Situated on one of Brighton’s main thoroughfares, the Chapel Royal is easy to miss: its façade blends in with the shopping street: it could be a bank, or a small civic building. But, steeped in history, it is a very welcoming and peaceful place to visit, to escape the shopping crowds, attend a concert or, of course, to worship.
The Early Days
The Foundation Stone of the Chapel Royal was laid by the Prince Regent in 1793 and the building was opened for worship in 1795, during August. It was intended as a Chapel of Ease to St Nicholas, the old Parish Church, which could not accommodate Brighton’s enlarged summer population – a consequence of the Prince Regent’s patronage of the town.
For this reason the Chapel Royal was only open from June to September in its early years, but following an Act of Parliament legalising it as a Chapel of Ease, the building was consecrated on August 16th 1803. Although frequented by Regency Society, the Prince himself stopped attending, following (it is said) his displeasure with a sermon on immorality in the nation.
In later years he caused a Royal Chapel to be opened in a converted ballroom in Castle Square. (This building has since been moved to Montpelier Place.)
The Early Victorian Period
As the Regency period came to an end and royalty ceased to visit the town, the centre became increasingly inhabited by poor people and the ministry of the Chapel Royal became more concerned with the problems of poverty and deprivation. Much of this occurred during the long ministry of the Rev’d Thomas Trocke (1834-75), who also had the big central lantern installed.
The Later Nineteenth Century
By 1876 the Chapel Royal was in a bad state of repair and when North Street was widened by the demolition of the shops on the south side of the building, urgent work was necessary. The Rev’d Seymour Penzer attacked the problems with vigour and he employed the noted Victorian architect, Arthur Blomfield, to supervise repairs and improvements. Blomfield had one interior gallery removed and new brick facades erected on the South and East sides. It was at this time that the clock tower was added. In 1897 the Chapel Royal was designated a parish church and a small area around the pavilion was designated the Chapel Royal Parish.
The young Winston Churchill was a member of the congregation from 1883 to 1885.
The Twentieth Century
Gradually the population has moved out of central Brighton and the Chapel Royal has ceased to have many local residents to whom it can minister, therefore the work of the church has gradually developed towards caring for those who visit the town centre and those who work here. In 1978 the Chapel Royal Parish ceased to exist, and the church returned to its early nineteenth century status, when it was amalgamated with the parish of St Peter’s Church, the Parish Church of Brighton. Since 1990 there have been lunchtime concerts and recitals on Tuesdays at 1.10pm.
In 1993 the Chapel was substantially reordered to mark its bicentenary. New furniture has been designed and built to suit the present look of the building.
In the Twenty First century, the Chapel Royal serves a growing Sunday congregation and has weekday services, concerts and exhibitions. The office of a local charity, Brighton and Hove Bereavement Support, is based at Chapel Royal, as are several AA, ACA, and Al-Anon and other support groups.
In 2010 The Chapel Royal became a separate Parish.
The Chapel remains in the centre of the city to remind us of the incarnation: God who took on human flesh to show forth his love.
View our gallery to see the interior of our church.