The Church of The Annunciation

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The Church of The Annunciation on Washington Street recently came in the top ten architectural buildings in Brighton and Hove as published by Sussex Life magazine. It is easy to see why. Upon entrance, you are struck by its barn-like appearance created by the two rows of wooden posts and braces supporting the roof. The furnishings are of the highest quality and they are complemented well by the vibrant décor of the church.

The church itself is nestled between terraced houses, so much so that it is quite easy to walk on by without noticing it! It owes its conception in 1864 to the Reverend Arthur Douglas Wagner.
Hanover in the 1850s was a particularly poor area of Brighton. The residents were working class with most of them plying their trade on the railways. Father Wagner was determined to build a church here in order to give the poor somewhere to worship away from the fashionable Brighton churches that drew wealthy crowds. And so the Church of the Annunciation was opened on 15th August 1864 (The Feast of The Assumption). Father Wagner preached the following at the opening ceremony: ‘today we are planting a seed amongst obloquy and opposition - may it grow to become a tree where souls may find rest.' This tree stands tall to this day.

The Parish of Hanover was purpose built. The church itself is actually situated on the second floor of the building, hence the close proximity to the roof. This is because the community deemed it more beneficial to have a school built as well. As such, provision was made for a school below the church for girls and infants; in 1865 plans were put forward for a boys' school in Southover Street, which is now the community centre. This strong community bond remains central in the church's ethos to this day, as past revellers of Hanover Day will vouch for. However, as the Reverend Steven Foster explained to me, both Hanover Day and the Parish itself are under threat.

Father Steven harbours a slight midlands accent as he originally hails from Wensbury in the West Midlands, an area previously known for its mining community and now famous for Ikea. How times change! He officially began as parish priest of Hanover in June 2005: ‘When the vacancy arose I offered to do a Sunday a month, and after about four months I was falling in love with it,' he said. ‘So I expressed a will to be considered half time which was exactly what the bishop was looking for.'

The Parish is very small numbering only in the region of 5000. However, it is a parish that is very youthful given the high number of young families and the exuberant student population. ‘It is great to have a really young feel about the parish' he said. ‘It's a very exciting parish and it would be very sad if by some chance it was to close.'

Despite a growth in the size of the congregation, the future for the Church of The Annunciation is somewhat in the balance. This is in-part due to the high number of churches within such a condensed area in Brighton, and also due to the long-running saga over the future of St Peter's, which could have an impact upon the future of the Church of the Annunciation.

Another issue that Father Steven raised is the place of Hanover Day in the community. As Hanover residents will no doubt be aware, Hanover Day was cancelled this year, and for once the terrible English summer cannot be blamed. The reason lies with a lack of leadership and the issue of legal procedures: ‘We need people in the community to come and take some lead and to come and take some responsibility. We're hopeful that it will happen next year in July' he said. Hanover Day was started by the Church of the Annunciation along with the community. It would be a great shame if the fantastic scenes of 2007, in which the parade adopted a Dr Who theme, could not be repeated for future generations.

Sam Smith