal capitals of the pillars supporting the galleries which are original to the building, were gilded at the same time.
This interesting carving of the baptism of Jesus is to the right of the stage area.
These Royal Arms now hang in the restaurant area which has been created under the north gallery.
These windows are also now in the restaurant area - note the microwave oven and coffee maker!.
This is my favourite stained glass window, also now in the restaurant. It is in memory of Albert Harrington
And here is a closer view of the main panel.
Historical notes derived from excellent pamphlets available in the church.
Visitors to this album since June 2003
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