New book reveals history of old Brighton church

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New light has been shed on the story of building an art gallery in a new book.

The former Holy Trinity Church in Ship Street, Brighton, which now houses Fabrica, dates back to 1817 and has attracted a range of personalities including Charles Dickens.

The book, If These Walls Could Talk, coincides with Fabrica’s 25th anniversary and is part of a three-year research project led by a small team of volunteers, funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

The group explored every element of the old church, including how individuals bonded with the building, the artisans and businesses who shaped the building’s notable elements – such as its stained glass windows, and the people who had a impact on the history of the building and the community at large.

The building began life as a maverick chapel for an independent Christian sect by English property developer and politician Thomas Read Kemp until 1826 when it was consecrated and became a private Anglican chapel.

The declining congregations saw the church close in 1984 and it was rented out as a museum before Fabrica moved there in 1996.

Sally Connellan, gallery director and research team coordinator, said they found the ‘sons of Fabrica’ and her values ​​dotted throughout the building’s history, making it the perfect home for the gallery. .

She said: “Fabrica serves the community and is a place of creativity and inspiration for people. There is also nonconformity and education, so there is certainly a common thread between the church and its life as an art gallery.

Among the notable names to have walked through the doors of the church include Reginald John Campbell, a suffragist supporter who served as a priest, preacher Frederick Robertson, Lady Byron and Charles Dickens.

Sally said the project has helped volunteers get through the difficult period of foreclosure over the past 18 months.

She said: “It was a very nice social project for me and the other volunteers to come together.

“We met on Zoom and did more internet-based research and our meetings grew because we liked to catch up and have something to say, it wasn’t the pandemic.”

The new book is just one of the ways Fabrica celebrated her 25th birthday. The gallery has held special exhibitions for each season, while collecting keepsakes and celebrating its volunteers over the years.

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