Horsham: Roman Catholicism

Pages 195-196

A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 6 Part 2, Bramber Rape (North-Western Part) Including Horsham. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1986.

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The Copley family of Roffey and their servants remained Catholics in the later 16th and earlier 17th centuries, (fn. 1) and a priest may have frequented Roffey manor house in 1586. (fn. 2) The total of three recusants listed in the parish in 1642 is probably too low, (fn. 3) since 30 were recorded in 1676. (fn. 4) A Catholic priest was mentioned at Horsham c. 1690. (fn. 5) In 1724 there were said to be five recusant families, (fn. 6) including the Westons, who had succeeded the Copleys at Roffey (fn. 7) and who were also related to the recusant Carylls of West Grinstead. (fn. 8) The 22 recusants listed at Horsham in 1767 included three broom makers. (fn. 9) During the 18th and early 19th centuries Horsham was part of the mission area served from West Grinstead; (fn. 10) in 1814 a Mr. Webb Weston, possibly John Webb Weston the former owner of Roffey manor, gave £12 a year to the priest at West Grinstead for serving Roffey once a month. (fn. 11)

About 1820 a building on the east side of Springfield Road belonging to the duke of Norfolk was converted for use as a Roman Catholic chapel and priest's house; (fn. 12) in 1836 it had an embattled faôade with a crowning cross. Services were held fortnightly in 1836 (fn. 13) and 1851; on the latter occasion the church was still served from West Grinstead, and c. 30 attended. (fn. 14) In 1865 a new church in Gothic style was built by the duchess of Norfolk in front of the old one, which was afterwards used as a school. The new building, dedicated to St. John the Evangelist and of local sandstone, had a shingled west bell turret and a western main altar; (fn. 15) it survived, though altered, in commercial use in 1981. In 1874-5 it could seat 160. (fn. 16) A new priest's house was built c. 1888. (fn. 17) A third church was built between 1919 and 1923 on the opposite side of Springfield Road, comprising a nave and chancel with side chapels, of coursed rubble and in 15th-century style. (fn. 18) From 1972 Catholic services were also held in the Anglican church at Roffey; (fn. 19) in 1982 there was mass there every Sunday and saint's day, and a weekly Catholic mass at Southwater church besides. (fn. 20)


  • 1. B.L. Harl. MS. 703, f. 23v.; W.S.R.O., Ep. I/15/1; Ep. I/22/1 (1640); Recusant Roll, i (Cath. Rec. Soc. xviii), 328, 339, 342-3; ibid. iii-iv (Cath. Rec. Soc. lxi), 100-1, 232-3; S.R.S. xlix. 37, 67; D.N.B. s.v. Anth. Copley, Sir Thos. Copley.
  • 2. V.C.H. Suss. ii. 28; Acts of P.C. 1586-7, 225; cf. Cal. S.P. Dom. 1611-18, 64.
  • 3. S.R.S. v. 98, 102.
  • 4. S.A.C. xlv. 146.
  • 5. G. Anstruther, Seminary Priests, ii. 56.
  • 6. W.S.R.O., Ep. I/26/3, p. 15.
  • 7. Eng. Cath. Nonjurors of 1715, ed. Estcourt and Payne, 266.
  • 8. S.A.C. cxvi. 28.
  • 9. H.L.R.O., papist return (inf. from Mr. T. J. McCann, W.S.R.O.).
  • 10. S.A.C. lii. 42, 77; Southwark Rec. Jan. 1957, pp. 9-10.
  • 11. Archives of Archdioc. of Westm., Poynter III. C. Misc., letter from Chas. McDonnell, 1814; above, manors and other estates.
  • 12. Arundel Cast. MS. FC 595; Arundel Cast. Archives, i, p. 137.
  • 13. Dudley, Horsham, 29-30.
  • 14. P.R.O., HO 129/87/2/1/9.
  • 15. Hurst, Horsham (1868), 96-7; illus. at Windrum & Hughes, Horsham, 72.
  • 16. O.S. Map 1/500, Horsham (1877 edn.).
  • 17. Albery, Souvenir Guide, 35.
  • 18. T. Wales, Short Hist. of St. John the Evangelist Rom, Cath. Ch., Horsham, 4 (copy in W.S.R.O. libr.); N.M.R., Goodhart-Rendel ch. index.
  • 19. Above, churches.
  • 20. Arundel and Brighton Cath. Dir. (1982).