North Street

The Countess of Huntingdon's Church

By Jennifer Drury

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'North Street' page

The original chapel of the Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion, was founded in Brighton in 1761, today the sect has 23 congregations in the UK. The Countess was born Selina Shirley in 1707, and married the 9th Earl of Huntingdon in 1728. Having joined the Methodist Society in 1739, Lady Huntingdon went on to form the Countess of Huntingdon’s Connexion which was basically a Calvinistic movement within the Methodist church. She played a prominent part in the religious revival of the 18th century.

Countess of Huntingdon: Royal Pavilion and Museums Brighton and Hove.


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Photo:The 1840's neoclassical facade with Ionian columns

The 1840's neoclassical facade with Ionian columns

Royal Pavilion and Museums

Photo:The rebuilt church photographed c1871

The rebuilt church photographed c1871

Royal Pavilion and Museums


The popularity of the 'new faith'

Countess Huntingdon came to Brighton in 1755; she bought a house in North Street and built a private chapel in its grounds. The Countess hoped that the sea air would be beneficial to the health of her ailing son; sadly both her sons died of smallpox. Returning in 1760, she invited the Rev George Whitfield, a very famous Methodist preacher to speak in Brighton. As the popularity of the ‘new faith’ grew, the Countess opened her small chapel to the public. The congregation continued to grow and the chapel was enlarged many times over the years. Eventually in 1822 the Countess’s former residence was converted into a long gallery and a Doric entrance was made in North Street.

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Photo:Interior of the church just before demolition in 1972

Interior of the church just before demolition in 1972

Royal Pavilion and Museums

Photo:Interior of the church just before demolition in 1972

Interior of the church just before demolition in 1972

Royal Pavilion and Museums

Church entirely rebuilt in 1871

In 1870-1 the church was entirely rebuilt by John Wimble in Early English style in flint and grey stone. There was a graceful north-eastern spire, and a triple-arched entrance supported by granite pillars with elaborate capitals, while the interior had galleries on all sides, excellent stained glass windows, a marble pulpit, and room for about 900 worshippers. The new church opened on 20 March 1871 and was initially well-attended, but eventually congregations dwindled and it proved impossible to keep the building in good repair. The church closed in September 1966 and was demolished in February 1972, although the spire had been taken down in November 1969.

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Photo:The Countess of Huntingdon's Church photographed from New Road in 1966

The Countess of Huntingdon's Church photographed from New Road in 1966

Image reproduced with kind permission of The Regency Society and The James Gray Collection

Photo:The view into North Street from New Road in 2012

The view into North Street from New Road in 2012

Photo by Tony Mould


This page was added on 24/08/2012.
Comments about this page

My grandfather Ernest Henry Mead lived nearby in Bond St, he was a lay reader at this church before WWII. The preacher then was the Rev Pitt Bannerjee an Indian who went on to be the preacher at a small church out in Peacehaven. The replacement for the church pictured was demolished in 1966/67 and has been replaced by the very bland Huntingdon House

By Geoffrey Mead (24/08/2012)

The Countess Of Huntingdon's Connexion must have been a wider faction than I previously thought. We have a Countess Of Huntingdon's Chapel here in Bath, a fine Gothic castellated edifice in the Paragon dating ffrom 1765. Fortunately, unlike its namesake in Brighton, it's survived and now houses The Building Of Bath Museum. For more info visit http://www.bath-preservation-trust.org.uk/index.php?id=138

By Len Liechti (27/08/2012)

My GGGrandfather William Parnacott married Caroline Seymour (both born in Bath) in the Countess of Huntingdon's Chapel in Bath in 1854. He then moved to Herstmonceux, East Sussex as an Independent Minister of the Congregational Church there (now Free Church). His daughter Laura married my GGrandfather Horace Light, a tailor from Brighton! There is also a Countess of Huntingdon's Chapel in Worcester.

By Geraldine Lewis (30/05/2013)

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