Bognor Regis - Our Lady of Sorrows

Clarence Road, Bognor Regis, West Sussex PO21 1JX

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The Hansom family are among the most prolific and best known of 19th century architects of Roman Catholic churches.  Best known is Joseph Aloysius Hansom (1803-1882), inventor of the ‘patent safety cab’, ‘the Hansom cab’ and designer of Birmingham Town Hall, St Walburga catholic church in Preston, Plymouth and Arundel RC cathedrals.  J A Hansom was in partnership with his younger brother, Charles Francis, between 1954-59 and with his younger son J S Hansom 1869-82.  From 1879 J S Hansom had full charge of the practice and he continued the main thread of Hansom & Son architects.  Our Lady of Sorrows at Bognor is a good example of a large urban church.  The west front asserts itself in its narrow street frontage, the upward thrust of the architecture balanced by the strong horizontal frieze.  Internally what impresses is height, size and an austere quality.  The W C Mangan work seems frivolous and lightweight in comparison.  Despite the extensions by Mangan this is a fine example of a church by J S Hansom, in his own right a Victorian architect of some reputation.  

In 1864 the Servite Friars came to London and in 1880 they established themselves in Bognor.  They quickly commissioned J.S. Hansom to build a church and monastery.  Joseph Stanislaus Hansom (1845-1931) was the son and partner of his better known father Joseph Aloysius Hansom, architect of Arundel Cathedral.  Our Lady of Sorrows was built in 1881 (one year before the death of J A Hansom).  The foundation stone is dated 26th October 1881 and the church was opened on 16th August 1882.  It is a large urban church, with a gabled frontage, hemmed in by buildings, to Clarence Road, but extending back almost to Albert Road.  It is built of yellow brick with stone dressings.  The west front is impressive in scale, enhanced by appearing in a street frontage, with a bold plate- traceried rose window and a horizontal pointed-arched frieze.

Inside the essentially single volume space and great height continue to impress.  The church does not have continuous aisles but there are side chapels alternately low and full height.  Hansom’s plans were not fully realised and a temporary wall was built at the east end of the nave.  W C Mangan of Preston completed the church in 1955-57; this included the extension of the nave beyond Hansom’s five-bays, north and south transepts, Lady Chapel, sanctuary and a new cloister to the south.  The more austere stepped Early English lancet windows of the nave give way to Perpendicular traceried windows in the sanctuary.  The plain architecture of the interior is enlivened by more elaborately furnished side chapels.  More recent renovation and adaptations for the modern liturgy were carried out in 1985 by Messrs Ormsby of Scarisbrick, ecclesiatical design consultants.  This included raising the sanctuary floor and a new altar and lectern.  At the same time the church was re-decorated and given new lighting and heating systems.

Diocese: Arundel and Brighton

Architect: J S Hansom and Wilfrid C Mangan

Original Date: 1881

Conservation Area: No

Modifications: 1955

Listed Grade: Not listed