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Listed Building
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Statutory Address:

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

The City of Brighton and Hove (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
TQ 31840 03984



TQ3103NE ST JAMES'S STREET 577-1/47/819 (North side) 20/08/71 Church of St Mary the Virgin (Formerly Listed as: ST JAMES'S STREET St Mary's Church)


Anglican church. 1877-1878. To designs by William Emerson of No.1 Westminster Chambers, London; his watercolour perspective of the building shown at the Royal Academy in the spring of 1877; the builders were Messrs E Nash of Hove. Red brick in Flemish bond with sandstone dressings on the outside; red and white bricks with Bath stone trim inside. Roofs of slate with terracotta ridge crests. PLAN: the church is oriented with the ritual east end to the north. All directions given below are ritual. Chancel of one bay with 5-sided apse, 2 vestries to the south of the chancel and an organ chamber and additional vestry to the north; transepts of one bay each and nave of 4 bays with north and south aisles; baptistery in semicircular projection at the west end; entrance porch set in truncated tower at north-west, another entrance porch at south-west. Neo-Gothic style. EXTERIOR: single lancet in each facet of the apse, the hood moulding of all linked to form a springing band; sill moulding interrupted by angle buttresses of one setback dying into springing course. Apse topped by a brick cornice, which is to be found on most elevations. In the angle between the chancel and the north transept is an organ chamber with lean-to roof, a single lancet in each face; to the north of organ chamber a stair to the loft; between the stair and the north face of the organ chamber is a low porch with a pointed-arched entrance and lean-to roof. Attached to organ chamber a low structure with 3-sided projection to east end, perhaps intended as a side chapel; brick and stone parapet, single lancet in east face. Vestries to south obscured. The apse roof not continuous with that over the transepts and nave. End walls of transepts project slightly beyond line of vestries and nave aisles; north transept has a 3-light window with 6-foiled roundel in the head; between this window and the 5 pointed lights below is a string course. The lower transept windows have simply chamfered jambs, stone sills and a sandstone sill band; window arrangements on south transept are identical. The transept string course returns to continue along each aisle, each bay of which is illuminated by one 2-light window with 6-foiled head; each aisle bay has one facing gable; flat buttresses of single set back to aisle interrupts all hood mouldings and sill bands; clerestory is relieved only by a string course just above the peak of the gable ridges. Peak of west gable divided into stepped, brick arcade of 7 bays, the centre 5 pierced by single stone lancets; in the top half of the central brick bay is corbelled niche. The entrance porch at the ritual north-west corner of the nave has a polygonal stair turret next to the aisle wall. Upper stages of tower and spire never built; the tower finished with a gable roof. The lower stage in the west face of the tower contains what was meant to be the principal entrance to the building: gabled aedicule topped by a cross, the tympanum diapered; pointed arch below, subordered and having jamb shafts; the haunches of the entrance arch intersected by a blind, pointed-arch arcade of attached colonnettes with stiff-leaf capitals. The springing course of the entrance arch is carved with conventionalized representations of plants. There is an additional shaft to either side of the entrance itself, which is formed in stone rather than brick; the lintel bears the inscription: Domum Tuam Decet Sanctitudo Domine; niches above; stone tympanum pierced by 6-foiled roundel. South-west entrance porch is less elaborately ornamented, square in plan,of a single stage with hipped roof partly hidden by a high parapet; pointed subordered stone arches over a door frame in white stone; the jambs chamfered and subordered; the south face lit by 2 lancets. The baptistery elevation is treated as 3 bays marked by buttresses which set back to become bases for paired stone shafts; spanning each gap a subordered pointed arch; between each buttress is a pointed stone window of 2 lights with cinquefoil roundel to the head; each window set in an elaborate aedicule; diapering to the aedicule gables. INTERIOR: octapartite stone rib vaulting with brick webbing over the sanctuary and choir of one bay; ribs spring from piers with acanthus capitals, which are joined to the wall by spurs supporting pointed barrel vaults. 6 steps up from nave to choir and a further 2 to sanctuary. Chancel arch supported by coupled shafts, the west return of which merge with the crossing piers. Octapartite vaulting over the crossing, diaphragm arches to north and south transepts, each of which has one bay and is roofed by a pointed barrel vault of brick; transept windows have stone plate tracery set in moulded brick surrounds, those below have chamfered brick jambs. Chapel formed to the east of the south transept by late C19 or early C20 oak screens which come from All Souls, Eastern Road: panelling below and cusped ogee arches above, the screen's cornice decorated with flowers. East end of the north aisle dedicated as a Chapel of Remembrance to the War Dead in 1924. The nave ceiling is boarded and ribbed; in section it is trilobed, with a horizontal band introduced between the coving and barrel vault. Arcade piers comprised of 4 attached columns with a roof shaft applied to the nave face; each is set on a socle which is as high as the wood benches in the nave; wooden rib rises from the shaft; intermediary roof ribs supported by plain corbels. Each aisle bay is spanned by a pointed barrel vault perpendicular to the axis of the nave. Spandrils of plain brick to nave arcades; no triforium or clerestory. Walls composed, in the upper reaches, of alternating courses of red and brown brick and stone, becoming brown brick in the lower areas. Baptistery of one bay raised by 4 steps above the floor of the nave; entered through a diaphragm arch supported by carved corbel blocks; roof vault of wood. The sanctuary and choir floors are composed of mosaic, with marble steps down to the crossing; white paving stones with small red tiles at the corner to transept, central and side aisles. Oak blocks set in herringbone pattern frame this pavement; oak open benches set on paving of pine blocks laid in pitch; baptistery paved in white stone. Underfloor hot-water heating grilles set at foot of walls and along aisles. Features of note include: very fine carved reredos of 1893 composed of blind, canopied arcade beneath which carving which represents the resurrected Christ appearing to Mary at the tomb with angels observing; the altar front shows the Adoration of the Magi. The carving in the sanctuary is historiated with figures representing the virtues. Carved choir stalls arranged on collegiate pattern. The clergy stalls on the north side date to 1926. All the other seating and chancel fittings are by Hammer and Lascelles and date to 1877-78. The altar rails were made by Hart and Son were completed in 1878 for approx 30 pounds. Of the same date is the Caen stone pulpit at the north-east corner of the nave with panels depicting Biblical subjects including: Satan and the Tree of Knowledge and Christ with the Woman at the Well; carvings by Bennett and Nicholls costing 202 pounds. Further furnishings by Cox. The organ by Bevington and Joy. The chancel light standards were taken from an old church and date to 1869. The font has a base of Italian marble and shaft of Swiss granite, which was brought as a memorial from the site where the son of the Vicar had died in a mountaineering accident. Easternmost window in north aisle designed by CE Kempe: 3 lights, the Madonna and Child flanked by St Luke and St John; 1901. The rest of the windows in this aisle are in a similar style, and depict scenes from the Life of the Virgin: one, the Soanes Memorial window of 1897, may also be Kempe's work even though it is not listed in Mrs. Trubshaw's "Index of Work Executed by Mr. CE Kempe". The third window in the north aisle depicts the Marys at the Tomb and dates to 1880. The south-aisle windows show scenes from the Life of Christ and are of roughly the same date as those in the north aisle. The windows in the apse depict the Crucifixion, the Resurrection and are by a different hand; the same artist very likely executed the windows in the Baptistery; both sets date to c1880. According to the churchwarden, the 2 south clerestory lights in the choir, which depict single figures against tinted glass backgrounds, have been attributed to Morris and Co.; this attribution has not been confirmed; the style of the figures is similar to the work of designers in the Morris circle. The north transept glass, dating to the late C19 and early C20, was partly destroyed by the storm of October, 1987; fragments of the smashed centre light were reset with new designs. AH Wilds built the first church, a Greek Revival structure, on this site in 1826-27 for Charles Elliott in the grounds of East Lodge, the home of the Earl of Egremont. Elliott's son, the Rev. Henry Elliott was the founder of St Mary's Hall School, Eastern Road (qv) and the first curate of the church. The choir vestry contains memorials to members of the Venn Elliott family. HISTORICAL NOTE: in 1875 the proprietary chapel became a parish church; accordingly plans were made to enlarge the chancel, which work had started by the summer of 1876 under the direction of the builder Nash. At the end of June, however, the entire chancel and part of the nave collapsed. An appeal to build an entirely new church was opened in July, at which time there was call to reorient the building cardinally, according to the liturgical practice of the day, with its long axis parallel to St James's Street; in the end, however, the original orientation was retained. The original estimate of 12,000 pounds was too low, as a result of the quantity surveyor's error, and a revised estimate of 15,000 was accepted. Emerson had planned to build a large tower at the north-west corner; this, like the figure sculpture planned for the west front, was never executed. By the time the building was consecrated, in October of 1878, close to 20,000 pounds had been spent. (Carder T: The Encyclopaedia of Brighton: Lewes: 1990-: 167C; The Builder : 1 July : 1876: London: 637; The Architect : 23 June : 1877: London: 400; St Mary's Brighton, Report, List of Subscribers and Balances: Brighton: 1880-; Evitt Francis C: Church of St Mary the Virgin, Brighton, 1827-1927: Bridge of Weir: 1927-: 2-5, 13, 15).

Listing NGR: TQ3184003984


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

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Books and journals
Carder, T, Encyclopaedia of Brighton, (1990), 167C
Evitt, F C , Church of St Mary the Virgin, Brighton, 1827-19272-5,13,15
'The Architect' in 23 June, (1877), 400
'The Builder' in 1 July, (1876), 637


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

Images of England

Images of England was a photographic record of every listed building in England, created as a snap shot of listed buildings at the turn of the millennium. These photographs of the exterior of listed buildings were taken by volunteers between 1999 and 2008. The project was supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Date: 02 Aug 2005
Reference: IOE01/13398/26
Rights: Copyright IoE Lorna Freeman. Source Historic England Archive
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