Friends of St Michael’s

One or two invitees were still expected to turn up despite the organisers’ best efforts to postpone the relaunch of the Friends of St. Michael’s due to the recent poor weather. But a fantastic number braved the snow anyway demonstrating perfectly the overwhelming support which exists for St. Michael & All Angels.

St. Michael’s was built in two distinct stages by two different architects. The original building of 1861 by George Bodley wasn’t large enough for the growing congregation so a huge extension was added to the north. The dominating addition was designed by William Burges who didn’t actually live to see its foundation stone laid in 1893. Each section is constructed from brick with Bath stone dressings. St. Michael’s was the first brick-built church in Brighton in fact. Bearing in mind its location in the heart of the Montpelier & Clifton Hill Conservation Area, an area renowned for its beautiful architecture, it says something that St. Michael’s is the only Grade I Listed structure. Incidentally, it is also considered to be amongst the country’s top one hundred churches in Simon Jenkins’ England’s Thousand Best Churches.

With contributions from William Morris, Edward Burne-Jones, Ford Madox Brown, and Dante Gabriel Rossetti amongst others, the involvement of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in the development of St. Michael’s is immense. The group’s contribution goes some way towards explaining the quality and variety of the church’s internal features; from carved frogs to painted ceilings.

Just before Christmas, I popped into St. Michael’s to do a little research for this piece and found out much more than I had hoped for. I’m always on the look-out for hidden areas – interesting bits tucked out of sight of the general public – and I wasn’t disappointed.

I was shown a spiral staircase, the organ loft and a vertical void leading up onto the roof. The organ loft provides a quite unique view across the nave and also access to a hidden ladder in the narrow void which leads up into the dark.

The Friends of St. Michael’s, whose Patron is Sir Roy Strong, will be relaunched – again as it were – in April. But, in the meantime, it is business as usual. The church is open on Saturdays for general viewing from 10am-4pm but, for me, the best time to go really is 9am-11am when delicious fry-ups are available!

Please call 01273 727362 if you would like to get involved.