Chapel Royal Vaults

I learnt of the vaults beneath the Chapel Royal on North Street when I saw that they are currently being marketed by Graves Son & Pilcher. The 3,400 sq ft subterranean space is available for purchase at £100,000 or for rent at £8,000 per annum

The extensive vaults were presumably built as a crypt but have been used as a store in the past for both wine and books. In 1978, they were converted into a church hall and have since been used as a storage area for files. It is anyone’s guess what they will be used for next. A restaurant or music studio perhaps?

Hargreaves, a West Sussex-based property business, owns the vaults and it was one of that firm’s representatives who kindly showed me around. A board had to be removed from an opening on the east side of the building on Prince’s Place to allow access. Sadly the doors which usually cover the aperture were damaged by some drunks.

There are essentially five chambers with arched ceilings which run from east to west and a single chamber to the west side which connects them. The central three chambers form one large room with supporting columns. Solid walls presumably once separated them. The ceilings are low in places but this just adds to the character as does an old alarm featuring a five digit Brighton telephone number.

The basement is an excellent place to start when researching the history of any building, especially when it has escaped major renovation. In the case of the Chapel Royal, its east-west orientation is an interesting anomaly bearing in mind that the church above runs south-north. It can be explained by a change in orientation of the church. The main door to the Chapel Royal is now on North Street but it was originally on Prince’s Place. The entirety of the North Street façade is non-original in fact. It was added when adjacent shops to the south were demolished during the 1870s so that the road could be widened.

I love to track down the hidden areas of our local landmarks. So many basements have made fascinating column topics including those at the Metropole Hotel, Freemason’s Tavern, Royal Pavilion and Preston Manor. Towers can be even more interesting though and I soon hope to meet Father David Biggs, who has looked after the Chapel Royal since 1999, for a behind-the-scenes tour.