The Journey to Deconsecration

By John

In 1984, Holy Trinity Church, closed its doors for the last time as a functioning Place of Worship. 

From 1817, when the Church was built, through the height of its popularity around 1830-1850, when it could, and often did, accommodate up to 800 parishioners, to the gradual decline in numbers, from the late 1800’s to 1984, I believe Holy Trinity Church was following the national trend in the general decline in the popularity of organised religion in the UK. 

Holy Trinity in the height of popularity
Image from: The James Gray Collection, Regency Society

A 1983 newspaper article in the Evening Argus, on 8th August, quoted the Rev. Donald Turner, who was at the time the Deputy Vicar of Brighton, on the reasons for Holy Trinity Church being made redundant. 

“No one lives near Holy Trinity,” he said “ Holy Trinity is within 100 yards of Chapel Royal in North Street, and the congregation of Holy Trinity consists of less than a dozen people….Elderly”, he added. 

Thus, in a few sentences he had encapsulated the reasons for the Churches demise. 

There had been various movements from the 1940’s and 1950’s to close the Church, such as in August 1941 the Bishop of Chichester cited the Wartime Emergency Powers Act, but met strong resistance from Holy Trinity Church parishioners. 

The national decline in the popularity of organised religion and the consequent decline in the numbers attending churches had come about for various reasons. 

In 1851 40% of the UK population identified themselves as regular church attenders, but in 2011 the figure was 2%. 

Linda Woodhead, in her British Academy lecture of January 2016, quotes an Analysis of British Social Attitudes Survey, which questioned religious upbringing, revealed that children brought up as Christian , had a 45% chance, by the time they were adults, of being ‘Nones’, (those who identified as having no religion)- whereas those brought up as ‘Nones’, had a 95% chance of retaining that identification into adulthood. As generations develop over time it can be seen that an affiliation to an organised religion will exponentially decline in adults. 

Another reason has been the liberalisation of the population over time, and the acceptance of concepts, such as, abortion, contraception, divorce and remarriage after divorce, homosexuality and same sex marriage, having been legalised, in the most part, against the resistance of the Established Church. It follows that the influence and the opinions of Church leaders has diminished as well. 

There has been a gradual increase in the wealth of the UK, and an upsurge in the incomes of younger citizens, and a decline in poverty levels. 

In Brighton less and less citizens were living near Holy Trinity Church, although they were still working in the city they had taken advantage of the new housing developments in the North, East and West of the city centre, and for those that were practising church-goers,  the tendency was to attend Parishes near their homes in the suburbs. 

The corner of Holy Trinity in the 70’s when congregations were dwindling
Image from: Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove

Reverend Fredrick William Robertson’s influence over the years had sustained the Holy Trinity Church (see previous blog post ‘Robertson of Brighton‘). There had been many occasions when the financial burdens of the Church were alleviated by an appeal across the world for donations., citing Robertsons’ name and the possible demise of the Church he Ministered in as the reason to give. 

The building of Robertson Hall was an example of this, and had it not been for the Income that the renting out of the Hall had generated over the years, then my opinion is that Holy Trinity Church would have closed a lot earlier than it eventually did, and the fabric of the building would have deteriorated to a perhaps unrepairable degree, and perhaps led to its demolition.

Nowadays, Fabrica contemporary art space and the present residents of Brighton are the benefactors of the resilience of previous Church goers, who over time, despite their diminishing numbers, believed in the concept of Community.  

References:

  1.  Tim Lambert, Everyday Life in Britain; online resource ,part of the BBC online History Platform.
  2. British Academy Lecture- 19th Jan. 2016, posted 8 th Dec. 2016, c.The British Academy 2016.    
  • Evening Argus, 8th August 1983 (British Newspaper Archive)
  • PARISH OF BRIGHTON HOLY TRINITY (1823-1984), PCC council notes, (Accessed at The Keep)
  • Campbell, R J, A notable centenary. Holy Trinity Brighton 1826-1926, East Sussex Record Office (accessed at The Keep)

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