BHT has a habit of taking on interesting buildings. Our head office was once a bank (we still have the vault, a great place to let off steam because nobody can hear you). Our main office in Hastings was once a school, and we have 36 studio flats constructed of converted shipping containers. One of the houses in our Addiction Services used to be three fishermen’s cottages.
But our day centre for homeless men and women must take the prize, anywhere in the UK, for its origins. It was once the ballroom of the Prince Regent where he and Mrs Fitzherbert indulged in sex, drugs and rock and rock and roll, or whatever it was called in those days. Iin 1822 it was connected to the Royal Pavilion and became a private chapel for George IV, and subsequently William IV and Queen Victoria (who isn’t particularly known for her interest in rock and roll). aparently, Victoria hated the Royal Pavilion and was only to please to offload it to the Brighton Commissioners.
In 1850, the Castle Ballroom (the chapel) was moved, brick by brick, a mile up the road to its current location in Montpelier Place. After the 1939-45 war, St Stephen’s also served as a centre for deaf people until BHT acquired the building in 1984.
Last weekend, the Mayor of Brighton and Hove, Cllr Brian Fitch, accompanied by the Mayoress, Mrs Norah Fitch, attended a charity fundraising evening at St Stephen’s Hall in Montpelier Place, to celebrate the building’s history and heritage.
The evening, which included a three course meal prepared by BHT’s social enterprise and training project, Dine!, was attended by thirty five guests, including Baroness Gould of Potternewton, former Member of Parliament, David Lepper, and councillors.
The evening, which included a silent auction, raised over £750 for the Mayor’s Charities which this year are the Martlets, the Argus Appeal, and BHT itself.
The guests heard talks on the history of the building by heritage experts Nick Tyson, Curator at The Regency Town House, Dr Tracy Anderson, Post-doctoral Researcher at The Royal Pavilion and Sara Peskett, BHT’s Heritage Officer, a post funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Sara said that the evening highlighted the fascinating history of St Stephens Hall, how it has evolved from being a ballroom used by a future King of England, a chapel for Queen Victoria, and now a centre for homeless men and women.
She sid: “The building has seen much change over the last two hundred years. It now is, itself, a place of change, where men and women with a history of sleeping rough are supported to make the changes needed to move away from rough sleeping, into education, training and, ultimately, work and secure accommodation.”