About this church
Simon Jenkins, ‘England’s Thousand Best Churches’ places it within the foremost one hundred.
Plans for the church were drawn up in 1858, and construction took place between 1860 and 1861 to a design by George Frederick Bodley (whose father had been a doctor in Brighton). The design of the exterior was reminiscent of the Italianate style, in red brick with horizontal bands of white stone and a steeply pitched slate roof. This featured a modest fleche spire containing a bell recovered from Sevastopol during the Crimean War (1854-1856).
This fine building quickly became too small and, in 1865, William Burges designed a parallel church which would incorporate Bodley’s building as its south aisle. Burges was a contemporary of Bodley; both men were born in 1827. It is not known for certain why a different architect was chosen for the redesign, and the changes reportedly caused Bodley some upset. Burges did not live to see his designs realised; he died in 1881.
The exterior decoration of the new building broadly matched that of the original church, consisting of bands of white stone contrasting with dark red brick, but there is a considerable difference in height. The original building’s north aisle was demolished, and its remaining structure became the south aisle of the new church.
Today, the parish church of Saint Michael’s is recognised as one of the finest Victorian churches in the country, grade 1 listed and internationally famous for its magnificent preRaphaelite stained glass.