The architect Charles Hansom, designer of fifty Catholic churches in the country and brother of Joseph Aloysius Hansom, the designer of the Hansom cab, regarded St John’s as his best and most rewarding work.
The earliest church is lost in the mists of history, but a plan of the present St John’s, close to Cleveland Bridge, clearly indicates that the medieval high altar occupied the position of the Blessed Sacrament Chapel altar in that building, and it is a reassuring thought that worship still continues on that hallowed site within our modern United Benefice of Bathwick.
When the new St Mary’s was built, the old church was demolished, but from its stones arose a mortuary chapel close by the site of the previous building, the ruins of which may still be seen today. The font from the old church is now housed in St Mary’s, along with one or two pieces of church plate: the registers, dating from 1668, now reside in the safety of the County Records office in Taunton.
Bathwick was always a village, and much of its village character remains today. The two churches of St Mary the Virgin and St John the Baptist remain very much at the heart of this community, and their work and witness is very much appreciated not only by the villagers, but also by members of their respective congregations who travel from a wide area to worship here.
There is little in the outward appearance of Bathwick to suggest a thousand years of church history. Few, if any, of its houses are older than the Georgian period, and the parish church has yet to celebrate its 200th anniversary. Until towards the end of the 18th century Bathwick was in fact a tiny village, separated from the city of Bath, with which it was not incorporated until 1835, by the River Avon and a mile or so of swampy meadows.