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Church of St John, Bournemouth

Description: Church of St John

Grade: II
Date Listed: 5 May 1952
English Heritage Building ID: 101767

OS Grid Reference: SZ1293195213
OS Grid Coordinates: 412931, 95213
Latitude/Longitude: 50.7564, -1.8180

Location: Holdenhurst Road, Bournemouth BH8 0EE

Locality: Bournemouth
County: Bournemouth
Country: England
Postcode: BH8 0EE

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Listing Text

Church of St John

(Formerly listed as:

1833-4 by George Evans. Enlarged by Benjamin Ferrey, 1873 (west narthex, apsidal chancel, north vestry)

MATERIALS: Coursed grey limestone, dressings probably of Bath stone, stone tiled roof.

PLAN: Four and a half bay nave without aisles, west porch, small apsidal chancel with a vestry to the north, south transept originally for a private pew, now organ chamber.

EXTERIOR: The most noticeable feature externally is the big cupola or bellcote which is corbelled out from the west gable. It is octagonal, with thin pinnacles and an ogee cap rising to a finial and weathervane. The corbelling is developed from the shallow square projection which contained the three-light west window. The openings are four-centred, and the tracery Neo-Tudor. Below the west window is a small porch or narthex, with the door on its north side. Flanking the west window, two uncusped lancet openings. The nave is buttressed on the north and south sides, with tracery in two lights; the south transept matches.

INTERIOR: The interior is quite plain, with white-painted walls. The open timber roof of 1873 has false hammerbeams and Tudor-arched trusses with traceried spandrels. The round-headed chancel arch rests on small corbels. In the chancel the roof timbers are close set and form a half-wheel over the apse. Wood block floors in the nave, some red and black tiling at the east end (mostly carpeted).

PRINCIPAL FIXTURES: The reredos (1873) is of routine design with gabled centre and pinnacles, of coloured marbles, also used to line the flanking walls. It reportedly incorporates stone (`tesselations') from the Mount of Olives, Constantinople and Rome. The font is perhaps Late Norman, from the old church. A square bowl with rounded corners and five big flutes to each side; heavy central stem, and cylindrical columns at the corners. The bowl and corner columns are of a dark polished stone, probably Purbeck marble. Oak pulpit with plain panels and pierced arches at the top, on a stone base. Doubtless of 1873, as are the pine bench pews. Stained glass: the east windows have patterned glass with medieval style medallions, c. 1873. In the south aisle one by Nathaniel Westlake of Lavers & Barraud, c. 1894. Three windows rather in the style of Kempe, 1898-1907. In the west wall are two good single lights of 1953-4, by G.E.R. Smith, depicting Sower and Reaper.

HISTORY: The medieval parish of Holdenhurst included most of modern-day Bournemouth, except Kinson and Talbot village in the north-west. By 1829 the church was in poor repair and too small for the congregation of c. 620, including residents of the exclusive villas around the Bourne stream, 3½ miles south-west. The old church was c. 100 yards from the present site, which was given by Sir George Tapps-Gervis (see below). The foundation stone for the New Church was laid on July 18, 1833 by the second Earl of Malmesbury. It was consecrated on November 9, 1834, and accommodated 472 persons, at a cost of £1,160. The architect was George Evans of Wimborne (c. 1800-73), the son of William Evans, County Surveyor or Dorset; George succeeded him in this post in 1842. Medieval materials were not used in the rebuilding. St John remained the parish church of Bournemouth until the establishment of St Peter, c. 1845. The original design for St John included a west gallery and the shallowest of projections for the altar; both removed 1873 by Benjamin Ferrey (1810-80). He was a well-known Gothic Revivalist church architect, a pupil of A.C. Pugin and biographer of A.W.N Pugin (1861). Ferrey set up in independent practice about 1834. He was the diocesan architect to Bath and Wells from 1841 until his death. He was born in Christchurch, and was architect to Sir George Tapps-Gervis from 1836 for the development of the Westover estate, which established Bournemouth as a select resort. This must explain his late commission here.

Incorporated Church Buildings Society (ICBS) archive, file 01134 (
N. Pevsner and D. Lloyd, Buildings of England, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, (1967), 295.
H. Colvin, Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, 1600-1840, (1995), 356-7.
Kathleen M. Chilver, Holdenhurst, Mother of Bournemouth (1956).

The church of St John is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* A village church which is the mother church of Bournemouth, with historic links to the Tapps-Gervis family.
* Rebuilt by George Evans of Wimborne, 1833-4, in a modest Gothic Revival style that is quite creditable for the date.
* Strikingly designed cupola style bellcote
* Good Late Norman font from the old church
* Some good stained glass of 1873 and later.

This text is a legacy record and has not been updated since the building was originally listed. Details of the building may have changed in the intervening time. You should not rely on this listing as an accurate description of the building.

Source: English Heritage

Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.