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End of an era for Brighton's French church
5:59pm Wednesday 25th June 2008 in News By Lawrence Marzouk, Local Government Correspondent
One of only two French-speaking Protestant churches in Britain is to close.
The French Reformed Church in Queensbury Mews, Brighton, has been put up for sale and is likely to be converted into flats or offices.
The congregation is believed to have been formed in about 1550 by the Flemish martyr Deryk Carver. It met at a number of locations, including the Union Street chapel, before the Queensbury Mews church opened.
Due to a growing number of cross-Channel tourists visiting Brighton, a plot of land just off Regency Square was bought for £735 in the 1880s with the help of the Protestant churches of France.
Building work began on the red-brick church in 1887 and it remains one of only two French Protestant churches in England. The other is in Soho Square, London.
In recent years the congregation has shrunk and Sunday services, which are delivered in French and English, usually attract only a handful of people.
The trustees, who run the church, have now reluctantly decided to give up the battle of maintaining the building.
The minister Frank Orna- Ornstein said the church had already received a number of offers in the "hundreds of thousands of pounds".
He said: "The difficulty was how to maintain a Victorian church with a small congregation.
It is a great pity it will close but the church really is the people and not the building, and we have already had offers to hold services elsewhere in Brighton. None of the offers we have received has suggested demolition.
Something like offices or homes is likely. There has been a demographic change as many people who are with us are British people who are interested in French but we do have some French people and visitors."
A time capsule is concealed in the central foundation stone in the church with a newspaper, bronze medal and a number of coins inside marking Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee.
It will remain in the stone.
The final event at the church will be a wedding on July 26 but services will continue every Sunday at 11am until the sale is completed.
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