About St Bartholomew's
Sir John Betjeman's Foreword to the 1975 edition of our church guide:
I am delighted to introduce this informed guide to St Bartholomew, Brighton, one of the great churches of the nineteenth century - the cathedral of what used to be called the "London-Brighton and South Coast Religion" with its incense, ritual, embroidered vestments and lights.
The fabric itself is is a masterpiece of brickwork and a credit to its little-known architect, Edmund Scott. The fittings, great baldacchino and silver side altar by Henry Wilson, the font and the stained glass lancets complement each other and enhance the building. Only Holy Trinity, Sloane Street, in London, compares with it as a monument in richness of fittings belonging to that inventive time of the Art Workers Guild which immediately succeeded William Morris.
In the noise and glitter of cheerful Brighton, this great church is a tall sanctuary of peace. Its interior awes beholders to silence.
Intrigued? - Then why not give us a visit.
Come and see this astonishing church for yourself. We are open Monday to Saturday from 10am to 1pm and then from 2pm until 4.30. Our team of church watchers will make you welcome and you can spend as much time as you want to experience the sheer grandeur of St Bartholomew's. Or find a quiet corner for prayer.
Better still, why not join us on Sunday mornings either for our Family Mass at 9.30 with hymns and a simple musical setting of the Mass or at 11.00 for a very traditional Solemn High Mass which includes some of the most glorious musical settings composed by mainly Viennese composers.
Fr Arthur Douglas Wagner (1824 - 1902) was the son of the vicar of Brighton and became vicar of St Paul's from 1848 until his death. He was responsible for building several churches, including St Bartholomew's, in the poorest areas of Brighton and paying for them from his own private purse.
On one of the few remaining sites in land sandwiched between London Road and the station, he built a small mission church of St Bartholomew in 1868 ("The Small Church") and a school in 1871, both long-since demolished. Their success influenced him to purchase the rest of the site and the "Big Church" which you see today was planned. The building cost was £18,000. The foundation stone was laid in 1872 and the great day of the opening came on Tuesday the 8th September 1874, on the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The architect of St Bartholomew's was Edmund Scott who was born in 1828 and lived in London until moving to Brighton in 1853. He died in 1895. He designed a number of churches and other buildings in Sussex, of which St Bart's is the most outstanding. On entering, most people are amazed at the sheer height of and space within the building.
The designer of much of the interior was Henry Wilson (1864 - 1924). He was an exponent of the Arts and Crafts Movement which flourished around the close of the nineteenth century.
This is a photograph of St Bartholomew's which can no longer be taken. It dates from the 1990s when the land in
front of the church was just a vacant site as a result of the demolition of surrounding housing many years ago.
The land was subsequently developed when the housing that stands on the site today was built.
This © photograph appears by kind permission of authors Pieter and Rita Boogaart
and has been reproduced from their book
"A272, An Ode to a Road"
published by Pallas Athene (Publishers) Ltd.,second edition 2004.
This view is taken from an early photograph of the sanctuary probably shortly after the Byzantine style Baldacchino was erected in 1899 - 1900 at a cost of over £2000. It stands 45 feet high. The two giant candlesticks which you see today were not installed until 1906.
This is the Baldacchino today, complete with the giant candlesticks of grey and white Tuscan
marble surmounted by a bronze structure depicting a flaming urn.
The altar rails were made in Henry Wilson's own workshops and installed in 1905. They were not part of
the original design.
Brick built - the interior is a nave without aisles, chancel or transepts.
The mosaics on the wall behind the High Altar were designed by F Hamilton Jackson and were originally felt
to be in disharmony with the original interior design of Henry Wilson (1864 - 1924).
But they have latterly been regarded with more appreciation.
The Fourteen Stations of the Cross, depicting Christ's journey to his Crucifixion and Resurrection, are of stone and wood (the wood confined in each instance to the Cross) construction from Bruges. They date from 1881 and were originally hung on the wall before being permanently inserted into the brick piers in about 1887.
Jesus meets his mother.
Jesus dies upon the Cross
In the alcove where the pulpit stands, Henry Wilson built a brick structure in 1901 to house a Walker organ. The structure obscured the view of the Sanctuary and the organ was removed to a new gallery at the back of the church.
In the space freed, Wilson built the magnificent marble pulpit (right) you see today. It is a polygonal gallery faced
with panels of green Irish marble on columns of red African marble, with a base of black Tournai marble.
The gallery of the pulpit has an apsidal dado of alabaster. The Crucifix dates from 1888 and was taken from the
original wooden pulpit which can be depicted from the early photograph above.
There are four Confessionals scattered around the church. With their oriental-looking onion-shaped
domes, they were given by Fr Purnell in about 1880.
The Baptistery was completed in 1908 from designs by Henry Wilson. The octagonal font of
dark green marble stands on a semi-circular plinth of three black marble steps.The font
measures 5ft 7ins in diameter. The statue behind it of St John the Baptist was made
in 1925 by W D Gough and designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott.
The Calvary Cross, of unknown date, was originally kept in the vestries but after 1906 placed under the organ
gallery, probably over the Altar of the Holy Child Chapel. In 1920 it was installed in the nave as a memorial
to the dead of World War I but moved to the High Altar during Lent. It was enhanced in 1990 by a
Requiem Altar (left), bequeathed by a former server.
The alcove now houses the Golden Remembrance Book and World War II Memorial.
The two large brass candlesticks, probably dating from about 1868, stood originally in the Sanctuary of
the "Little Church".
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