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Description: Church of St John the Evangelist
Date Listed: 9 January 1976
English Heritage Building ID: 166084
OS Grid Reference: TA2011169074
OS Grid Coordinates: 520111, 469074
Latitude/Longitude: 54.1035, -0.1645
707/8/123 CHURCH LANE
CHURCH OF ST JOHN THE EVANGELIST
1846-8 by G G Scott.
MATERIALS: Sandstone ashlar from nearby Wakefield. Slate roofs. Lead-covered spire.
PLAN: Nave, chancel, tower and spire at SE corner of nave, N transept, NE vestry.
EXTERIOR: The church is built in the Norman style with round-arched openings throughout (unless otherwise stated). It has a showpiece W end with a large window with three orders of carving, the outer two carried on shafts. On either side there are panels of blind intersecting arcades with a single-light window in the centre of each panel. In the gable there is a vesica-shaped window and two small roundels with armorial bearings of Graeme and of Yarburgh impaling Graeme. The nave and chancel have stone cornices on elaborately carved corbels. The nave has small windows with hoods. The S doorway is a striking piece with a shallow gabled projection, the gable being carved with high-relief lozenges. The doorway itself has three orders of carving and three shafts in the jambs with reeded and foliage capitals. The orders include an inscription and also a set of beak-heads. The door is original and has decorated strap hinges. There is a slender tower, more like a turret in size, with engaged shafts at the corners. In the belfry stage there is blind intersecting arcading, embracing pairs of small windows. The splay-foot spire has a lead covering with rolled joints. The chancel is in two tiers divided by a string-course, the upper tier having blind arcading on the N and S walls; each side has two small windows with architraves carved with zig-zag ornament. The gable of the E wall is treated as a pediment with a corbel course carried across below the gable. There is a wheel window in the gable above three windows set in a tier of blind arcading. The windows have shafts to the jambs and twisted ornament to the architraves. The N vestry has a stack on the ridge in a four-way gable at the base and paired circular chimney shafts. In its N wall the vestry has a pair of windows above which, in the gable, is a roundel window.
INTERIOR: The interior has striking neo-Norman detailing, a very complete set of fittings in neo-Norman style and numerous incised inscriptions over the arches. It is painted white with some of the architectural detail picked out in bright colours: this work was done in 1947. The chancel arch has zig-zag decoration, the responds being carved and the capitals having interlace ornament. Over the arch is a roundel with the arms of Queen Victoria. The nave has an open canted wagon roof with twisted ribbon ornament to the wallplates and neo-Norman corbels. The main cross-ribs have carved decoration. There are similar roofs to the chancel and transept. There is triple arcading at the E end of the chancel framing the three windows: the arches have fierce zig-zag ornament. String-courses return round the N and S walls where the windows have moulded surrounds and engaged shafts.
PRINCIPAL FIXTURES: The reredos consists of inscription panels (including the Lord's Prayer and Creed) in a neo-Norman stone frame with additional panels (bearing the Ten Commandments) to the N and S. The sanctuary is floored with two-colour encaustic tiles. The timber altar rail has round-headed arcading. The choir stalls are quite grand: the rear seats have arms and the ends of the front seats are decorated with blind trefoil-headed arches. The nave seating has panelled doors and the bench-ends have shaped tops decorated with stiff-leaf knots. The font is neo-Norman and has a circular bowl with cable moulding and waterleaf ornament carved at the corners of the square base. The wooden polygonal timber drum pulpit has its sides carved with round-headed arches. The reading desk has two shoulder-headed arches. In the W window there is glass by William Wailes. The roundel in the transept is dated 1847 and is also probably by him. The chancel windows consist of small figure groups of 1890 which were set against white glass backgrounds in 1947. At the W end there are two 20th-century windows with symbols of the Evangelists and a background of carefully designed leaded patterns. There are wall monuments also in the neo-Norman style to the founder's family. The monument to Thomas Graeme (d 1779), with a broken pediment and an urn, was brought here from Wharram Percy church in 1957.
SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: The churchyard and road beyond are separated by attractive iron railings, gate piers and gate. A small First World War memorial stands in the churchyard.
HISTORY: The church was built in 1846-8 to designs by George Gilbert Scott with the consecration taking place on 27 April 1848 by Archbishop Musgrave. The choice of Scott is no doubt linked to the fact that it was he, with his partner W B Moffatt, who had designed Christ Church, Bridlington Quay, erected in 1840-1. The patron for the building of St John's was the local squire, Yarburgh Graeme of Sewerby House, and it is to him that we must surely look to explain the architecture of the building and an aspect of its fitting up. The style 'neo-Norman' enjoyed a brief flowering for about ten years from c1835 to c1845 after which it withered as Gothic swept the board for new church buildings. Scott, by the mid-1840s, had become an enthusiastic advocate of Gothic and it is hard to imagine him deploying neo-Norman if left to his own devices. Equally unusual is the fact that the congregational seating has doors. This is a vestige of the enclosed arrangements that were usual in Georgian seating - the box-pew. The Victorians favoured open benches and leading, progressive architects such as Scott would surely not have used doors unless they had been insisted upon by the client. It is perhaps not surprising that Scott noted in his `Recollections' that 'difficulties arose from the fads of my employer'.
G G Scott (1811-78) began practice in the mid-1830s and became the most successful church architect of his day. Often criticised for over-restoration, his work was in fact usually very respectful of medieval buildings, while his new churches generally have a harmonious quality which so often derived their character from the architecture of the late-C13 or early-C14. He also designed a number of very important secular buildings, for example the Albert Memorial and the Midland Grand Hotel at St Pancras. He was awarded the RIBA Royal Gold Medal in 1859 and was knighted in 1872. He is buried in Westminster Abbey.
Extensive redecoration took place in 1947 under Francis Johnson when the interior was rather over-zealously whitened and bright colouration applied to various architectural features. Previously the texts over the arches had been picked out in black. During this work plain glass was put in the nave windows.
Edward Ingram, M., The Church of St John the Evangelist, Sewerby (c.1960).
Neave, D and Pevsner, N., The Buildings of England, Yorkshire: York and the East Riding (1995), 677-8.
Scott, G.G., Personal and Professional Recollections (1879; reprinted 1995), 148.
REASONS FOR DESIGNATION:
The church of St John the Evangelist, Sewerby, is designated at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:
* It is of considerable as a mid to late 1840s church by one of the greatest church architects of the 19th-century, George Gilbert Scott.
* The choice of the neo-Norman style is of particular interest in that it is very atypical in Scott's work and one of the last examples of this style which was briefly fashionable from the mid-1830s to the mid-1840s.
* The furnishings and fittings are very largely intact and the neo-Norman style for many of the fittings and furnishings makes them harmonise with the architecture of the building.
* The provision of doors to the seating is highly unusual in the late 1840s and, like the style of the building, surely represents the wishes of the client over the preferences of the architect, a further sign of the singular origins of the architecture of the church.
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.