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Church of St John the Baptist, Coventry

Description: Church of St John the Baptist

Grade: II
Date Listed: 24 June 1974
English Heritage Building ID: 218616

OS Grid Reference: SP2924276306
OS Grid Coordinates: 429242, 276306
Latitude/Longitude: 52.3840, -1.5718

Location: 27 Westwood Heath Road, Coventry CV4 8GN

Locality: Coventry
County: Coventry
Country: England
Postcode: CV4 8GN

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Listing Text


(Formerly listed as:

Newly constructed in 1842-43 by George Gilbert Scott and William Bonython Moffat.

MATERIALS: The church is built in freestone (provided by Lord Leigh, the patron, from his quarry, a couple of miles away near Gibbet Hill). The nave and chancel roofs are tiled in a pattern. The bell turret (rebuilt) is constructed of brick. The church hall complex is constructed of ashlared blocks of sandstone, with fine mortar joints.

PLAN: The church has a nave and chancel with no aisles; a NW porch and SE vestry. A large but low-lying (two-phase) church hall complex abuts the west end of the church (and now provides the main access into the church) and partly wraps around the north-west corner.

EXTERIOR: Constructed in ashlar masonry, the 1842-44 phase of a reddish colour. The vestry is plastered externally. The building is designed in a simple 'Decorated' style: the chancel, with diagonal buttresses, has elegant, steeply pointed lancets with cusped and foliate tracery heads and hoodmoulds. The east window, of three lights, contains intersecting Decorated style tracery and a hood mould terminating in carved heads. The nave, wider than the chancel, has diagonal buttresses at the east end and 2 light Decorated style traceried windows. These include ogee reticulated and the so-called 'Kentish' quatrefoil designs. Each one is differently designed to create a variety and inventiveness that was the hallmark of the Decorated style and this may be, in part, what led Pevsner to describe this building as 'one of the first archaeologically conscientious churches in England'. The west window of 4 lights has tiers of reticulated tracery. It has a large NW porch with short diagonal buttresses and a moulded doorway on shafts. The 1876 vestry was built in a sympathetic style. The west end bell turret was rebuilt in brick in 1970.

The western rooms (not of special interest) are quite extensive and all are of a single storey with flat roof and square headed windows. The church is commonly approached via these rooms. Whilst carefully carried out and providing much-needed extensions to this small building, this annexe does nevertheless impact on the character of the 'rural' C19 church character.

INTERIOR: The church, although small, feels spacious and lofty. The walls are plastered, blocked out and painted (as redecorated in c.1980). The chancel is covered with a canted wagon roof and separated from the nave by a double-chamfered chancel arch on octagonal responds with moulded capitals and hoodmoulds with carved terminals. The nave has an arch-braced roof with 3 tiers of purlins and 4 tiers of slender windbraces. Underneath the west window has been inserted a square headed doorway providing access to the added west end rooms.

As originally constructed it was designed to fit 300 people, with two-thirds of the sittings being free. The church was re-ordered in the 1980s (at which time the benches were made moveable) and the east end fittings are C20. It was further re-ordered in the 1990s when the remaining C19 seating and choir stalls were removed from the chancel and an apron floor was inserted to house a nave altar. The interior is now carpeted and there is presumably a Victorian tiled floor underneath the carpet. The interior is now considerably altered.

PRINCIPAL FIXTURES: There is an elegant and simple pedimented First World War memorial on the north nave wall, dated 1919 and recording the names of those lost to the parish.

The earliest surviving stained glass appears to be the northern most window on the nave (south wall) dated to 1885 and in memory of Gertrude Charlotte, wife of Rev George F Hough, vicar. Some respectable survivals of early C20 glass, notably the east window of 1916, in memory of Olive Mary Tuke (wife of Ben B Tuke) and depicting a crucifixion scene flanked by Mary and the church's patron saint St John the Baptist. The west window was glazed in memory of Nellie Elizabeth (wife of WE Bullock) who died in 1934. It shows Christ and saints receiving children with angels above and an inscription 'suffer little children to come unto me'. Wooden cupboards at the west end of the nave are constructed from oak panels removed from the 1923 vestry when it was demolished.

The 2002 report records the presence of some bench ends with poppyhead ends. These have since been removed and no historic seating survives. The C19 east end fittings have also been removed. The font is the only survival from this period (c.1840s)- it is an octagonal stone bowl on an octagonal stem. The bowl is carved with motifs including the IHS and includes the arms of Vaughan Thomas, who presented it. The stem has a cornice with waterleaf carving. Commandment Boards hang either side of the west window. An organ was installed in 1911, but has since been removed.

HISTORY: Westwood Heath was originally a hamlet in the parish of Stoneleigh outside Coventry; it is now close to the University of Warwick. A local patron, Lord Leigh, had converted a cottage into a school which became used as a chapel for the local dispersed community: this was not large enough for the congregation and the residents wanted a church. Some money was raised by subscription and eventually Lord Leigh provided an endowment (of £1000), an addition stipend (£300) and a house in order to get the church started in 1841. It was originally constituted as a chapel of Stoneleigh, then constituted a parish in 1846, and the living was declared vicarage in 1866. Whilst an early church in Scott's career the design is indicative of the 'archaeological' approach pioneered in the first years of the 1840s, although it is not the first of its kind. Scott's partnership with William Bonython Moffat (1812-87) had begun in 1835: Moffat was a pupil of the London architect James Edmeston under whom Scott also trained. Moffatt did design buildings on his own account but, generally, did not bring much to the partnership. The partnership was dissolved in 1844. Scott went on to become one of the most important and prolific church architects of the C19, best known for St Pancras Hotel, the Foreign Office, the Albert Memorial and legion churches and restorations. The church represents an interesting attempt to create a small rural church in a later medieval style. Its Decorated form represents a general trend that favoured the 'middle pointed' style at this date. It was built by Messrs Bradshaw and Platt at a cost of £1,580.

The church served a series of dispersed small settlements comprising the hamlets of Kirby corner, Banner Lane, Broad Lane, Tile Hill, Whoberley, Fletchampstead, Canley, Burton Post, Crackley, Hurst, The Pools and Bockended. The churchyard was extended in the early C20 (consecrated 1922) in order to provide for the expanding population in nearby hamlets that were fast developing as part of a more industrialised Coventry. In 1928 the city boundary incorporated half of the parish (including the church and the mission room which had been planted in Tile Hill in 1923). A daughter church was planted in Fletchampstead in 1937 and in Canley (1954). The parish was eventually split in 1964 (with St Mary's and St James'). The western annexe was constructed in 1966 to provide kitchen and toilet facilities. Further work in the 1970s to the west end after a consistory court hearing with regard the removal of graves. The extension, which provided meeting rooms and a new porch was dedicated in 1982. The church was re-ordered in the 1980s and 90s at which times the C19 fittings and furnishings were removed.

C.F. Neale Church of St John the Baptist Westwood Coventry: Centenary booklet 1844 to 1944 (1944)
Denis Bull The church of St John the Baptist, parish of Westwood Coventry 1844 to 1994 (1994)
N. Pevsner and A. Wedgwood, Warwickshire (1966), 469-470.

The Church of St John the Baptist, Westwood is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* The church was designed by a prominent national practice
* It is an early example of the work of an archaeological approach to church building that came to dominate the Victorian age
* It has architectural consistency and is well executed
* It is good example of a small early 19th century church designed to serve a (now lost) rural community

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.