St John the Baptist
Serving God and the Community of Leytonstone for more than 180 years
ALTERATIONS TO THE CHURCH - Page 1
Well into the nineteenth century, the only means of communication (other than private coaches) between Leytonstone and London, was a 2/- coach, which ran twice daily from the "Green Man" to Aldgate. There was a single letterbox in one of the shops, with two daily deliveries. The High Road was a country road, unpaved and ill-lighted, and other roads scarcely existed.
Then in 1853 the Great Eastern Railway came to Leytonstone. Slowly, at first, a change began. There was a gradual exodus of the older families, and the large houses were either pulled down to make room for smaller shops, or put to other uses. With the building of smaller houses, an immensely increased population necessitated the enlarging of the church.
After many difficulties had been overcome, not least of which was the raising of the necessary money, since most of the wealthy donors had left the district, the plan was carried out.
Prior to the extensions being made to the church, one incident occurred which deserves record. In August 1881, a pinnacle from the tower was blown through the roof, and crashed through pews and floor doing much damage. Fortunately no one was hurt; mourners at a funeral service had just previously occupied the very pews destroyed. Over £500 was contributed to a Repair Fund, and by February 1882, the pinnacle had been replaced by one of solid stone, instead of having a brick base.
The first great change in the church as a building was completed in 1893. A chancel was built, affording room for clergy stalls, choir and organ, all of which had formerly occupied space in the body of the Church. Greatly enlarged arches at the east end of the church were also added, and a Choir Vestry built. At the same time new pews replaced the old "high-backed" type, and a stone pulpit was given to supersede the wooden one. There was also undertaken the entire redecoration of the church, and the addition of new gas lighting and heating apparatus. Gas was first introduced into Leytonstone in 1857; the church was the second building in the village to be so lighted, the "Red Lion" being the first. Dr. Blomfield, Bishop of Colchester consecrated all the new additions to the church, on 30th September 1893.
(It is an interesting coincidence that this Bishop Blomfield was the son of the Bishop of London who first dedicated the church in 1833).
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The original church organ was of the barrel type, and at first there were only two barrels with eleven tunes on each. Eventually there were six barrels with a total of sixty-six tunes. The organist was a gardener who had decidedly hazy ideas of time, but his zeal was unquestionable. It is said he ground out the tunes so vigorously that often he had started on the second verse before the congregation had struggled to the end of the first one. This continued in use for 36 years until a small organ with keys and a few stops was substituted.
When the enlargement of the church took place it was felt that an organ worthy of the church should be purchased. Largely through the exertions of the organist, Mr. E. C. Nunn (who became organist in 1889) about £600 was raised and part of the intended organ was installed by the 4th January 1894. When the rest of the money had been raised, the additional stops were added, and the completed organ was re-opened on the 23rd November 1902. The organ was further enlarged and entirely rebuilt by Spurden Rutt, out of the Centenary Fund raised to commemorate the hundred years of the present Church of St. John's which was celebrated on the 31st October, 1933. In recent years, in fact on Palm Sunday, 29th March 1953, two new stops were added in memory of:
W. Douglas Wilson-Organist-1914-41
ALTERATIONS TO THE CHURCH - Page 3
At the beginning of the 20th century it became evident that the church was not large enough for the regular congregation, and plans were made for the building of a south aisle, and the raising of the necessary money. While these plans were in progress, the Vicar, the Rev. W. J. Bettison, after more than thirty years in Leytonstone, was instituted as Vicar of North Ockendon, on the 16th December 1905. The Rev. W. T. Brown was instituted to St. John's on the 23rd January 1906, and he went ahead vigorously with the plans for enlarging the church. In the meantime a mission was held on Sunday evenings in the Elliott Room for those who could not find room in the Parish Church.
The enlargement was completed and consecrated by the Bishop of St. Alban's on the 19th March 1910. It was agreed to change over from gas lighting to electric, while this work was going on, and it is recorded that throughout the work of enlargement and renovation it was never necessary to close the church for a single Sunday. The total cost of this enlargement was nearly £4,000.
The reason why the Bishop of St. Alban's officiated at this dedication is that originally we were in the Diocese of London, and then as this grew too large and was divided, we came in the Diocese of Rochester for a time. When the Diocese of St. Alban's was formed in 1877 we became part of it, and remained so until the Diocese of Chelmsford was formed in 1914.
The furnishing of the Side-Chapel was undertaken in 1929, the cost being defrayed by subscriptions from members of the congregation. To add to the beauty of the chapel a pane of stained glass East Windows were given by Mr. & Mrs. Anstead, and in 1952 a very colourful cross and candlesticks were dedicated in memory of Sir James Slade, and placed on the chapel altar.
A further generous gift to the church was the lighting by floodlights, thus doing away with the pendants ' and giving a clear view of the whole church. This was first used August 19th, 1934.
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The new East Windows in the chancel were given in 1935 as a Memorial to Mrs. Tooley, the money for this having been left in his Will by Mr. Tooley. The centre light depicts Christ the King holding the Orb of the World in His left hand, while His right hand is raised in blessing. Beneath Him, and giving Him homage, are represented people of all nations, and at the bottom appear the Arms of the Borough of Leyton. The northern light is of St. John Baptist, our Patron Saint. At the bottom of this light are the Arms of King Edward the Confessor, the original owner of the land on which the church is built, while above are the Arms of the Diocese of London. The southern light is of the Virgin Mary, representing the Mother Church of St. Mary, Leyton. At the bottom of this light the Arms of St. Alban's Diocese are represented, while at the top appear the Arms of the Diocese of Chelmsford. At the outbreak of war these windows were removed and stored for safety.
Another important addition to the Church is the beautiful wooden pulpit, dedicated in memory of Canon William Tom Brown.
The original St. John's Vicarage stood on the land adjoining the Church, where now stands Pioneer's store, and prior to that Bearman’s department store. In 1894 it was decided to undertake the building of a new house to replace the one by the Church, and a Vicarage was built at Bushwood, on a new housing estate, which was at that time being erected.
This Vicarage with its nine bedrooms, lack of central heating, though undeniably spacious, has proved too costly to maintain in our present days. It has been sold to a Housing Trust and is used as a home for people who cannot cope with life as others do. This is a Christian way of helping others and is a fitting continuation, though in another context, of what the vicarage was originally built for.
A new and much smaller vicarage was built in the garden of the former house in 1979. This is much more economical and the address has now changed to 44, Hartley Road.
We can be proud of the fact that the BBC have Broadcast from St. John's on four occasions. The first was to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Men's Service on October 30th 1927. The second kept their 30th anniversary on October 16th, 1932. Then on 22nd October 1933, a broadcast was made as part of the Centenary Celebrations for the Building of the Church. The fourth broadcast was the "People's Service" led by the Rt. Rev. Cuthbert Bardsley, Bishop of Croydon, as the opening of a Radio Mission in October '1954.
ALTERATIONS TO THE CHURCH - Page 5
Thinking back on the 1939-1945 war, it is well to record our blessings in the preservation of our Church, for in spite of the fact that the first bomb to fall on Leytonstone fell in our churchyard, afterwards to be followed in our immediate area by as done to flying bombs" and rockets, very little serious damage was done to the Church. During the early years of the war we had a daughter the Church known as "The Tunnel". This was the underground tunnel at Gainsborough Bridge Church where many people took shelter from air raids. Here the Rev. E. Shipman did outstanding work, holding regular Sunday Services, often with Congregations of over a thousand.
St - John's has been seen in an unusual light on many occasions when flood-lighting has illuminated the building by night, giving it a strange beauty of soft lines melting into surrounding darkness. The first of these occasions was when many prominent buildings in London and elsewhere were floodlit to celebrate the centenary of the discovery of electric lighting by Michael Faraday in 1831. The second was during the Silver Jubilee Celebrations of King George V in 1935. In 1945, on the ending of the war in Europe, St. John's was again floodlit to celebrate the victory. Since then the church has bought its own floodlighting equipment which is used at Festivals and on special occasions.
ALTERATIONS TO THE CHURCH - Page 6
We are often congratulated on our fine Peal of bells. Mr. Davis, of "The Pastures", gave a peal of six bells to the church in lieu of the ground he had offered for the building. These bells were cast by the very old-established firm of bell founders, Mears, of Whitechapel, and were named after the ladies of the Cotton and Davis families: -
7th Dorothy Anne.
The Tenor is inscribed- "This bell with five others to form a by peal, was presented to the new chapel of Leytonstone by William Davis, Esq., AD 1833".
In 1936 the Ringing Exercise gave two Treble Bells in memory of a great Ringer, William Pye, who lived in Leytonstone for many years. These bells were cast by Messrs. Gillet & Johnstone of Croydon, and bear the inscriptions:
Treble: "William Pye, 1870-1935. The two trebles of this peal were given by the Ringing Exercise in memory of a great ringer".
2nd: "All these were honoured in their generation; And were the glory of their times!
Another name we may remember here is that of George Dawson, bell-ringer for 54 years. A plaque to his memory can be seen in the church porch.
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In mentioning the Churchyard, reference may be made to the names of a few well-known people buried there:
The family grave of William Cotton in which also are buried his wife, William Charles Cotton, and Agnes Cotton.
The family grave of Nicholas Charrington, his wife, and several of their children.
Many of the Buxton family. Susannah Barclay. Dr. Stephen Mackenzie, father of Sir Morell Mackenzie.
Madame de Bunsen, a daughter of Mr. Samuel Gurney, and sister of Mrs. Edward North Buxton. At the funeral of Madame de Bunsen in January 1903, a wreath was received from King Edward VII, who in his childhood was under her care.
Baron Ernest de Bunsen, her husband, only survived his wife by three months, and he and two of their children are buried in the same grave.
St. John's Parish Magazine was first issued in January 1880, when possibly a little more than 100 copies per month were sold. After Canon Brown became Vicar, it is recorded that the issue had multiplied five times during a short period. During past years the Parish Magazine has recorded the progress of all efforts undertaken for the advancement of the church, and the bound copies kept in the Vestry preserve these for all time.
ALTERATIONS TO THE CHURCH - Page 8
We have traced our history over the years, and as we look at the Church of St. John Baptist, Leytonstone, it is still recognisable as almost the same as the original, the architect planned. We are going to have a hard task to keep it this way, yet we are pledged to do so, because we are conscious of the heritage with which we have been entrusted.
We are only going to do so, if our faith in Jesus Christ continues to grow. Faith comes first and is an attitude from which will proceed our activity. And so now, we look forward, "Strong in the strength that God supplies through His eternal Son. Our tower points towards Heaven, where our true happiness lies.
Mr. Davis gave the original church clock at the same time as the bells. It had only one dial and was wound once every week; large weights ran down inside the Tower and they took some time and labour to wind up.
In December 1899, Mr. T. F. Saunderson defrayed the cost of fitting the clock to chime, in memory of his wife. This work was done by Mr. A. B. Wheeler, who for many years had the care of the clock, as was also the fitting of two new dials in 1897. At the same time as the new dials were fitted a time switch was inserted so that the clock would be illuminated at night. All this commemorated Queen Victoria's Jubilee. The purchase of an electric clock to take the place of the original one was undertaken at the Coronation of King George VI.
Linked with another Coronation-that of King Edward VII’s the fact that trees were planted round the churchyard at that time, to replace the elms which had originally fringed the Church Lane side. They had become dangerous and had to be cut down.