Thursday, January 14, 2016

Brighton Revisted 3

St Nicholas of Myra is an absolute treasure. It dates from the fourteenth century, though there has been a church in Brighthelstone since Saxon times. The main source of income for villagers was mackerel fishing and therefor the church is appropriately dedicated to the patron saint of fishermen and children.

The fact that this is the church where my mother in law was married makes it special to our family, but as a regency buff it is also special because of its association with those members of Regency society who would have attended church here during the summer months.

Here are some of the fascinating things about St Nicholas of interest to Regency aficionados.  The Duke of Wellington attended the school "The Academy for Young Gentlemen" run by the vicar of St Nicholas.  It was common practice for vicars to supplement their income by teaching the boys of local gentlemen at that time.

During the Regency, their were galleries in the church for local fisherman, charity pensioners and Charity-school children, while the more affluent worshiped in the box pews at ground level.  These galleries were removed during a major renovation in 1853.

The Church acquired a new organ in 1813, instrument built by H.C.Lincoln and pipes by Bevington.
If you have an interest in seeing the church before the restoration I have a picture showing the pews which hints at the galleries above, but the quality is such that I cannot include it here.

What does remain is the fifteenth century screen which is absolutely beautiful. It is thought to have come from East Anglia. Parts of it were destroyed when  the Cromwellians had a go at it, it was restored in the late 19th century.

While the stone pillars and arches were also there, the Galleries aforementioned were on a level with the festoons of the screen, making the church a much smaller and more crowded place.

 The Font, pictured here is from the 12th Century.

Made from a solid block of Caen Stone it is known as the finest piece of Norman carving in Sussex.

Of course my big question was, did all those Regency notables worship here at the only church in what became Brighton.  The local history says it was too far up the hill.

A chapel was therefore built nearer to the Pavillion. The Prince Regent rented one of the pews at 13 guineas a year.

However the Vicar at the time, preached a sermon about King David seducing Bathsheba and sending Prinny off from there in high dudgeon, never to return.

At the time of the Regency, the bell tower sported 8 bells and was known for marathon peals, ringing as many as 11,088 changes over six hours in 1779.  It became the first 10 bell tower in 1818.




Until next time................