St Bartholomew's Church opened 1874

Please note that this text is an extract from a reference work written in 1990.  As a result, some of the content may not reflect recent research, changes and events.

d) ST.BARTHOLOMEW’S CHURCH : This huge church was built for the Revd Arthur Wagner by local architect Edmund Scott, the pinnacle of his career. Costing about £18,000, it replaced a small mission church of 1866 and has a foundation stone laid in February 1872. St Bartholomew’s opened on 8 September 1874, became a parish church in July 1881 and was consecrated on 15 June 1887, but the size of the church and the fact that the 1,500 seats were all free led to it being dubbed ‘Wagner’s Folly’. The vast building, in Italian Gothic style with a large rose window and a statue of St Bartholomew in a niche below, completely dominated the surrounding houses and was built to the supposed dimensions of Noah’s Ark, 180 feet long, 58 feet wide and 140 feet to the top of the gilt metal cross. The building is particularly impressive when viewed from the other side of the valley on Albion Hill .
Even more impressive is the immense interior which has no aisles or chancel, but nine shallow bays are formed along the nave by the internal buttressing. St Bartholomew’s has the tallest nave of any parish church in the country, the walls being 90 feet high, and the lack of aisles tends to emphasise the height even further. A towering cross lies above the altar, and there are also several mosaics and paintings, part of the beautiful decoration scheme of Henry Wilson in 1897-1908 which included the 1902 Lady Altar. The church’s immense size and superb decoration have led to its listing as the only grade A church in Brighton. A parish hall was opened in Providence Place in 1893, but a new hall has been provided in New England Street as part of the school redevelopment.

Any numerical cross-references in the text above refer to resources in the Sources and Bibliography section of the Encyclopaedia of Brighton by Tim Carder.

Comments about this page

  • As a choirboy at St.Barthomew’s in the early fifties I grew to love this awe-inspiring sacred place, a palace of worship and praise second to none. A place which imbued my spirit with understanding of the real meaning of faith.

    By Ross Martin (02/12/2007)
  • I recently purchased a copy of this shot of St Bartholomews from a shop specialising in old Brighton photos. This was my view every morning as a child travelling from London Street to Pelham Street on my way to Pelham Primary. Happy days!

    By Ross Martin (02/12/2007)

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