Brighton St Stephen, Sussex GenealogyEdit This Page
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Brighton St Stephen is a former Anglican church in the town of Brighton, which spent less than 90 years as an Anglican church, and is now used as a centre for homeless people. In view of its architectural and historical importance, it has been listed at Grade II* by English Heritage.
Built originally as a ballroom attached to one of the leading inns in the town it declined in popularity. In 1815, the owner offered a 25% share in the building and its land, and the Prince Regent (later King George IV) bought it through an intermediary, Thomas Attree, for £1,960 He acquired another 25% share in 1816 and the remaining 50% in 1822, and the inn closed to the public soon afterwards and was demolished in stages between 1819 and October 1823.
The ballroom was converted into the recently completed Royal Pavilion's private chapel for the Prince Regent—who by this time was King—and was consecrated on 1 January 1822 by the Bishop of Chichester. He had moved into the Pavilion the previous year. In its new guise, the chapel had over 400 seats and admission was by invitation only.Designer William Tuppen was responsible for the interior refit, which included the conversion of the musicians' gallery into the King's own pew and the installation of an organ supported by Gothic-style columns.
The Royal Pavilion was unpopular with Queen Victoria, whose reign began in 1837. Her last visit was in 1845; soon afterwards the Government wanted to demolish the building and sell the land to pay for building work at Buckingham Palace. This proposal was unpopular in the town, and in May 1850 the Town Commissioners received consent to buy the 9-acre (3.6 ha) site, including the chapel. It became the property of Brighton Corporation (the forerunners of the present-day Council) in 1855.
Because the chapel had been consecrated for Anglican worship, the Church Commissioners claimed it on behalf of the Diocese of Chichester. Instead of leaving the building on the same site, the Diocese decided to demolish it and re-erect it brick by brick on a site 1 mile (1.6 km) mile away, at Montpelier Place near the boundary with Hove. Because the Diocese's claim on the church was upheld, the Town Commissioners reduced their payment to the Government for the Pavilion estate by £3,000 The land at Montpelier Place was transferred free of charge to the Diocese by the Vicar of Brighton's sister. The interior of the chapel was only minimally altered by the move and reconstruction, which was completed in 1851.
The church was opened for public worship under its new name, St Stephen's, on 25 July 1851, and was consecrated on 11 June 1852 by the Bishop of Chichester, Ashurst Turner Gilbert.
In the 1930s the church became associated with Spiritualism, and it was closed in 1939 and converted into the Diocese of Chichester's Institute for the Deaf and Dumb. In 1974, this moved to a building next to the former St John the Evangelist's Church on Carlton Hill. In 1988, a local housing association acquired the building and converted it into the First Base Day Centre for homeless people. The interior, which had survived largely intact the ballroom was built in 1766, was damaged by fire soon after the day centre opened, but it has been restored.
Birth, marriages and deaths were kept by the government, from July 1837 to the present day. The civil registration article tells more about these records. There are several Internet sites with name lists or indexes. A popular site is FreeBMD.
From 1837 this parish was in the Brighton registration distict
Certificates can be ordered from Brighton & Hove The Register Office Brighton Town Hall Bartholomew Square Brighton BN1 1JA
Fax 01273 292019
Poor Law Unions
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 to locate outside UK. Many archives and local history collections in public libraries in England and Wales offer online census searches and also hold microfilm or fiche census returns.
Images of the census for 1841-1891 can be viewed in census collections at Ancestry (fee payable) or Find My Past (fee payable)
The 1851 census of England and Wales attempted to identify religious places of worship in addition to the household survey census returns.
Records of wills, administrations, inventories, indexes, etc. were filed by the court with jurisdiction over this parish. Go to Sussex Probate Records to find the name of the court having primary jurisdiction. Scroll down in the article to the section Court Jurisdictions by Parish.
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