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Description: Chapel of St John the Evangelist
Date Listed: 20 October 1954
English Heritage Building ID: 439214
OS Grid Reference: TQ5306537682
OS Grid Coordinates: 553065, 137682
Latitude/Longitude: 51.1180, 0.1856
Explore more of the area around Speldhurst, Kent at Explore Britain.
TQ 53 37 SPELDHURST GROOMBRIDGE HILL (east side)
16/509 Chapel of St John the
Chapel-of-Ease. Built in 1625 by the patriotic Protestant John Packer to
commemorate, as the inscription records, the return of Prince Charles from
Spain, fortunately not married to the Catholic Infanta. Restored in 1757 by
William Camfield, some early C19 improvements (weathervane is dated 1824),
east end repaired after a fire caused by lightning in 1895, and roof rebuilt
in 1912. Red brick, all headers up to eaves level and gables are English
bond. Sandstone ashlar detail, the quoins lightly (and distinctively)
rusticated, some decorative use of cream and yellow-coloured sandstone. Peg-
Plan: Nave and chancel under a continuous roof. South porch and small
priest's doorway into north side of chancel.
Exterior: Essentially Perpendicular Gothic with some attempts at classicism.
Single gable-ended block with diagonal corner buttresses. Each end are tall
5-light transomed windows with Tudor arch (almost elliptical) heads and
Perpendicular tracery. They are flanked by C19 buttresses and the continuous
hoodmould steps up over the buttresses to the window. Each side has 3 windows
separated by buttresses, all 3-light similar in style to those each end.
Buttresses have alternate bands of projecting rusticated sandstone. Gables
have stone coping. West gable includes a lozenge-shaped timber clockface with
painted Roman numerals and hour hand. It also includes the initials BRS and
date 1792. Above it is a smalled keyed oculus and at the apex a gabled brick
bellcote surmounted by an ornate wrought iron weathervane. A view of the west
end of the chapel dated 1809 (reproductions are available in the Chapel) shows
it without the buttresses each side of the window, the clockface appears to be
set higher and the bellcote is a different structure altogether.
South porch is left of centre. It is gabled. It has sandstone quoins with
alternate quoins projecting slightly. Classical round-headed outer arch with
moulded imposts, chamfered surround, facetted keystone and balls in the
spandrels. It has the beginnings of a pediment below the gable. The gable
contains the dedication plaque (also carved with William Camfield 1775) below
a plaque carved with the Prince of Wales feathers. South doorway is a round-
headed arch with chamfered surround and it contains a small-panelled oak door.
Interior: Continuous roof over nave and chancel. 5 bays of early C20 tie-
beam trusses with crown posts enriched with Jacobean style Renaissance
features. Boarded ceiling except for the eastern bay which has panels painted
with religious emblems in strapwork cartouches. No structural division
between nave and chancel. Walls are plastered above small field oak panelled
wainscotting. One panel (near west end of north wall) bears the date 1690.
Moulded plaster cornice. C19 tile floor including a couple of C17 graveslabs.
Chancel floor of black and white marble flags.
Fittings and Furniture: Oak-panelled reredos in C17 style but probably C19.
Probably C17 altar table with turned baluster legs. C19 brass altar rail has
twisted standards and foliate brackets. Although stalls and chancel rail is
probably C19 the style of Tuscan collonettes is probably based on the
originals and parts may indeed be C17 work. Good C17 oak drum pulpit has
panelled sides enriched with carving and has small original sounding board.
C19 plain oak benches. Good C17 stone font with fluted octagonal bowl and
stem has jewelled band. Good clock mechanism exposed at the west end.
Although much repaired expert opinion suggests that parts date from the early
C17, maybe even older than the chapel. 3 good brass chandeliers. Largest in
chancel is believed to be C17 Flemish with others later copies. Other C17
brass candleholders around the chapel.
Memorials: Best is in the chancel in memory of Sir Philip Packer (died 1686).
Sculpted semi-naked figure of Sir Philip sits slumped in death with an open
book in his hand. Sculpture in a round-headed niche and on fluted base. The
inscription is in a cartouche below. Next to it in the east wall a memorial
to Sir John Packer (died 1697); framed plaque flanked by panelled pilasters,
entablature carved with foliage and open pediment containing armorial
cartouche, gadrooned sill over an apron with a plaque containing a winged
cherub's head. South wall includes a couple of C19 marble plaques and, over
the south door, an alabaster plaque in memory of William Cotton Oswell (died
1893) an eminent explorer.
Good stained glass. Mostly C19 but east window of south wall contains early
C17 heraldic panel; the Peckham arms, reset amongst deceptive C19 imitations
by Clayton and Bell. Adjoining south window also Clayton and Bell. Rest by
Kempe from the 1890s.
This is a rare early C17 church. It is also situated amongst an exceptional
group of important and attractive buildings in Old Groombridge, all associated
with nearby Groombridge Place (q.v.).
Sources. C.J. Ellingham. A History of Groombridge (1973), pp.5-10.
J. Newman. West Kent and the Weald(1969). Penguin Buildings of England
Listing NGR: TQ5306437681
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.