Who is buried in St Nicholas Churchyard?

St Nicholas Church
From a private collection

The lives of the diverse characters buried in St Nicholas Churchyard tell a classic tale of Brighton. Here lie the remains of many notable individuals associated with the Regency era, including some rather unconventional women.

Martha Gunn, Phoebe Hessel and Anna Maria Crouch
Martha Gunn  1776-1815, was famous as the “Queen of Dippers”, helping fashionable ladies in and out of the sea from their bathing machines. Phoebe Hessle 1713-1821, pretended to be a man in order to serve as a soldier and be with her lover. Both lived to a robust age unlike the much lamented actress Anna Maria Crouch (1763-1805) who died at 42 either from a carriage accident or from heavy drinking.

Sake Deen Mohammed
It was not only women who achieved remarkable longevity for their times. Sake Deen Mohammed lived to be 102. He was the owner of baths much frequented by high society in Regency times and liked to be known as the “Shampooing surgeon to King George IV“. The baths were situated at the site of the Queens Hotel on the corner of East Street.

Captain Nicholas Tettersell
Other well-known men buried here were also connected wth property. Captain Nicholas Tettersell was the owner of the Old Ship Hotel which he bought with money from a grateful King Charles II. The captain had helped the King to escape to France in 1651 after the Battle of Worcester.

Together with Charles Augustus Busby, the architect Amon Wilds designed much of Regency Brighton.

Comments about this page

  • From my information Martha was born in 1726 not 1776 as described on your web site. She was aparently 88 when she died in 1815. You may be close enough to check this please. Kind regards.

    By Malcolm Barnett (descendant of Martha Gunn) (10/01/2005)
  • I believe that Sir Francis Laforey was buried here in 1835. He commanded HMS Spartiate at the Battle of Trafalgar. I would love to know if there is a grave or memorial to him at St. Nicholas.

    By Jonathan Barrett (30/01/2006)
  • I think the Battle of Worcester was in 1652.

    By Kate (06/11/2006)
  • Are there any people by the name of Knight buried at St. Nicholas? Thank you.

    By Jennifer Banks (nee Knight) (27/01/2007)
  • Is there anybody by the name of Hall or Perkins buried there?My GGG Grandfather lived there and my GG Grand father was baptised there. Many thanks

    By Prue Brooks (nee Perkins) (26/07/2007)
  • I have traced my ancestors to Brighton. My great grandfather lived in Cannon Street. Would any of the family have been buried at St Nicholas or was Cannon Street in another parish of Brighton?

    By Roy Salvage (22/08/2007)
  • Can anyone help? My great great grandfather died on Christmas Day 1859, his name was Thomas Worthington of 43 Over Street. I would like to know if his grave is still there. He had two children who were born in Over Street and I believe they were christened at St Nicholas. Samuel Worthington b. 1857 and Eliza Worthington b. 1859, Eliza died about 1863. Any information would be most welcome.

    By Gloria Dean (06/11/2007)
  • A round up of some of the qustions above: Martha Gunn – I believe it is 1726 rather than 1776. Sir James Laforey – Yes, he is buried in the northern burial ground and as far as I can tell his monument remains – if you would like a precise location please get in touch. Knight – no-one of that name that appear in the inscription records – although they are none too accurate. Hall/Perkins – yes several of each. If you supply more details I will look into them. Cannon St – not sure – do you have more details (year). Worthington – Does not feature in records (although comment above applies). The St Nicholas Church Green Spaces Association has set up a section in its forum to look at monuments/heritage aspects of the site, and hopes to have the inscription records available online shortly see http://www.sncgsa.org. Simon Bannister simon.bannister@brighton-hove.gov.uk

    By Simon (09/01/2008)
  • I am seeking information on William Ireland Smith. He was my great-grandfather and was married in St. Nicholas Church on Christmas Day 1869. He died at 54 St George Street, Brighton on 31st October 1883. Could you possibly tell me where he would be buried please?

    By Pamela Burton (20/07/2008)
  • According to one version of the life of Sake Deen Mohammed on Wikipedia, his life was from 1759–1851, giving him an age of 92 not 102 as stated above.

    By Roy Grant (28/08/2010)
  • I am looking for details of the burial of Henry Keay – previously married in St Nicholas of Myra in 1783 and presumably buried there sometime between 1790 and 1805. There are no paper records held at ESRO – hope there is an interment record held with you. Regards Alan Keay

    By alan keay (14/09/2010)
  • For Alan Keay: Sorry Alan to not have news -I  have searched the documents which I have but found nothing. Sadly there are no records showing the location of monuments in any systematic way prior to the council clearance records taken in the 1940s. Because of the age of the monument which you seek, it is very likely that it had become illegible by that time and has been marked as ‘unreadable’ or ‘blank’. The local history library in Brighton Pavilion Gardens has the parish burial records on microfiche for that period which you can explore which might confirm that burial took place, but won’t give specific location – quite laborious though. Best of luck

    By Simon Bannister (20/09/2010)
  • I thought you might like a spooky story about the churchyard. Some years ago, my son asked me about the old workhouse and correction house in Brighton as he was doing a history project at school. What better than to go in the car and park, then wander around. Armed with some old maps and prints, we walked round the city centre, exploring Market Street where the house of correction is assumed to have been, and the area around the old Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital, where at least I could show my son the ruins of the old workhouse in a garden in a nearby street. We then visited the old churchyards of St Nicolas, looking for famous local people, and grew weary and sat on a tomb. Whilst we were talking, I leapt up, pointing at the tomb’s inscription, for there were the words announcing that a Mr Carter, map designer, was buried there. I showed my son one of the 19th century maps that I held in my hand – with Carter’s name on it!! [Would be interested to know the street in which the remains of the workhouse can be seen, David. Comments Ed]

    By david shelton (24/01/2012)
  • Are there ‘Towner’ folk either married there or buried there, which might be recorded please? Carrie 

    By Carrie (25/01/2012)
  • Sussex Online Parish Clerks is available to view now for any names and is being regularly updated. I had a quick look and there are plenty of Towner marriages listed there. Hope that helps.

    By Carole Spicer (20/11/2012)

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