If These Walls Could Talk

A team of Fabrica volunteers are working together to research, record and illuminate the many stories from our building’s history. From understanding the structure of the church through it’s many physical adaptations, to how individuals connected with the building have impacted our story both as a place for connection and contemplation, and our position in our wider community.

We are collating our findings into a book, which will launch in 2021, also Fabrica’s 25th Birthday.

Below you will find some highlights from the project as we go along, written by our volunteers and research coordinator.

Training with the Jubilee Library: Part One

We recently had some fantastic training with the Library as part of the research project – If These Walls Could Talk.

We had a tour of the Jubilee Library. Built in 2005, it won awards for the use of materials and sustainability, known as one of the most sustainable buildings in the UK. Using the natural elements to heat and cool the building, and water for the building amenities. The building has around a million visitors each year.

We walked through the non-fiction, reception area, shop and children’s area on the ground floor, and then were lead to the second floor where all the fiction books are kept. We looked through the Local History section and had explained to us the use of the Dewey decimal system and how we might use it for our research.

The next part of the training was the Rare Books collection, an incredibly special part of the Jubilee Library and we were very fortunate to have a full introduction to the collection and some selected pieces which were of relevance to the project.

The Jubilee Library states “Our substantial rare book and special collections in Jubilee and Hove Library extend to over 50,000 volumes. We have items from the 13th Century through to the 20th Century. Many of these rare books and manuscripts have been donated to our libraries over time. Brighton library first opened to the public in 1873 and Hove in 1908.

Our special collections span more than seven centuries and include:

  • early printed books
  • illuminated manuscripts
  • splendid examples of fine bindings
  • private press publications
  • first and limited editions
  • early children’s books
  • works with beautiful coloured illustrations, woodcuts, and engravings covering subjects from history, literature, and the arts to philosophy, natural history, and theology”
New and Correct Plan of Brightelmstone by T Budgen 1788

We had a brilliant and thoughtful presentation from the library staff and collection which displayed some areas of interest:

Church architecture & Interiors decorative features /furniture/ stained glass etc. John Ruskin’s The Stones of Venice and The Seven Lamps of Architecture.

Non-ecclesiastical local architecture John Nash’s original designs for the Royal Pavilion

Local History books/ ephemera, including social history

General local history: The Erredge Collection, which consists of boxes of paper ephemera including maps and illustrations. Kelly’s Directory: to track the usage of local buildings & local businesses. Illustrated version of History of Sussex 1906. Short History of Brighthelmstone

Wider social history/ British history: illustrated London News, Punch, Ackermann’s Repository of Arts and Architecture, or The Looking Glass Ackermann’s

Church texts: manuscripts or early printed missals, psalters

Other religious texts: Books of Hours /Offices/ prayer books used in the home- Again

Local Geography: Topographical engravings and maps. Detailed maps from 1808 & large scale of Brighton.

Local small press items: Looking at some local small press items from the early 20th century illustrating the period. Saints in Sussex

Production of a Resource for the Gallery

Our first task as a group was to produce a laminated resource for visitors to the gallery. When Fabrica is open to the public people are curious about the building and wish to know more. The resource will be colourfully produced with images.

After discussion of the key elements around the building, we resided on researching the why, how and who of a certain few points: the beginning (its creation) the stained glass windows, the font, the Gothic facade & tower, the chancel and pulpit and the present (Fabrica).

As a first foray into the research project, we thoroughly enjoyed finding out about the elements of the HTC and it certainly cast ideas of where the publication research might take us……

Training with Jubilee Library: Part Two

Written by John

Part two of our ongoing training at Jubilee Library took place on Monday 10th June.

We gathered at the library in the Community Centre and were surrounded by Students of various ages who were working on Exam revision and Dissertations with papers strewn over every flat space that was available to work on, already creating a positive learning environment.

We made our way up to the top floor of the library where a room had been set aside for us, and after applying name badges we looked through the folders that had been prepared for us, and were introduced to the two Library Services Managers, Jo Simmons, and Sally Pope, who were going to be our guides for the session.

Advertisement in an old Trade Directory for 38 Duke Street (next to HTC)

The Training Sessions were informative and included;

Local History;

Types of Historic Material;

Lending Libraries and their available resources;

Local History Websites, including Maps and Census Returns;

Trade Directories, ( a forerunner of the Yellow Pages)

Electoral Rolls and Newspaper Archives.

We were encouraged to ask questions and were then shown how to access the Library Resources on the computers which were available in the room, and having logged on we were encouraged to surf some of the sites we had access to, and were amazed at the amount and extent of the resources.

Trinity Chapel description from an old Trade Directory

We had a brief break for coffee or tea and were given information on how to check Family Histories online and how to put together a Family Tree, by accessing Records of Birth Certificates Death Certificates and Marriage Certificates.

The Staff had provided an impressive book list based on our Holy Trinity Research Project, and details summarising the available websites that the library provided.

We finished the session around 4.30 and personally, my head was spinning with the amount and quality of the information we had covered in the session and came away with a very positive opinion of the Library and it’s enthusiastic and knowledgeable Staff.

Overall a very worthwhile visit.

Training with The Keep

Introduction, information and tour

The Keep is a centre for archives that opens up access to all the collections of the East Sussex Record Office (ESRO), the Royal Pavilion & Museums Local History Collections and the internationally significant University of Sussex Special Collections. It also works to conserve and preserve archives in the UK. The Keep is in Falmer, Brighton. Our training day delivered by Andrew Bennett by an introduction to The Keep, a tour of the building and he displayed to us how to use the catalouge for ourselves.

The tour consisted of looking at the two rooms available to visitors, the first room holds published materials including a Microfishe for viewing newspaper archives, the second which contains original materials which are brought out for viewing by staff members from the hold room. We were lucky enough to view the cool-temperatured hold room. We saw the conservatist room, where a staff member works to restore and prepare materials for conservation at The Keep. We spoke to someone who is running a sound heritage project: Unlocking Our Sound Hertiage which is archiving sound recordings from the British Library which is a collection of over 6.5 million recordings of speech, music, wildlife and the environment, from the 1880s to the present day. The Keep is also home to the film director Richard Attenborough Archive and we saw one of his old cameras. 

Visit to The Keep

Written by Angi

The Keep is open from Tuesday to Saturday, 09.30 – 17.00 and access is free to all, although there is a 2.50 charge for the car park. We travelled by 25 bus, which stops conveniently nearby.

We started with an excellent and very informative session with a member of the staff, who gave us lots of information about the materials available at the Keep, and most importantly, how to access them. We were all amazed at the vast quantity and wide range of documentation which is stored at the Keep! We found out how to use the catalogue to identify items we might find useful, and also how to order three items at a time in advance if required. We had a fascinating tour of this very hi-tec building, looking at the way in which all these valuable documents are so carefully stored in the correct way.

After a short lunch break we were able to access Room 1, the walk-in reference library which is freely open to all visitors, and Room 2, which contains original materials, and which requires a (free) Keep membership card. There we tried out our new skills to research a few specific items. We all found it hard to drag ourselves away at closing time – we were all well and truly hooked on this terrific local resource centre! We will be back again very soon!

Meeting Poet Richard Realf’s 3x Great-Niece 

Today I met the 3x great-niece of Richard Realf who is writing a book on his life and work, Realf was a poet born in East Sussex (14 June 1832 – 28 October 1878). Richard Realf emigrated to United States in 1854 and traveled all over the US (New York, Kansas, Texas, Washington, South Carolina and more), he also served in the American Civil War. “My Slain”, “An Old Man’s Idyll”, “Indirection”, are some of Realf’s most famous poetry titles.

Image of a young Richard Realf (found at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Realf )

Richard Realf has a connection with the Holy Trinity and specifically the famous and influential Rev Fredrick Robertson “Robertson of Brighton”, whose life our group will be exploring as part of our research. Richard Realf lived in Brighton between 1850-1853 and whilst residing, he worshiped at Holy Trinity Church. Realf references Robertson in many of his personal letters. In Brighton he became an amanuensis to a lady in Brighton at 63 Montpelier Road when Roberson was at number 60 (confirmed in a 1851 Cencus), perhaps their being neighbors started their relationship. As a young and growing poet Realf was encouraged by influential figures such as Lady Noel Bryon, who we know has links with Robertson as she attended his sermons and his funeral when he died. 

There is certainly a history of creative figures within community linked to the HTC. It was great to learn about some of the interesting lives of the people who entered the Holy Trinity and those who knew the famous preacher Robertson of Brighton!

The Organ

When researching through the Holy Trinity parish records which are kept at The Keep, we came across some beautifully hand written church meeting minutes. These meeting minutes are a great insight into the church, the decisions they made about it, and the world at that time too.

We noticed an organ being mentioned in 1906 minutes, with talk of raising funds for its repair, then in subsequent meetings that an organ subcommittee was successful in completing its fundraising and repair. We still have funding statements regarding the organ that go into the 1960’s. This was the first time that we had heard of an organ, certainly Fabrica’s documents never mentioned one, concluding that it had long been removed since Fabrica’s arrival.

When looking through some of the wonderful images on the Brighton Museum Collection on their website: https://brightonmuseums.org.uk/discover/collections/search-our-collections/ we noticed an old photographic print of the chancel in its earlier iteration (no wooden altar rails and its adorned with the red and white patterned tiles). The particularly interesting point of this photograph is that on the left wall there seems to be organ pipes, alongside where the pews for the choir would be!

Photographic print showing interior of Trinity Chapel – Reference number: BH400182 Collection: Brighton History Centre

This certainly needs more investigating, but we are learning as we go.

Brighton Cemetery Research Trip

By John, 17th September 2019

Sally, Tom, Angi, Sandrine and myself , John, met up at the entrance to the Extra Mural Cemetery , on the Lewes Road in Brighton . We had decided that a visit to the burial place of Holy Trinity Church’s most famous Preacher , The Rev. FW Robertson , was due.

It was a beautiful late Summer morning and we left the urban traffic noise behind and made our way up  along the narrow road which had late blooming flowers flanking our left hand side.

Sally had a map of the location of Robertson’s tomb ,which was up on a rise on the left of the path.

It is quite impressive and shows the esteem he must have been held in by the church attenders of Holy Trinity .

We had hoped to gain access to one of the small chapels that were nearby but these were locked.

We made our way round and decided to use the opportunity , as we were together, to visit the cemetery of St Nicholas where the family tomb of Amon Wilds , who was the builder of Holy Trinity, was situated.

St Nicholas  of Myra Church  is recognised as the oldest surviving building in Brighton , and its present structure dates from the 14 th. Century.

The Wilds family tomb is here in the Churchyard .

Again there was an air of peacefulness , and it was easy to imagine people standing in this spot looking out to sea away down the Church Hill, a view which would  not have been hindered by the present day buildings of the shopping centre.

We made our way across the road to the Rest Garden which contained more  gravestones and what appeared to be catacombs.

William Smith of West Brighton – The Font

Angi Lowrie – Research Volunteer

The font is situated in a niche in the narthex or porch area of the building, to the right as one enters from the main entrance from Ship Street. The floor beneath it is tiled in a geometric pattern in shades of gold and brown. These tiles resemble those originally installed on the rererdos behind the altar, now replaced by oak panelling. The reredos tiles were attributed to the company of Maws of London, and these in the niche may also be by this manufacturer. The font is unusual in that the bowl is circular in shape, rather than the more traditional octagonal. It is carved from fine pure white marble. Marble of this quality was often imported from Carrera in Italy.

Sadly it bears no visible makers mark, and so far its provenance is uncertain. However, it is a piece of very fine workmanship. The circular bowl has a very smooth flat surround, and beneath the bowl there is beautifully carved decoration in the form of vine leaves and bunches of grapes.

The bowl is supported by a carved column again decorated with leaves, which stands upon a plain white, rectangular marble plinth. Around three sides of the plinth we find the memorial to William Smith. The inscription reads as follows:-

‘To the Glory of God and in Loving Memory of William Smith of West Brighton who entered into rest on February 4 1887.’

It seems that William Smith must have been quite an important and wealthy resident of Brighton to have such an impressive memorial.

Picture by Elin Venner

He was born in Kingston, Jamaica, on 19 May 1801. His father was Robert Smith (1771 – 1851) who was a coffee planter. Robert would have worked on a coffee plantation in Jamaica. At the time the whole of the island was taken over by coffee plantations. The owners were mainly absentee British landlords. Until slavery was officially abolished in 1833, these plantations would have been dependent upon slave labour to produce their goods.

By 1833 William has moved to Liverpool. He has met a Yorkshire woman named Anne Frances Haigh and fallen in love, and they married in the Parish of Huddersfield on 24 July 1833.

William was aged 32 and Anne was 22. Anne was born 14 August 1811 in Halifax to Hannah Haigh (1780 – 1846) and John Haigh (1779 – 21 April 1826) of Edgerton Hill, Huddersfield. Anne was baptised at St John the Baptist Church in Halifax on 20 April 1812. William and Anne’s first son was born in 1834 and named Haigh Smith, but he died in 1836.

The following year on 27 October 1837 Anne gave birth to another son named Francis William(s), but he lived for only two weeks, dying on 9 November 1837. Saddest of all, Anne herself survived for only two days after giving birth, dying on 29 October in Everton, Liverpool. Presumably there were complications related to childbirth. She was just 26 years old.

This must have been a very difficult time for William, losing both of his sons and his wife in the space of less than two years.

William does not seem to appear in the UK censuses of 1841, 1851, or 1861.He may have decided to return to his family in Jamaica after the trauma of losing his family, or he may have moved elsewhere to concentrate on his work as a merchant.

In the UK Census of 1871 William is living in London at 17 Victoria Street, Grosvenor Mansions, St Margaret’s, Westminster. He lives at this address with a lodger, William D Gardiner, also a widower, aged 40, who is described as a ‘Barrister-in-Practice’ from London. There are also two servants – Rachel Mary Allum, who is aged 39 and described as ‘Housekeeper Domestic’ who hails from Stradbroke in Suffolk, and Caroline Flude, aged 19, from Camberwell, Surrey who is a ‘Servant Domestic’. ‘Domestic’ refers to the fact that they both live-in at the property.

On 27th September of that same year, 1871, William Smith, Esquire, of the Parish of Saint Margaret Westminster, appeared personally to pray for a licence for the solemnisation of marriage in the new Parish Church of St Mary, Paddington, in the County of Middlesex, between himself and a spinster of the age of twenty one or above called – Rachel Mary Allum. Her residence is given as within the Parish of St Mary’s Paddington.

The wedding of William and his former housekeeper Rachel took place at St Mary’s Church, Paddington, the following month, on 4th October 1871. William was aged 69, described as a widowed merchant, and Rachel was aged 39. Her father was Francis Allum, described as a farmer.

In the UK Census of 1881, William and Rachel are living together in Hove in some considerable style. His occupation is given as ‘Retired Merchant’. Their address is 5 Fourth Avenue. This is the reason that his memorial places him in ‘West Brighton’. This was not simply another way to say ‘Hove, Actually’ – it was the name of a newly developed area of housing for the well-to-do called The West Brighton Estate. This was built on land purchased from one of the principle land owners in Brighton, the Stanford family. Despite the name, it was definitely within the boundary of Hove.

William died on 4 February 1887 at 29 The Drive, West Brighton (Hove)  in a house called ‘Sans Souci’ (meaning ‘carefree; or ‘without worry’). He was 85 years old. He left personal estate (resworn September 1887) of  £44,086,15s.10d.(This translates to over £4 million today)

His widow Rachel Mary continued to live at Sans Souci until her death there on 8 October 1900, when she would have been aged about 70. It is not clear when or why the Smiths chose to move from their new home in Fourth Avenue to Sans Souci. It is possible that rather than a family home it was some sort of residential care home for the elderly, as William would have been over 80 years old at the time. 

It would seem that Rachel commissioned the beautiful memorial font for Holy Trinity Church. There were no children to remember them. It is not clear yet what connection the couple had with the church. 

William and Rachel were both buried in Hove Cemetery. They are commemorated there with an impressive tomb in the form of a white marble altar supported by red marble columns  topped with a recumbent figure. Judy Middleton in her book ‘Hove Cemetery 2002 (Revised 2018)’ describes it thus:- 

‘’This must be the most comfortable – looking monument in Hove Cemetery. William Smith strikes a patrician pose as he enjoys a long sleep’’

The inscriptions are as follows:-

In Memoriam William Smith who fell asleep on the 4th February 1887 in his 86th year

Also Rachel Mary widow of William Smith who fell asleep on 4th October 1900 in her 71st year.

Full references on post: https://fabricapastpresentfuture.home.blog/2019/11/11/william-smith-and-the-font/

Exploring Holy Trinity’s Architects

My research on Wilds and Wilds and G.S Clarke Junior by Sandrine

The research group gathered one afternoon to decide on what the next steps were going to be, and who was going to research what.
Phyllida suggested various topics and because I was interested in learning more about the architecture in Brighton (having moved here recently and finding the buildings amazing), I volunteered to start researching on Amon Wilds (1762-1833) and Amon Henry Wilds (1784-1857), builders and designers of the Holy Trinity Church (1817); and on George Somers Clarke Junior (1841-1926), who carried out the interior and south-front alterations of the Holy Trinity chapel between 1885 and 1887.

South-front alterations by George Somers Clarke Junior. https://brightonmuseums.org.uk/discover/collections/search-our-collections/?cblid=BTNRP_HA922982

My research started on Wilds and Wilds. I went online and started gathering a series of articles from google, notably from Wikipedia and Google Scholar. I also browsed and researched the Keep’s website and whilst most items seemed to be mainly architectural maps, I did find that on 18 March 2015, Dr Sue Berry, a historian, had given a presentation at the Keep entitled ‘Amon and Amon Henry Wilds of Lewes and Brighton, local architects and builders’. The website then provided the link to another website where the article could be found and read. Whilst I was very happy with my finding, I did not know at the time that this article would also save me from making and reporting a considerable amount of incorrect information.

Pursuing my quest for information, I met with Sally at the Jubilee library on 12 September 2019. There, we spend a couple of hours researching books and articles. I went home that day with 3 books; notably one entitled ‘The history and architecture of Brighton’ by Anthony Dale dated 1912 which the librarian took some time to find (the book was not on the shelves) and which I therefore assumed to be a gold mine of information. It was now time to review all this and get writing!

About a week later, I met with everyone at the Extra-Mural Cemetery. It was a beautiful morning and the cemetery was very lush and green. Birds were singing and flowers were in bloom. There, we had the opportunity to see the burial place of Rev. FW Robertson. We also saw the Georgian Gothic
Anglican chapel which Amon Henry Wilds designed. Unfortunately, the chapel was closed and due to lack of staff, we could not visit it.

We then decided to go to St Nicholas churchyard, off Dyke road in Brighton where Amon Wilds is buried. Having seen a picture of his memorial prior to our visit, I knew what to expect and it is the first thing I noticed as we entered the churchyard; not so surprisingly since the memorial is very centrally located; and showing the famous ammonite associated to both architects (as a pun to their names). Whilst I did not know this at the time of our visit, I later discovered that both his first and second wife are buried with him in the churchyard.

We carried on with our visit and went across the road to the Rest Garden; which gave me the opportunity to see another of the Wilds’ creations. The Western Cemetery was built as an extension to the churchyard of St Nicholas and landscaped by A.H Wilds (son) in 1841. Unsurprisingly, the
gigantic pyramid drawn in his original design was not to be found; the project having never taken shape. However, the thirteen imitation stone relief doorways and the gate as included in his original design could still be found.

Amon Wilds Gravestone

As I read books and articles on A. and A.H Wilds, I became confused. The dates and projects did not always seem to match. For example, Wikipedia’s pages citing the life of Amon Wilds or Amon Henry Wilds ‘projects did not
seem to fit other more recent accounts in other books. This until I read the article of Sue Berry; clearly pointing the discrepancies; notably mentioning that Dale wrongly believed the Busby and Wilds partnership to be with Wilds father (instead, it is Wilds son). It then made sense to me and I
realised that I had to carefully review some of the information and double check its accuracy.

St Nicholas Rest Garden

Sue Berry inserted a table in her article with all the projects she believed had or had not been the product of either father or son. This was very helpful and I based my review on this. Looking at the list of buildings and projects both architects worked on, it became clear to me that
father and son had been instrumental in the design and construction of some of Brighton’s finest buildings. I learned some stories which one would say could only be found in movies!

Such as for example, the story of the massive glass Dome which collapsed a day before its opening (a project that A.H Wilds had pulled out from due to the architectural faults and lack of safety that he had been noting and telling to the project manager in vain). Or the very tumultuous and short lasting partnership between A.H Wilds and Busby which ended up in petty court for assault by Wilds to Busby! A document which I found in the Keep.
More than all, this research taught me that probably a third of Brighton’s fantastic buildings were built or designed by just two men! Two fantastic architects whose genius and fine taste still transpire and can still be admire through looking at Brighton’s buildings.

The second part of my research was on George Somers Clarke Junior. However, this research was much shorter: I did not manage to find the information I was looking for. At the Keep, his (whole) file is classified and cannot currently be consulted. When I asked a member of staff, he said the reason for this could not be disclosed. A pity as G.S Clarke Junior was an Egyptologist and I was really excited by the prospect of learning from Egyptian discoveries or who knows what! There was nothing in the Jubilee library either. It seems that the only place where his work can be found and researched is the RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) in London. The research is on pause for now.

And as it turned out, he too had an father named like him (or the over way around really!). And whilst this seemed common in that century – it obviously added more confusion as I was unclear at first about why he died in Egypt but was reported by Wikipedia as dying at home in
Walpole, Manor Park, Chislehurst, Kent. For a moment, I thought that they might have it wrong again… I thought this was another error from Wikipedia… until I noticed the very important dates of

One thing (among others) that this research has taught me… double check the names, double check the facts, and never assume that what you read is right!

Unknown Vicar: Identity Found!

For years, Brighton and Hove museum has housed a postcard of a vicar who preached at The Holy Trinity Church from 1917-1924. Despite the museum showcasing this image (pictured in the monochrome portrait below), he has not been able to be identified up until recently…

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is ha927750_d01-1-e1580225578270.jpg
‘Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove’.

Researchers from the Past, Present Future team, went to The Keep with the aim to find out more about Holy Trinity’s history when they came across ‘The Parochial Gazetteer’, a publication which collates information about numerous parishes and their histories. Within the publication you can see an image of a man who looks just like that of the one in the postcard and Brighton and Hove Museum (see below). The research team contacted the museum regarding their findings and they have since updated their records, confirming that the man in the postcard, is the same man as in the Parochial Gazetteer! Indeed, thanks to the Past Present Future team, we can confirm he is Reverend Alan H Watts!

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 20191126_164843.jpg

We are currently researching Rev Watts, and hope to fill in more gaps about our story!
We also welcome more information from our community. If you know something about Watts or, indeed, about anything related to the building’s history, do get in touch with pastpresentfuture@fabrica.org.uk

Chancel Chair dedicated to Watts. Photography EV

Musical Chapel Royal Visit!

Just before the Christmas break, we took the chance to visit the Chapel Royal Church (on North Street). The Chapel Royal was built in 1795 as a chapel of ease. It has gained its own parish and is associated with the Prince Regent and fashionable regency-era society. It is still an active church today.

The Chapel Royal has a relationship with the Holy Trinity. Both were built as Chapels of Ease and plans to merge the parishes had been proposed. We wanted to go and visit and find out more.

The Chapel Royal holds lunchtime concerts on Tuesdays, we took the opportunity to see  “7 Basak Zengin Kayabinar (sop) Howard Beach (pno) Dowland Bridge Quilter Ada” on the 17th of December. The Chapel Royal was a great space, bright and tall. The performance and the atmosphere were wonderful. Dramatic Soprano Basak Zengin KAYABINAR, is an experienced recitalist and performer, singing with operatic and chamber ensembles around the world. 


We spent some time taking in the space after the performance and purchased a booklet created by the Chapel Royal about their history. The booklet details the conception and building of the church, changes to the building throughout the eras, some of the people who attended and pictures. Between the period of 1883-5 Winston Churchill attended the Chapel Royal!

From A History of The Chapel Royal booklet

Our Holy Trinity features quite a bit in the book and obviously has a somewhat similar history. Both churches faced troubles from the late 1800’s onwards as more people moved to live outside the city centre, particularly in the beginning of the 1900’s socially people moved away from the church . The booklet states that in 1921 a Church Commision sat to discuss the future of the Chapel Royal and the Holy Trinity. Both were eventually saved. Again by 1928 the issue of viability of The Chapel Royal and HTC has again come to the fore. This time the commision decided to merge the two churches. Holy Trinityhas been going from strength and its members had raised the money for Roberton Hall. The Chapel Royal will close and merge with Holy Trinity. 

In 1929 the matter was still to be resolved. The way forward was a magnanimous gesture by Dr Campbell who offered to resign from Holy Trinity to ensure the smooth passage of the scheme. The vicar of The Chapel Royal could then be appointed vicar with a curate and for Campbell to remain as a preacher, but with the Holy Trinity to be the parish church.The chapel Royal could then be adapted as The Robertson Memorial Hall, whilst the £7000 collected could be used to fund the cost of the priests. These suggestions led to much outrage without resolution and the churches carried on as before.

It later states that in the late 20th century the longstanding dilemma of the viability of the churches remain and was again addressed. The two churches were amalgamated and The Holy Trinity closed in 1984

To learn more about the Chapel Royals history, you can buy the booklet for a mere £1 from the Chapel Royal, or attend one of their concerts for £3. It was an enjoyable and informative visit!

Incumbent Alan Watts and his Daughter Helen the Suffragette

Written by Angi

Our researcher Angi has been looking into Alan Hunter Watts, incumbent at Holy Trinity from 1917 – 1924; here is a snippet:

One of our chancel chairs, in memory of Reverend Watts

Alan Hunter Watts was born in West Hoathly in East Sussex in 1852. His father was Henry Ludby Watts, a teacher of classics, and his mother was Margaret M Watts, nee Hunter.

On 19 August 1880, Alan married Ethelinda Woodrow Cassels at St Alphege Parish Church in Greenwich. He is now a Clerk in Holy Orders. She is a British Citizen, born in Oporto, Portugal. Her father, John Cassels, is described as a Merchant (deceased) and Alan’s father as a Gentleman (deceased).In the Census of 1881, the couple are living in Durham and Alan is the Curate of Bishop Wearmouth Church.

In 1891, Alan is now 39 years old. He and Ethelinda have six children, and he is Vicar of Holy Trinity Church in Dartford, Kent. They live in The Vicarage with two servants, one a nurse and one a cook. In the Census of 1901 the family have moved again. Rev Watts has taken up a new position as Vicar of Holy Trinity Church in Lenton, Nottinghamshire. They live at the Vicarage at 35 Church Street, Lenton, with three further children plus a maid and a cook. One name is missing from the list – a son named Alan Francis Cassels Watts, who may have been away on Census night, or he may have died.

In the Census of 1911, Rev Watts and Ethelinda are still at Lenton, living at Lenton Boscrege. The records show that the couple have 8 children living, one dead. Sadly, they lost another son in 1916. Ronald William Ailsa Watts, born in Kent in 1892, served in the 2nd Bn Worcestershire Regiment and died of wounds aged 23. His name appears on the War Memorial in Lenton Church and he is also mentioned in the Nottingham Roll of Honour.

Alan and Ethelinda’s firstborn child was a girl, whom they named Helen Kirkpatrick Watts, born on 13 July 1881 in Bishop Wearmouth in Sunderland.  Although there is no mention of her suffering from any disability on the Census returns, it seems that Helen suffered some hearing loss. Her friend Helen Blaythwayt said of her “She is a nice girl, but difficult to talk with because beside being very deaf herself she speaks so that it is very difficult to understand her.”

Suffragette, Helen Watts

However, Helen did not let this hold her back and she grew up to be an important figure in the history of the Women’s Movement. She spoke at many public meetings on socialist and feminist topics. Crawford quotes her as saying ‘’Votes for Women’’ will not be won by drawing room chatter. It has got to be fought for in the market places, and if we don’t fight for it, no-one else will….The open air meeting is a symbol of the principles, the method, and the spirit of the most vigorous movement towards Women’s Suffrage in England today. The Suffragettes have come out of the drawing room, the study and the debating hall, and the committee rooms of Members of Parliament,  to appeal to the real, sovereign power of the country –THE PEOPLE.’’

After a meeting held at London,’s Caxton Hall on 24 February 1909 Helen was arrested and taken to Bow Street Police Station where she was charged with wilfully obstructing the police and she was sent to Holloway Prison for a month. This was mentioned in an article in the Nottingham Guardian entitled ‘At it again – A Nottingham Martyr’. She was arrested again after a demonstration in Leicester on 17 September 1909 and sentenced to five days in Leicester Gaol.

After leaving the Women’s Suffrage Political Union Helen joined the Women’s Freedom League. During the Great War she nursed at the Mineral Water Hospital in Bath. She then worked at the War Office and Ministry of Labour before emigrating to Canada, possibly to stay with her sister Ethelinda. (Another sister, Alice M Watts, is described in the 1911 Census as ‘Secretary, Suffragist Society’).

Helen eventually returned to Britain, leaving a trunkful of possessions and papers in Avonmouth Docks for many years. She died in Somerset in August 1972.

Full references on post: https://fabricapastpresentfuture.home.blog/2020/02/14/incumbent-alan-watts-and-his-daughter-helen-the-suffragette/

Robertson of Brighton

The Reverend Fredrick William Robertson (1816 – 1853) was Perpetual Incumbent of Holy Trinity Chapel, Brighton 1847-1853. “Robertson of Brighton” is well known as a Victorian preacher and his life has already been documented, sometimes controversially, but he is a huge part of the Holy Trinity’s history. Memorials to the preacher are found within the make up of the building, such as our beautiful stained glass windows. In 1902 on the anniversary of Robertson’s death the parish purchased a plaque for the external facade which records Robertson’s 6 year preaching career in the Church. Robertson Hall, the adjoining building on 35 Ship Street, used for Holy Trinity Church purposes, is named after and dedicated to the preacher and his notable career.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is fabrica2018_11-1.jpg
E.V Photography – stained glass triptych

Researcher Carole has explored Robertson’s history and his relevance to Holy Trinity and to Brighton. We are not lacking in stories and opinions about Robertson and Carole’s research has delved into Robertson’s early life, religious ideas, his family life, his “affair” and his end. This is a insight into her work:

By Carole

I began this research by visiting Robertson’s grave in the Extramural Cemetery in Brighton on a damp, misty day: the perfect weather for an excursion into a Victorian melodrama.  I approached the cemetery by climbing a narrow flight of steps partially hidden by foliage and covered in moss, emerging on a brow looking down over the sloping curves of the landscape. Ancient gnarled trees and overgrown graves sent a shiver through my body and stirred within me an unexpected feeling of sadness. I made my way down towards where I imagined Robertson’s tomb might be, close to the chapel. The graveyard is in sad disrepair,  figures of angels with missing limbs like the Venus de Milo, stone tablets fallen at crooked angles, headless cherubs, crosses caught in the act of collapse, obelisks about to tumble, tombstones reclaimed by creeping ivy, like undiscovered Maya temples. I looked around and realised I was the only visitor on this dank sombre day. I continued down the winding path avoiding puddles and mud. I came upon the tomb and I swear at that moment of discovery, a shaft of sunlight broke through the cover of cloud. 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is cemetry-e1585063814448.jpg
Extramural Cemetery

The bas relief carving on the west side of his tomb, now bathed in heavenly light, depicts Robertson surrounded by working men from the Mechanics Institute, each bearing the tools of their trade: a sledgehammer, an anvil, a plane . . . 

I left the cemetery by a more conventional route, passing the coroner’s shiny black saloon parked alongside the low, squat brick building of the cemetery office, returning to the present through the iron gates of the Extramural Cemetery and into the confusion and noise of Lewes Road. 

I may not strew with earth-born flowers the turf where thou art laid

But flowers there are which Love may rear, and such as cannot fade….

If parted clouds a moment showed the blue depths of thy soul,

’Twas but to prove them far beyond the skies where thunders roll. 

Lady Byron, on hearing flowers falling on the coffin of her dearly beloved, departed Fred Robertson, from afar.

Beardsley calls Robertson the ‘Prince of Preachers’. Robertson’s fame in his own time and for years after his death, rests largely on the reputation of his
outstanding sermons which were printed posthumously. They were published and widely read not only in Britain but in North America and other English speaking countries, and in translation as far away as China.

Even at the time, fellow clerics, politicians and artists travelled from far and wide to hear him. A pamphlet written by George Allen in the 19th century (FW Robertson of Brighton, at The Keep), tells how Dean Stanley of Westminster, travelling on a train in France, encountered a ‘rather
unkempt’ individual who it transpired was an American soldier, an army surgeon who had been serving in Algeria and was now on his way to serve in Mexico. To Stanley’s surprise the stranger asked him if he had heard of the sermons of Robertson.

In Brighton at the Holy Trinity Chapel where he preached from 1847 until his death in 1853, Robertson’s charisma and oratory skills were legendary. According to Stopford Brooke, Robertson’s contemporary and biographer, his sermons ‘had all the variety of a great stream, quick, rushing and passionate when his wrath was awakened by evil’

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 330px-frederick_william_robertson_b_william_edward_kilburn_c1850-1.jpg
“Robertson of Brighton”

Robertson must have struck an imposing, dramatic figure, ‘walking to church and visiting the sick wearing always a military cape’, and standing at the vase-shaped pulpit, preaching in a black Geneva gown. No ‘flamboyant gestures or mannerisms’; he was renowned rather for the eloquence of his speeches and his almost mesmerising presence. Charles Dickens said to Robertson’s son Charles that ‘he was one of the greatest masters of elocution I ever knew. To hear him read the church service was in itself a liberal education’. The church was always crowded when he preached. (Campbell) ‘His hearers sat spell-bound . . . (in) rapt attention’.

Almost half a century after his death, in an article in the Daily
News printed in 1926, a woman who had heard Robertson’s early sermons said that ‘she could vividly recall his beautifully clear voice, dark-blue eyes, rich brown curly hair, clean-shaven mouth and chin – and (sad anti-climax) mutton-chop whiskers. He had a remarkable way of looking straight at you’. (One wonders if she actually listened to the sermon!)

Others too outside of his congregation were affected by his presence. He once attended a lecture by an ‘Electro-Biologist’ (spiritualist). The lecturer soon exclaimed, ‘I cannot do anything while that gentleman is here!’ Brooke describes Robertson’s appearance and presence effusively: ‘features which were remarkable for their changing play of expression . . . The high and intellectual brow, strongly marked, suggested a thoughtful and an artistic nature; and the blue, deep-set eyes, full of a beautiful pure light, flashing often with a bright and eager lightning of excitement or enquiry, told of the strangely-mingled qualities which lay within – Will, Tenderness, and Courage. The instinctive cheerfulness and sensitiveness of his temperament appeared in a mouth the smile of which was as radiant as its mobile obedience to every change of emotion was wonderful.’

Robertson was a complex person. Brooke notes that ‘even those who believed they knew him well, knew little of the workings of his mind’. And even ‘those who understood him best only understood him by half’. Many inner conflicts troubled him. ‘His outward composure belied some of the inner torment and what he saw as the weakness of his passions.’ He was melancholic, plagued by bouts of depression and agonising headaches, which ran like a dark thread through his life and which signalled his early death.

Full references on post: https://fabricapastpresentfuture.home.blog/2020/03/24/robertson-of-brighton/

Remembering Henry George Walthoe

By Angi

Located immediately to the left of the First World War Memorial plaque commemorating those who served and those who fell from the local area (visit The Boys on the Plaque to hear about that project) is a small brass-plated plaque to a soldier lost in the Second World War. 

Photo credit: EV
Henry’s polished brass plaque next to the WW1 plaque

It is the only wall plaque in the church in memory of a soldier killed in battle in this war. The soldier who is remembered is named Henry George Walthoe. 

“In proud and loving memory of L/Cpl. Henry George Walthoe 263rd Coy. Royal engineers Killed in France on Active Service 20th May 1940”

He was a Lance Corporal of 263 Coy, Royal Engineers, service number 2074173. He fought in the Battle of the Somme and was killed there on 20 May 1940. He was buried in Pont-de-Metz Churchyard in Dept de la Somme in Picardie, France, in Plot 4, Row A, Grave 33. He lies alongside a further twenty soldiers who died in the same skirmish, several of whom were also from Sussex. 

Henry’s grave in Pont-De-Metz

Henry George was listed as missing on p172 of the ‘British Army List of Missing to be circulated to POW camps, includes Copy of 1st and 2nd Lists.’ 

The theatre of war was the France and Belgium Campaign of 1939/40. Henry was mentioned in the UK Army Roll of Honour 1939/40. 

Henry George was also part of the Scouts, the 5th Brighton West Group (now 5th Hove), and is listed on an honour roll of Scouts and Scout leaders who died during World War Two.

Henry was the son of George and Nellie Walthoe nee Brown of Brighton. He was born in Brighton in July 1919. George Walthoe was born in Brighton on 22 September 1888 to Henry Walthoe from Weston in Staffordshire. The surname Walthoe seems to derive from this region, often spelt Waltho. Henry was described as a ‘whitesmith’. This refers to a metal worker who specialises in finishing work, particularly using white or light coloured metals such as zinc and tinplate. He was married to Phoebe Rhoda Burfield, known as Rhoda. George had two sisters and a brother and the family lived at 88 Church Street Brighton. 

George was awarded a medal card (held by The National Archives, Kew) in the Index of First World War Mercantile Marine Medals. 

Nellie Walthoe nee Brown was born in Brighton in 1889 to George and Mary Brown. George was a railway porter. Aged two, Nellie was living with them and her four siblings at 27 Yardley Street Brighton, in the Parish of St Saviour’s. The house is a terraced Victorian bay fronted house, with stone steps leading up to the ground and first floor, and stairs leading down to the ‘area’ or basement level. 

In the 1901 Census Nellie is now 12, and the family are still at the same address. 10 years later Nellie is now 22 and working in a restaurant as a waitress. The restaurant was at 107 and 108 Church Street. 109 is the pub ‘The Waggon and Horses’ at the junction of Church Street and Jubilee Street, and 108 was on the opposite corner across Jubilee Street.  107 and 108 were Victorian terraced properties which were demolished in 1972. The large new building which eventually replaced them has also housed a restaurant  – until recently it was Carluccio’s. 

Grave Registration Report Form for Henry

George Walthoe and Nellie Brown married in Brighton in October 1916. George died in Brighton in January 1921, when he was 32 years old, and his son Henry George was aged less than two years old. 

This suggests that the plaque was commissioned by Nellie Walthoe, mother of Henry George. Nellie died in January 1976 in Brighton, aged 87. She does not seem to have remarried or had any further children. 

We always welcome more information from our community. If you know something about Henry Walthoe or his family, then do get in touch with pastpresentfuture@fabrica.org.uk

Full references on post: https://fabricapastpresentfuture.home.blog/2020/04/23/remembering-henry-george-walthoe/

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.  

Full references on post: https://fabricapastpresentfuture.home.blog/2020/05/26/the-journey-to-deconsecration/

Thomas Read Kemp, Creator of Trinity Chapel

Thomas Read Kemp, land developer and politician, was an important figure in the development of Brighton. Kemp commissioned the creation Trinity Chapel (which we now know as Holy Trinity Church) as an independent non-conformist sect and was its first preacher during that time. Our volunteer researcher Sandrine explored his life:

By Sandrine

Thomas Read Kemp, son of Thomas Kemp of Lewes Castle and Herstmonceux Park (landowner and Member of Parliament) and of Anne Read of Brookland, was born 23 December 1782 in Lewes.  

In 1806, he married Frances Baring, fourth daughter of Sir Francis Baring (Chairman of the East India Company and founder of Barings bank) with whom he had four sons and six daughters. This marriage catapulted him to higher social spheres and it is believed by S. Berry in “Thomas Read Kemp and the shaping of Regency Brighton” Journal of the Georgian Group, XVII, 2009, 125-140,  that this probably contributed to his financial problems as he was ‘mixing with people who were far wealthier than him’. His wife died in labour in 1825 and was buried at Saint Nicholas’s church. 

He married again in 1832 with Frances Shakerley of Someford with whom he had a son, Frederick, who ended up inheriting his father’s moiety of the manor and the freehold of the Kemp Town enclosures. 

Thomas Read Kemp. Image from My Brighton and Hove


In 1811, he inherited some land in the parish of Brighton from his father. However, his total holdings, inclusive of Herstmonceaux, were 2000 acres (which for a landowner of the time was not considered so important); making the land he owed in Brighton all the more financially significant since he did not have any other assets.  

It is known that Kemp enjoyed a life of luxury and had an expensive way of living. 

T.R Kemp was also known to be charitable and giving, and supported many fundraising events. He also gave and sold land for public needs such as land for the Jewish cemetery in 1825 or land in East Laine for the Social Sussex County Hospital (same year). 


His father had been preparing him for the county representation in 1807 – however, he succeeded his father in the local borough of Lewes instead; winning his father’s former seat in 1811 and becoming Member of Parliament for Lewes. In his nomination meeting, he stated being against corruption and in favour of parliamentary reform.  

In March 1816, Kemp resigned his seat declaring ‘my domestic habits and present pursuits prevent a continuance of the same exclusive devotion of my time to the public service’. This was to found a nonconformist evangelical sect at St James’s Chapel in Brighton with his brother-in-law Rev. George Baring. The choice had been influenced by his wife. The sect moved a year later to the Trinity Chapel in Ship Street which he commissioned for this purpose.  

The Holy Trinity Chapel was the first joint project of Wilds and Wilds in Brighton; built and designed by them in the spring of 1817. Kemp preached there for six years (he was no great orator) however, despite being successful at first and attracting wealthy members, the venture eventually failed, and Kemp returned to the established church by 1823. The Holy Trinity Chapel was sold to the Church of England in 1825. 

Earliest Image of Trinity Chapel. Image from: Brighton and Hove Museum Archives

From 1823 to 1826 he was elected as Member of Parliament for Arundel and from 1826 was re-elected for Lewes where he stayed until April 1837. 

The creation of Kemp Town 

It is in 1823 that he planned to build a very large development on the cliffs East of Brighton (or Brighton landmark that is now known as Kemp Town) on land which Kemp held as joint lord of the manor. He requested that architect C.A Busby joined A.H Wilds in this grand development. Wilds and Busby designed the façades of Kemp Town which Thomas Cubitt, the builder of most of Belgravia, constructed. The latter was owned money by Kemp and Kemp eventually conveyed £10,000 worth of land to him in order to settle one of his numerous debts. 

The grand project was self-contained and included Chichester Terrace, Arundel Terrace, Lewes Crescent, Sussex Square and the surrounding streets. Lewes Crescent with its 800 ft was longer by 200 ft than the Royal Crescent in Bath; and Sussex Square, the biggest crescent in Britain, surpassed Grosvenor Square in London with a diameter of 60 metres. 

However, some bad business choices (i.e. the refusal to spread the risks of the development amongst others; the decision to bear all costs such as building work and landscaping; the least profitable decision to get the builders to build the carcases of the houses, and to then sell them to them at a fixed price; the failure to appoint professionals to manage his schemes and to supervise the sales of plots), added to some misfortune (i.e. C.A Busby moving on to design Brunswick Town, entering in direct competition with Kemp Town and being commercially more successful because of its location; Brighton going through a period of recession with houses and land no longer in demand; the number of Brighton inhabitants plummeting) turned this project into yet another high-risk and non-profitable venture for Kemp.  

An image from Jubilee Library Rare Books collection – Views of Brighton an engraving of Kemp Town by John Bruce, 1827

Kemp was offering the houses for completion on a 99-year lease with an annual ground rent of £150 and the option to purchase the freehold for £2500 after 10 years.  

However, many of the houses remained only façades as they failed to sell. This, to the point of being described ‘as desolate as Pompeii after its two thousand years’ burial’ by a visitor. Only 105 out of the planned 250 were ever completed.  

Kemp was forced to borrow £28,000 from the Barings (ie. his family in-law). By October 1826, Kemp had advanced £51,179 on the houses and esplanade but was owed more than £15,800 and by 1827 was still left with a high number of unsold shells of houses.  

By 1828, he was still left with 47 houses and by 1830, Kemp Town still looked unfinished. This was also negatively impacting on the area, and other projects in the neighbouring area also ended up in failure due to a general lack of interest.  

The houses did not start selling until well after 1830 and by then Kemp had been forced to sell many of them incomplete and without profits. By 1834, only 36 of the 105 houses were inhabited and the grand development project was turning into a monstrous debt spiral that would eventually swallow him. 

Image from Brighton and Hove Toy Museum

T.R Kemp died on 20 December 1844 in 64 Faubourg Saint-Honoré in Paris and is buried in the Père Lachaise cemetery. Some mention a heart attack, others suicide. Whilst it has not been possible to verify this information, his death is described as sudden. His tomb is unfortunately not part of the many included in the cemetery guide and is therefore a challenge to find. His widow moved back to England. She later died in Tunbridge Wells. 

The extent of Kemp’s debt kept unravelling even until after his death. In 1847, his sister, Mrs Sober, was forced to recover the rights to her house, which Kemp had mortgaged without her knowing. 

T.R Kemp is undoubtedly one of the greatest Brightonian characters as he forged the city’s layout and architectural character. His lack of knowledge in building speculation coupled with, perhaps, a poor business acumen, moved him towards indebtedness.  

His name remains however all over Brighton and the city remembers him: there is a tablet for him at St Nicholas’s Church, a plaque with his name on 22 Sussex Square, a No. 7 bus is named after him and the Thomas Kemp pub.

Full references on post: https://fabricapastpresentfuture.home.blog/2020/06/26/thomas-read-kemp-creator-of-trinity-chapel/

Brighton and Slavery

The If These Walls Could Talk research team has been exploring varied aspects of the history of Holy Trinity Church and the wider context of the building, which is centrally located in Brighton. Along the way we have discovered that some people who were related to the church had links to plantations and the slave trade: see our post on William Smith on the Font – his father Robert Smith, owned a coffee plantation in Jamaica; Ralph Cocking, the father of one of Holy Trinity’s incumbents, Reverend Ralph Daly Cocking (at Holy Trinity from 1870  –  1891), jointly owned a plantation in Jamaica with business partner Richard Daly (Ralph’s parents gave him Richard’s surname as his second given name).

One of our volunteer researchers, Carole researched this history and its relation to Brighton, as well as some further links with Holy Trinity Church.

By Carole:


Brighton did not play an obvious role in the ‘triangular slave trade’ whereby trade goods were shipped to West Africa from the ports of Liverpool, Bristol and London and exchanged for enslaved people, who were then transported across the Atlantic to work on plantations in the USA and in the Caribbean British colonial territories. Nonetheless, like the rest of Britain, Brighton benefited greatly from the wealth amassed from the profits of slavery, particularly as its grandeur grew.

Research carried out by Dr Nick Draper of University College London, reveals that up to 15% of the British elite were involved in the slave trade or British colony plantation slavery [1]. This was a very lucrative business. Great swathes of land all over Britain were purchased and vast manorial estates built or refurbished from the money generated [2].

During and after the era of slavery, colonists returning to England brought back with them ‘status symbols’ of former plantation house slaves, usually young boys, who were dressed exotically to enhance their ‘otherness’ and to display the wealth, privilege and power that the plantation owners enjoyed in the colonies. The following extract cited in English Heritage Properties 1600-1830 and Slavery Connections is taken from Gretchen Gerzina, ‘Black England: Life Before Emancipation’, John Murray Publishers 1995, [p53] and exemplifies the commodification of one enslaved African on British soil. It is an extract from a letter from Lady Georgiana Spencer, Duchess of Devonshire (1757-1806) to her mother. [Lady Georgiana was great-, great-, great- grand-aunt of Diana Spencer, Princess of Wales.] She wrote:

Dear Mama, George Hanger has sent me a Black boy, eleven years old and very honest, but the duke don’t like me having a black, and yet I cannot bear the poor wretch being ill-used; if you like him instead of Michel I will send him, he will be a cheap servant and you will make a Christian of him and a good boy; if you don’t like him they say Lady Rockingham wants one. [3]

Enslaved Africans were dehumanised in order to justify a lucrative trade. ‘This human livestock – these “black cattle” – was the ideal commodity’ [4]. The eugenics movement assisted in this dehumanising process, using pseudoscience to ‘prove’ that African brains were not as well developed as ‘white’ ones. The purpose of eugenics was to ensure that only ‘good’ genes are passed to future generations, while ‘bad’ genes are eliminated. The term was first coined by Francis Galton, an English scientist and half-cousin of Charles Darwin [5].

According to the Atlanta Black Star online, Galton’s family became wealthy from slave labour. He wrote:

‘I do not join in the belief that the African is our equal in brain or in heart; I do not think that the average negro cares for his liberty as much as an Englishman, or as a self-born Russian; and I believe that if we can in any fair way, possess ourselves of his services, we have an equal right to utilize them to our advantages’. [6]

As a Humanities undergraduate I studied the history of racism starting from contemporary tabloid racist terminology used in the reporting of Vietnamese refugees (the so-called ‘Boat People’) as they began to arrive in Britain, all the way back to the slave trade and the role of eugenics and scientific racism, a form of pseudoscience. In addition to the largely unrecorded slave rebellions a further form of black resistance occurred when an African slave attempted to escape. Samuel A Cartwright, an American physician, invented the most bizarre ‘disease’, Drapetomania, the disease of running away. Cartwright prescribed ‘cures’ for this ‘disease’ which involved torture and mutilation. [7]

The Slave Trade Act 1807 outlawed the international slave trade, but not slavery itself. In 1833 the British government made the purchase or ownership of slaves illegal within the British Empire, with the exception of ‘The Territories in the possession of the East India Company’, Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and Saint Helena [8]. Although the 1833 Act stipulated that enslaved peoples were now legally free, they were still obliged to work for their former masters for up to 45 hours a week without pay. This system was euphemistically known as ‘apprenticeship’. Primarily it was designed to ease the ‘burden’ of emancipation for the planters, ‘whilst easing the ex-slaves into “citizenship” [9]. In relation to Holy Trinity, we know that Reverend Robert Anderson who consecrated Holy Trinity in 1826, previously a non-conformist chapel, his father was appointed a position in the East India Company’s Maritime Service in Madras and Robert himself went to Haileybury the college of British East India Company. After Haileybury Robert left for India to join the Madras Civil Service but returned to England when his father died.

The slave owners and their families received massive compensation for the loss of their ‘property’. Following the abolition of slavery in the British colonies, a Slave Compensation Commission was set up to manage a £20 million fund that was to be paid to ex-slave owners and/or their families. An account of the debate on slave owners’ compensation in the House of Commons, was recorded in the Sun (London) on 14 August 1835 when the Commons passed a motion for interest to be paid on the allotted £20 million:


On the Report of this Bill being brought up, The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER justified the clause. The Emancipation Act took away the property of the slave-owners and also imposed certain irksome obligations upon them . . . Major BEAUCLERK said that the sum of 800,000l. interest on the debt was not included in the original Bill. When Lord Althorp spoke of this debt of twenty millions he did not refer to the interest, and, therefore, there was no understanding that it should be paid . . . The House voted the money, and the interest should be paid. MR POTTER then withdrew his motion, and the Bill was read a third time. [10]

The British Government paid out 46,000 individual claims to slave owners in British territories. ‘Each slave was valued according to his or her skills and the success of the plantation on which they worked’. The modern equivalent of £17bn was paid in total. [11]


Kathryn Williams writes in “The real story of how slave money benefited liberal Brighton” that evidence of slave ownership in Brighton wasn’t ‘very prominent or well covered’. Brighton was an abolition town with an anti-slavery society and with MPs who voted for abolition (e.g. George Faithfull, The Holy Trinity Chapel dissenting minister, and his fellow MP Isaac Newton Wigney). [12]

‘The Abolition of the Slave Trade’ (The Anti-Slavery Society Convention, 1840)
by John Alfred Vinter, after Benjamin Robert Haydon
lithograph, circa 1846-1864 (1841)
NPG D23546
© National Portrait Gallery, London

In 1830 a packed public meeting in Brighton agreed to petition Parliament for emancipation in the colonies. An Anti-Slavery Society and a Ladies Anti-Slavery Association were founded [13]. A Brighton grocer, Isaac Bass became delegate at the World Anti-Slavery Convention in 1840 [14].

The Brighton Guardian Weds 10 April 1833 illustrates the activism of the time:


A public MEETING of the Inhabitants and Visitors of Brighton will be held at the Old Ship Rooms, on FRIDAY, April 12 th , to Petition both Houses of Parliament, for the immediate and total Abolishment of Colonial Slavery.

The Chair to be taken at 12 o’clock.

Yet despite its liberal activism ‘Brighton was also a very successful fashionable resort for wealthy people and a subset of those were slave owners. Wealth was regarded as it is now, it’s a private matter – and Brighton’s bread and butter depended on it’ – Kathryn Williams [15].

Williams cites the findings of Dr Gillian Scott, a visiting researcher to Brighton University who undertook a research project ‘Tracing Brighton’s Slave Ownership’. One such slave owner was Sir Edward Codrington who inherited the Folly Estate in Antigua in 1742 and who was a member of one of the biggest slave owning families in the British Empire. A blue plaque on the wall of the property in Western Road which the Codrington family owned and where he lived from 1828 to 1832 has been removed [16].

Of other Brighton links that I found:

Charles Lushington, Whig MP of Marine Parade. He benefited from his wife’s estate in Jamaica: seven plantations had 322 slaves. Compensation £5849.6s.10d. (His brother Stephen, also a Whig politician and judge, was a campaigner for the abolition of slavery). [17]

Slave owners were not just in Brighton of course but dotted all over the country. A few examples follow from the county of Sussex.

Samantha Cameron’s distant ancestor, William Joliffe of West Sussex owned an estate in St Lucia with 164 slaves. He or his family was compensated £4,174 5s 8d. He later became a vicar. The Argus website records that Samantha Cameron declined to comment on this. [18]

Sir John Gage of Firle House, East Sussex owned 108 slaves in Monserrat. He was compensated £1759 8s 11d [Ibid] A slave uprising on John Gage’s estate had been brutally crushed in 1786 and nine rebels were hanged. The present Lord Gage commented ‘It was a big surprise’ [which part?] ‘I do not approve of slavery. It was one of the worst things to happen in modern history, if you can call 200 years ago modern history. It was a big surprise to learn this and I’m certainly not proud of what we have learned on this. I’m very shocked by slavery and to learn about this.’ [Ibid]

John ‘Mad Jack’ Fuller, Brightling, a High Sheriff of Sussex and MP for Sussex from 1801-12 was a keen supporter of slavery. He owned the Rose Hill Estate in Sussex and estates in Jamaica. He had more than 250 slaves. After his death his family were compensated £3895 7s 7d and a further £762 16s 10d [Ibid]

Baron Seaford of Sussex, the grandson of George Ellis the Chief Justice of Jamaica, was awarded compensation for more than a 1000 slaves on five plantations. [Ibid]

Sir Godfrey Vassall Webster, 5th baronet of Battle Abbey, Battle, and a Tory MP for Sussex, was involved in three plantations in Jamaica. £5000 was paid to his successor the 6th baron. [Ibid]

Henry Laird whose brother was the physician & geologist James Laird, of Bognor, was compensated £2174 19s 11d for 116 slaves in Jamaica. [Ibid]

David Lyon, a High Sheriff of Sussex was compensated for three estates in Jamaica and involved in the compensation for another ten; there were 2500 slaves altogether and payouts of £5622 and £1855. [Ibid]

Brighton’s links with slavery are further explored in research carried out at Brighton University’s School of Humanities. Bergin & Rupprecht’s article Reparative histories: tracing narratives of black resistance and white entitlement, which summarises this research, can be found in RACE &CLASS, Sage journals.

In 2017 a three week installation Maps and Lives opened in the Phoenix Gallery, inviting local communities to map Brighton from their own perspectives. As part of this ‘participatory activity’ between artists and the community, the Brighton and Hove Black History Group contributed its research into Brighton’s historic Black presence, including the grave of ‘a young African boy called Tom Highflyer, who had been rescued from a slave Dhow in 1866 and brought to Brighton by Capt Thomas Malcolm Sabine Pasley of the Royal Navy’s East African Anti-Slave Trade Squadron . . .The marking of Highflyer’s grave acted as a reminder of the continuation of human trafficking.’ (after Britain’s own abolition of involvement in the trade and in slavery itself in 1807 and 1838 respectively). [Bergin & Rupprecht p27]

The research team found that sixty-nine slave owners and former slave owners had an address in Brighton and Hove between 1800 and 1880, most of whom received compensation money in the 1830s. Of the sixty-nine only two were evidently born here, whereas another forty-five retired or died here [19] . The ‘Regency splendour’ in which a significant number of the compensated slave owners lived, was located along the Brighton seafront. Brighton had become the stylish resort, “attracting aristocrats and the nouveau riche, many of whom invested in the new luxury housing developments springing up along the sea-front to the east and west of the Prince Regent’s “stately pleasure dome” the Royal Pavilion . . . ‘in the short half mile along the sea-front, running east towards the grandeur of Thomas Kemp’s Sussex Square, records show eight properties occupied by recipients of very substantial slave compensation monies’. [Bergin & Rupprecht p27-8]

Black Agency in Abolition

In 1824 following the Demerara slave rebellion, Elizabeth Heyrick, a leading white abolitionist, published a pamphlet called ‘Immediate not Gradual Emancipation’ which was influential in the development of the Anti-slavery Society. In it she defended the Haiti revolution and the rights of enslaved people, calling for a more widespread boycott on West Indian sugar. [Bergin & Rupprecht p34]. The title is still relevant given that slavery continued until after the mid century and British tax payers reportedly didn’t finish paying compensation to slaver families until 2015. ‘Not a penny was paid to those who were enslaved and brutalised.’ [20]

And notably, the first slave narrative by a woman, ‘The History of Mary Prince’ was published in 1831.

Both Prince’s narrative and Heyrick’s pamphlet demonstrate that ‘abolitionism was an interracial movement shaped by black protests.’ And despite its slavery connections, Brighton retained a strong anti-slavery movement. The preface to Heyrick’s pamphlet was an advertisement informing readers that Brighton grocers were refusing to sell West Indian sugar. [Bergin & Rupprecht p34]

Olaudah Equiano (‘Gustavus Vassa’) Writer and slavery abolitionist
by Daniel Orme, published by Olaudah Equiano (‘Gustavus Vassa’), after W. Denton
stipple engraving, published 1 March 1789
NPG D8546

Bergin & Rupprecht’s article refutes the white liberal narrative that Black emancipation was solely brought about by the efforts of white abolitionists in Britain. Resistance was happening in the colonies on the plantations. The researchers cite Angel Smith, who points out how few studies have ‘sought to go beyond the transition from slavery to freedom and more specifically, to explore the impact of the enslaved themselves in shaping their own history’ [21]. She writes ‘One of the most unifying features of slave societies in the British Caribbean was the extent to which the enslaved resisted their enslavement in an attempt to attain levels of autonomy in their lives. Regardless of the size of the individual slave societies, their geographic location in relation to other slave societies, their economic focus, or their demographic composition, there was always evidence among the enslaved population of a ‘culture of resistance’ which proved to be widespread, encompassing every aspect of life. This resistance, which manifested itself in violent and non-violent forms, was considered to be “endemic to slave societies” in the Caribbean and was based on the slaves’ desire to take control of their own existence and thereby becoming free’ [22].

Bergin & Rupprecht explore one particular case, that of Caroline Ellen Anderson (not to be confused with the wife of HTC’s minister Robert Anderson, Caroline Dorothea Shore, whose father was John Shore, 1 st Baron Teignmouth, an anti-slavery campaigner but also an official in the British colonial East India Company). Caroline Ellen Anderson’s last known Brighton address was 9, Bedford Street, Marine Parade. Her father Andrew Anderson owned a sugar plantation in Tortola, British Virgin Islands. On his death his brother James, a London lawyer, became executor of his will. Caroline and her sister inherited their father’s land, his debts and ninety-six enslaved women and seventy-eight enslaved men. James eventually passed over the management of the estate to two local corrupt and powerful lawyers, William Rogers Isaacs and William George Crabb. The lawyers were despised by the people working on the plantation, who in 1831 staged a rebellion which has ‘hitherto been overlooked in the archive’. Isaacs had humiliated and starved them, and they had heard he had said he’d ‘rather have his head cut off’ than ‘give the negroes free’. The slaves had started to hear that slavery was being slowly dismantled in Britain but with no immediate effect on their enslavement, and led by Sam Fahie and Jacob Long, they ‘bolstered their resolve to rise up and claim their freedom.’ They planned to arm themselves and if they were denied, kill the whites and escape to ‘St Domingo’. They planned the uprising, but it was uncovered, and nine of the men were sentenced to death. Isaacs pressed for the sentence to be carried out, but the Governor decided on clemency, and the nine were transported from the island. The Governor insisted that the men had been misled and mistaken in their belief that their freedom had been illegally denied. [Bergin & Rupprecht pps 28-32]

These remote events seem to have very little to do with Brighton, yet for three reasons they do.

  1. The rebels were ‘owned’ by Brightonians who may or may nor have had any knowledge or understanding of what was happening in the Caribbean. Caroline Anderson and her sister were awarded £2222 5s 9d in compensation after the Act of 1833. [Bergin and Rupprecht p28] As Eddo-Lodge writes in reference to the distance between Britain and the plantations, they ‘saw the money without the blood’ [Eddo-Lodge p5].
  2. The rebellion was one of many acts by black people themselves which have been kept secret in the white narrative of abolition.
  3. White Brightonians were also active in the fight against slavery and early examples for white people today who believe that Black Lives Matter.

We are always eager to learn any relevant local historical information as part of the process of this research project. If you wish to contribute a comment or email then please do below or via pastpresentfuture@fabrica.org.uk.

Full references on post: https://fabricapastpresentfuture.home.blog/2020/08/25/brighton-and-slavery/

We want to hear your memories of Holy Trinity Church and Robertson Hall, Ship Street

If These Walls Could Talk is a volunteer led project that has been exploring the history of the Holy Trinity Church on Ship Street. The outcome of the research will be a publication which tells the story of the Holy Trinity.

At this stage in the project we have already learnt a lot about the building’s history, but we are eager to find personal stories from individuals who experienced this beautiful building before us. 

We would love to hear history first hand.

C1910 Monochrome postcard bearing photomechanical image of the exterior of Holy Trinity Church, Ship Street, Brighton with Gothic Front.  Image from Brighton and Hove Museums.

We want to hear your memories of Holy Trinity Church Ship Street and the adjoining Robertson Hall in the years before Fabrica took it over in 1996. Your stories could be featured in the publication and shared on our project blog. 

Holy Trinity Church and adjoining Robertson Hall today

Perhaps you or someone you know worshipped at Holy Trinity, or attended special community at Robertson Hall? Perhaps you came to the church in the period after it was deconsecrated in 1984, but before Fabrica opened its doors in 1996.  Were your parents or friends part of the Brighton community during that time? Share our search for stories with them.

All types of memories are welcome, we are really keen to hear from the local community around the building itself.

Contact us via email at pastpresentfuture@fabrica.org.uk or via the Fabrica office phone 01273778646

Chancel Dedications

Written by Alice and researcher John

Marie Jean Alma Scott

The plaque above was made in memory of Marie Jean Alma Scott and can be found still be found in Fabrica Gallery today. Through the information pictured, the past present future team has begun to piece together fragments of Scott’s life.

Originally living at Marine Parade in Brighton, Marie left Bristol with her husband James Arthur Scott (a merchant) on 13 January 1923. Embarking on a ship called the Bayano, the two headed for Kingston Jamaica via the Shipping Line Elders and Fyffes. Elders and Fyffes Shipping was founded in 1902. It predominantly functioned as a banana cargo service, and only catering for a handful of passengers, the two were lucky to get on. 

Image found: http://www.clydeships.co.uk

James and Marie returned to England just over a year later, on the Coronado in April 1924 (also with Elders and Fyffes). The primary cause of Marie’s death is unknown, however it is documented that she died of a secondary cause of cardiac failure on 17th April 1924. With the ship not arriving in Avonmouth, Bristol until 20th April, this would suggest she passed away on board.  

Mr Edwin Penfold Hall

The group also researched Edwin Penfold Hall, whose plaque is located in the chancel in Fabrica Gallery. His family offered the alter rails to the church, stating that Hall and his wife Kate gave 50 years of worship to the Holy Trinity. 

At the end of 1850, Hall went into partnership with a man called Mr Lyon who was an established manufacturer of Pianos. The partnership lasted 18 months and consequently a shop bearing the name Lyon and Hall opened, selling Pianos, harmoniums, harps and other musical instruments opened at the junction of East Street and Grand Junction Parade. Following bomb damage in 1941, it moved to 92 Western Road, (now a Premier Convenience Store!).

Lyon and Hall: Western Road

On 22nd June 1909, The Holy Trinity Chapel Council held a meeting. Following this, Mr Hall lent the organ for the successful experiment to test the viability of moving the choir and organ up to the Eastern Gallery.

Full references on post: https://fabricapastpresentfuture.home.blog/2020/09/30/chancel-dedications/

Traces and Hidden Details

We have been looking carefully at details in the building and many beautiful traces left behind from the life of the church. Here are some select photographs from research volunteers.

Do you see anything of interest? Have you noticed anything special when visiting? Let us know by contacting pastpresentfuture@fabrica.org.uk

Engraving below pulpit – Grace Holland Photograph
Trace of removed cross on pulpit – Grace Holland Photograph
Internal structure – Grace Holland Photograph
Brass eagle hidden in void (formerly lived on the chancel)
Traces of the pews along the north side of the gallery – Grace Holland Photograph
Inscribed wooden tiles on chancel – Grace Holland Photograph
Detail on chancel alter – Clare Hankinson Photograph
Balcony name card holders – Tom Nicholson Photograph
Screwed hole for pulpit – Tom Nicholson Photograph
Scratched names on the balcony – Tom Nicholson Photograph

The Stained Glass Memorial Windows

When the chancel was added in 1869 three separate, tall, round-arched windows were placed behind the altar. The stained glass in these windows commemorates Holy Trinity‘s most charismatic preacher, Frederick William Robertson, (1816 – 1853). They were installed some 16 years after his death. They are all dated 1869 and attributed to designer Henry Holiday and manufacturer James Powell and Sons (1).

Image: EV Photograph

Notably the windows depict St Paul’s preaching at Athens, the window design is based on the famous Raphael cartoon and inscribed ‘St Paul’s sole weapon was the truth’ Another roundel depicts Christ debating with the doctors in the Temple and is based on a painting by Holman Hunt.  

Image: Clare Hankinson

The British Museum states: “The Whitefriars Glass Works were purchased by James Powell (q.v) a wine merchant, in 1834, as additional employment for his three sons, Arthur, Nathaniel and John Cotton. Nathaniel’s son Harry (1853-1922) (q.v.), a man of extraordinary talent as designer, historian and scientist, entered the firm in 1873 and together with his cousin, James Crofts Powell (1847-1914), developed radically new forms, colours and decorative techniques, as well as creating special industrial glass for scientific uses” (2).

The firm produced tableware as well as stained glass windows as seen on the advertisement: http://www.victorianweb.org/art/stainedglass/jamespowell/index.html

James Powell & Sons recruited freelancer designers such as Edward Burne-Jones and Henry Holiday. Holiday and Burne-Jones’s influence developed a Pre-Raphaelite style in figure drawing that sustained through to the 1920s. They further modernised in the mid 20th century through working with artists such as E. Liddell Armitage and James Hogan.

They closed their studio in 1973 and the firm in 1980, they survived far longer than other Victorian stained glass firms (3).

The windows were designed by Henry Holiday (1839-1927). He was an English historical genre landscape painter, stained glass designer, illustrator and sculptor. In 1861 Henry accepted the job of stained glass window designer for Powell’s Glass Works in London, after Edward Burne-Jones had left to work for Morris and Co (4). He ended his association with Powell’s to establish his own workshop in 1890. From about 1900 he even made his own glass at the workshop (5).

Come and see Holy Trinity’s stained glass windows during any of Fabrica’s exhibitions or events on site. We host volunteer led heritage tours throughout the year. Keep up to date with Fabrica’s news and events through a mailing list, which you can sign up to here.

Full references on post: https://wordpress.com/post/fabricapastpresentfuture.home.blog/675

Adjoining Robertson Hall

We have been researching the story of the adjoining Robertson Hall – a church hall and centre for Holy Trinity which opened in 1929.

Image from Brighton and Hove Museums (dated C1910)

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, wassold 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!).

Robertson Hall today

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.

Plaque in the upper floor of Roberson Hall

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 pastpresentfuture@fabrica.org.uk.

Full references on post: https://fabricapastpresentfuture.home.blog/2020/12/24/adjoining-robertson-hall/

Timeline of the Building

The Holy Trinity building has had a lot of changes and amendments over the years. It is drastically different from the original building by A H Wilds. Notably, the exposure of the south facing wall and addition of the chancel on the west side of the building between 1867-69 and the addition of the redesigned gothic frontage in 1885-87. There have been many more internal amendments throughout which have changed the the building, its capacity and function.

Building Evolution by CDMS

CDMS architects who redesigned and built the new office and kitchen development on the north-east side of the building from 2014 researched the history of the building as part of their plans and created this above diagram which visually displays these additions.

Collection of images sourced from Brighton Museums Digital Archive

Our research has seen the collection of many illustrations and photographs of the building in these various stages. In our last in-person meeting before the Christmas and the current lockdown we tracked these changes with a selection of images of Holy Trinity. We are now thinking about the publication and how we might map these images out in a clear way to give a sense to the reader of these changes.

December Volunteer Meeting

The December meeting was followed by a walk around the building to track these changes, then to Robertson Hall (currently Cook!) in which the staff showed us around the building. We walked to The Font, which was closed due to restrictions, but we surveyed the outside of the building and the plaque on the outside. The Font’s history dates back to 1683 when it was built as a chapel, so it is an even older building than Holy Trinity. Then we had a mini Christmas celebration we had a coffee and cake on an outdoor table!

December meeting – with Christmas hats

Remarkable Women

By Sandrine

My recent work on the project consisted of creating a list of the women who had been identified in the research and had, one way or another, a connection with HTC. The research aimed to check what material we already had. The consensus was that, although we were not short of materials on men, we didn’t have much on women. I, therefore, checked the various folders that were given to me and summarised names, roles and period of activity. The latest covered people from the early 19th century and finished around the mid-twentieth century. First, I have to say that I really enjoyed going through the various summaries and materials that my volunteer peers had written: what a brilliant work that is! Then as I went along, I became engrossed in these real-life stories for, life is better than fiction and some of the lives depicted just seemed perfect for a new compelling drama series!

My views on women linked with HTC

Not many women had an important role in HTC or at least, not as many as men. Of course, this is due to the nature of the setting: women preachers did not exist at the time and it is not difficult to understand why it remained essentially a man-centred environment. Apart from the occasional servant or housemaid recorded during the 1800s census, it is not until the early 1900s that we start noticing more women in higher professional positions such as treasurers, secretaries or team leaders. Most women appear in the research because of their direct lineage with men preachers (mothers, daughters or grand-mothers) and, occasionally, because of the relationship they had with them; be friends, confidants or even mistresses. 

Lineage is, therefore, the main reason why these women have come to our attention and, whilst it is well-known that women had many more children at the time than they have nowadays, I could not help reading the numbers of children in awe; particularly in the 19th century. For example, Annie Hall, mother of Edward Vine Hall, had no less than thirteen children, and Frances Kemp (nee Baring), Thomas Read Kemp’s first wife, died whilst giving birth to her tenth child (1825). Effectively, whilst giving birth is nowadays considered a stressful but nonetheless pretty safe and exciting experience, I could not help thinking that, given the high maternal mortality rates of the time, this unique and precious responsibility must have appeared so daunting to them.

Remarkable stories

Although we do not have much material on women, we still found some very interesting facts; enough to find out that some of them had unconventional or surprising lives. Thanks to what was written by my peers, I managed to get a good picture/profile on some of them. Part of the ones that caught my attention and interest are the following ones. I have taken the liberty to label them according to how I saw them however, these are just my opinion. 

  • The free-spirited traveller

Marjorie Gordon Burell (1892 – 1980) became the wife of Rev. R.C. Wood in 1932. She was 40 years old when she married and only 10 years younger than his mother who was born in 1882. He was 28 and I can only imagine the amount of gossip that must have gone around at the time given that in our days, this still makes people talk!

She, to me, seemed like a real free-spirit. She certainly displayed a taste for travelling and crossed the Atlantic several times by passenger ship; which was lengthy and could be risky. She seemed to have a particular interest in Canada and New-York/USA. Her profession was described as a teacher. She met her husband in New-York and this is where they married. She died in Littlehampton, England, after being married to him for nearly 48 years disproving to all that age matters.

  • The politically engaged

Helen Kirkpatricks Watts (1881-1972), was Alan Hunter Watts’ first daughter (AH Watts was an  HTC preacher). She was deaf and described as ‘very difficult to understand’ by a friend of hers. Yet, this did not stop her as she became engaged in socialism and feminism; regularly giving speeches in public places and advocating votes for women. She became a well-renowned suffragette; was arrested and sentenced twice for her beliefs. Her sister too was involved in the suffragette movement. She emigrating to Canada and eventually moved back to the U.K. in her later years.

I mean… what’s not to like about her?! It is difficult not to read her profile with utter admiration and reverence. Looking at her picture is just mesmerising. She looks so elegant and feminine, yet, so grave and determined! 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is bak5dFnDCZ4w812ujrXzI7kuNeiTzn0X_Q3jc5qdYk0nfBWqHRgO2ikRfQ84oqwgO_TzxT2Zp9laqx2gXptm4pKXZhQ_TV52O6eWH6zxVSkWxLrhSX2dWouEVI1AWT-ey99nnD8
Helen Watts photographed by Col Blathwayt (photo from Bath In Time website)
  • The artist

The Reverend Alexander Theodore Dowding had a second marriage and although very little is said about his first marriage, a little bit more can be found on his second wife. Constance de Clyver Seeger Dowding (1886-1975) was a professional American classical violinist. She was born and died in the United States but was raised between Tunisia and Paris. Her marriage with Dowding was the second one too as she divorced in 1927 from the well-renowned musicologist and composer Charles Seeger with whom she had three children. Interestingly, she was the mother of Pete Seeger (1919-2014), an American folk singer, environmental and social activist (notably during the Vietnam war). Not much is known about Constance but divorcing and remarrying in the 1920s to an already divorced reverend does not sound very conventional either. I just loved looking at her picture; playing the violin amongst her three children and then-husband Charles Seeger. There is something very bohemian about it…  

  • The… fugitive

Perhaps one of the most surprising, not to say shocking (there, I said it!) woman’s profile that I read whilst going through the materials was the one on Elizabeth Grey Wyatt, nee Coxwell (1798-1886) and mother of Reverend Henry Herbert Wyatt. She certainly caused a lot of grief to her family and son and her life could surely be a good script for a dramatic romantic novel.

She married Thomas Wyatt when aged 19 and four years later, Henry Herbet Wyatt, their first son, was born in Bengal, India as the couple settled there. In 1825, Thomas Wyatt agreed to let her go back to England with their son so she would recover from ill-health. Whilst back in Europe, she eventually met with William Henry Rochfort; a women’s man described as ‘alluring, unfaithful, a player of masquerades’, who spent his life running away from debts and legal proceedings. Together, they moved to Calais (France) where they lived in adultery with the young HH Wyatt from 1833 to 1836. A son, Rajphoot Runjheet Rochfort was born out of this illegal relationship in 1835. Thomas Wyatt issued various proceedings so his son could be returned to him and so divorce could be granted. William H. Rochfort died in 1852, leaving Elizabeth in poverty. She never remarried and died in Canterbury in 1886. 

What may have motivated this woman to live such a life? A dislike for the country her first husband lived in and seemed to be financially tied to? Or a naive yet self-destructing passion for a seducer and con artist? It is difficult to say for, there are two sides to every story but hers remains unknown…


Living a woman’s life was not all that easy at the time, particularly in the nineteenth century. I can only commend these women who took their destiny into their hands regardless of what society, status, or politics dictated them; for, little by little, they made us who we are now. 

I shall finish with a speech from R.J Campbell, preacher at HTC and supporter of women’s suffrage: 

But we shall have to accustom ourselves to it. The often repeated saying that women’s sphere is in the home does not necessarily hold good for every woman and it is not fair to assume . . . women have proved themselves capable of competing successfully with men in almost any sphere and the supposed psychological differences between them are more a matter of training than anything else’. (RJ Campbell, Some Economic Aspects of the Women’s Suffrage Movement 1909). 

I am sure that, had the song existed at the time, Reverend Campbell would probably join me in chanting that ‘this is a men’s world, but it would be nothing, nothing, without a woman or a girl…. 🙂

Holy Trinity Centenary Celebration

As Fabrica is celebrating its 25th year, we reflect on other anniversaries of the building itself.

 Postcards scanned for the project by Robert Jeeves, Step Back in Time, Brighton

In 1926, the Holy Trinity celebrated its 100th year. Trinity was under Campbell at the time who also combined celebrations with a time to develop and fundraise for the purchase and rebuilt of Robertson Hall. A three-day pageant in the Dome and Corn Exchange.

“Robertson Memorial Hall Fund. Today’s Pageant at Brighton. Brighton Oct 25. Saturday’s rehearsal of the Elizabethan fair and pageant to be held in the Dome and Corn Exchange, Brighton, to-morrow, on Wednesday, and on Thursday, gave striking foretaste of the picturesque spectacle which has been arranged in aid of the Robertson Memorial Hall Fun, a movement in which the Rev. R.J. Campbell, vicar of Holy Trinity, Brighton is playing a prominent part. The Dome was transformed into an Elizabethan village, with Windsor Castle and the Thames admirable depicted, whole all the stall-holders wore costumes of the period.. Six orchestras are to the in the Dome and Corn Exchange over three days” The Times.

A scroll of signed patrons to the Memorial Hall Fund resides in The Keep, these were gathered at the event.

Postcards scanned for the project by Robert Jeeves, Step Back in Time, Brighton

Our researcher John has found out some information about some of the donors – Phillipps Brooks who lived from 1835 to 1893, was a very famous Evangelical Preacher from Boston Mass. He was known as a powerful orator, and stood 6 foot 4 inch , and weighed 300 lbs. Bernhard Baron was from Belarus , and made his considerable wealth in the USA , by inventing a cigarette making machine. He moved to England , and became involved with philanthropic ventures .He died in Brighton 1929 leaving an estate worth 5 million. Sir Gerald Francis Stewkley Shuckburgh was the 11th Baronet Shuckburgh, mother was Ida Florence Geraldine Robertson, daughter of Frederick Robertson. Sir Oliver Lodge frs, 1851 to 1940, British physicist. radio pioneer, one of the first men to transmit a message via radio waves. The Bishop of Durham in 1926 was Hensley Henson  1863-1947 The Bishop of Lewes in 1926  was Henry Kemble Southwell cmg, 1860-1937.

We believe we can spot the Bishop of London, Arthur Winnington-Ingram and Bishop Russell Wakefield in the above procession.

Evangelicalism in Brighton

By Carole

Although I do not adhere to any faith, I have always loved visiting churches. I find the spirituality I experience inside these historic buildings comforting and reassuring. One of the first things I did on moving to Brighton in 2009 was to spend time visiting its churches. Then my mother passed away, and I frequently found myself deep in sorrow, lighting a candle or sitting in a pew in St Bartholomew’s seeking solace in peaceful meditation. Little did I know that a few years later I would be part of a volunteer team researching the history of Holy Trinity Church, for Fabrica’s wonderful project, If These Walls Could Talk.

If there was any single belief system that characterised the 1800s and early 1900s, the heyday of HTC, it was Christianity. Religion pervaded social and political life to an extent unimaginable today. However, Christianity was divided. The eighteenth century had seen an Evangelical revival in opposition to the established church, the Church of England (C of E, Anglican Church). Dissenting churches and chapels were everywhere, and Evangelical beliefs began to enter and influence the established church itself. By the nineteenth century however, a reaction to the Evangelical revival had set in. A schism grew within the ranks of the established church: on one side an intensified form of Anglo-Catholicism (aka high church), on the other Evangelical (aka low church). The C of E was, and is, a ‘broad church’ capable of including many different tenets both Protestant and Catholic. But the consequences of the division in some places, not least Brighton, was the arousal of considerable passion among Anglican worshippers, sometimes even manifested in violent action.

According to Encyclopedia Britannica an Anglican Evangelical was one who emphasized biblical faith and personal conversion and gave less importance to the sacrament and liturgical worship favoured by Anglo-Catholicism. Nineteenth Century Evangelicals tended to be liberals, social reformers and radicals, such as the anti-slavery campaigner William Wilberforce and HTC’s own dissenting minister and radical MP, George Faithfull. High church Anglicans tended to Toryism.

Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove

Holy Trinity Chapel’s beginnings were as a dissenting chapel, Nonconformist and independent of the established church. (The dissenters were originally Protestant Christians who separated from the Church of England in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries). The chapel, founded by Thomas Kemp who was its first preacher, followed by Faithfull, was sold to Robert Anderson in 1825 and became a chapel of the Church of England. By 1846 there were twelve Anglican Chapels in Brighton.

The divisions in the church were given potency when, from the 1830s to the 1870s, Henry and Arthur Wagner (the Vicar of Brighton and his son, also an Anglican clergyman) embarked on a massive church building scheme, intended to accommodate the poor of the parish who could not afford the rental price of a pew. Arthur Wagner was a more zealous ‘ritualist’ than his father, who was ‘old style’ high church. St Paul’s church in West Street was originally built for him on the site of a dissenting chapel, as a chapel of ease to bring ‘religion to the poor’ particularly the fishermen who lived near the shore. (It is still called ‘the Fishermen’s Church’). However the church did not succeed in this as it quickly became fashionable. Protestants were enraged by the ‘lavish decorations’ and the Catholic practices of rituals, chanting and confessions. Arthur Wagner founded ‘an order of Protestant nuns in Queen Square’. The outrage heightened to the point where Wagner was shot at.

Meanwhile HTC was purchased by the Church of England in 1878. Soon after the building underwent major alterations and additions in the style of the Gothic Revival. This would perhaps suggest that Holy Trinity itself was then becoming more high church, as ‘architecture in the form of the Gothic Revival became one of the main weapons in the high church’s armoury’.

It wasn’t until the early 1900s that these passions between high and low churches began to dissipate.

How did the divisions within the C of E impact on our ‘unpretending little church in Ship Street’? Where did its most notable ministers stand in relation to the schism? Despite the high church tendency of Henry Wagner, HTC ministers were for the most part much more nuanced in their theological thinking, whilst emphasising in the ‘age of the preacher’, the importance of preaching over the ‘ritualism’ of the high church.

Anderson, who was a respected preacher though he believed that prayer rather than preaching was the main purpose of a church, sought to reconcile the two traditions of the high and low church, settling on the via media (the middle way) as he refrained from partisanship in any of the ecclesiastical controversies. Although his critics accused him of moving from Evangelicalism to high church, his wife Caroline Anderson who wrote an account of his life for the evangelical periodical Christian Observer, refuted this accusation, insisting that her husband’s beliefs had remained consistent throughout his time at HTC.

HTC’s most famous minister, Frederick Robertson began as an Evangelical strongly influenced by Calvinism. Yet his life was a relentless search for religious truth, and he became disillusioned by the way that Evangelicalism was practiced. He described his agonising spiritual struggles as ‘battling his way through seas of doubt’. Unlike Anderson he did not seek a middle way through religious controversy, but believed there was truth to be found in both Evangelical and high church doctrines, and preached a ‘higher Christian ground’, embracing the essential truth in both Protestant and Catholic positions. By the time he had become minister at HTC Robertson had shed many of his Evangelical assumptions without however becoming high church. He appealed to a broad consensus within Anglican belief although he also attracted harsh criticism, not least for being a passionate social reformer; criticism which hurt him deeply.

Ralph Daly Cocking was minister of HTC for twenty-eight years, in which time he helped secure the funds for the purchase by the C of E and oversaw the remodeling of the building. He was the first minister of HTC to be appointed by the Vicar of Brighton in 1870 (previous incumbents were appointed by the Anderson family). A member of the congregation said of his ministry: ‘At Trinity the service is sufficiently high to please all moderate people.’ Reginald Campbell came from a Nonconformist background (Nonconformist was a general term which, by the mid-nineteenth century, was used collectively of the evangelical dissenting churches and of Methodism and its offshoots), and was influenced by the Congregationalism of his father and the Ulster Presbyterianism of his grandfather. Like them he became a Nonconformist minister and a central figure of the New Theology movement, which was predominantly Nonconformist. Through his career he made a ‘spiritual journey’ from Nonconformist to the Anglican Church, and a position more in sympathy with high church values. Visiting the front during WWI led him to argue for church unity, as he realised that the horrors of war made the church’s internal disagreements seem trivial. He continued to acknowledge the Nonconformist ministry as a ‘true church’, a position which drew fierce criticism. And as a socialist – he regarded socialism as ‘a practical expression of Christian ethics’ – he pursued a quest to initiate social reforms, including women’s suffrage.

A postcard of R J Cambell

David Davies like Campbell began his ministerial life in the Congregational church before becoming an Anglican. His father was a choirmaster in a small Welsh Independent chapel. Davies was a political agitator during the 1926 General Strike, when he was still a Congregational minister. Also like Campbell, he was devastated by the horror of war, in this case the Spanish Civil War, which he experienced as a member of a delegation. He wrote several books; the title of one suggests a similar religious journey to that of Campbell: On to Orthodoxy.

Though I have learnt so much researching for this project, it has raised more questions for me than answers, and it has created a curiosity to know more about this intricate and fascinating history. Is it a coincidence that when considering what subject to study for my degree course, theology was a real possibility? Being part of If These Walls Could Talk has fulfilled some of this ambition.

References listed: https://fabricapastpresentfuture.home.blog/2021/03/31/evangelicalism-in-brighton/