Ladywood

St John the Evangelist

now St John & St Peter

Built beyond the town in 1854 by the prolific London architect, S S Teulon, St John's was extended to twice the size in 1881 as the town expanded into the surrounding countryside. The architect was Birmingham-born J A Chatwin, the designer of St Martin's-in-the-Bull Ring and Aston Parish Church. 

 

St John's Church website

The website of St John's & St Peter's can be found at - http://www.stjohnpeter.org.uk/.

 

You might also be interested in Ladywood - A History of Birmingham Places & Placenames . . . from A to Y Birmingham - http://billdargue.jimdo.com/placenames-gazetteer-a-to-y/places-l/ladywood-birmingham/.

 

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Maps above reproduced here from the Mapseeker website - reuse permitted for non-commercial purposes. Click to enlarge.

 

Above left: 1831 Reform Act Plan by Robert Dawson. Ladywood was still a rural area beyond the urban development that was quickly spreading westwards from the town.

Above centre: John Tallis's 1851 map of Birmingham shows the church in a rural area.

Above right: Birmingham by Archibold Fullarton 1866. At the time St John's was built in 1854, streets of working-class houses were being built to the east of the church. However, to the west on the Rotton Park estate there were still some very substantial houses set in their own grounds. 

 

The west end of the church
The west end of the church

There seems to have been a mission hall of St Martin’s somewhere in Ladywood before 1851, though where it was is uncertain. In that year a meeting was held at the house of Birmingham banker, Henry Rotton of Fernside, Moseley. Of an old and wealthy Birmingham family Henry Rotton, was generous in supporting the building of new churches.

 

The Rev George Lea, later Vicar of St George's Edgbaston, promised £1000 towards the building and endowment of a church in Ladywood.

 

The Governors of the King Edward Schools also agreed to allow a site on their property; and the Rector of St. Martin's was also willing to donate some of the glebe land. It was decided that a new church dedicated to St John the Evangelist would be built with a capacity of 1400.

 

The original site chosen was at the corner of Alston Street (now Guild Close) and Ledsam Street, later the site of St Margaret of Antioch. The King Edward’s School Governors thought the present site at that time alongside Ladywood Green to be more suitable site. The foundation stone was laid by Lord Calthorpe in September 1852, and the church was consecrated by the Bishop of Worcester in March 1854, with a parish assigned out of St Martin's. The cost of the building was £6000 with a grant of just £267 from the Church Commissioners.

 

When built, St John‘s was a small building of stone in early Decorated style with an apsidal chancel and four-stage battlemented tower designed by the prolific London architect, S S Teulon and orientated south-west to north-east alongside Monument Road. Built of coursed red sandstone with ashlar dressings, the tiled roof has alternating bands of scalloped tiles.

 

The west door to the nave, is set within a pointed arch with trefoil windows on either side; these were filled with stained glass by Kim Jarvis in 2000 and represent the local Ladywood community and the Carribean roots of many of the congregation. Above the door is a four light traceried window and a high trefoil window in the apex of the gable end.

 

The church extended

Thirty years later in 1881 with the district largely built up, the church was greatly enlarged in the same style and material at a cost of £2350. Birmingham architect, J A Chatwin added polygonal chancel, north and south aisles and double transepts and designed all the fixtures and fittings of the chancel, mosaic floor, carved choir stalls and the richly decorated roof. Typical of this accomplished church architect are the head stops of the hood moulds of the external windows. Each face is different and believed to represent a member of the church community at the time, though none has been identified. 

There is now little to see outside of Teulon’s original building except for the tower, with its single chiming bell, and the west end of the nave, and similarly inside where Teulon’s wall have been replaced by five-bay arcades. These are formed from octagonal stone piers supporting pointed arches. The transepts have similar two-bay arcades. Chatwin’s design is liberal with his ornamentation. The roofs of the transept are supported on carved angel corbels, the arches between the aisle and side chapels have foliate capitals, and the arcade pier to the east end above the pulpit has a rich elaborate capital in Perpendicular style.

 

The chancel floor is covered with encaustic tiles, has a richly decorated roof and includes choir stalls and chancel seating. Pairs of stone arches lead to the side chapels. The ornate gothic stone pulpit with its carved saints dates from Chatwin’s time, the brass lectern is dated 1890. The east window has five lights depicting Christ and the four Evangelists by Hardman’s of Birmingham and dates from the 1850s.

 

The Lady Chapel designed by Chatwin’s son, P B Chatwin has a fine altar of 1927, commemorative wood carvings at the end of each pew depicting the four Apostles; and a handsome oak screen along the passageway to the vestry.

 

In 1923 an oak reredos depicting the Last Supper was erected as a memorial to the men of the parish killed in the First World War. The altar was a memorial to the John Lea who had been instrumental in setting up St Thomas's School. However, both were destroyed when the chancel was damaged by a German bomb during World War Two. The present stone reredos and panelling has cusped niches, marble piers and angel statues. The altar rails feature gilded carvings of the Agnus Dei and symbolic representation of St John as the eagle.

 

The church is rich in memorials. An interesting one in the nave, which depicts a three-funnelled warship, is inscribed: To the Glory of God and in memory of Walter Grounds, Petty officer, H.M.S. Terrible. An exemplary sailor, a good Son and the best big gunshot in the British navy. Died Hong Kong, June second 1902. Hanging lanterns on either side of the main aisle were given by Canon & Mrs Norman Power, in memory of their son Michael who drowned in a sailing accident.

 

The church was dramatically reordered internally from 1993 with the removal of the pews to create a flexible area for services, displays and meetings. Although the traditional font has been retained in the south transept, an innovative new font has been installed nearby with three upright stones and fountain with running water. The baptistery window was also designed by Kim Jarvis in 2002. The north transept is now the Chapel of Healing & Reconciliation and lit by Deborah Lowe's stained glass window installed in 2002. Also of note in the north transept is a suspended glass crucifix also of 2002 by Martin Andrews, which incorporates a the handprints of the congregation

 

The building is Grade II listed. In 2000 the parish amalgamated with that of St Peter, Spring Hill and the church was renamed the church of St John & St Peter.

 

Weblinks

There is information about the history of the church and a guided tour on the church's own website:

- http://www.stjohnpeter.org.uk/Church/Events/first150.htm

- http://www.stjohnpeter.org.uk/Church/tourguide.htm

 

See also Heritage Gateway - http://www.heritagegateway.org.uk/Gateway/Results_Single.aspx?uid=1076069&resourceID=5,

 

Digital Ladywood - http://www.digital-ladywood.org.uk/ (Search for St John’s Church) and

 

have a look at Aidan McRae Thomson’s photographs on Flickr of the interior of the church with special reference to the stained glass windows - http://www.flickr.com/photos/amthomson/sets/72157607548285602/.

 

This is a Grade II listed building whose record can be found on the

Historic England website - https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1076069.

 

William Dargue 01.05.2012