St John the Baptist Church

Photo:St John the Baptist Church

St John the Baptist Church

Photo by John Leach

Photo:St John the Baptist Church

St John the Baptist Church

Photo by John Leach

Photo:St John the Baptist Church

St John the Baptist Church

Photo by John Leach

Church, school and community

By John Leach

St. John the Baptist Parish was born from the Brighton Catholic Mission which dates from 1798. The present church building was completed in 1835 and was the fourth Catholic church to be consecrated in England and Wales. It is the mother church for the South of England.

Maria Fitzherbert
Maria Fitzherbert was one of the many notable parishioners and patrons of the parish. She was the Catholic morganatic wife of King George IV and had a high  profile in Regency Brighton. Maria is buried in the parish church which she dearly loved.

A busy community
The parish is a busy community with many Catechists and Eucharistic ministers who care educationally and pastorally for the parish. Additionally, there are a number of societies and organisations that support parish life. The parish and school continue a long relationship of mutual awareness and partnership. Both parish and school continue to be beacons of hope for the East of Brighton.

One of the oldest schools
St. John the Baptist School has an enviable history. It is one of the oldest schools in Brighton and began as a convent school in Bristol Road. In April 1989 the building that is now the school was finished. It is built in the style of a Roman villa and has magnificent views of Brighton city, the sea coast and the South Downs.

This page was added on 06/10/2006.
Comments about this page

This reminded me of an oft quoted headline in a local paper (not the Brighton and Hove Herald!) some 50 years ago: 'New Head For John The Baptist'. Not an unlikely sequel to the Biblical severance, but rather the appointment of a new principal at the school!

By Bob Herrick (10/10/2006)

I was a pupil at St John the Baptist primary school from 1948 until 1954 when I went on to St John the Baptist in Woodingdean, later to be called Fitzherbert. My father and my siblings also went to the primary school. The head at the time was a Mr Head, who was as thin as can be. He had two daughters, Cristobel and, I think, Angela. At the time, the senior school was on the floor above the junior school. It later moved to Woodingdean. The parish priest was a Father Flanigan, who I am sure my father said was at the school as a young priest when he was there. The later priests were Father Grogan, Father Bailey and then Father Seamus Hester, who married me and my first wife. And not forgetting Father Costello who christened our first son.  During the christening, he gave our little boy a burning candle to hold. The wax was running onto our son's hand but he never uttered a word. Father Costello said that God was keeping him quiet.

By Mick Peirson (14/10/2006)

I think Mike Peirson and I were in the same class for most of our school years. If I remember rightly, his father played a banjo at a party I went to at Mike's house. We were the first lot of pupils that went to the Fitzherbert School at Woodingdean. Father Costello married my husband and I (1962) (after weeks of haggling) because Jim was not a Catholic, saying it wouldn't work out. Bless him, he wasn't always right, as we're still happy together. As for Father Grogan, I can remember being terrified of him.

By Vera Wakefield (nee Bridger) (19/10/2006)

I would like to say hello and to also say that I remember Vera Bridger as she then was. If I remember Vera, you lived just around the corner from me in Rock Street, how nice to hear from someone from that time. My father did play the banjo and the piano. The very sight of Father Grogan was enough to put the wind up you, he was a rugby player with all the bent ears and nose to go with it, that probably is why he looked so frightening. If you want to chat some more about those times Vera send me an e-mail and see if we can come up with some more memories from then. Best wishes. mickfpeirson@btinternet.com

By Mick Peirson (08/11/2006)

I was in the convent next to the church and went to the Infant and Junior School, then on to Fitzherbert until 1958/59. I think the other pupils used to look down on us convent girls! Do you remember the head, Mr Ivory? Convent days were not good but school was OK.

By Sandie (nee Edna Taylor) Waller (24/05/2007)

I was at St John the Baptist primary school in 1961 and would be interested in contacting anyone who was there then or who remembers me. 47 Woodbourne Avenue, Patcham BN1 8EQ.

By Sandra Waller (nee Angelo) (20/06/2007)

Is the John Leach at the top of the page any relation to a Mr Leach who used to play the organ in St John the Baptist Church?

By Sandie Waller (formerly Edna Taylor) (21/02/2008)

I went to St John the Baptist from age five in 1948 to 1954 when I went to Lourdes Convent. The headmaster was Mr Hogan and he had three daughters: Angela, Shelagh and Cristobel. Some teachers were Mr Beach, Mr McQuaid (trained the choir), Miss Marhouteaux, Sister Mary Mercy, Sister Gertrude. I remember Vera Bridger a little bit. I live in San Francisco now and I am so pleased to find this website!

By Janice Leach (nee Prossor) (23/04/2008)

Hello Janice, I remember you too. I think you lived in Portland Road. It's nice to hear where people live now. I live in Norfolk with my husband of 46 years. Best wishes.

By Vera Wakefield (nee Bridger) (28/06/2008)

I attended St John the Baptist until 1958, Mr Ivory was Head at the time. I enjoyed my years at this school and have very many happy memories. The Christmas play in 1957 portrayed the new song at the time 'Mary's Boy Child'. Every time I hear this song, it brings back those happy times. I was allocated the job of stage manager, and I believe that my best school pal Carol Fisher played Mary. We were split into four houses Moore, Fisher and Campion, I can't remember the fourth! Anyway on my last term Campion house won the cup, and I can remember myself and a boy called "James Dean" were presented with the cup. This was actually my last day at school in April 1958. I have however had a great life and a lovely family, one daughter and one son who currently lives in Australia with his wife and son. I also have another grandson who currently lives with us.

By Janet Menzies (nee Ransdale) (28/06/2008)

Sister Anthony was my first teacher in 1964. Mr. Hogan was the headmaster, Mr. O'Shea his deputy. Also on the staff was Sister Mary Mercy, Sister Gertrude, Young Mr. Hogan, Mrs. Gregory. It is such as shame that the old school in Bedford Street is to be demolished. As children we were told by Sis. Mary Mercy that even German fighters which attacked the area including the school could not destroy it.

By Andre Kish (28/06/2008)

Hello there. Does anybody remember Ann Dook, (later Ann Morris), who attended St John the Baptist school in the 1940's? I'm fairly certain her teachers included Miss De Mohen and Mr Crowley, before they moved up to Woodingdean. I'd be grateful for any info, my email address is sarah.a.heaton@hotmail.co.uk

By Sarah H (29/07/2008)

I was the organist at St John the Baptists until about thirty years ago, when I came to live and work in France. The parish priest at the time was Fr. Gerry Coates (now Canon Coates) who had two assistants Fr. Jim (an Irishman) and Fr. Jelf, whose brother was something high up in the police I think. I remember a very busy and happy church. I spent some of the best moments of my life at St John the Baptists.

By Mike Wilson (13/08/2008)

Janet - the fourth house at the Fitzherbert School was Southwell. I was in Campion from 1955-1959.

By Jackie Soutar (nee Gladwell) (14/08/2008)

Jackie, yes you were right Southwell was the fourth house. They should bring back this idea in schools today, how hard we worked to earn points for our respective houses. Also how proud we were to win the house cup at the end of the school term. Thank you for reminding me.

By Janet Menzies (nee Ransdale) (02/10/2008)

We spent many happy summer and Easter holidays in Brighton and would go to Mass almost daily at St John the Baptist. We were always made so welcome. My brother started his altar serving days there. I remember Father Coates and also David Edwards (MC I think) who use to teach me confirmation lessons.

By Joanna Bastyan (from London) (05/03/2009)

I went to SJB school from 1968 -1972 and have fond memories of most teachers and many great friends. However Mr O'Shea and Miss Smith were nothing but bullies who scarred me for years to follow. Thank goodness that sort of behaviour is not allowed now, for so long I wanted to meet them face to face as an adult! But now I refuse to let them ruin my good memories. Thank you for letting me voice my opinion - have wanted to do that for years! Great website, I live in the States now so it's so nice to look back.

By Rachel H (12/11/2009)

Hello everyone, I can tell you that SJB rocks I'm 11 and in year 6 with Mr.Alabone. The new head is Ms.Hughes. And SJB is so cool - keep smiling.

By Sacha (27/11/2009)

I went to school at John the Baptist when it was in Bedford Street in 1950 till 1954. The head master was Mr Ohara, Art teacher Miss Groucell, French and choir Miss Demohen and Mr Caroline was my last teacher. He used to throw the blackboard rubber frequently at Joey Alan who was the comedian of the class. I used to know Margaret Halpin, Rita Walters and Jean Gardiner. I hope there's someone out there that remembers this time. I went to Fitzherbert for one term only before I left school.

By Wendy Jackson (nee woodham} (19/06/2010)

I have vague recollections of going to John the Baptist School around 1950 but unfortunately the memory is no longer so good. The only teachers I seem to recall from the earlier comments on this page were Mr Caroline & Mr Crowley. I do however remember four other pupils from my class - only surnames for first three. They were Walmer, Fulgoni, & Allen or Alan. Also John Dacey. He and I were particularly good at art work and were generally in 1st & 2nd place (John normally 1st). I also well remember the pie shop on the right hand side going down St James Street where we often bought a beano pie on the way home. If anyone recalls any of these people I'd be glad to hear.

By Alan Possee (08/05/2011)

I also remember Mr O'Shea and Miss Smith from my school days. This was about 1971. They were so strict. I also remember good times attending St John the Baptist.

By Denise Mulhern (15/03/2012)

My name is Yvonne and I was at the convent from 1957 to 1958. I am from Malaysia and used to live at no 45, Portland Place. I used to walk to school with a boy by the name of John (can't remember his surname) to school. On the way to school we also used to stop at a cake shop to get a cake for school. I remember a few classmates Ronald page, Viven Harvey, and may be a Janet. If there is anyone who remembers me please contact me . Thank you.

By Yvonne de Zilva (22/06/2012)

I was in Saint John the Baptist convent in 1957. I have fond memories of the school and a few of my friends. I am a Malaysian and was the only Malaysian in the school, I was also a border in the convent with the sisters. I remember sister Gertrude and sister Mary Mercy also Father Grogen. I also remember a few of my class mates Kathleen Kay, Ronald Page, Viven Harvey. I used to live at 45 (I think) Portland Place and walked to school with a boy by the name of John and whenever we passed the pastry shop I would stop over to get a penguin chocolate or tangertne tart. If any one remembers me please make contace with me. I went back to the school in 1991 but was sad to find it had moved. I am at present in Dublin on a holiday and will be back in Malaysia sometime in July. I do hope to get a response. Thank you.

By Yvonne de Zilva (22/06/2012)

Hi there. Alan Possee I went to Saint John the Baptist school from 1956 to 1958, and was also a border at the convent. I remember sister Gertrude and John Darcy who lived along Portland Place with me. I now live in Malaysia and will be happy to be in touch with anyone who remembers me. 51G

By Yvonne de Zilva (10/07/2012)

I was at SJB from 1977 for my infant years. I remember going to church there and doing the procession around the convent garden. We would sing "...we crown you with blossoms today king of the angels and queen of the may". Well I think those were the words - it was such along time ago. I was friends with Michael Lower and Christopher Camachi, apologies Chris if the spelling is wrong. I remember Mr O'Shea, got a wallop off him, but respected him. My favourite teacher was Mrs Brunston and I think Sister Anthony was still there when I was. For the beginning of my junior years I went to Fitzherberts for a year and a half. At that point we left Brighton to start a new life in Peterborough. Although I have only been back once, I do have fond memories.

By Jamie Ilgunas (15/05/2013)

I was at SJB from 1949 to 1958. I knew Janet Prosser well - I remember going to a party at her flat in Paston Place. Would love to hear from her or anybody else from that time. We had the hairdressers in Lavender Street.

By Roger Provost (21/06/2013)

This is the church where Fred and I were married 15th August 1970. Every anniversary of our wedding we attended Mass and it was special to us.  On our 25th anniversary we had Mass in Assissi.  Fred died in 1999.  Thank you Lord for the special years shared.

By Marie-Joseph Marchant (15/08/2014)

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