Burgess Hill - St Wilfrid

The Priests House, Station Road, Burgess Hill, West Sussex RH15 9EN

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A well-designed simple building with some unusually interesting and high quality furnishings and fittings, especially the work by Frank Brangwyn. 

John Bernard Mendham (1888-1951) designed a number of churches in East Sussex including the Roman Catholic churches at Burgess Hill (1939) and Rye (1928).  He was born at St Leonards-on-Sea but spent much of his early life in Argentina, where his father, an engineer, was working.  He was surveyor and architect to The Bournville Village Trust before World War 1 and from 1922 to 1939 he was in private practice in London.  St Wilfrid’s Burgess Hill is a dignified brick church of satisfying proportions.  A simple brick rectangle with a west tower rising only slightly above the height of the nave but with a stepped upper section rising above the shallow pitched roof and with an octagonal open lantern or bell turret, divided by equal crosses. The aisles may be later additions.  Good quality brickwork laid in English bond.   Inscription stone above the west entrance and a statue of St Joseph set into a niche above.  The interior has simple piers and beams separating nave from aisles and a canted profile to the ceiling. 

The decoration and furnishing of the church was largely the work of the Guild of St Joseph & St Dominic. Carved oak figures of Our Lady, St John, St Wilfrid and St Richard on the east wall (formerly on a reredos) by Joseph Cribb.  Stone reliefs of St Joseph and St Theresa either side of the sanctuary, and the figure of St Joseph above the west door, also by Joseph Cribb.  George Maxwell, Dunstan Pruden and Valentine Kilbride also designed furnishings and vestments.  Some have been lost when the sanctuary was re-ordered in 1971.  The original altar and reredos were removed and a new sacramentary was placed against the east wall, made from stone taken from the altar.  Joseph Cribb’s cross and the four the four figures from the reredos were fixed to the east wall.  The striking stations of the cross are by Frank Brangwyn.  These were a commission for a chapel at the House of Lords but were not accepted there.  The works were inspired by a visit Brangwyn made at the time to a priest friend at a leper colony in South Africa.  The original drawings are still in the leper colony and eight or nine sets of prints were made and this set was given to St Wilfrid’s in 1941. 

There is a carved wooden statue of St Wilfrid thought to be South German c1525.  The stone font was made by Paul Wehrle, a parishioner, in 2000.

The total cost of the church, including fittings and furniture, amounted to £7,000.

Unspecified extensions were built in 1961-62 and the sanctuary was enlarged in 1962.  In 1970 the north transept was built to designs of Leo Hothersall of Bingham Towner & Partners, who had designed the presbytery in 1965

Diocese: Arundel and Brighton

Architect: John B Mendham

Original Date: 1940

Conservation Area: No

Modifications: 1962

Listed Grade: Not listed