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St Nicolas Church is an Anglican church in the Portslade area of the English city of Brighton and Hove. It has 12th-century origins, and serves the old village of Portslade, inland from the mostly 19th-century Portslade-by-Sea area. A Roman road ran from north to south through the area which later became Portslade. There was no recorded Roman settlement, although Samian ware pottery has been found nearby and neighbouring Southwick had a Roman villa. A village began to develop in mediaeval times, and a manor house and church were built close to each other in the 12th century. As originally built, the church consisted of a chancel, a nave with an aisle on the south side, and a square tower at the west end. The nave, aisle and part of the tower appear to have been built first, along with the typically Norman architectural feature of twin pillars of Caen stone; the chancel and the upper part of the tower were built in the early 13th century. The bell tower, with battlements, was added at the top of the tower in the 14th century; the porch on the south side was added later, but probably by the 16th century.
Portslade was originally the most populous and important of the villages and parishes west of Brighton, and St Nicolas Church never declined to a ruined state, unlike the churches at Hove (St Andrew’s), Aldrington (St Leonard’s), Hangleton (St Helen’s) or West Blatchington (St Peter’s). However, the fabric of the church and its fixtures did decay gradually over time, and like many churches in Brighton and Hove it was altered and restored during the Victorian era. Mediaeval wall paintings were uncovered in the nave in 1847, but were whitewashed over and lost. The mural depicted the Last Judgement; an illustrated article was subsequently written by the incumbent vicar for an archaeological journal, in which a date of 1440 was attributed to the painting. An aisle was added on the north side in 1849.
The church roof was made of heavy stone slabs, and significant repair work had to be carried out in 1959: it was not only sagging in places, but had been displaced by 1 foot (30 cm) because of their weight—despite the support given by substantial wooden king posts. For most of that year, a jack, anchored under the chancel arch, was used to gradually move the roof back into position. At the same time, a vestry and a gallery for the organ were added.
One of Portslade’s most prominent families, the Brackenburys, had their family vault at the church, and between 1869 and 1874 the Brackenbury Chapel was built at its west end. Highly elaborate, in contrast to the simple church, it was built by Hannah Brackenbury, who was buried there when she died in 1873. She was a benefactor to local causes and charities, and to Balliol College, Oxford, where a debating society and a building at the college entrance are named after her. She also donated land and money for the construction of the local primary school—a Gothic building of 1872.