Haywards Heath – St Wilfrid

The church is ambitious and by 1875 £6000 had been spent (PP 125), showing money in the new parish was not short.  The architect was G F Bodley, chosen probably after his restoration of the original parish church at Cuckfield, and the foundation stone was laid in 1863 (B 21 p759) on a site given by Mr Sergison of Cuckfield Park (B 23 p452).  It was opened in 1865 and an inscription beneath the present gallery inside that implies the nave clerestory was erected in 1890 refers only to the glazing, which was replaced again in 1962.  Built in local stone, the church demonstrates the rapid development of  Bodley’s style at this time from that of a radical who favoured foreign, particularly French, examples of the gothic (exemplified by his St Michael, Brighton) towards greater restraint with a preference for the later English gothic (of which Danehill, East Sussex is a good though much later example).  This is exemplified at Haywards Heath by his change of the top of the tower from his original proposal for a saddleback to the parapet and tiled pyramid characteristic of many mediaeval churches in Sussex (D Verey in J Fawcett (ed) p87).

The plan is built round an axial tower, a feature more common in France.  The chancel is short by comparison with the five-bay nave, as the space under the tower is incorporated in it.  The detail is late C13 and early C14 English, including traceried east and west windows, set high.  The alternating round and octagonal piers of the arcades are a feature that attracted Bodley at the time (ibid p88).  Most unusual are the tower arches, which curve gracefully inwards from low springings.

The interior walls are today whitened, but were originally bare brick.  As Michael Hall comments (p115), the austerity of the interior must have been striking by comparison with much of Bodley’s earlier work.  The church in late Victorian times was not as austere as today and perhaps the greatest loss is C E Kempe‘s painted panelled chancel ceiling of 1864 (CDG 167 (1907) p167), though it has been doubted whether this ever progressed beyond the ceiling of the tower (BE(W) p423).  As a former pupil of Bodley and a local resident, Kempe was no doubt well placed to obtain the commission.  A new lychgate was built in 1908 by L W Ridge (CDG 177 p130).   In 1999 C Mercer re-ordered the church (CBg 56 p52), with a new west organ gallery and chairs instead of pews.


Font: Small and octagonal, c1920.
1.  (Chancel, first south window) Burlison and Grylls, designed by H P B Downing, 1921. (www.stainedglassrecords.org.uk retrieved on 10/3/2013).
2.  (Chancel, over original position of organ) Burlison and Grylls, c1892 (CDK 1892 pt 2 p145).
3.  Glass by Morris and Co included an east window of 1867 of the Crucifixion, with figures in plain quarries (Sewter p192).  This faded and has been replaced, leaving the following:
i.   (Chancel south window) Three saints, designed by Sir E Burne-Jones, Morris and F M Brown.
ii.  (Baptistery) Badly faded, by Morris and F Madox Brown, 1867.  The figure of St Peter is said to represent Morris (D Verey p 88).
iii.  (South aisle windows) Eight single figures in plain quarries.  Three pairs, all faded, are part of the original work by Morris and Burne-Jones and dated 1870.
4.  Glass in the south aisle to an unspecified physician by ‘Scott and Garner’ (sic) is stated to have been installed in 1878 (BN 42 p488).  Conceivably this is the fourth window of the south aisle, which is in better condition, though much in the idiom of the other Morris glass.
5.  The west window of 1882 is said to have the same origin and the authors and the authors of at least the glass in the tracery have been more fully identified as T Garner (Bodley’s partner) and G G Scott junior (BE(W) ibid).  Unlike the glass of 1878 (4 above), there seems to be little doubt about the joint authorship in this case. Such collaboration is rare, particularly repeated over a period of several years as appears to have been the case here.
6.  (East window) Resurrection by Wainwright and Waring, designed by A Acket, 1962 (www.stainedglassrecords.org.uk retrieved on 10/3/2013).  It is a powerful design, based on an intense blue and though not in the idiom of the rest of the glass doers not dominate unduly.
7.  (Tower and north aisle, fourth window) Burlison and Grylls, 1891-93 (CDK 1894 pt 2).
8.  (North aisle and West windows) These are said to have been restored by Cox and Barnard (Little etc p34), though it is possible that some of the Morris glass elsewhere in the church was meant.


1. My thanks to Raymond Smith, Vicar of St Wilfrid’s, for providing exact information about the date of the clerestory.
2. My thanks also to Nick Wiseman for the photographs