Building » Chiddingfold – St Theresa of Avila

Chiddingfold – St Theresa of Avila

Woodside Road, Chiddingfold

A traditional design, combining Romanesque and Tudor elements, and perhaps the best of Henry Bingham Towner’s churches built in the Dioceses of Southwark and Arundel and Brighton between 1955 and 1970. It is constructed of good quality natural materials, and the standard of workmanship is high. It is an asymmetric but carefully balanced design, making an important contribution to the townscape of Chiddingfold, a village that is noted for its many pretty tile-hung cottages and fine medieval inn.

Mass was celebrated in the Girl Guides hut in Chiddingfold from 1953 by the Josephite priests from Witley. Plans for the present church were prepared in 1957-8 by H Bingham Towner LRIBA of Hooke Hall, Uckfield, an architect who built widely in the Diocese of Southwark (and particularly in that part which is now the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton). The church occupies a prominent position in the village overlooking the Cricket Green, and is a traditional design faced in Cotswold stone (provided by the Cotswold Dale Stone Company, Tetbury). The parish website states that a requirement of the local planning authority was that the footprint of the church should be the same as that of the house (Foxholes, later a school) that it replaced. Plans in the Diocesan Archives show that the original design envisaged a single-storey sacristy to the rear with a lean-to roof, but this was revised in the course of construction (plans dated August 1959) to accommodate a first floor organ loft with stair. The foundation stone was laid on 5 May 1959 and the church was opened by Bishop Cowderoy of Southwark on 15 October 1959. In 1963 the high altar was erected to the memory of Leo and Margaret Borelli, members of a local family of jewellers and major donors to the church, and their son Charles, who was the first rector. The church is a chapel-of-ease, served from Haslemere.


A traditional stone-built design of 1959, combining Romanesque and Tudor elements, by H. Bingham Towner. The church is faced in coarsed and tooled Cotswold stone with ashlar dressings. The steel roof structure is faced with plain tiles. Rainwater goods are of cast aluminium. On plan it consists of a nave, north aisle, shallow transepts and an apsidal sanctuary. There is an entrance porch on the front, and a sacristy, boiler room etc. to the rear.

The nave, sanctuary and transepts are double height, with hipped roofs. Lower flat-roofed elements are the south entrance porch and polygonal shrine on the eastern corner of the south transept, and the aisle and WCs which wrap around the north side. A flat-roofed stair tower to the organ loft is attached to the north side of the north transept. The building is entirely stone-faced, with a continuous perimeter plinth and quoins. Windows are a combination of Tudor-style lancets, many with flat lintels and dripmoulds, and (in the apsidal sanctuary) small round-arched openings, more Norman in character. On the south elevation of the nave is a tall clerestory of eleven lights separated by stone mullions and under one continuous hoodmould. There are tall single lights under hoodmoulds at the west end of the nave and in the end wall of the south transept, while tall paired light supplement the smaller round arched openings in the sanctuary. The windows are all leaded, and where not provided with stained glass generally have obscure uncoloured glass. The main entrance is on the south side, with a segmental arch and hardwood doors with strap hinges, leading to a narrow, stone-faced vestibule with a prie dieu placed before a glazed squint allowing views towards the sanctuary.

The interior is stone-faced, with painted suspended fibreboard ceilings and floors, including that of the sanctuary, of woodblock. The north aisle is of three bays, separated from the nave by octagonal columns without capitals and a plain entablature. A cast stone cornice of free design, neither classical nor gothic, runs around the ceilings. In the south transept the foundation stone (5 May 1959) is set into the wall. The sacristy, with WC and confessional, gives of the north transept, behind which a stair rises to the organ loft, from which a high level oblong opening to the church has open timber balustrading.

Amongst the furnishings, the altar of 1963 survives, brought forward to allow for westward celebration. It is of stone with four attached columns and a central Chi-Rho symbol on the frontal. An inscription on the side records the donors. A colourful octagonal umbrella-like canopy is suspended from the roof of the apse. In the north transept, an early twentieth century carved oak reredos with figures of English and Spanish mystics (Richard Rolle, Julian of Norwich, St Teresa of Spain and St John of the Cross) was brought here c1989 and replaced an original side altar. It came from the former Farncombe Community Chapel, a female Anglican community which had been established at Ravenscroft, the home of the Rev Reginald Somerset Ward DD in Farncombe, Surrey. In the nave and aisle are plain oak benches.

There are five small stained glass windows, two in the south transept (the Virgin and Child and St Joseph) by Margaret Traherne, 1983 (that to St Joseph given by Fr Charles Borelli), and three by Cliff Durant (two in the sanctuary and one in the north transept), 1996 and 1997.

Entry rewritten by AHP 14.02.2021, using material from a report prepared by them in 2015.

Heritage Details

Architect: Henry Bingham Towner

Original Date: 1959

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Not Listed