Peter Hickman

The Exterior

From the west gate of the churchyard we see the church and surroundings to advantage. The grounds were landscaped and planted in 1969 through the generosity of Mr Charles and Mrs Hilda Hayward in memory of their parents. These mature lawns and gardens provide a splendid setting for this classical 18th century building.

It is easy to see the influence of James Gibbs, the designer of St Martin's in the Fields, London. Although originally designed without a spire, the final decision to add the beautifully balanced octagonal tower and spire are a contribution of genius that adds considerably to the lines of the building. 

For the statistically minded: the golden ball at the top of the spire is 50 metres above the cross-pavement. It has a diameter of 19 inches and the arrow is 6ft 2 inches long.

The church is solidly built of brick covered with stone ashlar some five inches thick overall. The original stone came from the estate of Lord Wrottesley at Perton. Due to the heavy smoke and acid rain caused by countless coal fires and furnaces, this stone was terribly eroded within the first 100 years. Photographs in the late 1800s show a blackened and damaged structure. Originally the balustrade had large stone urns on the sections of solid walling but these were removed for safety reasons in the 1930s during one of the many piecemeal restorations of the masonry.

The clock, which has measured the time from its place in the tower for nearly two hundred years, was re-gilded and the mechanism thoroughly overhauled in the early part of 2000. Now automatically rewound by an electric motor, it is a well-situated public timepiece.

A large boulder of sandstone at the foot of the steps is from Hollington quarry near Uttoxeter, the source of the new stonework ashlar, and commemorates the visit of H. M. the Queen Mother in 1969.

The burial ground has been closed for earth interments for some considerable time but the ashes of a number of recent church members are laid to rest beneath the turf.

On the north side opposite Bond Street, named after William Bond, organist here in 1762, it is interesting to note the memorial set up by Moreton John Riley. This worthy catalogued his relatives for almost 100 years and left a space for his own mortality. Did he have no caring relative to complete the inscription?

View along Bond Street to the church.

Passing the broken marble grave of a former vicar, Rev. Henry Hampton MA, to whom there are two memorial windows and a tablet within the building, we reach the east end. 

The Church has no eastward facing windows. Instead, two blind windows at the gallery ends, and a large blind Venetian moulding with two roundels, decorate the east wall.

The Church looks out into George Street, with well restored rows of late Georgian gentlemen's residences. St John's was formerly enclosed within a complete square of similar houses. These dwellings were demolished several years ago for building offices and the Ring Road.

In the churchyard against the south wall will be found the gravestone of Henry Evans. It commemorates a young mason, who on 1st July 1760 was killed when he fell from the tower. He was the first person to be buried in the new graveyard.

On the south side the porch stonework was completed for the Silver Jubilee in 1977.

St John's stands in a conservation area and will form the centrepiece of the Urban Village planned for this part of the city.

Photo by Derek Thom.

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