Only a few years after the church at Burton Park was opened, the parish priest was also regularly walking three miles each way to say mass in Petworth (often, it seems at the prison and at the poor house). Then the presbytery fell into such disrepair that it was felt to be uninhabitable, and a house was found for the priest in Petworth itself. There was some tension between the two wealthy members of the local Catholic community: Charles Willock Dawes at Burton Hill and Anthony Wright Biddulph at Burton Park, and the exasperated Mr Dawes decided the best way to promote the Catholic cause in the area was to build a new church in Petworth itself. Although then, as now, still only a small town it was a larger centre of population than Duncton.
After some years of searching for a suitable site, in 1893 Mr Dawes bought some land on which to build a church. As well as his house at Burton Hill he had a house in Hove, and he wanted the new church to be a 'corrected model' of the Sacred Heart, Hove. The Southwark Diocesanarchitect Frederick Walters was appointed to draw up the designs for the church, with the explicit instruction from the donor that no expense was to be spared, while the design of the house was to be negotiated with Canon Lalor, who would become the first parish priest. The foundation stone of the church was laid in 1894, and it was completed in 1896 at a total cost of some £15,000 (somewhere between £1m and £1.5m in current money). Sadly the first public mass to be celebrated in the church was the funeral of Mrs Dawes, and her husband died on Christmas Day in 1899. Mr Dawes left his house at Burton Hill to the Jesuits, his residuary estate to the diocese, and his wine cellar to the parish priest (who had wisely asked the architect to amend the plans for the house to include a wine cellar). He and his wife, together with Canon Lalor and Mrs Dawes' maid were all buried in the crypt below the Lady Chapel. A tomb in white alabaster marks the Dawes resting place, and there is also a brass memorial to Canon Lalor made by Hardmans of Birmingham.
Walking around the church it is possible to see that the quality of workmanship and of design is of the very highest standard. There are a number of beautiful windows by Lavers and Westlake, and some fine embroidered hangings made for the sanctuary. The sanctuary was re-ordered in the twentieth century, and the sanctuary rails were lost, but apart from that and the removal of the font from the old baptistry to a new site in a side chapel, little has been changed.
The Church of the Sacred Heart is situated on the eastern edge of the town, and there are dramatic views from the presbytery across the beautiful Shimmings Valley. Driving into Petworth from Pulborough on a sunny morning one of the first things that you see is the spire, then the sunlight catching the golden heart surrounded by a sunburst that tops the roof of the sanctuary. This is a unique building within the town, that grew from a fascinating moment in the history of the English Church, and it is also the focus of a thriving local Catholic community.