This beautiful rural Catholic Church was built as a gift to the local Catholic community by Anthony Wright Biddulph in the middle of the nineteenth century. For two hundred years or so Catholics had met to worship in the chapel in his house, and he wanted to provide initially a Catholic cemetery, then a church. The church was designed by the architect Gilbert Blount, and built by John Ellis of Chichester, at a cost of some £3,000. The carved altar (now sadly reduced by the destruction of the reredos) was paid for by Mr Wright Biddulph's steward, George Morley, and it may be that the christian names of these two men explain the unusual joint dedication of the building.
The foundation stone was laid by Bishop Grant of Southwark in 1867, and the church was consecrated and opened by Archbishop Manning in August 1869. The opening was marked by a day of celebration, with High Mass in the morning, a Mozart mass being sung by a choir from London (and the offertory sung by Mr and Mrs Biddulph). There was then a magnificent lunch in the entrance hall at Burton Park, and the guests spent the afternoon walking in the grounds before returning for Benediction, where music was provided by the choir from St. Philip's Church, Arundel.
Beneath the sanctuary of the church is a vault where Mr Wright Biddulph and members of his family are buried.
Three years after the church was built Mr Wright Biddulph gave some adjoining land for the construction of a school, to replace the Catholic school that had previously been meeting in his house. For a brief period of time the little village of Duncton had a church, a presbytery and a school. Sadly, however, the number of Catholic children in the area was never large enough to support the school, and it closed after only a few years.
The church is substantially the same as it was when it was built. Sadly the reredos of the high altar was removed and lost when the sanctuary was reordered in the mid twentieth century, but we have a copy of the original drawings for it in the parish archive, and the reredos of the lady altar gives some idea of how it might have looked. There are a few very grainy photos that show how the church would have appeared in the 1920s.
This is a beautiful, simple country church, and when the morning sun floods through its brightly coloured windows early on a Sunday morning it is a glorious place to be.