Church of St Andrew

In its glamorous heyday St Andrew's was the most fashionable church of all. One Sunday in 1828, soon after it opened, worshippers included no less that three Dukes, three Duchesses, Queen Victoria, and her daughter, Princess Mary of Cambridge.

The seal of royal approval gave St Andrew’s an irresistible cachet in the eyes of fashionable society and the Reverend Edward Everard, the incumbent at that time, was overjoyed. St Andrew's had been built on his own land as a speculative development. The site adjoined the brand new Brunswick Estate, which was designed by Busby and developed at a cost of £500,000 using the finest materials.

In order to serve the spiritual needs of a potential tide of newcomers, Reverend Everard got permission to build a privately owned chapel through an Act of Parliament. He hoped to recoup his initial outlay and to receive two-thirds of the income from fees for christenings, marriages and burials. He also stood to gain much more by charging rent for pews. Apart from the 80 free seats provided for servants in the gallery, no-one was allowed to worship at St Andrew’s unless they paid rent.

The nobility and gentry sat in the front in the most expensive pews and the middle class behind. Each class of worshipper had a separate entrance and could thus mix with their own in a huddle after each service. The social hierarchy of Brighton was never more plainly set out than in the pew ordering of St Andrew’s and the house ordering of the Brunswick Estate. Of all Busby's designs for Regency Brighton, Kemptown and Hove, this was thought to be the best. The grand square with its bow-fronted houses were for the crème de la crème, the side streets for the middle classes and the smaller service streets for the working classes.

Waterloo Street, on the very edge of the estate, runs steep and straight as a die towards the sea. Just before it reaches the Front the regency windows of the Iron Duke Hotel jut out onto the pavement, and directly opposite, the façade of St Andrew’s presents its modest elegance to the world. Everard employed Charles Barry Senior to design it (hence infuriating the ambitious Busby, who assumed he would get the job). Barry, inspired by the Italian Renaissance, produced a beautiful, classical church. His son Charles elaborated on the chancel in 1882 and in 1922 the enthusiastic and high church Stanley Kirkley set about turning the church into ‘a little bit of Italy.’  He commissioned Randoll Blacking to design a baldachin over the altar and font, painted the dome with celestial scenes and went on to conduct services there for 40 years.

On the nave walls are two monuments by Ternouth reflecting the calibre of St Andrew`s Church`s high-ranking parishioners of the 1830’s – one to Lord Charles Henry Somerset, Governor of the Cape of Good Hope, the other Sir George Dallas, a poet and political writer.  

Today, although the church is redundant in the eyes of the Church of England, it has a thriving society; the Friends of St Andrew’s run a lively programme throughout the year, with concerts and fund-raising events, a highlight being a performance by the ever popular ‘Brighton and Hove (actually) Gay Men’s Chorus.’  None of this would take place without The Churches Conservation Trust who look after 340 churches in England, including this one.

The Churches Conservation Trust: www.visitchurches.org.uk

The Oldie: www.theoldie.co.uk