Dome Mission, Brighton

Following the success of evening services held in a local theatre to attract the unchurched, in September 1907 the Rev, E. Aldom French hired the largest concert hall in Brighton, the Dome (formerly royal stables). By the end of that month all 2,500 seats were taken and people were being turned away. Popular Sunday evening services featured music from an orchestra and choir. During World War I the Dome became a military hospital. The mission's activities there were resumed on 6 March 1921, during the ministry of J. Morris Bold MC, with the encouragement and support of Dr. J.S. Lidgett.

In 1924 responsibility for the Mission was moved from Norfolk Road to Dorset Gardens church and Bold became minister for Dorset Gardens church as well, in the Brighton and Hove circuit. It was he who really established the social work of the Mission, following the pattern of Central Hall activities elsewhere. Much of this work was based at Dorset Gardens, with an extension opened by Scott Lidgett in 1930. Following Methodist Union in 1932 Dorset Gardens and the Dome Mission became a separate circuit.

Saturday night variety concerts, begun by French and re-introduced in 1976, were supported by many show-biz celebrities and provided both funding and publicity for the Mission.

George Simpson was minister throughout World War II, when packed evening congregations were long remembered. Among his successors were Fred Pratt Green (1948-1953) and Dr. Leslie A. Newman (1953-1967). The post-war years saw declining evening congregations, while the cost of hiring the Dome greatly increased. By the 1980s attendance was down to about 500. In 1992 it was agreed to take the smaller Pavilion Theatre in the winter months and the last Dome service took place in 1998, bringing just over 90 years of work in that building to an end.

  • W.T. Thorns, Fishing for Men - How it began - The Story of the Dome Mission, Brighton (Brighton, 1946)
  • J. Norman Moody, Sixty Years at the Dome 1907-1967 - Dioamond Jubilee of the Dome Mission (Brighton, 1967)
  • J. Leonard Wright, Outreach Centenary Edition (Brighton, 1985)
  • Michael R. Hickman, A Church with a Mission: the history of Dorset Gardens Methodist Church, Brighton and the Dome Mission (Brighton, 2008)