Remembering Keith Lowden (1950 - 2021)
April 2021: We were very saddened to learn of the sudden death, in March, of Keith Lowden - a dear friend of St Mary's, a valued member of our finance team, and an enthusiastic and impassioned contributor to our Art and Inspiration Group. We are grateful to his family for the permission to host a collection for St Mary's in his memory at JustGiving.
Everyone is unique, of course, but Keith had a playful quirkiness about him that really only shone when he felt himself among friends, as he was at St Mary's. It endeared him to all who got to know him and brought a special splash of colour to our life.
Keith was a devoted and proud father to his daughters and a loyal and faithful friend. He made a home with us at St Mary's and his death leaves a sad gap in our life together. Rest in peace, dear friend.
Christmas Comfort & Joy Giving Appeal 2020
January 2021: Thank you to everyone who gave so generously to our Christmas Appeal. We raised over £3,000, which is magnificent! We used the money to provide gifts for local people who were shielding or isolated, a takeaway festive lunch and gifts for vulnerable people on Christmas Day, and a warm and welcoming, beautifully-decorated church. We were also able to make a substantial donation to the work of the St Anne's Day Centre. Thank you all so much.
A Facelift for the Transept Windows
January 2020: Some 65 years since they were unceremoniously shaved off, the lower transept windows on the west side of the church have their 'eyebrows' (aka hood mouldings) back again. We couldn't be more pleased with the effect! It lifts the whole appearance of the elevation and gives much better definition to the windows, as well as protecting them from the rain.
Huge thanks to the Friends of St Mary's for fundraising help to pay for this finishing touch to the repair of this elevation, and also to our long-term funders, the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the National Churches Trust, the Garfield Weston Foundation, the Sussex Historic Churches Trust and the Wolfson Foundation. Thank you too to our architects at Thomas Ford & Partners and the masons from Stone Edge who've done such a lovely job of reinstating the mouldings.
The older pictures below show the west elevation in 1954 before the Town Corporation re-modelled the garden; in 1955 after the garden's modernisation (by which time the windows' eyebrows had been shaved off) and the sorry state of things as we were beginning the repairs in May 2016.
Foundation Grant from National Churches Trust
Update: December 2020
We're delighted to report that our boiler crypt has now been decontaminated and is beautifully clean and accessible. Thank you to the National Churches Trust and also Allchurches Trust who kindly contributed £2,500 towards the project as well.
Once again (December 2019), we have the happy obligation of thanking the National Churches Trust - this time for a Foundation Grant of almost £6,000 to help us remove asbestos from our old boiler crypt. This will allow us to access electrics currently out of bounds and also to repurpose the space as a tool store for our proposed community garden.
Since 2016, the National Churches Trust has awarded St Mary's over £60,000 to help with repairs and improvements. We are so grateful for this support. It's not just the money - though that helps, obviously! - but the Trust's repeated endorsement of our mission to save St Mary's as a living church and make it into a real community asset is a massive boost to our morale.
Thank you to everyone at the Trust and to all who donate to its work. We really appreciate it!
In Loving Memory of Charlotte
May 2020: We are delighted to report that the giving campaign in memory of our dear friend Charlotte raised over £1200. Charlotte would have been amazed and completely overwhelmed at such an outcome. Thank you so much to all the donors.
Charlotte was introduced to St Mary's in 2016 by our friendship-café partners, Time to Talk Befriending, and quickly became one of the most loved and inspirational members of our community. She was fun, witty, glamorous and always sparkling. She was also immensely courageous and caring and had a real knack for drawing people to her and making them feel comfortable in themselves.
With the blessing of Charlotte's family, the collection has been shared between Time to Talk Befriending and St Mary's.
Richard Stephenson (1946 - 2019)
Thank you to everyone who donated in memory of our dear friend, Richard Stephenson, who died on Saturday, 2nd November 2019. Along with many other things, Richard was the Treasurer at St Mary's, but most people knew him chiefly as a friendly, welcoming presence who greeted people on a Sunday morning, looked after the Big Issue sales, and ran Kemp Town Talks, his free English-conversation classes.
The 'For Richard' campaign on our JustGiving page and other donations raised £3,300, which we have shared equally between the St Mary's Piano Appeal, a cause dear to Richard's heart, and the Martlets Hospice in Hove, whose nurses so beautifully cared for Richard in the final days of his life.
Fr Andrew's Institution as Vicar of St Mary's
We are delighted to announce that Richard, Bishop of Lewes inducted Fr Andrew Woodward as the Vicar of St Mary's, Kemp Town on Sunday, 17 March 2019.
As many of you will know, Fr Andrew has been our priest-in-charge for over 11 years, having offered his services to St Mary's for free in 2007 when we were facing almost certain closure. His licensing as our Vicar was a marvellous occasion to honour his hard work, love and dedication in turning around the fortunes of our beautiful church.
Thank you to all who shared in this happy occasion.
A Time to Mourn & A Time to Dance
An afternoon of music and readings in remembrance of those who died in the Great War
Thank you to all who took part and attended this special event on 18 November 2018. Thanks to your generosity we raised £350 to share between Blind Veterans UK and Samara's Aid Appeal.
30 August 2018 Press Release
St Mary’s Church awarded £232,200 from the Heritage Lottery Fund
Download the Press Release here
St Mary’s Church is delighted to announce a grant of £232,200 from the Heritage Lottery Fund towards the cost of major building repairs to its entrance frontage overlooking St James’s Street in Brighton.
The Grade II*-listed parish church, which was built in 1878, stands one block from the sea and over the decades has suffered serious wind and salt erosion to its historic red brick and sandstone fabric. The grant provides major support for urgent repairs to the south elevation, which are projected to cost £360,000.
The repairs will completely renovate the entrance frontage of the church and provide new lighting and signage and the removal of pavement trip hazards at the doors. Work is expected to commence next month and to be completed by February 2019.
Fr Andrew Woodward, priest-in-charge at St Mary’s, said:
‘It’s our 140th birthday this year and we couldn’t have asked for a better present! We are thrilled to receive this grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and wish to thank the National Lottery players who make this vital support for historic buildings possible.
‘We’ve worked hard in recent years to put St Mary’s back at the heart of our community, and these repairs will greatly improve the appearance and safety of the church and, we hope, the whole feel of the neighbourhood.
‘It takes time, but we are striving to reduce the air of dereliction in our corner of Kemptown and grow its sense of community. This grant is a huge boost to that.’
Congratulations to our new priest!
Congratulations to Fr Herbert Bennett on his priesting at Holy Cross, Uckfield, on 10 June 2017. We had a beautiful celebration mass at St Mary's on the following day, attended by many of Fr Herbert's friends and family members. And we're very happy to report that Fr Herbert will serve with us as our curate at St Mary's for the next three years. Click on our Facebook link below to see some images from the weekend.
Major Funding for the Repair of St Mary's Church
Brighton, 21 June 2016
We are thrilled and thankful to announce that St Mary's Church has received almost £273,000 from four major trusts to carry out urgent repairs to the west-facing elevation of the church, overlooking Upper Rock Gardens. The works comprise the comprehensive repair of the roofs, rainwater goods, underground drainage, brickwork, masonry and windows. We hope by Christmas to be able to show off a smarter, brighter church on Upper Rock Gardens for the benefit of our neighbours and visitors.
The Heritage Lottery Fund is our major funder and has granted us £216,300 under its Grants for Places of Worship. This follows on from a development grant of £17,000 the HLF gave us last year to cost and plan these works. We are profoundly grateful to the HLF for its advice and support and take seriously our obligations to preserve and care for St Mary's as a part of the nation's built heritage. We are using the works to raise people's awareness of the beauty and history of St Mary's and hope particularly to introduce more visitors to it via our neighbourhood history exhibition which we'll be launching as part of our HLF activities on the weekend of 19/20 November this year.
The HLF's core funding has been generously supplemented by a £40,000 Cornerstone Grant from the National Churches Trust, one of only three given out in the UK in this round of funding. Plus the Garfield Weston Foundation has generously awarded us £10,000 and the Sussex Historic Churches Trust has added £6,500 to the pot! We are hugely appreciative of all these grants, as each of them represents a substantial donation from the funds that each trust has available for these purposes.
We're also putting in almost £25,000 from our own resources, including ongoing fundraising. If you would like to contribute to these repairs, the Friends of St Mary's are running an appeal for one of the most damaged windows and would welcome your interest and support. You can also read more about our future repair and development plans here.
For further information, please contact Katherine Prior via email or on 07796 440 670.
150th anniversary of the death of
the Revd Henry Venn Elliott (1792-1865)
The Revd Henry Venn Elliott died 150 years ago, on 24 January 1865, just a week after his 73rd birthday. He was the first incumbent at old St Mary's Chapel, serving there for 38 years from its opening in 1827 until his death.
Elliott had a big impact on the life and indeed the buildings of Brighton. Under his leadership, St Mary’s became one of the most fashionable chapels in Brighton, and drew preachers and churchgoers from around Britain and far-flung bits of its empire. In the course of his work he founded St Mary’s Hall (1836), a school for the daughters of poor clergy - one of the earliest girls' schools in Britain - as well as its associated church, St Mark’s (1838). He was also one of four founder-directors of Brighton College (1845), the college's founder, William Aldwin Soames, being a worshipper at St Mary's.
In an era when Brighton's church politics were convulsed by the rise of Anglo-Catholicism, Elliott was on the other side - a leading Evangelical. But that label had subtly different connotations then to current usage. Victorian Evangelicals were the political liberals of their day, activists at the forefront of campaigns against slavery and the exploitation of indigenous peoples and keen advocates of the education of Britain's working poor. Elliott was a passionate supporter of the Church Missionary Society, founded by his uncle John Venn, driven by a belief that all humans were fundamentally equal and equally loved by God. More conservative voices within the Church scorned the idea that Africans or Indians could become 'real' Christians.
There are many things - most, probably - that we wouldn't do in Henry Venn Elliott's way in 2015. A devout opponent of Sunday entertainments and church theatricals, he'd certainly disapprove of the shows we host in St Mary's these days. And he would be very uncomfortable with the vestments, the incense, the bells... But nonetheless there remains much to inspire us in his hope-filled, inclusive theology. We can respect and learn from the past without having to worship it uncritically.
The font and Paschal candle. Photo Jean-Luc Brouard.