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Uncovering city's secret history using The Keep in Moulsecoomb
A historian researching the history of “Brighton’s cathedral” is one of thousands of people who have benefited from a new £19 million history centre – using archives of The Argus.
More than 3,400 people have visited The Keep in Moulsecoomb since it opened its doors at the end of November.
The new state-of-the-art records office is proving a big hit with local historians including retired history teacher Paul Nicholl who has recently published an extensive new history of St Peter’s Church in Brighton.
Using microfilm archives of The Argus dating back throughout the last century, the 64-year-old from Withdean has been able shine new light on the church.
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In among the archives, Mr Nicholl discovered the sad demise of Canon Dormer Pierce who had a heart attack travelling on the way to church one Sunday in December 1923 while riding a trolleybus.
The then Vicar of Brighton had masterminded the project to build the Church Hall in memory of soldiers who died in World War I but didn’t live to see its completion in 1927.
Canon Pierce’s headstone can still be found in the graveyard of St Peters in West Blatchington.
The author also uncovered Argus reports on an incredible memorial service to mark the death of Edward VII, who was a frequent visitor to Brighton for its restorative sea air, which saw 10,000 people gather in the church grounds in May 1910.
The book also tells the story of Hove mother Pat Haith who could lay reasonable claim to being the woman who saved the church when it faced closure in 2007.
She contacted her son Jamie who was a Holy Trinity Brompton minister which led to the Anglican group rescuing the church and leading to an incredible resurgence in its recent fortunes.
Mr Nicholl said it took 18 months to write the book including an anxious wait for The Keep to open to allow him to finish his research.
He added: “I was one of the first ones in on the day it opened.
“I was blown over by the facilities, the microfilms were so much easier to use.”
County Archivist Elizabeth Hughes said the centre had received more than 1,700 visitors in groups or on tours.
Tours for local groups on Mondays have proved so popular that they are booked up into July.
She added: “We have been delighted by the reaction to The Keep since it opened.
“People love the space, the state-of-the-art facilities, the tours and activities, and of course the wonderful archives all in one place.
“It’s great to be able to offer something for everyone - the local community, local and family historians, students and schoolchildren.
“We have been busy ever since The Keep opened with people using the research facilities and coming for activities, talks and tours.”
To buy a copy of A History of St Peter’s Church, Brighton, by P D W Nicholl go to Books Alive in Elm Drove, Hove.
For information on visits to The Keep visit www.thekeep.info/events.
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