A very good rural church built from designs by Gilbert Blount for the Biddulph family of Burton Park. Well constructed and detailed and set in a commanding location between the Downs and the Weald.
The church was paid for by Anthony Wright Biddulph. It cost £5,000, including the cemetery. The Biddulphs of Burton Park were an old Catholic family and Mass had been said in the house from the late seventeenth century. The foundation stone was laid in 1868 and the church was opened the following year.
Gilbert Robert Blount (1818-1876), who designed St Anthony and St George in Duncton, is one of the lesser known nineteenth century Roman Catholic architects, perhaps because he was not very prolific. He began his professional training as a civil engineer with I. K. Brunel and worked on the construction of the Thames Tunnel, nearly losing his life in one of the floods that occurred during construction. He worked for a time with Sydney Smirke before setting up on his own and specialising in work for the Roman Catholic community. His churches are always well crafted but sometimes lack personality, being faithful essays in thirteenth century gothic. In the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton, Blount also designed St Mary Magdalen church in Brighton – seven years earlier than Duncton. The two churches, unsurprisingly, are quite different. St Mary Magdalen, Brighton, is red brick and stone – a proud showy urban church. Duncton, on the other hand, is rubblestone and ashlar, compact and of solid appearance. Nave with north aisle, south porch, polygonal sanctuary and Lady chapel. Steeply pitched roof and bell turret at the east end of the nave. The church presents an interesting use of Free Style Gothic features and cast concrete for ‘stone’ details (including doors, windows and the statue of St Joseph on the tower). The impressive interior space appears more centrally planned because of the c1995 western hall but it remains coherent. Fittings include richly carved altars and good quality stained glass. The chancel windows are signed by Mayer & Co. Those windows without stained glass have yellow coloured glass with pale blue borders, giving a sombre interior atmosphere.
List description (the church was listed Grade II in 2015, following Taking Stock)
Roman Catholic Church of St Anthony and St George, 1868, designed by the architect Gilbert Blount, built at the expense of Anthony Wright Biddulph of Burton Park.
Reasons for designation: The Roman Catholic Church of St Anthony and St George, 1868, designed by the architect Gilbert Blount, built at the expense of Anthony Wright Biddulph of Burton Park, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * Architectural interest: a little-altered later C19 Roman Catholic church in C13 Gothic manner, by a noted Catholic church architect; * Fixtures and fittings: consistent external and internal joinery and decoration, and high quality carved Caen stone fittings; * Historic interest: built by the Biddulphs of Burton Park, a longstanding Catholic family, and consecrated by Cardinal Manning who had close links with the area; * Group value: unusually for a Catholic church it stands in its own enclosed churchyard and next to it is the former Catholic school (listed Grade II).
History: The church of St Anthony and St George was designed by the architect Gilbert Blount. The foundation stone was laid in 1868 and the church was opened the following year. It was consecrated by Cardinal Manning who had close links with the area, having been Archdeacon of the Anglican Diocese of Chichester before he was received into the Catholic church in 1851. The church was paid for by Anthony Wright Biddulph of Burton Park and cost £5,000, including the cemetery. The Biddulphs were an old Catholic family and mass had been said in the house, which lies about half a mile to the east of the church, from the late C17. Gilbert Blount (1818-1876) is one of the lesser known Roman Catholic architects, and was not prolific. He began his professional training as a civil engineer with Isambard Kingdom Brunel and worked on the construction of the Thames tunnel, nearly losing his life in one of the floods that occurred during construction. He worked for a time with Sydney Smirke before setting up on his own and specialising in work for the Roman Catholic community. His churches are always well crafted, faithful essays in C13 Gothic. In the Arundel & Brighton Diocese Blount also designed the Church of St Mary Magdalen, Brighton (1861-4, listed Grade II). Detailed drawings survive, entitled ‘Church of St Anthony and St George, Burton Park, details of altars’ with the date Aug 21st 1868, when it appears they were sent to the stonemasons, Messrs Farmer and Co of Westminster Road. Unusually for a Catholic church at the time, it was endowed with its own graveyard, in which it stands. The graveyard is enclosed on the north-east, south-east and south-west by a wall in stock brick in Flemish bond with stone copings, with gate piers with tall chamfered copings opposite the south porch. A short carriage drive leads to the entrance. To the north of the church is the former school (Grade II). Burton Park which adjoins but does not include the churchyard, is a Registered Historic Park and Garden, Grade II.
Catholic church, 1868-9, by Gilbert Blount in C13 Gothic manner. MATERIALS: locally quarried coursed ragstone, Caen stone and freestone dressings, plain tile roofs with iron cresting; there are carved Caen stone fittings internally. PLAN: a nave, with a south porch, a continuous apsidal chancel with a fleche above the chancel arch, a north aisle and Lady Chapel, with a vestry beyond it to the north. The church stands in a churchyard enclosed on three sides by a wall with an entrance on the side reached by a carriage drive between it and the neighbouring house.
EXTERIOR The west end, between stepped buttresses, has a band of three quatrefoil lights at lower level, and a four-light west window above a cill band, of plain lights beneath encircled trefoils and a quatrefoil. Beneath the window is a tiled roofed canopy protecting the bell. There is a stone gable end cross. The entrance arch in the south porch has multiple mouldings which die into the responds. The doors are diagonally boarded and on the reverse, the frame is chamfered. Above the arch is a niche, now empty, with a crocketed canopy and enriched base, and on the gable there is an ornate wrought iron cross. There are two-light windows on the east and west walls. Windows on the south side of the nave are single lancets beneath richly moulded heads with figure head stops; on the north aisle, paired lancets are set back in flush surrounds: the west window of the aisle is of two more ornate lights but also in a flush surround. The division between the chancel and nave is marked by a buttress on the south side, and by the fleche on the roof. The chancel has a tall lancet to each facet, each with a cusped, trefoiled head beneath a hood with moulded bosses, except to the southwest bay which is of two lights. Beneath them is a continuous cill band. The fleche has a gabled canopy above a two-bay open arcade, above a splayed base. It and the chancel and Lady Chapel gable ends are surmounted by ornate wrought iron crosses. The Lady Chapel, which projects beyond the north aisle, but on the same alignment, has an east window of three cusped lights beneath an encircled cinquefoil. The vestry to the north has an external stack with a pair of octagonal shafts. The door and window openings, which on the west elevation are paired at ground floor level and a single light above, have shouldered arches in flush surrounds.
INTERIOR The interior is a unified composition in C13 manner. The nave has a tall north arcade in four bays, with pointed arches on drum piers which have moulded bases on tall facetted plinths and octagonal caps. The chancel and chancel arch are similar but more ornate, enriched with engaged shafts in grey, veined stone. The responds of the arch are chamfered at the base; it has stiff leaf capitals and on the east face, angel corbels. The piscina and aumbry have moulded arched heads, also with stiff leaf capitals. The altar is in Caen stone, carved by Messrs Farmer and Co, and depicts the Lamb of God flanked by Saint Anthony and Saint George, who are also depicted in the chancel windows. The Lady Chapel altar and reredos, also carved by Messrs Farmer and Co in Caen stone, depict the Presentation of Our Lady, and the Annunciation and Assumption, flanked by St Jerome and Mary Magdalene. The gallery at the west end of the nave is of stone with a pierced timber balustrade. Beneath it is an octagonal stone font, in C13 manner. The nave has a tall arch-braced roof, supported on wall posts on foliate corbels, has moulded purlins and collars and principal rafters and is boarded longitudinally; the aisle roof is a simpler version of this. The chancel roof is in moulded sections, also boarded. The altar rails have twisted timber shafts, a moulded timber rail and metal foliate panels. The chancel and adjoining Lady Chapel have Minton polychrome tile floors. The north window in the Lady Chapel is inscribed Mayer and Co, Munich and London. To the left of the vestry door is a figure of Our Lady, mounted on carved stone corbel. The circulation areas within the nave have black and buff tile flooring. The original bench pews are in place, the front row is open-fronted and arch braced. Within the porch the inner entrance is flanked by stone water stoups. Internal doors here and elsewhere are in pine and have chamfered frames, diagonal boarding and ornate door furniture. The vestry has a stone chimneypiece and round-arched cast iron grate; in the corner is the original sink, mounted on a cupboard. The vestry has a pine ceiling and a newel stair also in pine, rises to the upper level.
Sources: Building News, 24 July, 1868, p 505; Buildings News, 3 September 1869, p 196; The Tablet, 28 August, 1869
John Parkin on geograph.org.uk – licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Licence.
Architect: Gilbert Blount
Original Date: 1869
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Grade II