St Johns


Giclee printed on 305gsm off white coloured archival paper with a subtle texture. A4 297mm x 210mm, A5 148 x 210mm.

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Centrally located between the library and the stables, an Anglican church has stood on this prominent site since 1827, built for the iron master Sir Josiah Guest. I played in the grassy field that lay in its shadow (which I realise now was once a graveyard) and once caught sight of Harry Secombe while he was filming Songs of Praise in the late 1980s but I digress…

From the initial simple form it was gradually rebuilt until it became a fully Victorian Neo-Gothic edifice with the architect E A Johnson being responsible for the last historic building stage, adding the aisle and porches in 1893-4. The adoption of Gothic as an appropriate style for ecclesiastical architecture in the 19 C was inspired by the writings of Ruskin and Augustus Charles Pugin who, in Contrasts (1836) reasoned that “…architectural form imitates the condition of the society that creates it; since the society of medieval times was a paragon of virtue and moral integrity then it was natural and obvious that Gothic architecture is the most moral form of architecture…”

I am not convinced, the style has a slightly morbid feel that I associate with malevolent gargoyles and shadowy interiors where spectral monks lurk….That is not to say I do not appreciate the rock faced penant stone, accentuated with Bathstone ashlar dressings to the windows and porches, together with the soaring octagonal turret and stepped buttresses to the Southern gable. I also like the way the buttress is pierced with pointed arches defining a pathway beneath and then continued into and expressed within the stone boundary wall. Unusually for a Church, the stained glass triple lancet window to the South gable has an industrial theme depicting two coal miners digging at a coal face with the caption underneath, ‘The Thing that is hid Bringeth he forth light’.

The Church was closed in 1997 but is now being redeveloped as apartments. However, it can never be separated from the man who commissioned it all those years ago; Sir John Josiah Guest, who is entombed within the Church beneath a large granite slab in an iron sarcophagus.