Saturday, 10 November 2012

St John the Baptist, Wimbledon

St John's lies between Wimbledon and Raynes Park, just below the Ridgeway, and is a good example of a late Victorian neo-Gothic church.

The church was built to service the growing commuter population brought to Wimbledon by the London and South-Western Railway. A plot of land was bought in 1867, but a lack of funds meant that the first building was a temporary prefabricated ‘iron church’. Made of corrugated iron, it came, according to the church’s website, “complete with altar and font, illuminated texts all over the windows and two seraphs to each entrance”.

The present church was begun in 1873 to designs by Thomas Jackson (1835-1924) and consecrated in 1875. Jackson delivered a classic red-brick neo-Gothic church, with a nave, chancel and a large north aisle. From the outside, it is not particularly distinguished, save for the large east window and an impressive north porch, which has Decorated Gothic detailing.

The interior space is dominated by the tall single arcade between the nave and north aisle, but the main  interest is provided by the fittings and furnishings: there is some lovely stained glass, including a window from the William Morris factory (the figure of Martha is by Edward Burne-Jones, that of Christ by Henry Dearle); a delicate chancel screen; and a reredos in the Lady Chapel (north aisle) by Martin Travers. The organ, installed in 1904 by Hill, Morgan and Beard, is a particularly fine example.

The church has an vibrant worship life and is a very popular venue for music, thanks to an excellent acoustic.

St John the Baptist,  Spencer Hill, Wimbledon, London SW19 4NZ

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