The Architecture of St Johnís Church





Architecture

From “Notes on the Architecture of St John the Evangelist Redhill” by Granville Partridge, 1989

Pearson was influenced by the “Early English” or “First Pointed” period of Gothic Architecture (1190-1300) although like Street and Butterfield he was not just a copyist, but developed his own language of detail, with deep mouldings; usually brick for walls and vaulting, stone for ribs, columns, arches and window tracery. Pearson’s enlargement of St John’s is obvious when viewed externally; the brick walls and imaginative detailing of the stonework being in marked contrast to Hesketh’s flintwork and stonework detailing to the aisles.

The brick which Pearson used is a typical yellow London Stock brick of medium hardness, and the mortar is of a decidedly pinkish colour. It has been suggested that Pearson must have used the local sand excavated during the building of his enlargment in the mortar mix to obtain that pinkish colour which contrasts so well with the colour of the brick. It is an appealing thought, and quite probable.

The crowning glory of St John’s is the spire, which together with the chancel is pure Pearson. To quote John Betjeman again “Pearson took great trouble with skyline, and his spires fleches and roofs form beautiful groups from any angle”. Internally it is less obvious, apart from the chancel, where Hesketh’s work finished and Pearson’s enlargement took over.

The columns to the nave and the arches which carry the clerestory must be by Hesketh. These columns in the pink Mansfield stone with their finely carved floral caps were once free standing, ie in the transition period when the aisles were added, but the limestone shafts which abut the columns belong to Pearson’s enlargement. These shafts continue up and carry the stone spandrels or arches which divide the exposed timber roof into bays thus stabilizing the structure of the nave which Pearson most probably considered necessary given such an exposed site. The roof is of a trussed rafter construction, steeply pitched (approx 55į) boarded and with a covering of 2ft x lft Belgium slates. The steep pitch of the roof is characteristic of Pearson’s work and is derived from his love of the magnificent Gothic architecture of Northern France, where he studied between 1850-55 at Contances and Soissons, at Amiens and Chartres. Pearson raised the height of the nave in proportion to the height of his new chancel and introduced the cornice (with the cup lights) at the clerestory cill level. The clerestory windows are by Pearson.

As previously stated Pearson was influenced by the Early English period of medieval architecture, and this influence can be seen in the foliated circles which make up the tracery to the east and west windows, the deep carved but simple capitals to the chancel and nave shafts, and the pointed arches and richly carved spandrels of the sedilia. The walls internally (apart from the chancel which has an ashlar stone facing) are finished in a coarse sand-cement render, which most probably originated from the finish used by Hesketh on the aisle walls, and was then carried through in Pearson’s enlargement. The gallery is of stone similar to the ashlar facing to the chancel. The main floor areas are of suspended timber construction with a stained softwood boarded finish; the floors to the chancel aisles and the area under the gallery are solid construction with an attractive finish of red black and buff quarry tiles laid in diaper pattern.

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