Built in 1817 as the private Trinity Chapel by Amon Wilds for Thomas Read Kemp (founder of Kemptown), Holy Trinity Church (now Fabrica) was acquired by the Church of England in 1826. Reputedly, Sir Charles Barry, architect of Brighton’s St Peter’s Church, Sussex County Hospital and Houses of Parliament, redesigned parts of it, as did Somers Clarke in the 1880s.
The building is Grade II-listed and the church closed in 1984. After standing empty for a number of years, artists from a local artists’ collective took on the building under a management agreement with Brighton & Hove City Council. They opened Fabrica as a contemporary art venue in March 1996.
During a 2015 visit to survey the gallery, English Heritage praised Fabrica for maintaining the integrity of the original features of the church building – a key priority for our stewardship of the building and our aim for it to remain an accessible, loved and valuable resource for the local community. Prior to taking over the lease in 2015, Fabrica saw a programme of works to the building’s exterior, including renovation of the historic stonework.
However, there have been no structural repairs to the gallery interior since Fabrica took occupation in 1995. A condition survey of the building carried out in 2018 underlined how cumulative wear and tear has resulted in several of its historic elements needed urgent repair. We are pleased to be undertaking these works under the supervision of a specialist heritage surveyor, carried out to the highest standard by skilled restoration contractors:
• Gallery and chancel floors: through years of use, the gallery floor has become damaged, forcing Fabrica to cover the original flagstones with steel and plywood sheets as a temporary measure. The parquet flooring has become loose on the chancel. We will fully repair the flooring.
• North wall and Anderson memorial: water ingress caused damage to the north wall in 2015, necessitating the removal of the marble memorial plaque to Rev. Robert Anderson (who bought the church in 1825 and converted it via a private Act of Parliament into a private Anglican chapel).
• Balcony joists: a combination of wear and tear and wet winters has led to damp on the north side of the gallery, damaging plasterwork and rotting joists that support the original 1817 gallery (balcony). 18 joists will be replaced.
• Stained-glass windows: the stained-glass windows in the chancel area require cleaning and minor repairs. We are working with specialist Paul Yarde to carry out urgent stained glass repairs.
The repairs to the physical heritage present an opportunity to learn about the craft skills used to create the building, as well as researching their history and provenance – for example the Anderson memorial and chancel which contain many inscriptions and dedications. These discoveries will be captured in this blog and, alongside a programme of heritage skills workshops and tours, develop learning with a wider audience.