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Church of St John, Woodbridge

Description: Church of St John

Grade: II
Date Listed: 20 December 1971
English Heritage Building ID: 284767

OS Grid Reference: TM2740249269
OS Grid Coordinates: 627402, 249269
Latitude/Longitude: 52.0950, 1.3184

Location: St John's Terrace, Woodbridge, Suffolk IP12 1HS

Locality: Woodbridge
Local Authority: Suffolk Coastal District Council
County: Suffolk
Country: England
Postcode: IP12 1HS

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Explore more of the area around Woodbridge, Suffolk at Explore Britain.

Listing Text

592/2/340 ST JOHNS HILL

1842-4 by Alfred Lockwood and/or John M Clark of Ipswich. Numerous late 20th-century changes (see History).

MATERIALS: Yellow brick laid in Flemish bond with limestone dressings. Slate roofs.

PLAN: Nave, small apsidal chancel, W tower, N and S vestries, SW porch, NW vestry (now toilet).

EXTERIOR: The most striking feature of the exterior is the W tower and its unusual four-way gabled top. The tower has polygonal angle buttresses with small octagonal pinnacles, and is of two stages. The lower of these has a large graded, triple-lancet W window. The belfry stage has pairs of lancets on each face: each lancet is recessed within a super-arch. Above the belfry windows and dividing them from the gables above, is a narrow arcade of trefoiled arches. Each gable has a plain circular recessed roundel. The tower is crowned by a lead-covered spirelet, built when the original one (to a different, taller design) was taken down in 1975. The side walls of the church are of five bays, demarcated by buttresses and each containing a graded triple-lancet window. They have plain brick parapets. The E end terminates in a small polygonal apse which has prominent buttresses and a single lancet in each bay. At the junction of the nave and chancel are a pair of square buttresses rising from the walls of the chancel and which terminate in square turrets with pyramidal cappings. N and S of the apse are vestries, that on the S certainly being an addition to the original church. The angles of the tower and nave have received late 20th-century infillings.

INTERIOR: The interior is now largely a product of the late 20th-century. Blind pointed arcading remains from the original building in three bays of the apse. Original trefoiled-section walls shafts rise from ground level to carry the roof which is a replacement or remodelling of the late 20th century. It has large ribs and has penetrations over each window. Original single shafts also rise between each bay of the chancel from the floor to the springing of the roof. The chancel is much narrow than the nave and is entered via a tall arch with a hood over.

PRINCIPAL FIXTURES: The fittings have all been removed other than the canted W gallery which stands on cast-iron columns with straight struts. Curiously the frontals have intersected neo-Norman-style arcading. The tops of the frontals carry brattishing (ornamental cresting). Originally the N and S galleries ran the length of the nave, but they were cut back in 1896.

HISTORY: By the late 1830s the parish church of St Mary was not considered sufficient for Anglican needs in Woodbridge. To get designs for the new church the building committee advertised for plans and received 42 entries. It is not exactly clear who the successful architect was. Pevsner and Ratcliffe (followed by Riches) say it was `John M. Clark to a design by his friend, a local builder, Alfred Lockwood.' The church website states simply that Lockwood's design was selected and does not mention Clark who is certainly a known architect from Ipswich where he was responsible for the Old Custom House in Key Street of 1844. Lockwood appears to have been successful for the building contract. Whoever was responsible for the design, the choice of the rather plain lancet style was beginning to be rather out-of-date by 1842 as a return to archaeologically correct medieval architecture, especially of the early 14th-century, was becoming more established under the influence of the Ecclesiological movement. However, although the nave and chancel were very conventionally treated, the W tower with its gabled top and originally tall and elegant spire had some individuality.

Building appears to have been a slow business with the foundation stone being laid in 1842 with the consecration not taking place until 27 August 1846 (the church may have been complete long before that). The finished building held some 800 people and was crowned by a 138ft-high spire on top of the tower. In 1854 the parish of St John┬┐s was formed. Since then the church has undergone drastic changes. In 1888 the three-decker pulpit was removed from in front of the chancel; in 1896 the side galleries were removed; and in 1901-2 the church was reseated, refloored and other restoration work carried out under Brown and Burgess. The pinnacles on the tower were lowered in height soon after the Second World War; the spire was replaced by a new, shorter design in 1975; new colour schemes were introduced in the 1970s and 1980s; and in 1987-8 the pulpit and stalls were removed, a raised dias installed and a lobby and vestry built at the W end. 1997 saw the removal of the bench seating and pipe organ, the levelling of the floor and the filling in of the spaces under the gallery to create a serving area, vestry etc.

Pevsner, N. and Radcliffe, E., The Buildings of England: Suffolk (1974), 499.
Riches, A., Victorian Church Building and Restoration in Suffolk (1982), 429. (viewed at July 2009).

The church of St John, Woodbridge, is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* For it's architectural interest as an example of a lancet-style Gothic revival church.
* For the distinctive design of the W tower.
* In spite of numerous alterations, fort he spatial quality of the interior.

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.