We have been researching the story of the adjoining Robertson Hall – a church hall and centre for Holy Trinity which opened in 1929.
At 35 Ship Street before Robertson Hall, from at least 1905 was ‘The Phoenix Ironmongery Co.’ (in 1897 it was a brewers and wine merchants). Phoenix offers furnishings and builders ironmongery – gardeners and agricultural tools, locksmiths and general engineers, hot water and gas fitters. In 1928 we can see that The Phoenix moves to number 34 (and stays there for at least another 10 years), this is due to the redevelopment of 35 for Robertson Hall.
Plans for developing and rebuilding the location next door to the Holy Trinity Church into a church hall was seemingly spearheaded by Rev R J Campbell in the years leading up to 1926. The church had many groups like Mothers Meetings, Sunday School, Girls and Boys Clubs, Men’s Society, Saturday Social Club, joint lecture classes, and Working Men’s Group. Holy Trinity had a ‘school room’ on Lewis Buildings which was small and they were looking for somewhere ‘airy’ and ‘sunny’ (discussed in parish meeting notes at The Keep) Campbell was looking for a space to provide a much needed centre for the Church life and work.
Campbell published ‘A Notable Centenary’ in 1926, celebrating the 100 years of Holy Trinity. In the publication there were proposed plans for the rebuild and offers for donations for the £14000 needed for the elevation. There was a large fundraising effort for the Robertson Hall renovation. At the Keep is a scroll signed by visitors to a fair held at the Brighton Dome in order to raise funds for the building of Robertson Hall, 1926
Robertson’s fame and association with the Holy Trinity was still very prevalent and the parish were keen to honour his time there beyond the stained glass windows and the plaque on the outside. The Yorkshire Post. 7 October 1925 published a letter from Campbell which states that the Queen herself sent an unsolicited donation and a message of good will towards the cause of Robertson Hall.
On the 28th of Sep 1925 The deed of Robertson Hall, was sold for £3,855 10s by C Burt Brill to the trustees of Holy Trinity.
The works were set to be completed in 6 months by architects Garrett & Son. Garret and Son are a Brighton based family business of architects (and also builders). The business lasts for at least three generations from the late 1880 till around 1969. They are incredibly local to Robertson Hall with their practise being on 34 Ship Street (next door!).
It nods to the Greek Revival style similar to the original Trinity Chapel which also featured 4 smooth Doric columns and a stuccoed exterior. Perhaps this design was a consideration to the style of the chapel as it was when Robertson preached as the gothic facade and chancel were added after his death.
We also see Art Deco design which would have been fashionable at the time of its building. There are similarities with the Imperial Arcade which was rebuilt in an Art Deco style 5 years after the Robertson hall. The Imperial Arace built in 1923- 4 by Clayton & Black and then remodelled 1934 by Garrett & Son (who were the architects of Robertson Hall) is a streamlined art deco design, with curved portion to Dyke Road emulating a ship’s prow. Strong horizontal emphasis established by the fenestration, but balanced by the stepped towers incorporating vertical windows with chevron glazing.
In the West Sussex Gazette reported on the ceremony on Thursday 24 October 1929: both Robertson’s Granddaughter Margaret and the Princess occupied the platform. The Princess is said to have stated when unveiling the bronze tablet : ‘Robertson’s character can never die’ said the princess after declaring open ‘it had a quality of high humanity which will persist in spite of all changes his was a lonely life. He was peculiarly sensitive: therefore he suffered from a misunderstanding world, but through his suffering he gained the sympathy of others. I can well understand Dr Campbell’s ardent desire to recognise the spiritual worth of this great man who helped to uplift Brighton and no one is more fitted than Dr Campbell to achieve success in this beautiful hall’. She was 81 at the time.
Aside from the many church activities, Robertson Hall was used and hired for a variety of other reasons, including: theatre productions (Regency Days in 1931), Science and Deafness exhibitions, cake stalls, Dairy and Ice Cream exhibition, Caged Bird Show, Meeting of officers of Women’s detachments of the Red Cross (British Newspaper Archive)
Various groups hired the Hall in 1930 – Volkins (furniture fitters), Ladies Working Party, Church of England Zenana Mission, Shakespearean Society, the Bishop of Gibraltar, School of Religious Study, Preston Tennis Club, Girl Guides, Red Cross, Social Service Centre, Guild of Health and multiple from ‘YPS’. In 1931 and 1932 some of the same clubs pop up, but we also see: rotate club, choral society, anti-vivisection society, and more individuals (RH Annual Balance Sheets).
In the 50’s the Church was considered for closing but was saved, at this time Robertson Hall was being considered for leasing to other offices and businesses unrelated to the Church. For many years leading up to 2001, the space was used as Cooperative bank. The Robertson Trust gains revenue from the ongoing rent of Robertson Hall to the Cook Shops to this day – Steamer Trading Cook Shop May 2001, and then since January 2019 the site has been operated by ProCook Ltd.
If you have any memories of attending Robertson Hall in any of its iterations over the years, please comment below or get in touch via email@example.com.
- Scroll signed by visitors to a fair held at the Brighton Dome in order to raise funds for the building of Robertson Hall, Holy Trinity Church, Brighton: 26-28 Oct 1926 – The Keep
- Order of service for the dedication of Robertson Hall by the Bishop of Chichester on 26 Sep 1929 – The Keep
- Robertson Hall annual balance sheets: 1930-1932 – The Keep
- Correspondence concerning Robertson Hall: Feb 1935 – Jan 1952 in ‘Churchwardens: property Records (1924-1947)’ – The Keep
- Specifications and bills for alterations to Robertson Hall: Jun 1929 – Nov 1930 in ‘Churchwardens: property Records (1924-1947)’ – The Keep
- Instructions to counsel: Regarding the status of Holy Trinity Church and Robertson Hall, 1973 – The Keep
- Copies of the title deeds (plan) of Robertson Hall, 35 Ship Street, Brighton. May 1925 – Oct 1959 – The Keep
- Programme of Regency Days by Constance Foot 17-18 Sep 1931 performed at the Robertson Hall. – The Keep
- Engineer and Surveyor’s Department: architects’ plans of Robertson Hall, Ship Street, Brighton: c1972 – The Keep
- Various British Newspaper Archive References
- Pikes and Kelly’s Directories
- A Notable Centenary: Holy Trinity, Brighton, April 21st , 1826 – April 21st, 1926.: Book. By Reverend Reginald John Campbell. 27 pages; includes portraits and illustrations.
- https://beta.charitycommission.gov.uk/charity-details/?regid=1073473&subid=0 (21/1/2020)
- http://opencharities.org/charities/1073473 – (21/1/2020)