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A Brief History of St John's

A Church for Leytonstone
In the early 18th century the only church in the area was St Mary’s, Leyton. For those in the village of Leytonstone who wished to attend church, the only direct way to Leyton was along a path, through fields. That path approximated the route now taken by Grove Green Road, and in bad weather it became impassable. Around 1748 the people of Leytonstone made a request for a chapel to be built in the village.

Reverend Dubordieu, then vicar of Leyton, was visited by a Mr. Dunster and a Mr. Lewis, who laid before him a project for such a building. Afterwards he wrote to Mr. Gansell, his patron, stating that he had told these two gentlemen that he considered "there could be no occasion for such a chapel where the gentry all kept coaches, and where the tradesmen, farmers and servants were none of them more than a mile-and-a-half from the Church, that Walthamstow and West Ham are more populous and yet are contented with the Mother Church".

In spite of this opposition from both Reverend Dubordieu and Mr Gansell, the people of Leytonstone persisted with their request, to eventual success.

No opposition was allowed to deter the carrying out of the project, and Deodatus Staverton agreed (8th June 1748) with David Lewis "to let his interest in a piece of ground, part of the premises held by him of the Poor of Bourne, intended for building a chapel in Layton Stone, at the same rate as the trustees of the said Poor of Bourne shall agree to let the same".

The chapel was built and ready for use by 26th April, 1749, but the Vicar of Leyton still would take no part in holding services in it. Services were briefly held by a Mr Carter. It appears he had no authority to do so and in 1750 the services were stopped. It appears that the chapel was not used for religious services again until 1754, This time with official approval. As far as can be gathered, they were then continued uninterruptedly, and with increased prosperity.

An important meeting of Trustees was held at Leyton Vicarage, 8th December, 1818, when the necessity for the proposed enlargement and permission for administration of the Sacrament. In 1819 the Vicar of Leyton agreed to the proposed alterations and authorisation obtained from the Bishop of London. The chapel was re-opened on 23rd January 1820.

In July 1830, the Vicar of Leyton issued an address on the subject of a new Chapel. He expressed his regret that in consequence of the existing Chapel having been erected on leasehold ground, though licensed by the Bishop for Divine Service, it could not be consecrated. He also felt that the building was inadequate for a population of 1,600 souls.

A proposal was made to erect a new permanent "chapel" and a subscription list opened for it. By the 30th October 1830, nearly £2,500 had been raised. Mr. Cotton of Wallwood House and Mr. Davis of "The Pastures", who were later to become the first Churchwardens of St. John's, were among the most generous subscribers. The site chosen for the building was owned by a Miss Samson, and was bought and presented to H.M. Commissioners for Church building by Mr. Cotton.

The Parish of St John the Baptist
The first stone was laid by the Rev. Laprimaudaye on the 20th July, 1832, and the new Chapel and burial ground were consecrated and dedicated by the Bishop of London, Dr. Blomfield, on the 31st October, 1833.

The accommodation of the new Chapel was about 600 and the income paid to the "Curate-in-Charge" was £126 per annum. Baptisms and burials were performed, but marriages had to go to Leyton. All fees went to the Vicar of Leyton, as the new building was a Chapel of Ease to Leyton until, on the 3rd February, 1845, at the Court of Buckingham Palace, St. John Baptist, Leytonstone, had an ecclesiastical parish assigned. This consisted of "that portion of the Parish of Leyton to the south-east of Walthamstow, to the east of the brook running across the parish and Grove Green Lane, and to the north-east of Union Lane".

From the time the church was built, until St. John's became a parish church in its own right, a number of Clergy from Leyton officiated at Leytonstone. According to W.G. Hammock, Churchwarden from 1896 to 1902, in his book "Leytonstone and its History", these include:

Rev. E. C. Birch
Rev. William Pitt Wigram
Rev. C. J. Laprimaudaye, nephew of the Vicar of Leyton
Rev. Simpson
Rev. Dickens
Rev. N. B. Herring
Rev. John Pardoe, a descendant of the Patron of Leyton

In 1844, Reverend Henry Herbert Evans was appointed to St. John’s and 1845 it became a parish in its own right.

The Vicars of St. John's are listed below. More information about them can be found on the Vicars Gallery page of this website.

1st Vicar - 1844 to 1863 - Rev. H. H. Evans
2nd Vicar - 1863 to 1870 - Rev. W. H. Vernon
3rd Vicar - 1870 to 1874 - Rev. H. Waller
4th Vicar - 1874 to 1905 - Rev. W. J. Bettison
5th Vicar - 1906 to 1939 - Canon W. T. Brown
6th Vicar - 1940 to 1960 - Canon J. A. Stanley
7th Vicar - 1961 to 1970 - Canon E. De'Lande Jones
8th Vicar - 1970 to 1984 - Rev. C. T. Edmondson
9th Vicar - 1985 to 1998 - Rev. R. Field
10th Vicar - 2000 to 2013 - Rev. R. J. Draper
11th Vicar - 2014 to present - Rev. D. Britton

Leytonstone Grows
The village Leytonstone grew steadily throughout the 19th century, helped in no small matter by the arrival of the Great Eastern Railway in 1856. Leytonstone station was only a hundred yards away, where the Central Line station now stands.

St John’s had been regarded as a daughter church of St Mary’s, Leyton, and as Leytonstone grew the need for more churches to support the growing population. From the parish of St John’s, a number of daughter churches were spawned.

Holy Trinity, Harrow Green, was the first of these to be built. Through the initiative of the Rev. W. Bettison, Vicar of St. John's, and the Rector of Wanstead, Rev. G. S. Fitzgerald, an iron temporary church was erected in 1874. The permanent church was dedicated by Dr. Claughton, Bishop of St. Alban's, on 9th July, 1878.

St. Andrew's, Colworth Road, was dedicated by Bishop Claughton in 1887.

St. Margaret’s, was built in Woodhouse Road and was consecrated by the Bishop of St. Alban's on 28th January 1893.

During this time open-air services were held on Sunday evenings in the Mayville Road district, and steps were taken to erect the small mission church of St. Augustine's which was dedicated in August 1889. This was so successful that a much larger permanent church was built adjoining the other and was dedicated by the Bishop of Barking on 23rd January 1902.

Changes to the Building
The building of St John’s itself was also extended at this time. 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.

 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. This started during the time of Reverend W. J. Bettison and was completed in the time of Reverend W. T. Brown.

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, which is around £430,000 in today's money.

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.

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. More information about the East Window can be found in the East Window gallery on this website.

Another important addition to the Church is the beautiful wooden pulpit, dedicated in memory of Canon William Tom Brown.

Towards the end of the 20th century Reverend Richard Field organised the redecorating of the Chancel and shortly after his arrival at St John’s Reverend Raymond draper instigated a renovation and redecoration project, which was to last until 2012. A great deal of work was carried out during that time, including an access ramp to the church, the south vestry and kitchen renovated, disabled facilities provided, major work on the roof and tower, and the church redecorated. Two scrolls in the Baptistry list the people and organisations who helped to make the renovation and redecoration possible.