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Church of St John The Baptist

A Grade II Listed Building in Lewisham, Lewisham

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Latitude: 51.4283 / 51°25'41"N

Longitude: -0.0113 / 0°0'40"W

OS Eastings: 538351

OS Northings: 171795

OS Grid: TQ383717

Mapcode National: GBR L4.MV8

Mapcode Global: VHGRF.RCDF

Plus Code: 9C3XCXHQ+8F

Entry Name: Church of St John The Baptist

Listing Date: 30 August 1954

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1080031

English Heritage Legacy ID: 203232

Location: Whitefoot, Lewisham, London, SE6

County: Lewisham

Electoral Ward/Division: Whitefoot

Built-Up Area: Lewisham

Traditional County: Kent

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Greater London

Church of England Parish: Catford (Southend) and Downham

Church of England Diocese: Southwark

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Church of St John The Baptist


DATES OF MAIN PHASES, NAME OF ARCHITECT: 1926-27 by Sir Charles Nicholson. South east vestry 1932.

MATERIALS: pale brick with stone dressings. Slate roofs.

PLAN: two bay nave, north and south aisles, north and south transepts, long three bay chancel, north and south chancel aisles, south east vestry.

EXTERIOR: this is a generously planned church. Although substantial it does not attain the originally projected size as two further bays were intended for the west end which still terminates in the 'temporary' walling erected in the 1920s. The style is late medieval with touches of both Decorated and Perpendicular. At the east end the chancel terminates with angle buttresses and a high-set seven-light window which has a fusion of Decorated and Perpendicular elements, a feature very popular with late Gothic revival architects. The three-light windows of the chancel aisles have cusped intersected tracery. In the chancel there are clerestory windows of three lights. Between the nave aisles and the chancel aisles are tall transepts, the north one having a large four-light windows and the south one an unusual elevation including a band of five blind arches and above these a three-light square-headed window. The nave has a similar clerestory to that on the chancel. All parts of the building have plain parapets except for the transepts. The west end is, as a temporary arrangement, very plain and has simple rectangular slit windows and doorways into the aisles.

INTERIOR: the interior is light and has a sense of airy spaciousness. The walls are painted white with the dressings and arcades have their stonework exposed. The chancel is of three bays with arcades of multi-moulded arches and robust round piers with moulded capitals and bases, more suggestive of C13 work than late medieval architecture. Wall shafts rise from the capitals to the springing of the roofs. In the east bay of the chancel there is plain stone walling to just over head-height, that on the south side being recessed for the piscina and triple sedilia. The roof on the chancel, like that of the other parts, is low pitched and divided into square panels by moulded ribs. In the nave the arcade takes the same form as that in the chancel. The flooring is of stone with wood blocks in the seating areas.

PRINCIPAL FIXTURES: the most notable item is the table tomb by Cecil Thomas, 1923, in the north chancel aisle to John and Alfred Forster who were killed in the First World War: on it lies the recumbent bronze figure of Alfred. Monuments from the old chapel have also been installed in this aisle, including that to John Forster (d 1834), the founder of the chapel, with his bust in a niche, and his wife Elizabeth (d 1837). The east window of the south chapel has stained glass of 1933 by Karl Parsons and E. Liddall Armitage. There is a hatchment mounted on the west wall. The church was reordered in 1977 and again c.2006. The seating consists of modern chairs. The large corona in the crossing was installed as part of the 1977 reordering.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: the small and charming old chapel (now church hall) to the south of the church dates from 1824 and has a Tuscan porch.

HISTORY: a chapel of ease was built and endowed in 1824 by John Forster immediately to the south of the present church. An enormous new estate was built by the London County Council in the 1920s and a new larger church was required. The foundation stone was laid on 17 July 1926 by Lord Forster, a descendant of the original founder. The church was reordered in 1977 when the altar was placed in the crossing. In due course this was found not to be a successful arrangement and c.2006 the altar was returned to the east end.

Sir Charles Archibald Nicholson (1867-1949) was a leading church architect of the early C20. He was articled to the great late Victorian architect J D Sedding in 1889 and after Sedding's death in 1891 was assistant to his successor Henry Wilson. He began independent practice in 1895 and was in partnership with Hubert Corlette from 1895 until 1914. He was consulting architect to the cathedrals of Belfast, Lincoln, Lichfield, Llandaff, Portsmouth, Sheffield and Wells. He was also Diocesan Architect for Chelmsford, Portsmouth, Wakefield and Winchester.

Cecil Thomas (1885-1976) trained under his father and at the Central School of Arts and Crafts, London, where he specialized in gem engraving, first exhibiting at the Royal Academy, London, in 1909. His use of portraiture in his cameos led to his interest, from c.1910, in medals. He also produced larger sculptures in stone as well as in bronze, many with religious themes, as in his memorial to the Most Rev. Lord Davidson of Lambeth (1933; Canterbury Cathedral). His royal portraits made frequent appearances on official medals and in 1958 he was awarded the OBE. The British Museum has a collection of his plaster models.

Bridget Cherry and Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: London 2: South, 1983, p 414.
Basil F L Clarke, Parish Churches of London, 1966, p 249.
Antonia Brodie et al., Directory of British Architects 1834-1914, vol 2, 2001, pp 262-3.
www.answers.com/topic/cecil-thomas-2 (consulted 14 March 2009).

The church of St John the Baptist, Catford, is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* It is, despite not being completed, an impressive, late Gothic revival building by a leading early C20 church architect.
* It contains a notable monument by a distinguished early C20 sculptor.

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