The History of Dorset Gardens Methodist Church
John Wesley never visited Brighton or Hove, the nearest he got was Rottingdean in 1758. However, he did encourage the work of the George Whitfield and the Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion writing a letter from Liverpool in 1767 when that body opened a Church in North Street in Brighton, next to Lady Huntingdon's house. He wrote: "I trust before you receive this you will have reason to bless God for His comfortable presence with you at Brighthelmstone" [an older name of Brighton].
The first specifically Methodist Church in Brighton or Hove was built on the site of the current Dorset Gardens Methodist Church. It was a Wesleyan Methodist Church and was opened on 26 August, 1808 and was a square building of red brick, with round-topped windows, and a square porch at the main entrance which was up a passage from St. James' Street.
There was a gallery round three sides of the church, and the choir occupied the back gallery facing the pulpit. Seating was of a box-pew type, with high backs and doors. The church was lit by candles held in brass standards and bracket. Three years later the entrance was changed from the long passage in St. James' Street to a far better one in Dorset Gardens itself. There were a number of changes over the years, with a large hall for a Sunday School being built in the 1820's and gas lighting replaced candles in 1841. In 1855 an organ was introduced, against the express wish of the Superintendent Minister who refused to attend the dedicatory service.
In the 1880's there was a major re-development.  A larger, and better, building was erected on the old site. This is the building that will be demolished under the new re-development. It was finished in 1884 with red brick and an italianate tower. The architect was C. O. Ellison of Liverpool.
This new building was given electric light and a new organ in 1894. There was a major extension to the south side of the Church which was opened in 1930 by Rev Dr J. Scott Lidgett. It is this new section that forms the area of the new Church.
The Church served the people of central Brighton and Kemp Town. Its most famous role was as the base for the Dome Mission which was started in 1907 by Rev. Aldom French from another Wesleyan Methodist Church in Brighton - Norfolk Road Wesleyan Methodist Church on the borders of Brighton and Hove.
The idea was to hold a service every Sunday evening in the main large theatre/hall in Brighton, the Dome - which had been built as extremely ornate stables for the Prince Regent, but which had served Brighton in its new capacity for many years. Holding a service in this public building was thought more likely to attract those who would not wish to go to a church as such. Dorset Gardens Methodist Church took over this work in 1924, and under ministers such as George Simpson [1938-1946], Fred Pratt Green, the famous hymn-writer, [1948-1953], and Leslie Newman [1953-1968] the evening service regularly attracted 2,000 people.
With changing times, that work has also changed and the Church no longer has its evening service at the Dome. Another redevelopment continues the line of change and response to new challenges that the Methodist people have made over the past 190 years.
In the tradition of our forebears, we have changed our building to meet these new challenges, remembering the words of John Wesley, "THE BEST IS YET TO COME".
Michael R. Hickman