St Leonard's Hove

St Leonard’s Church, Brighton, Sussex is a Grade-II listed Anglican Church. Originally built in the 13th Century, it stood as a ruin for hundreds of years before renowned architect, Richard Herbert Carpenter, was commissioned to rebuild it in 1878. Fast-forward to the present day and the church was in urgent need of restoration.

The Church’s owners quickly understood the project would require a specialist contractor, with ecclesiastical expertise. Fortunately, the solution was within local reach. Sussex based DBR (Southern) (DBR) has over 30 years of experience in church conservation and having impressed on several other Sussex-based preservation projects was soon chosen as the project’s principal contractor.

Site work commenced August 2022, with a complete refresh of the internal and external fabric, including roof repairs, internal re-plastering, and the construction of a new brick entranceway, with a west-side timber-frame porch.

This was complemented by a complete overhaul of the church’s services. Requiring extreme care, to ensure no damage to the building’s fabric, the M&E team worked with the lightest of touch. Their duties ranged from the installation of underfloor heating, air source heat pumps, and new lighting rigs to plumbing and wiring new sanitary, kitchen, and draining facilities.

That wasn’t all, other details and features requiring attention were the affixing of new guttering, the reordering of pews, and the laying of a new path up to the church entrance.

Whilst obtaining Listed Building Planning Consent can be a tricky process, DBR’s extensive experience with listed building work, and the administrative procedures which complement it, meant achieving this crucial agreement was seamless. It reflects the complete trust that stakeholders and building owners had in DBR’s skill and ability.

Main difficulties encountered concerned the replacement of the building’s HVAC system. The team was certainly not expecting to uncover and navigate around an ancient underground boiler system hidden in the sunken floor. A delicate touch was required when implementing the new heating system, requiring the team to work carefully within the church’s substructure without damaging the superstructure above.

Confronting this challenge to deliver a successful conclusion demonstrated DBR’s preparedness for any situation, including its wealth of knowledge around working within archaeological sites and the archival care that’s needed when finding a surprise of this kind.

Sustainability was at the heart of the project, with the client keen to keep construction and operational emissions to a minimum. This resulted in the specification of heat pumps and better insulation, instead of a new gas boiler. This has achieved a low-carbon, energy-efficient HVAC system. Furthermore, the re-use of existing church materials was championed by DBR with the exiting church pews being altered and integrated into the new kitchenette front.

The project entered its final stages in Spring 2023. What makes it stand out is its encapsulation of DBR’s myriad conservation skills, achieving exceptional results, from the big picture to the finer details.


The final stage of the project was to construct the glulam timber framed porch. This laminated structural timber frame, along with oak screens and expansive double leaf doors built by DBR’s own master craftsmen not only showcases the multiskilled trades involved and the sustainable use of construction materials, but breathes a modern new life into the west elevation providing a clean and welcoming entrance. Through the new glazed solid oak doors is a revived vibrant space for community use and worship enabling a new and broader demographic sealing a long future for St Leonards Church.


More projects by DBR Southern teams can be found here.

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