St Peter’s Church

“Keep clear! Risk of falling masonry”

St. Peter’s may not be as elegant as St. Michael’s, as historic as St. Nicholas’s or as lofty as St. Bartholomew’s yet it is seen as by residents and visitors alike as Brighton’s flagship ecclesiastical structure. Though a great deal of goodwill exists towards the building, it has been underutilised for a number of years.

St. Peter’s was built at what was once the town entrance but is today the city centre. Its island location adds grandeur but the flip-side is inaccessibility which can only be solved by the unification of the Valley Gardens. With public finances already at breaking point, now certainly isn’t an appropriate time for such a project.

St. Peter’s was designed by Charles Barry (later Sir Charles) in the Late Gothic style and built from 1824-8. During the same period, Barry proved his versatility by building both the Sussex County Hospital and St. Andrew’s Church (on Waterloo Street in Hove) in the Classical style. He went on to build the Houses of Parliament. The north end of Barry’s original Portland stone building was removed in 1898 so that it could be enlarged in a different style using a contrasting Sussex sandstone. One half of the building is a dirty grey; the other is a dirty beige.

Some want to see St. Peter’s made a cathedral but it doesn’t even have its own parish currently, let alone its own diocese. A cathedral doesn’t always make a city and not all cities have cathedrals but Brighton would certainly benefit if it did have one. Guildford, for example, has a cathedral but isn’t a city, and Leeds is a city without its own cathedral. City status is purely an honour granted by the Sovereign.

The likelihood of St. Peter’s becoming a cathedral and Brighton a diocese in its own right is unrealistic but there may be a compromise. In the case of Leeds, this was resolved by changing the name of the diocese in which it is situated – hence the Diocese of Ripon became the Diocese of Ripon & Leeds. In the case of Brighton, the Diocese of Chichester would become the Diocese of Chichester & Brighton. Any change would have huge administrative consequences though.

Holy Trinity Brompton wants to bring its Alpha Course to St. Peter’s which would lead to its own parish being formed – the first step towards proper recognition perhaps?