18 East Street, Billingshurst, West Sussex RH14 9QH
St Gabriel’s church is representative of Henry Bingham Towner’s work, not without architectural merit but not special beyond local interest.
Henry Bingham Towner (1909-1997) was born and lived his life at Uckfield. He wanted to become a priest but, deciding that he was not suited to the church, he trained as an architect and set up on his own in Uckfield in 1938. He specialised in church architecture and designed more than 25 new churches including St Wilfrids, Hailsham (1954), St Thomas of Canterbury, Mayfield (1957), Our Lady of Lourdes, Rottingdean (1957), St John Vianney Bexley Heath, St Teresa of Avila, Chiddingfold (1959), St Gabriel Billingshurst (1961), St Charles Borromeo, Worthing (1962), St Thomas More, Patcham (1963), St Thomas More, Seaford (additions 1969 to church of 1935), St Francis of Assisi, Moulsecomb (additions 1969 to church of 1939), Holy Rood Pevensey Bay (1964), St Joseph’s Milford (1969), Christ the King, Langney (1970), Holy Family, Lancing (1970).
The land for a Catholic church in Billingshurst was given before the outbreak of World War II but the church was not built until 1961-2. It is an interesting and satisfying composition on a sloping site (cf Rottingdean), nave and sanctuary in one, aisles and north sacristy attachments, with a large raised tower-like section over the nave. This space contains a bell but is unuseable for any purpose and has very poor access. It is a much larger space than is required for its function. The design is let down by the use of reconstituted stone and a disappointingly plain interior. Towner also designed the adjoining presbytery at the same time.
Architect: Henry Bingham Towner
Original Date: 1962
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Not Listed