French Church remains Unlisted

The culture secretary has turned down the MCHA’s attempt to list the French protestant church listed. The church is in the city’s Regency Square conservation area, tucked away behind the seafront in a mews that partly serves the adjacent Metropole Hotel. The church closed in 2008 and is now a private house.

We asked English Heritage to list the building largely because of its cultural significance. But the culture secretary ruled that its architecture wasn’t good enough to be worth listing. The association decided not to appeal against this ruling. It is notoriously difficult to get Victorian buildings listed.

The French Protestant Church of Brighton is the only Huguenot church in Britain outside London and is conveniently located opposite the Queensbury Tavern—also known as the Hole in the Wall. The only other purpose-built Huguenot church is on the north side of Soho Square in London. The Brighton church predates the one in Soho Square by half a dozen years. English Heritage wrote to the association in December to say that the Culture Secretary was considering listing the building.

The church was built in 1887 to serve the 2,000-strong French-speaking community, many of whom were protestants. This Francophone community is an important part of the city’s heritage. This was not just a community of  rich folk, but a cross section of classes, ranging from French governesses down to hotel staff and servants.

Part of the inspiration for this modest building programme came from the celebrations surrounding the 200th anniversary of the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, in which the Confederate Churches of the Huguenots of London, Canterbury and Brighton played a prominent part. The Huguenot Churches of Holland and local supporters helped to raise the money needed to build the church.The red-brick church was designed by the local architect John G. Gibbins (1843-1932), who had offices in both Brighton and London.  Gibbins was a prolific designer of public buildings and the French protestant church is designed in a simple style for a small congregation. It is reminiscent of chapels in northern France.

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