St John the Baptist Church secures its future
Published: Thursday, June 12, 2014
A project to replace a 120 year-old leaking roof and secure a vital community hub for future generations is fast progressing at St John the Baptist Church in West London.
In June 2013, the National Churches Trust supported St John the Baptist Church on Holland Road in London with a £40,000 Repair Grant to help replace its leaking roof. The work began in November 2013 and is well on course to be completed by autumn 2-014, protecting the church’s stunning interior and securing its future as the only remaining community space in the local area.
A struggle to survive
For over a century, people have come from far and wide to visit the beautiful church of St John the Baptist on Holland Road in Kensington, London. However by 2013 the 120 year-old roof had been leaking for decades, and as a result the stunning interior had suffered from serious water damage; as is clear from the water stain marks running around the inside walls.
In response to this serious need, the National Churches Trust was proud to support St John the Baptist with a £40,000 Repair Grant to help fund a new roof and so preserve this exquisite church for future generations. Work began in November 2013, with the roof stripped of its old tiles and the woodwork supporting it repaired. The south side of the roof has now been felted, battened and covered in new tiles, with the surrounding stonework repaired. Work is moving fast and the whole roof should be completed in a few months’ time.
A hidden gem
To most visitors the splendour of St John the Baptist Church comes as a surprise, as it is hemmed in by housing on the traffic-choked Holland Road. However, if you do cross the road to admire its frontage, you will find something very special: a Grade II* church of exceptional architectural grandeur and importance, widely regarded as one of the outstanding examples of High Gothic architecture and the crowning achievement of the famous Victorian architect James Brooks.
Twenty-five long years of work
In 1868, with an ever-growing worshipping community in the area, land was purchased for the construction of a new church. Unfortunately, a stipulation of the purchase was that the new church had to be in stone, at a time when the cost of building in stone was many times that of brick. With such a huge fundraising effort required from the future congregation, in 1872 a temporary wood-framed corrugated iron church was erected to serve them whilst the funds were sought.
Work finally began on the stone church in the mid-1880s and in 1910, an eye-watering twenty-five years later, the west front was completed. Today, St John the Baptist's uneven floor preserves the memory of its incremental construction and the devoted congregation’s long struggle to build their new church.
A team effort
The church is full of stunning architectural features, many of which have charming stories of individual devotion and generosity to tell. The stunning marble font was paid for by the children of the parish. The decorative roundels on the oak pews were turned by the church’s scout troop, and the Chancel choir stalls were carved by the vicar’s daughter. The stunning west-end rose window, by premier Victorian stained glass manufacturers Percy Bacon & Bros, was paid for by a single benefactor (a window of its size and quality would cost over a quarter of a million pounds today).
A bright future
Churchwarden Jenny Davenport believes that, with the roof secured, the future looks bright for St John the Baptist’s Church. She said:
“This is a special place to pause and think. It is a sanctuary from the noise and rush of London, and it inspires visitors and regulars alike. Two communities use St John’s for Christian worship: high Anglican and Eritrean orthodox. And from September, the new nursery will become involved in the activities of the church. The parish lacks a community space, and we want St John’s to play a vital local role: secular as well as Christian.”
“When the work is finished, the structure and artefacts of St John’s will at last be safe from rain. We are indebted to the numerous bodies that recognized the church’s architectural importance and pledged a grant, including the National Churches Trust. Without them the church would soon have been condemned as unsafe.”
Help us to help more churches
The National Churches Trust relies solely on the generosity of our supporters to fund our work. Last year we helped to rescue over 140 churches, chapels and meeting houses with grants totally close to £1.5m, but sadly we currently receive far more requests for help than we can possibly answer and have to turn down three out of every four places of worship that apply for a grant.
The good news is that there are many ways in which you can help us to help churches; by becoming a friend, making a donation, or leaving a legacy in your will. Please visit our website to find out more about how you can support our work and Britain’s churches: http://www.nationalchurchestrust.org/support-our-work