Concerns raised after Grade I listed door removed from historic Petworth church

An historic door to a church of ‘the highest historical significance’ has been removed causing some upset in Petworth.
The original door at St Mary's Church.The original door at St Mary's Church.
The original door at St Mary's Church.

St Mary’s Church in Church Street was built in the 13th and 14th centuries and restored by Sir Charles Barry in 1827, the architect responsible for the Houses of Parliament.

In a bid to make the building more welcoming, the historic door has been removed and replaced with a glass-panelled substitute, upsetting some in the town.

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John Bird owner of John Bird Antiques, directly opposite the church, mourned the loss of what he said was part of the county’s most famous views.

The new oak door with glass panelsThe new oak door with glass panels
The new oak door with glass panels

Speaking to this newspaper, Mr Bird said: “That door and the church tower are the focal points of the view from Lombard Street which is one of the most iconic streets in Sussex. How can a Grade I listed building with quite a history be changed? I have talked to the church wardens about it and they say they have got full planning permission and they have been told that they can change the doors but they have to keep the old door.”

He added: “I think the original door should be reinstated, I don’t really know what the reason is for replacing the original door. I have spoken to other people in the town and they think it’s ridiculous, they don’t like it at all.”

The Victorian Society had strong words about the plans during part of the planning process back in 2021. Describing the building as a ‘church of the highest architectural and historical significance’, the society said plans for the door were ‘invasive’ adding: “They would result in the removal of what is likely a door dating from Barry’s restoration and a later 19th century lobby. The Society recognises that the parish wish to make the building more welcoming to passing visitors and easier to access.”

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Canon Mark Gilbert, said the changes were done to make the church ‘more welcoming and more open’ and that many visitors had paid their compliments to the new door.

The view from Lombard Street.The view from Lombard Street.
The view from Lombard Street.

"It has been in planning for about six years. There’s been discussions and it’s gone through the whole faculty process. The door will go a natural colour, it wont look like then when its been weathered, it’s the same wood as the old door. There was an old porch there and you’d walk straight through into another big wooden door — it was quite difficult for people to get into church.”

Writing in the July edition of the parish newsletter, he said: “We believe, that by incorporating more natural light, we can enhance the sense of peace and tranquility within our church walls. Additionally, during the winter months, the porch will serve as a shield against the wind, providing protection and warmth to those seeking solace in our sacred space.”

A spokesperson for the Victorian Society said in a statement: “We objected in this case, and we received acknowledgement for that objection. In the usual order of things, having raised an objection at the consultation phase, we should have been given the opportunity by the Chancellor to become a formal objector. That does not seem to have happened in this case. The Victorian Society will be making urgent enquiries of St Mary’s and the Chancellor as to what has happened.”

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