Building » Bognor Regis – Our Lady of Sorrows

Bognor Regis – Our Lady of Sorrows

Clarence Road, Bognor Regis, West Sussex PO21 1JX

A fine urban church by J. S. Hansom, its interior impressing in its height, size and austere quality.  

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 26 October 1881 and the church was opened on 16 August 1882.


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 1955-7; 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 Ormesby of Scarisbrick, ecclesiastical design consultants.  This included raising the sanctuary floor and a new altar and lectern. At the same time the church was redecorated and given new lighting and heating systems.

Report amended 09.12.2020

List description (the church was listed Grade II in 2015, following Taking Stock)

Roman Catholic priory church of 1881 by J S Hansom in Early English Gothic style, with sympathetic additions of 1955-7 by W C Mangan.

Reasons for designation: The Roman Catholic church of Our Lady of Sorrows, Bognor Regis, of 1881 by J S Hansom with additions by W C Mangan in 1955-57, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * Architectural interest: this is a good quality Early English-style Roman Catholic church with a lofty nave by Hansom and tactful later additions by Mangan; the impressive west front with its plate tracery rose window makes a strong contribution to the local townscape; * Architects: the church is the work of two significant Catholic architects: the nave was designed by Joseph Stanislaus Hansom – the son and partner of his more famous father Joseph Hansom – and the large scale and bold handling of the Bognor church are typical of their work. The east end was completed in the 1950s to a different but complimentary design by W C Mangan, who was a prolific and successful Catholic architect in the mid-C20.

History: The Roman Catholic mission in Bognor Regis was founded in 1880, when the town was still relatively small and had a worshipping Catholic population of sixty. A large church was built by the Servite Order, with a priory adjoining on the south side. The Order is one of the five original Catholic mendicant orders and was founded in 1233 in Italy. The architect of the new church was Joseph Stanislaus Hansom, who had previously collaborated with his father J A Hansom on the design of the Servite church of Our Lady of Dolours in Fulham, which was completed in 1876. Only five bays of the nave of the Bognor church were completed; the proposed transepts, Lady Chapel and sanctuary were not begun. An early photograph on the parish website shows that the internal walls of the building were originally richly decorated and the temporary east wall was covered with figurative painting. In 1939 W C Mangan of Preston was commissioned to complete the building, but the project was interrupted by the war and work did not begin until the mid-1950s. Mangan added one more bay to the nave, together with a long apsidal ended sanctuary, a north east Lady Chapel and a single storey flat-roofed ‘cloister’ range on the south side linking the church to the monastery building.

Hansom’s Servite monastery building alongside the church was demolished in the early 1980s, and replaced by an apartment block. In 1985 the sanctuary of the church was reordered by Ormsby of Scarisbrick. Since that time a parish centre has been built in the former monastery grounds to the south of the church. The Servites withdrew from Bognor Regis in 1994.

Details: Roman Catholic church of 1881 by Joseph Stanislaus Hansom in Early English style with sympathetic additions by Wilfrid Clarence Mangan, built in 1955-57. MATERIALS: Hansom’s church is built of white brick with dressings of Westwood stone from Corsham in Wiltshire. Mangan’s additions are of yellow brick with Bath stone dressings. The pitched main roofs are covered with Welsh slate. PLAN: the main body of the church is a wide and tall aisleless nave with three full-height shallow projections on each side. The long apsidal-ended sanctuary is narrower than the nave, with a Lady Chapel on its northern side.

EXTERIOR: the principal façade of the church is the impressive west front facing Clarence Road. The width of the nave is defined by stepped buttresses with image niches in their heads. Between them the lower part of the wall is plain, with a projecting gabled porch in the centre. Above the porch is a continuous band of arcading pierced by small pointed windows. Above the arcading in the head of the gable is a massive rose window in plate tracery. On either side of the nave proper are single bay projections with a lancet window at lower level and the band of arcading continued above. Originally the monastery building stood immediately to the south of the church. The north and south sides are of six bays and have lean-to aisles intersected by three full-height single-bay transeptal projections. On the north side the outer walls of both aisle and projections are blind, with stepped triple lancet windows in the recessed clerestory. This produces an oddly bleak appearance. On the south side both projections and clerestory have stepped triple lancets. The sanctuary is lower than the nave and slightly narrower. The side walls are have three tall two-light traceried windows separated by pilaster buttresses, with two similar windows in the apse. On the north side of the sanctuary is the lower flat-roofed Lady Chapel; on the south side the single-storey, flat-roofed ‘cloister’ with simple rectangular stone mullioned window openings.

INTERIOR: the nave is essentially a single volume space of great height. The church does not have continuous aisles but there are side chapels alternately low and full height under pointed arches alternately blind and open. Covering the whole nave is a tall pointed roof, boarded and panelled with the principal rafters brought down onto wall shafts between the bays of the clerestory. The western bay is filled by a timber organ gallery which was installed in 1922 and was enclosed beneath in the 1980s to form a vestibule. The floors are mostly modern parquet, but some earlier boarded flooring survives under the nave benches. The windows are clear glazed throughout. An unmoulded pointed opening in the east wall of the nave leads to the apsidal-ended sanctuary, which has a plaster vaulted ceiling. The raised level of the sanctuary was brought forward into the eastern bay of the nave as part of a reordering in 1985. In the eastern bay of the nave an opening with a four-centred head leads to the Lady Chapel and there are similar openings on both sides of the sanctuary.

FURNISHINGS: several individual furnishing survive from the original church. They include the altars in the side chapels (St Joseph and St Philip Bonizi on the north side and St Teresa of Lisieux on the south side) and the reredos on the high altar. These were probably designed by J S Hansom. The reredos was re-set by Mangan and separated from the original high altar, which does not appear to survive. The sanctuary furnishings and the stone font probably date from the 1980s. The benches in the nave are probably original.

Sources:Parish Website, accessed 17.3.15 from;  Other: 125 years, the Catholic Church of Our Lady of Sorrows, Clarence Road, Bognor Regis, 1882-2007. A brief history, 2007; Antram, N and Sladen, T, Taking Stock: An Architectural and Historical Review of the Churches of the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton, 2005; The Builder, 19 November 1881, p.632; The Catholic Building Review (Southern edition) 1957, pp.78-81.

Heritage Details

Architect: J. S. Hansom and W. C. Mangan

Original Date: 1881

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Grade II