The oldest building in Brighton

St Nicholas Church
St Nicholas Church
The oldest building in Brighton

Brighton’s parish church is a curious relic. It is the oldest building in Brighton. The church survived a raid by French pirates, who burnt the mediaeval town of Brighthelmstone in 1533.

Why was it built on a hill? To avoid coastal erosion? To be protected from French pirates? Probably so that a fire lit on the big flat church tower could provide a beacon for fishermen.

There are spectacular views from the churchyard. You’re standing on the spine of a ridge here. Lower down, the old town grew up on a defendable site by a stream.

Comments about this page

  • Churches were built on hills as they were considered to be the most important buildings. They could be seen from all around and going up a hill brought you closer to God.

    By Kate (06/11/2006)
  • I remember as a little girl, around 1940 I believe, a plane crashed into the church yard at St Nicholas Church. There was a lot of commotion in the morning and we had to walk the long way to school. I had some shrapnel for years afterwards and glass from the plane. Does anyone remember that incident? I also remember that the beaches were mined and we couldn’t use them until after the war, then they were demined. It was then that the people flocked to the beaches in the good weather.

    My mother and sister were out shopping, the siren went and a little later they were blown out of a store they had been in, fortunately they were just shaken up and not hurt. Maybe I will remember more next time I write.

    By Evelyn Collett (31/01/2007)
  • Hi Evelyn, I’ve found your air crash on the internet at the Aircrew Remembrance Society. The plane you saw was a Messerschmitt 410a Night Fighter, it was shot down by a Mosquito from 96 Squadron on the 19th April 1944 at 12.50 am, both German pilots were killed, one was hanging from tree branches, he was wearing an Iron Cross 1st class and he is buried in Bear Road cemetery.

    By Martin Phillips (01/01/2012)
  • Just seen this post by my auntie who now lives in Canada! What she didn’t mention is that it was my mum, her sister Kathleen Bailey, who was out with my grandmother. This article can be viewed by typing my mum’s name. My half-brother, Trevor, who died 4 years ago, was an amateur historian and put the article together. I see Martin Philips who I know from Fitzherbert School replied to this post. Mum is still going strong at 88 and has all her marbles.  

    By Jozef Kis (10/12/2014)

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