Brighton and Hove – St James, St James’s Street

Though the church was demolished in 1951, it is recalled by St James’s Street, one of the main thoroughfares in Brighton east of The Steine on which it stood.  Built in 1810, it only became Anglican in 1817 after disagreements with the vicar of Brighton had been settled and it remained a proprietary chapel until the 1870s.  As such it was less successful than most in the town, for it was barely able to compete with the nearby places of worship closer to the centre (e g the newly built St Peter) or with the more elegant St Mary further up the same street.  However, in the 1860s it achieved considerable notoriety when it was acquired by J B Purchas, a former curate of Father A D Wagner at St Paul’s.  Purchas was an advanced ritualist who ordinarily might be expected to deplore proprietary chapels, but who maintained that as minister he was free to conduct services as he wished.  Only his death at a relatively young age put an inconclusive end to an increasingly acrimonious dispute with the bishop.

Little is known of the chapel of 1810, except that it had a gallery (Shipley p16) and was hidden behind shops.  After becoming parochial, it was rebuilt in 1873-75 by E E Scott with R S Hyde, whose designs were exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1874 (Graves).  Like its predecessor it was entered by a passage through buildings from the street.  The interior was faced with brick and the plan attached to the ICBS application shows that there was no projecting chancel.  It looks unexpected spacious in the only known photograph, with a large traceried east window, the lower part of which served as a reredos (Elleray p169).  Some fittings are now in St Marys, with which the parish is united, and some glass by C E Kempe was removed to St Andrew, Worthing, West Sussex.