Greek Orthodox Church of the Holy Trinity, Brighton

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Church of the Holy Trinity
Greek Orthodox Church of the Holy Trinity
Greek Orthodox Church of the Holy Trinity, Carlton Hill, Brighton (March 2013).JPG
50°49′26″N 0°7′53″W / 50.82389°N 0.13139°W / 50.82389; -0.13139Coordinates: 50°49′26″N 0°7′53″W / 50.82389°N 0.13139°W / 50.82389; -0.13139
Location Carlton Hill, Brighton,
Brighton and Hove BN2 0GW
Country United Kingdom
Denomination Greek Orthodox
Former name(s) St John the Evangelist
Founded 1838
Founder(s) Rev. Henry Michell Wagner
Dedication John the Evangelist
Consecrated 28 January 1840
Events Sold to Greek Orthodox community in 1985
Status Church
Functional status Active
Heritage designation Grade II listed
Designated 20 August 1971
Architect(s) George Cheesman, Jr.
Style Greek Revival
Construction cost £4,660 (£380 thousand in 2017)[1]
Closed 11 November 1980 (as St John the Evangelist)

The Church of the Holy Trinity is a Greek Orthodox church in Brighton, part of the English city of Brighton and Hove. Built in 1838 in one of Brighton's most notorious slum districts, Carlton Hill, it was an Anglican church for most of its life: dedicated to St John the Evangelist, it was used by the Anglican community until it was declared redundant in 1980. After some uncertainty about its future, it was sold to Brighton's Greek Orthodox community in 1985 and has been used as their permanent place of worship since then. Reflecting its architectural and historical importance, it has been listed at Grade II since 1971.


Carlton Hill is a long, steep road on high ground known as the East Cliff, north of the Kemp Town development and south of Hanover. Following Brighton's rapid growth in the early 19th century, it became established as one of its most deprived slum areas.[2][3] Henry Michell Wagner, the Vicar of Brighton from 1824 until his death in 1870, was committed to providing free churches for Brighton's poor people, at a time when pew-rents were standard in Anglican churches. He used his large fortune to build six churches[4] in which most of the seats were free rather than subject to pew-rents. The need for such action was urgent in the early years of his curacy: by 1830 about 18,000 poor people lived in the town, representing nearly half the population, but only 3,000 rent-free pews were available in the existing churches.[4][5]

St John the Evangelist was the third church built under Wagner's curacy, after All Souls Church in Eastern Road—built between 1833 and 1834, and demolished in 1968—and Christ Church in Montpelier Road (built between 1837 and 1838, and demolished in 1982).[5][6] The architects and builders of Christ Church, Brighton-based firm Cheesman & Son, were employed again; George Cheesman Jr. was responsible for the design, and his father George Cheesman built it.[3] Unlike its Gothic-inspired predecessor, however, St John the Evangelist was designed in the Classical style.[6] The foundation stone was laid on 15 October 1838.[7] The church cost £4,660 (equivalent to £380 thousand in 2017)[1] (including £908 (£73.9 thousand in 2017)[1] for the purchase of the site), and was consecrated on 28 January 1840 by Robert James Carr, a former Vicar of Brighton who had become the Bishop of Worcester.[3] He was visiting Brighton at the time, and stood in for the unwell Bishop of Chichester. More than half of the 1,200 seats were free.[8]

The church always found it difficult to attract a large congregation; reasons claimed for this include its awkward location, the attraction of cheap taverns and gin shops in the area and the controversial introduction of a Ritualist, High church style of worship in the 1860s and 1870s. A further problem was a long and expensive closure in 1879 for structural repairs.[9] It was declared redundant by the Diocese of Chichester on 11 November 1980 and sold to the Greek Orthodox Church on 13 December 1985.[10] Before this, it was announced in June 1982 that one of four bidders for the franchise for Brighton's new commercial radio station wanted to buy the building and convert it into a broadcast studio. The bid, by a company called Southdown Radio and supported by actress Judy Cornwell, was beaten by that of Southern Sound—predecessors of Southern FM.[11]

Since the Greek Orthodox community acquired the building, some interior alterations have been made, including the installation of a new altar screen.[12] It has been licensed for worship in accordance with the Places of Worship Registration Act 1855 and has the registration number 79056.[13]

2010 fire[edit]

The church was badly damaged by fire in July 2010. In the early afternoon of Sunday 4 July, fire spread from the ground floor through to parts of the roof. There were no casualties. Although there was no structural damage,[14][15] the entire interior was gutted causing £500,000 worth of damage. The fire is being treated as arson, with a £10,000 reward (funded by public donations) for the conviction of the arsonist.[16][17]

Since the fire, the congregation have been using St. Michael and All Angels church[16] (after initially using a marquee in the grounds of Greek Orthodox church).[15]


Built in brick (in a Flemish bond pattern) with some stone dressings, the church has a stuccoed southern frontage, facing Carlton Hill;[7] none of the other elevations are easily visible. A deep central recess is flanked by two prominent wings with entrance doors[12] and large stone pilasters, above which is a pediment with an embedded clock. The large crucifix above the entrance is a recent addition.[6][18] The Georgian-style front elevation, which was improved in 1957 by L.A. Mackintosh (whose personal monogram is on the wall above the left entrance door),[3] has been described as "strangely bleak".[19]

The frontage is divided into three parts by tall grey pilasters. The left and right bays are further forward than the wider central bay, and have matching entrance: each has a lintel featuring a triglyph and metope pattern, smaller white pilasters and a pediment. Above the left (west) entrance is Mackintosh's crown monogram; above the right is a monogram of an eagle, the symbol of John the Evangelist.[7] A large grey entablature, with prominent triglyph and metope work, sits above the three bays. Over the recessed centre bay is another pediment embedded with a blue clock and topped by a cross.[7]

The church was listed at Grade II by English Heritage on 20 August 1971.[7] It is one of 1,124 Grade II-listed buildings and structures, and 1,218 listed buildings of all grades, in the city of Brighton and Hove.[20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c UK Consumer Price Index inflation figures are based on data from Gregory Clark (2016), "The Annual RPI and Average Earnings for Britain, 1209 to Present (New Series)",
  2. ^ "Greek Orthodox Church". My Brighton and Hove website. My Brighton and Hove (c/o QueensPark Books). 2006-03-22. Retrieved 2009-03-08. 
  3. ^ a b c d Carder 1990, §30.
  4. ^ a b Carder 1990, §198.
  5. ^ a b Dale 1989, p. 80.
  6. ^ a b c Dale 1989, p. 81.
  7. ^ a b c d e "Detailed Record: Church of St John the Evangelist, Carlton Hill (north side), Brighton, Brighton and Hove, East Sussex". Images of England website. English Heritage. 2007. Retrieved 2009-03-08. 
  8. ^ Dale 1989, p. 83.
  9. ^ Dale 1989, p. 84.
  10. ^ "The Church of England Statistics & Information: Lists (by diocese) of closed church buildings as at October 2012" (PDF). Church of England. 1 October 2012. Archived (PDF) from the original on 30 January 2013. Retrieved 30 January 2013. 
  11. ^ Middleton 2003, Vol. 13, p. 91.
  12. ^ a b School of Architecture and Interior Design 1987, p. 77.
  13. ^ Registered in accordance with the Places of Worship Registration Act 1855 (Number in Worship Register: 79056; Name: The Greek Orthodox Church of the Holy Trinity; Address: Carlton Hill, Brighton; Denomination: Greek Orthodox). Retrieved 24 September 2012. (Archived version of list)
  14. ^ "Historic Brighton church damaged by fire". The Argus. Newsquest Media Group. 2010-07-04. Retrieved 4 July 2010. 
  15. ^ a b "Greek Orthodox Church: Extensively damaged by fire". My Brighton and Hove website. My Brighton and Hove (c/o QueensPark Books). 2010-07-11. Retrieved 2010-10-12. 
  16. ^ a b "£10,000 reward to catch Brighton arsonist". The Argus. Newsquest Media Group. 2010-10-12. Retrieved 12 October 2010. 
  17. ^ "£10,000 reward offered following Greek church fire". Sussex Police. 2010-10-12. Retrieved 2010-10-12. 
  18. ^ Dale 1989, p. 82.
  19. ^ Nairn & Pevsner 1965, p. 432.
  20. ^ "Images of England — Statistics by County (East Sussex)". Images of England. English Heritage. 2007. Archived from the original on 27 December 2012. Retrieved 27 December 2012. 


  • Carder, Timothy (1990). The Encyclopaedia of Brighton. Lewes: East Sussex County Libraries. ISBN 0-86147-315-9. 
  • Dale, Antony (1989). Brighton Churches. London EC4: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-00863-8. 
  • Middleton, Judy (2003). The Encyclopaedia of Hove & Portslade. Brighton: Brighton & Hove Libraries. 
  • Nairn, Ian; Pevsner, Nikolaus (1965). The Buildings of England: Sussex. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-071028-0. 
  • A Guide to the Buildings of Brighton. School of Architecture and Interior Design, Brighton Polytechnic. Macclesfield: McMillan Martin. 1987. ISBN 1-869865-03-0.