NEW light has been cast on the history of an art gallery’s building in a new book.

The former Holy Trinity Church in Ship Street, Brighton, now home to Fabrica, dates back to 1817 and attracted a range of notable people - including Charles Dickens.

The book, If These Walls Could Talk, coincides with Fabrica’s 25th anniversary and has been part of a three-year long research project by a small team of volunteers, funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

The group delved into every element of the former church, including how individuals connected with the building, the craft makers and firms that shaped notable elements of the building - such as its stained-glass windows, and the people who had an impact on the history of the building and the wider community.

The building started off life as a non-conformist chapel for an independent Christian sect by English property developer and politician Thomas Read Kemp until 1826, when it was consecrated and became a private Anglican chapel.

Declining congregations saw the church close its doors in 1984 and it was leased out as a museum before Fabrica set up there in 1996.

Sally Connellan, gallery manager and co-ordinator of the research team, said that they found “threads of Fabrica” and its values dotted through the building’s history, making it the perfect home for the gallery.

She said: “Fabrica serves the community and is a place for creativity and for people to come and be inspired. There’s non-conformance as well and education, so there’s definitely a thread from the church to its life as the art gallery.”

Among the notable names to have passed through the church’s doors are Reginald John Campbell, a supporter of the suffragettes who served as a priest, preacher Frederick Robertson, Lady Byron and Charles Dickens.

Sally said the project helped the volunteers get through the difficult period of lockdown over the last 18 months.

She said: “It was a really nice social project for myself and the other volunteers to come together.

“We met on Zoom and took to the more internet-based research and our meetings increased because we enjoyed catching up and having something to talk about that wasn’t the pandemic.”

The new book is just one of the ways Fabrica has been marking its 25th anniversary. The gallery has been holding special exhibitions for each season, alongside gathering memories and celebrating its volunteers throughout the years.

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