The History of St John’s Church
Main Features of the Church
From “A History of the Parish Church of St John the Evangelist Redhill” by Rosalie Thomas, 1994
Surrounding the churchyard is a fine wall of knapped flintstones which was constructed in memory of the curate, Rev W Kelk in 1867. Once inside the church, one of the most striking features is the triptych behind the altar. It was designed by John Loughborough Pearson himself, towards the end of his life, and given to the church by the Rev. John More Gordon in memory of his mother in April 1898. Newly restored and regilded, the three hinged and beautifully illustrated solid mahogany panels rest on a base of red Numidian marble. The gold and rich colours now look resplendent in their original glory. The skilled restoration was carried out by Judith Weatherall, a member of the congregation, who is a professional restorer, assisted by Rita Radovanovich and Fiona Hunter Craig.
The central panel represents the crucifixion with the Virgin and St. John, with the Agony on one side and the Entombment on the other. Beyond these come four small figures, two on each side, representing four of those “who saw His glory and spake of Him” - Abraham, David, Isaiah and St John the Baptist. The large panels at the extremities of the wings contain, on one side the Nativity, and on the other side the Resurrection. Above these come the four Evangelists, two on each side. Further above these stand the four ‘doctors’ of the Western Church – Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine and Gregory. The carved figures which crown the whole represent Our Lord, with Moses on his right and Elijah on His left hand. Outside these are two angels on each side.
At the back of the church stands the distinctive white marble Angel Font, which was installed in 1882 on the retirement of the Rev. Henry Gosse, in recognition of his 36 years in office as Vicar of St. John’s. A shell-shaped bowl is held in the outstretched arms of a kneeling angel, who gazes protectively down.
Further long and faithful service is remembered by the tablet near the font which is dedicated to Elizabeth Brigden, who followed her father as verger in an epic partnership that lasted from 1883 to 1944. Above this area is an unusual gallery which has provided additional seating, and which affords a fine panoramic view of the nave and chancel below. The marble pulpit was commissioned in 1882 to commemorate Eliza Paine. The sculpture that adorns its front depicts the raising of Lazarus from the dead. In similar fashion to the font, a praying angel overlooks this scene.
The splendid Eagle Lectern to the left of the chancel was donated in 1891 in memory of Elizabeth Cumming. A replica of the brass eagle design in Southwell Minster, it rests on the same Numidian red marble as the triptych. The bird stands on a ball which represents the world. The Bible on the eagle’s back symbolises the Gospel being carried on its wings to the far reaches of the earth.
The church contains two attractive and unusual wrought iron screens. The Chancel screen, erected in memory of Alfred Machin in 1910, contains a decorative roundel in the centre with the inscription “IHS”, the Latin abbreviation for Jesus. The beautifully worked screen between the chancel and the Lady Chapel was presented a year later by Julia Rennie, in memory of her husband, George B Rennie and their daughter Gwyn Lily.