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Priest's House, West Grinstead

Description: Priest's House

Grade: II*
Date Listed: 22 September 1959
English Heritage Building ID: 299720

OS Grid Reference: TQ1769021166
OS Grid Coordinates: 517690, 121166
Latitude/Longitude: 50.9779, -0.3249

Location: Park Lane, West Grinstead, West Sussex RH13 8LT

Locality: West Grinstead
Local Authority: Horsham District Council
County: West Sussex
Country: England
Postcode: RH13 8LT

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Listing Text


965/16/515 PARK LANE

Catholic presbytery, at one time in use as a chapel. The western part is early C17, extended to the south east in the late C17 to form an L-wing and a north east extension added in the early C19.

MATERIALS: The western half is timberframed, clad in brick in the late C17 except for part of the north elevation where the timberframing is exposed. The eastern part is of brick, the eastern part of the north elevation painted. The south range has a hipped roof and the western range a half-hipped roof, both clad in Horsham stone slabs. The western range has a gabled tiled roof with a cruciform brick chimneystack in the centre of the western range and a square brick chimneystack in the middle of the eastern range. The building is of two storeys with an attic to the western range. There are five windows to the south side but irregular fenestration to the other sides.

PLAN: The west range was originally a two bay lobby entrance house with central chimney, extended to the south east to form an L-wing wih principal rooms to the south and further extended to the north east so that the building is now square in plan.

EXTERIOR: THe south front has a fine brick front withh moulded wooden eaves cornice, stringcourse, deep plinth and five narrow 18-pane sash windows with moulded architraves. There is a central wooden double door with pedimented porch supported on Ionic columns. The west side has overhanging eaves and a first floor mullioned and transomed casement with leaded lights and a sash window to the ground floor. The western side of the north front has exposed timberframing with patterns of diagonal braces and painted brick infill. There are two windows on each floor, C20 casement windows. The remainder of the north front has a small central gable with round-headed arched recessed entrance below and a number of small windows. The east front has C18 brickwork to the south and early C19 red brick with grey headers to the north with two twelve-pane sash windows in reveals.

INTERIOR: The western part has exposed timberframing and a winder staircase with thick turned balusters leads past two priest's hides built into the side of the chimneystack into an attic used as a secret Catholic chapel. This has exposed purlins. There is a central late C17 dogleg staircase with continuous turned balustrade and square newelpost and painted panelled hall. The first floor south side has a late C17 panelled room and an early C18 panelled room with moulded cornice and dado rail. There are two-panelled doors on the ground and first floors.

HISTORY: The Priest's House was originally owned by the Caryll family, local landowners and Catholic recusants. A document exists reporting that in 1580 the minister of Shipley, John Wassher, accompanied by the constable Richard Cappe, twice made surprise visits to another of the Caryll's properties, Benton's Place, looking for Catholic priests fathers Hampton and Stratford. The original part of the Priest's House, the western part, is an early C17 timberframed building and Catholic seminary priests from Rome and Douai working on the English mission were able to live here disguised as stockmen. Two priest's hides are built into the massive western chimneybreast and the attic was used as a hidden chapel. In 1671 John Caryll (the sixth of this name), gave an endowment of £600 so that the property could become a house for priests to serve not only West Grinstead but the Catholic community throughout the whole of Sussex and Hampshire. This endowment was in reparation for having taken the Oath of Conformity. This may be the oldest continuously occupied Catholic presbytery in England. The first priest to live here was a Benedictine, Father Serenus Cressy, who had been chaplain to Queen Catherine of Braganza at the court of Charles II. At about this time the Priest's House was refronted and extended and staircase and panelling introduced. Also the old attic was re-constructed into the present secret chapel. In 1754 Edward Caryll offered an endowment of £1300 to the Franciscans to maintain a priest at West Grinstead. This was very unusual as the foundation was a mission for the people of the neighbourhood, rather than a resident chaplain for a large house, as by this time there was no resident family, the Caryll family having become impoverished by fines and taxes and had sold their property, including West Grinstead Park. The mission was in the hands of the Franciscans until 1815. After that there were a series of French emigre priests until in 1863 Father Jean-Marie Denis from Brittany was appointed priest and stayed until he died in 1900. He raised money to build a church, the adjoining Church of Our Lady of Consolation and St Francis, the foundation stone of which was raised in 1875. According to the Sussex volumne of Pevsner's "Buildings of England" in 1925 under the floor of the attic chapel in the Priest's House were found a pewter travelling chalice of c.1450 and one of c.1600, used by priests in the C17.

STATEMENT OF IMPORTANCE: Grade II* for architectural merit for the fine late C17 brick exterior and internal fittings, but also of exceptional historic interest in the history of recusant Catholic history and worship in Penal times and as it was endowed as a presbytery in 1671 it is perhaps the earliest continuously occupied Catholic presbytery in England.

Pevsner/Nairn "Buildings of England. Sussex." p371.
Margate Clifton and David Goddard "The Catholic Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation and St Francis, West Grinstead."

This text is a legacy record and has not been updated since the building was originally listed. Details of the building may have changed in the intervening time. You should not rely on this listing as an accurate description of the building.

Source: English Heritage

Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.