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Church of St John the Baptist

A Grade II Listed Building in Whitstable, Kent

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Latitude: 51.3646 / 51°21'52"N

Longitude: 1.0667 / 1°4'0"E

OS Eastings: 613577

OS Northings: 167296

OS Grid: TR135672

Mapcode National: GBR TX3.DHC

Mapcode Global: VHLG1.FYST

Entry Name: Church of St John the Baptist

Listing Date: 28 September 2012

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1410894

Location: Canterbury, Kent, CT5

County: Kent

District: Canterbury

Electoral Ward/Division: Swalecliffe

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: Whitstable

Traditional County: Kent

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Kent

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The Church of St John the Baptist, Swalecliffe, is a parish church of 1875, built in Gothic style by Robert Wheeler.


MATERIALS: the building is faced in rag stone rubble with yellow brick and Bath stone dressings. The roof is covered in clay tiles; the spire above the oak bell-cote is covered in oak shingles. The interior of the building is of red brick with black-faced brick and stone dressings and has an encaustic tiled floor (now largely covered by carpet in the nave and chancel).

PLAN: the plan is L-shaped with a two-bay chancel and sanctuary and a three-bay nave, orientated east/west. There is a south porch to the west, and to the north of the chancel, under a lean-to roof, is a vestry and organ. The space occupied by the organ (installed in the mid-C20) originally contained pews: possibly seating for the local land-owning family, or possibly the choir. To the north of this is a late-C20 vestry and meeting room.

EXTERIOR: the roofs over the nave and chancel are gable-ended with stone-verged parapets. To the west the roof is surmounted by a square bell-cote and spire. The walls are buttressed in brick and rag stone; there are angle buttresses at the east end and diagonal buttresses at the west end. Nave windows are arranged as paired lancets; chancel windows are individual lancets with a stone hood-mould. There is a narrow brick impost band and thicker brick sill band, becoming stone around the chancel.

At the west end there is a five-point central light above three trefoil-headed lancets. The large plate tracery east window is composed of a central six-point light over three narrow trefoil-headed lights.

The south porch is gable-fronted with a tiled roof and pointed arch doorway. The boarded timber door has two leaves which are centrally hinged and has heavy internal timber bracing.

INTERIOR: the interior walls are red brick with a stone sill band and black-faced brick impost band. The chancel arch and window arches are striped with black brick, and with the exception of the stained glass, the windows are leaded and glazed with diamond-shaped quarries coloured in shades of yellow, blue, green and pink. Over the nave is a principal rafter roof with ashlaring; there are upper and lower collars connected by a central strut and alternate principal rafters have curved bracing.

The chancel arch springs from marble-columned console brackets. The chancel and sanctuary have stained vertical timber boarding below the sill band and a canted ribbed and panelled timber ceiling with decorative motifs stained into the panels; a band of glazed tiles runs at the wall head. The original communion rail is oak supported on decorative cast-iron uprights (a newer rail has been added at the chancel)

Pews and liturgical furniture: the pews, clergy seats and desks are original; they are of a simple, robust, design, executed in stained oak.

Pulpit and font: these are original to the church, made from white and brown marble; the columns echo the corbel brackets of the chancel arch.

Stained glass: the central light of the east window depicts the Annunciation and is dedicated to a former rector; it is dated 1926. One of the nave windows is a stained glass composition by Kempe and Co. This is a war memorial dedicated to the son of a former rector who fell in the First World War.

Reredos: this is stained hardwood and was carved by a former rector and was added in 1926.

Lighting: the nave is lit by oil-lamp chandeliers which have been converted to electricity.

This List entry has been amended to add the source for War Memorials Register. This source was not used in the compilation of this List entry but is added here as a guide for further reading, 27 October 2017.


St John the Baptist, Swalecliffe, was designed in 1875 by Robert Wheeler (1827/8-after 1891) and built by Cephus Foad of Whitstable. The church replaced an earlier medieval church, mentioned in the Domesday Monachorum of 1200, which was possibly Saxon in origin. Swalecliffe is situated between the seaside towns of Whitstable and Herne Bay and even by the turn of the C20 it remained a small hamlet with a population of only 160. However, during the course of the C20, it became built up with suburban development along the coast, and the church now survives as one of the few remaining historic buildings of the hamlet.

Wheeler was a reasonably prolific architect working mainly in Sussex and Kent, building, rebuilding and extending a number of churches, some of which are now listed. Wheeler is known both as Wheeler of Tunbridge Wells, and as Wheeler of Brenchley (a village near Tunbridge Wells). He is believed to have been in practice with J M Hooker in the early 1860s, based in Brenchley, and by the early 1870s he had his own practice in Tunbridge Wells. Other examples of Wheeler's ecclesiastical work include St Lawrence Church, Southminster, 1878 (Grade II) and Pembury Hospital Chapel, Kent, 1863-4 (Grade II).

Reasons for Listing

The Church of St John the Baptist, Swalecliffe, built 1875 to the designs of the architect Robert Wheeler, is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Quality of detail: though simple in plan and form, the detail of the building is consistently strong and well-executed;
* Use of materials: the varied materials are used to strong architectural effect, with muted, weathered, tones and rough texture to the exterior and crisp, bold, polychrome to the interior;
* Completeness of interior ensemble: the original fixtures and fittings of the church survive largely intact, including converted oil-lamp chandeliers, pews and liturgical furniture.

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