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Parish Church of St John the Baptist

A Grade I Listed Building in Peterborough, City of Peterborough

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Latitude: 52.5727 / 52°34'21"N

Longitude: -0.2438 / 0°14'37"W

OS Eastings: 519111

OS Northings: 298662

OS Grid: TL191986

Mapcode National: GBR HZP.R4Z

Mapcode Global: WHHNK.7L4J

Entry Name: Parish Church of St John the Baptist

Listing Date: 7 February 1952

Grade: I

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1331524

English Heritage Legacy ID: 49602

Location: Peterborough, PE1

County: City of Peterborough

Electoral Ward/Division: Central

Built-Up Area: Peterborough

Traditional County: Northamptonshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cambridgeshire

Church of England Parish: Peterborough St John the Baptist

Church of England Diocese: Peterborough

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Listing Text


Begun in 1402 on a new site but reusing some materials including C12 worked stone from an older church of St John the Baptist and from the former chapel of St Thomas Becket nearby. The windows were replaced and other works at the W end carried out in 1819, and the church was restored in 1881-3 to designs by J L Pearson, with further piecemeal alteration of the window tracery in the late C19 and C20.

Coursed stone rubble with some reused worked stone from the former church of St John the Baptist and from the nave of the chapel of St Thomas Becket by the abbey west gate.

Aisled nave and chancel, the chancel projecting one bay beyond the ends of the aisles. W tower set over the W bay of the nave with the aisles extending past it.

The exterior is largely Perpendicular in appearance, although this is partly due to extensive C19 restoration. Tall W tower with large, 4-light transomed bell openings and corner turrets with pinnacles, entirely renewed. W door and W window above. Nave and chancel roofed as one, with an embattled parapet and 3-light clerestory windows with square heads. The aisles and chancel chapels are also roofed continuously, and have plain parapets. The aisle and chapel windows have mainly C19 and C20 Perpendicular style tracery in a range of patterns, including the fine, large E window of 1881-3. Two windows towards the W ends of both aisles, however, retain very good intersecting Y-tracery of 1819 with the leading for the clear glazing following the pattern of the tracery. Outstanding early C15 S porch, two stories, the lower part open and vaulted with good bosses, the upper part with 2-light early C15 windows. It has a plain parapet with pinnacles and a heraldic beast said to be an antelope. There is a stained glass window in the open, lower section. Shallow, embattled N porch of 1473 with carved waterspouts.

A very large and spacious interior, also entirely Perpendicular in style. The nave arcades are tall, and have complex moulded arches on quatrefoil piers with moulded capitals and high, polygonal bases. The arches to the N and S chancel chapels are similar, but simpler, and the chancel arch dies into the wall at a high level. The tower has N, S and E arches in a Perpendicular style, and there are further arches dividing the penultimate and final W bays of each aisle, replacing early C19 blocking inserted to stabilise the tower.
C15 font, polygonal with quatrefoil and stylised roses. Otherwise the furnishings are all late C19 and C20. C19 font cover with crocketted arches. Pulpit has a traceried stone base with a timber traceried upper part. Extensive C20 screenwork, installed c.1915-31 but all in a similar Arts-and-Crafts gothic style with complex, delicate tracery and brattished cresting. The rood is 1938. Elaborate painted and gilded timber reredos also 1938 with carved figures under heavily traceried canopies. Benches of 1881-3 with square, traceried ends and moulded top rails. The roofs are all C19 in a C15 style.

An elegant wall tablet by Flaxman to William Squire, d.1826, a draped, male mourning figure leaning on a column. Also several C18 wall monuments, including several to members of the Wyldbore family: that to Matthew Wyldbore MP d. 1781 by Richard Hayward is a handsome Neoclassical composition of some ambition. Some good C19 and C20 stained glass, including a window in the N aisle by Wailes, 1896. Two framed fragments of C15 vestments hang in the church. Vestment cupboard given to the church in 1931; dated 1569 but probably made up in the late C19 or early C20 of Spanish, German and other pieces. Angled stone war memorial set against the west wall, depicting St. George and the dragon.

Good late Georgian (possibly c.1819) iron railings around the church with twisted posts and slender, spiked intermediate shafts.

The church of St John originally stood on another site to the east of the Abbey in the Bond-or Boongate area, and probably dated to the late C11, but it was subject to flooding. In 1402 the parishioners were granted permission to build a new church on the present site in the market place to the west of the abbey, using materials from the old church and from the nave of the chapel of St Thomas Becket near the abbey W gate. It was consecrated in 1407. The N porch was added in 1473. There was a proposal to demolish it during the Civil War. Galleries were added and the church refurnished in the C18, but by early C19 it was in poor condition, and the tower was strengthened and the W arches blocked up in 1818-20. Also at this time the window tracery was removed and replaced by Y-tracery, some of which still survives towards the W ends of the aisles, and the spire was taken off the tower. Following the fall of one of the tower pinnacles onto the N aisle roof, demolishing a gallery staircase, the church was restored in 1881-3 under the direction of well-known church architect John Loughborough Pearson (1817-97), designer of Truro Cathedral. He replaced much of the window tracery, including the blocked E window, rebuilt the clerestory and the roofs, and removed the galleries. Further work in 1907-9 opened up the arches under the tower. Further replacement of the Y-tracery windows took place piecemeal in the late C19 and C20, usually in conjunction with the installation of stained glass. The church was refurnished in High Anglican manner in 1938, and in 2009 was about to undergo reordering at the W end to create meeting and service areas including the removal of some pews and screens to designs by Julian Limentani, of Marshall Sussons Architects.

Pevsner, N., Buildings of England: Bedfordshire, Huntingdonshire and Peterborough (1968), 325-6
Bull, J and V, A History of Peterborough Parish Church, 1407-2007 (2007)

The church of St John the Baptist, Peterborough is designated at Grade I for the following principal reasons:
* An architecturally ambitious parish church built c.1402-7 in a prominent position in the city centre, exemplifying Perpendicular town church design.
* Very fine two story, vaulted S porch.
* Fittings of note include a C15 font, good C20 screen work and High Anglican furnishings including rood and reredos.
* Restored and partially rebuilt in 1881-3 by J L Pearson, the important Gothic architect.
* Interesting monuments include those to William Squire d. 1826 by Flaxman, and the Wyldbore tomb by Richard Hayward.

This List entry has been amended to add the source for War Memorials Register. This source was not used in the compilation of this List entry but is added here as a guide for further reading, 30 October 2017.

This text is from the original listing, and may not necessarily reflect the current setting of the building.

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