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Church of St John the Evangelist, Taunton

Description: Church of St John the Evangelist

Grade: I
Date Listed: 4 June 1952
English Heritage Building ID: 269850

OS Grid Reference: ST2233524387
OS Grid Coordinates: 322335, 124387
Latitude/Longitude: 51.0136, -3.1085

Location: Park Street, Taunton, Somerset TA1 4DQ

Locality: Taunton
Local Authority: Taunton Deane Borough Council
County: Somerset
Country: England
Postcode: TA1 4DQ

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Listing Text

744/10/3 PARK STREET
04-JUN-52 (North side)
Church of St John the Evangelist

(Formerly listed as:

1858-63, by George Gilbert Scott (later Sir). Chancel reordered by Henry Wilson for the firm of J.D Sedding, 1891.

MATERIALS: A showcase of Somerset stones: squared rubble walls of Westleigh stone, banded dressings of ochre Ham stone, Bath stone and red Bishop's Lydeard sandstone. Some Monkton rag, Caen stone and Devonshire marble inside. Steep tiled roofs with diaper patterns in red on brown. The contrasting play of colour and texture is especially effective.

PLAN: Four-bay nave (said to be one bay shorter than intended) with north and south aisles; north chapel; steeple sited unusually at the east end of the south aisle. Two-bay chancel. South porch. Choir vestries at the north-east, 1888.

EXTERIOR: A striking composition in a rich E.E. style, set close to the street. The prominent tower, 80ft high, and banded spire are `not at all in any local tradition' (Pevsner). The tower has angle buttresses, carved diaper ornament on the bell stage, and two-light bell openings with plate tracery and striped voussoirs. The spire has polychrome banded decoration, big lucarnes, and figures of the apostles in tabernacles masking the broaches. Another tier of small lucarnes higher up. The aisles and west wall are heavily buttressed. The aisle windows are of two lights with an oculus in plate tracery. South porch with three orders of columns. East window of three even lancets with a foiled oculus in the gable above. The west end is well composed, with triple gables, a triple arcade framing the west door, grouped lancet windows (2:3:2), with foiled oculi above (1:3:1).

INTERIOR: The interior is surprisingly spacious - 110ft long by 56ft wide. White plastered walls with Ham stone dressings. The nave arcades have broad arches of two-stepped profile, and slim piers are alternately cylindrical and clustered (red sandstone shafts with shaft rings). Richly crocketed foliate capitals including human and animal heads. The aisle windows have nook shafts. Much shafting of Forest marble in the chancel, and very enriched soffits to the steep arches of the organ loft. Over the chancel is a panelled tunnel vault painted blue, with stars on a cream ground over the altar; a scheme by Michael Torrens and Alan Rome, 1962. The nave and aisles have close-set rafters and densely stencilled grounds. Chancel floor of 1891, paved in black and white marble.

PRINCIPAL FIXTURES: Heavy pulpit of Ham Hill limestone with inset roundels and red Devonshire marble angle shafts. Octagonal font on Devonshire marble shafts, with carved roundels, c. 1863. Baptistery re-cast 1911-13 by John Dudley Forsyth, with Free Perpendicular rails, panelling, and elaborate oak font cover of Gothic spire form. Forsyth also signed the two baptistery windows (one of 1914). Beneath the tower, a superb Henry Willis organ, 1864, reckoned to be one of the finest by this noted organ builder. Painted patterned oak case. In the north chapel, a C15 Renaissance style reredos with triptych painting of the Crucifixion, in a gilded and carved triple-arched frame. The chancel was reordered in 1891 by Henry Wilson; his master J.D. Sedding perhaps designed some of the fittings but died before the scheme was executed. The most prominent fitting from this reordering is an exceptionally light and open wrought-iron screen, with a big cross but no rood figures. Gilded frieze of cut plate metal depicting animals and Noah's Ark, below floriated cresting. Of the same date, Free Late Gothic chancel stalls with rich naturalistic plants, birds and animals. The bench ends already show Art Nouveau whiplash lines. The maker of screen and stalls was Trask of Norton-sub-Hamdon, Sedding's favoured contractor, cf. Axbridge church, Somerset. High Altar frontal designed by Alan Rome, 1962, in carved timber, gilded by Burchardt, a pupil of Comper. The original pine bench pews survive throughout, with simple but well shaped ends. Limited stained glass, used tellingly: the richly coloured east and west windows are by Hardman & Powell, 1863. Clayton & Bell made the wheel window in the north chapel, 1863. Red, black and cream tiled floors (except in the chancel, above).

HISTORY: A new church on the western edge of the town centre, built for the poor district of Tangier. Paid for by Rev. Frederick Smith of Holy Trinity church, Taunton, at a cost of c. £12,000. Consecrated April 13, 1863. From the outset, there were no pew rents. Sir George Gilbert Scott (1811-78) began practice in the late 1830s and became the most successful church architect of his day. Often criticised for over-restoration, his work was in fact usually respectful of medieval buildings, while his new churches generally have a harmonious quality which derived its character from the architecture of the late C13 or early C14. He also designed important secular buildings, for example the Albert Memorial and the Midland Grand Hotel at St Pancras. He was knighted in 1872. This is an extremely imposing example of his work from the peak of his career, displaying a highly characteristic fusion of medieval forms with is own distinctive approach. Henry Wilson was a noted church designer, regarded as among the leading Arts and Crafts epoch artists in this vein.

Faculties at Somerset Record Office, Taunton
Church guide, (2006)
Pevsner, N, Buildings of England: South and West Somerset, (1958)
Somerset County Gazette, 18 April 1863 (Consecration, 6)

The Church of St John the Evangelist, Park Street, Taunton, is designated at Grade I for the following principal reasons:
* A substantially unaltered structure by George Gilbert Scott, one of the most successful architects of the High Victorian period.
* The C13 Gothic style is executed in a particularly successful mix of subtly contrasted local stones.
* Many original fittings survive, and the later introductions are mostly of high quality and harmonious, notably the forward-looking Arts and Crafts screen and stalls by Henry Wilson, and the baptistery by Forsyth.
* The church has exceptionally strong Group Value
* The Church of St John the Evangelist demonstrates the impact of High Anglicanism on the town of Taunton, and the force of High Victorian piety.

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.