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Church of St John the Baptist, Epping

Description: Church of St John the Baptist

Grade: II*
Date Listed: 14 January 1972
English Heritage Building ID: 117596

OS Grid Reference: TL4595302103
OS Grid Coordinates: 545953, 202103
Latitude/Longitude: 51.6987, 0.1105

Location: B1393, Epping, Essex CM16 5DN

Locality: Epping
Local Authority: Epping Forest District Council
County: Essex
Country: England
Postcode: CM16 5DN

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Listing Text

601/3/78 ST JOHN'S ROAD
14-JAN-72 Church of St John the Baptist

By Bodley and Garner 1889-91, nave, chancel and south aisle. By G F Bodley: 1907-9 tower, 1908 north aisle and south porch. Some of this work is posthumous as Bodley died in 1907 and the practice was continued by C G Hare as Bodley and Hare.

MATERIALS: Bath stone ashlar. Clay tile roofs to the nave and chancel. Aisles lead-covered.

PLAN: Nave and chancel in one, north and south aisles, south chapel, north organ chamber and room beyond to the east, south-east tower/vestry and link to this from the south chapel.

EXTERIOR: The east end of the chancel abuts directly on to the High Street and the tower is placed tightly in the angle between the High Street and St John's Street. Stylistically the architecture draws upon medieval architecture of the early C14, as was often the case in Bodley's work. The most significant visual feature is the tower. This is of three stages, has angle buttresses and a clock (by Thwaites and Reed of Clerkenwell) projecting from the second stage over the High Street. The ground stage of the tower has a recessed centrepiece with a two-light window flanked by buttresses and a pair of blind arches. The middle stage of the tower is very plain although at this level the buttresses contain figures under canopies. The belfry stage has pairs of two-light windows filled with cusped lozenge tracery. At the top the tower has openwork battlements. Against the west face of the tower on the ground storey there is a polygonal, embattled stair turret. At the east end of the chancel there is a large seven-light window, blind below a transom (because of the large reredos internally), and with highly ornate tracery above which fuses Geometrical and Decorated forms with lavish reticulations and cusped circles. The rest of the fenestration is rather more conventional and is mostly of three lights: in the south aisle the tracery is flowing Decorated tracery, in the north aisle there are also pairs of mullions rising to each arch head. At the west end there are a pair of three-light Decorated windows. The aisles have low, plain parapets. There is no clerestory.

INTERIOR: The walls are plastered and whitened. The internal arrangements are typical of Bodley's later churches with tall, elegant arcades made possible by the absence of a clerestory. The nave and chancel form a single volume, demarcated by a screen rather than a structural division. The south aisle and south chapel are similarly separated. The organ blocks the east end of the north aisle. The nave is of five bays and has quatrefoil piers with fillets on the main lobes and rolls and fillets in the hollows: the arches, capitals and bases are moulded. The chancel is of two-and-a-half bays and has pairs of arches on either side with similar detailing to that in the nave. The roof covering the nave and chancel is of the boarded wagon type: it is painted blue and has a text running at wall-plate level.

PRINCIPAL FIXTURES: The nave and chancel are separated by a fine, vaulted rood screen by Bodley with single-light divisions containing delicate tracery in the heads. The screen supports a large and striking rood group. The screen between the south aisle and chapel is lower than the rood screen but similar in style. There is a further screen between the chapel and chancel. The focus of the chancel is a larger, continental-style triptych reredos of the kind favoured by Bodley although in this case it dates from 1909 and is the work of Bodley and Hare. The central part depicts Christ in Majesty, the Last Supper and other scenes: the winds have angel figures playing musical instruments. The tall organ case of 1892 rises to the wall plate and is another impressive piece which bears florid pierced tracery-work. The polygonal wooden pulpit, of wine-glass type, dates from 1889 but was rebuilt in 1914: its figures stand under richly traceried canopies. The chancel stalls are relatively plain while the nave and aisles are seated (and always have been) with chairs. The font has an octagonal bowl with shields in recesses and stands on a base surrounded by Frosterley-type marble shafts. The east window contains a fine window of 1890 by Burlison and Grylls, who were one of Bodley's favourite makers. Two windows in the south chapel of 1902 and the west window of the south aisle are by C E Kempe. The north aisle has a window of c1909 by Gamon and Humphry.

HISTORY: The parish church of Epping stood at what is now Epping Upland but a chapel has stood on the site of St John's, it is said, since at least 1397. The immediate predecessor of the present St John's, however, was a chapel built in 1832. In approximately 1886 Miss Elizabeth Horsley Whiteman offered £3000 towards a new church provided work was in hand by 31 March 1890. Further funding came from the Wythes family of Copped Hall. Ernest James Wythes subscribed £4000. How Bodley was selected as architect is unknown. The memorial stone was laid on 6 November 1889 and the church was dedicated on 8 April 1891. The tower was dedicated on 28 April 1909.

George Frederick Bodley (1827-1907) was one of the key figures in C19 church-building. He was a pupil of George Gilbert Scott for five years from 1845 and remained with him until he set up in independent practice in 1856. His early work is mostly in a muscular, taut style that is characteristic of the time but in the early 1860s he reacted against what he saw as the excesses of High Victorian architecture and helped lead the way to more restrained versions of Gothic. The pivotal building was All Saints, Jesus Lane in Cambridge of 1863-4. In architecture he aspired to what he called 'refinement' and many of his later buildings have great elegance. This is certainly true of St John's Church in Epping although it is very much of the standard type of late Bodley church with C14 detail, a nave and chancel in a single volume, a wagon roof, high aisles extending to the east end, and no clerestory. As Nikolaus Pevsner commented Epping 'got a church of remarkable dignity if not striking originality.' He felt the tower was the outstanding feature of the church. The completion of St John's was at the end of Bodley's life. In 1907 he was joined as a partner by Cecil Hare (1875-1932) who, after Bodley's death in October that year, continued to work in the Bodleian idiom.

Bettley, J and Pevsner, N, The Buildings of England: Essex, (2007) 345
Connor, G, Extravagant Vision: the Building of St John the Baptist, Epping, 2nd ed, (2007)
Harvey, T, Parish Church of Saint John the Baptist, Epping: the Tower 1907-1909, (2004)
Harvey, T, Parish Church of Saint John the Baptist, Epping, Essex: Ernest James Wythes 1868-1949, (2005)
Pevsner, N (rev. Enid Radcliffe), The Buildings of England: Essex, (1965) 173-4

The Church of St John the Baptist, St John's Road, Epping, is designated at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:
* It is an outstanding, finely proportioned and beautifully detailed church in the style of the C14 by one of the leading late Gothic Revival architects
* It contains a number of fixtures of outstanding quality dating from the rebuilding of the church and progressively added in Edwardian times
* It is the most significant building on Epping High Street and forms an important visual focus in the town

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.