Gilbert Robert Blount (1818-1876), who designed St Anthony and St George in Duncton, is one of the lesser known 19th 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 13th 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.
It 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; few original fittings survive.
The church was paid for by Anthony Wright Biddulph. It cost £5,000, including the cemetery. The Biddulph’s of Burton Park were an old Catholic family and mass had been said in the house from the late 17th century. The interior has richly carved altars and good quality stained glass. The chancel windows are signed by Meyer & Co. Those windows without stained glass have yellow coloured glass with pale blue borders, giving a sombre interior atmosphere. The foundation stone was laid in 1868 and the church was opened the following year.
A very good rural Roman Catholic church of a relatively early date. Well constructed and detailed and set in a commanding location between the Downs and the Weald. Recommended Grade II Listing.
John Parkin on geograph.org.uk – licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Licence.
Architect: Gilbert Robert Blount
Original Date: 1869
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Not Listed