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Church of St John the Baptist

A Grade I Listed Building in Chester, Cheshire West and Chester

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Latitude: 53.189 / 53°11'20"N

Longitude: -2.8856 / 2°53'8"W

OS Eastings: 340922

OS Northings: 366138

OS Grid: SJ409661

Mapcode National: GBR 7B.31L3

Mapcode Global: WH88F.N33K

Plus Code: 9C5V54Q7+JQ

Entry Name: Church of St John the Baptist

Listing Date: 28 July 1955

Grade: I

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1375977

English Heritage Legacy ID: 469958

Location: Cheshire West and Chester, CH1

County: Cheshire West and Chester

Electoral Ward/Division: Chester City

Built-Up Area: Chester

Traditional County: Cheshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cheshire

Church of England Parish: Chester St John the Baptist

Church of England Diocese: Chester

Find accommodation in
Hough Green

Listing Text


1932-1/6/284 (South side)
28/07/55 Church of St John the Baptist


Collegiate church, briefly cathedral then with Coventry
co-cathedral; from Dissolution a parish church. Late C11, late
C12 and early C13, C14, said to have been damaged c1470 by
collapse of supposed central tower and 1572 and 1574 by
partial collapse of north-west tower; much of transepts and
presbytery abandoned mid C16; nave and crossing restored by RC
Hussey 1859-66; collapse of north-west tower 1881 destroying
north porch; porch rebuilt by John Douglas 1882; north-east
belfry tower by Douglas 1886. Sandstone.
PLAN: the present church and adjoining ruins indicate: west
front with twin towers, that to south not built; bay between
towers, destroyed; 6-bay nave truncated to 4 bays; north and
south aisles truncated to 4 bays; crossing: north and south
transepts each truncated to one bay; 5-bay aisled chancel with
apse between north-east and south-east chapels, truncated to
one bay with south aisle as Lady-chapel and north aisle
replaced by vestry in belfry-tower; chamber south of south
aisle, probably formerly chapter house.
EXTERIOR: ruined lower stage of north-west tower of badly
eroded red sandstone has west window opening with ogee
hoodmould C14, and east archway formerly to north nave aisle;
ruined medieval walls link tower to north porch and C19
narthex on site of fifth bay of nave. North porch has large
pointed archway, the jambs having 7 colonnettes carrying 7
receding mouldings of the arch; wrought-iron gates; oak
boarded doors on ornate hinges; niche above archway has
recovered statue of a bishop flanked by arched panels; moulded
coping; cross-finial; the inner archway, C12, has renewed
colonnettes and original voussoirs with eroded mouldings. The
narthex is flat-roofed and simply detailed, the porch has a
steep-pitched slate roof; a rainwater head, west, dated 1881.
The north aisle and clerestory were wholly refaced by RC
Hussey 1859-66, with broad colonnetted lancets, in the
clerestory alternating with blank panels; heavy raked
buttresses. The north transept has pre-C19 stepped buttresses
and medieval coursed stonework below sill-level of north
window, containing an inserted vestry door. Restored 3-light
mullioned and transomed Tudor-arched window with cusped heads
to upper lights; coped gable; corner rainwater head dated

The 3-stage north-east belfry tower by Douglas has flat corner
buttresses to the first stage, with vice at north-east corner;
stair loops and small lancets; the vice has an oak boarded
door on wrought-iron hinges in arched opening; the massive oak
bell-frame is expressed as a 3-panel bell-opening to each
face; a short steeple with 2-stage roof, each with belled
eaves, the upper stage oversailing the lower stage. The east
end has a stilted tripartite window, a broad stilted
round-arched light flanked by lower, narrow lights, 1863 by TM
Penson; large stepped buttresses, that to north pre C19;
eaves-level stringcourse; coped gable.
East of the present church the south side wall of the former
chancel is visible at ground level, with badly eroded red
sandstone arches of the east bay and former north-east and
south-east chapels rising nearly to full-height; the Lady
chapel arch is Romanesque, the others probably C13. The
retro-transepts far east, which had 3 chapels, have floor
substantially lower than the chancel. The supposed chapter
house and former upper chamber immediately south-east of the
crossing has diminishing buttresses and lancets, now not
glazed; the surviving lower part of the walls to the upper
storey indicate the openings for former windows; a vice at
corner of chapter house with south transept. Medieval
stonework below sill of south transept window, refaced above;
a Tudor-arched 3-light transomed window with cusped heads to
upper lights. The south-aisle wall to the nave was rebuilt
C19; broad lancets; double oak-boarded doors in archway with
stiff-leaf colonnettes; the refaced clerestory has broad
lancets alternating with arched panels, all with colonnettes;
pinnacles at corners wherever RC Hussey rebuilt or refaced.
C19 triple lancets in west end of nave, above the narthex.
INTERIOR: the 4-bay nave has simple probably late C11 arcades
with plain circular columns on cruciform bases; varied
scalloped capitals and twice rebated voussoirs; triforium
c1190 has 4 arches on bay piers with 5 attached colonnettes
and intermediate piers with 3 colonnettes; the early C13
clerestory repeats the triforium rhythm, but with mouldings
more developed. The arcade columns lean outward and westward;
the angle of lean which increases from crossing to third
columns, then begins to decrease, is carried up through
triforium and clerestory; the present height above floor level
of successive pairs of columns suggests that, until RC
Hussey's restoration, the nave floor sloped upward towards the
crossing. The diagonal lean of the arcade columns is evidently
deliberate. The plinths on which they stand have vertical
sides and, beneath the recessed padstones, level tops; the
padstones are tapered from inner east corners to the outer
west corners, to give appropriately sloping beds for the

columns. Roofs to nave and aisles were renewed 1859-66. The
side wall of the south aisle is rebuilt; colonnettes in the
reveals of north aisle windows appear to be angled outward in
relation to the wall-face, to accentuate the upward
broadening. The east column of the south arcade has suffered
some subsidence; damaged medieval painting on east column of
north arcade.
The crossing, approximately contemporary with the nave, has
oblong piers with inner corners rebated to receive attached
shafts; 3 half-round shafts on north and south faces, 2 on
east and west faces; simply-moulded arches, those to nave and
chancel wider and less than semicircular, those to transepts
slightly horseshoe; roll-moulded aisle arches to nave and
chancel, the sides broadening in a slight curve as they rise.
The drastically shortened transepts have C16 end walls. The
now one-bay chancel was damaged supposedly by the fall of the
central tower c1470. The north side of the chancel has
roll-moulded aisle arch, blocked 1886 by vestry wall; blocked
Romanesque triforium arch on very short respond with scalloped
capital; the stonework above is rebuilt. The south side has
roll-moulded aisle arch with fragment of triforium respond
above, and upper stonework rebuilt. Doorway c1300 to former
supposed chapter house which, like the ruined bays of chancel
and Lady chapel, has floor level substantially lower than the
crossing; a chancel crypt may have been intended. The chapter
house has an octagonal central pillar carrying a quadripartite
vault of 2 x 2 bays on wedge-section ribs.
STAINED GLASS: west window glass by Edward Frampton 1887-90 at
expense of first Duke of Westminster, depicting ecclesiastic
historic events in Chester; east window 1863 by Clayton and
Bell at expense of Meadows Frost, depicting Biblical scenes,
to commemorate marriage of Edward Prince of Wales; memorial
windows in nave aisles include, north-east, 1901 by Shrigley
and Scott at expense of Chester master builders commemorating
the architect TM Lockwood, depicting Hiram, builder of the
Temple at Jerusalem.
FITTINGS: small red sandstone font, probably C17 re-discovered
C19; C19 pulpit; reredos 1876 by Douglas, made by Morris and
Co, with painting of Last Supper by Heaton, Butler and Bayne;
Lady chapel reredos in timber, Baroque, now 2-panel, formerly
wider, 1692; organ used at Queen Victoria's wedding then
brought to Chester, rebuilt 1901, in case by TM Lockwood 1895;
gates to Lady chapel C17, altered; aluminium figure of the
Virgin 1969 by Michael Murray; mace board listing mayors of
Chester 1529-1848.
MONUMENTS: include: to Diana Warburton 1693 by Edward Pearce,
with sculpted skeleton; Cecil Warburton 1729 with bust in
relief; effigies on floor of north aisle, Agnes de Ridlegh

1347, a C14 Knight and C14 priest; reputedly Irish Norse C11
cross-heads; in south aisle Anne Truslove 1833; Major J
Bedward Royle RWE, 1917; Matthew Anderton (Baroque plaque)
1693; Thomas Gamul 1677; Humphrey Phillips et al. 1662 & 1639;
Jane Brother 1666; Rev. William Richards 1837; John Bostock
1716; brass to Edmund Borlase 1682 Mary Townshend and son
George Crufts 1751; Robert Bulkeley 1679; Thos Hassall (C17);
John Powell, sexton, 1881; brass to Alice Wright 1906; John
Jones 1816 & Grace 1828 & Edward 1834; Katherine Wynne
(sculpted plaque) 1650. Edward Harbert 1691; on west wall of
nave Pryce Holland Williams 1892; Thos Hughes, Sheriff of
Chester, 1890; brass war memorial 1939-45, 13 names; George
Baxter 1890; Charlotte Morris 1850; H Trowbridge Moor 1857;
Thos Tolver 1829; painted alabaster armorial shields from tomb
of Alexander and Alice Looes, c1600. North aisle; Hannah
Aldersey 1718 & daughter Eliz. Davies 1717; Giles 1720 &
Katherine Peacock 1721; Robert Barker Physician to Infirmary
1808; Arthur Forbes of County Meath 1788; Mary Drury 1895;
Benjamin Perryn & wife 1761 & 1781; Emily Marsden 1913; Edith
Howard Haswell et al, 1916; Sidney Lee 1785; Mary Ellen
Fleetwood 1905; Charles Falconer 1702 (?) William Falconer &
wife 1764; Meadows Frost 1883; Chas W Seller 1889; Margaret
Thomason 1807. In the Lady chapel Cornelius Hignett et al 1785
& 1735; Susannah Jane Scott wife of Rev.Samuel Cooper Scott
1909; two presently unidentified hatchments; armorial
paintings by the Randle Holme family.
HISTORICAL NOTE: St John Baptist is the best example of
C11-C12 church architecture in Cheshire, and of special
interest for the upward broadening and horizontal curves
observable in the stonework of the nave shown by WH Goodyear
in 1914 to have been intentional rather than accidental. The
church was remeasured by OJP Bott, F Harrison and SG Jardine
in 1990 confirming Goodyear's findings.
(Cheshire Sites and Monuments Record: Scheduled Ancient
Monuments Nos.1 to 29: 1989-1992: 3008/1/1; RIBA Journal:
Goodyear WH: St John Baptist Church, Chester: 25.7.1914;
Chester Diocese Parish Records: St John Baptist, Chester:

Listing NGR: SJ4092366142

This List entry has been amended to add sources for War Memorials Online and the War Memorials Register. These sources were not used in the compilation of this List entry but are 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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