Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Peterborough, Cambridgeshire - St John

St John (locked no keyholder) is a stone's throw west of the cathedral's gatehouse and is a gem. Sitting, rather oddly, in the middle of the Westgate shopping precinct the perfectly symetrical N and S aisles lend dignity to this rather misplaced church - I assume the precinct was built before town planning was thought of.

ST JOHN BAPTIST. The church was E of the cathedral until it was rebuilt on its present site, in 1402-7, using material from the old church and the nave of St Thomas W of the cathedral. Mostly Perp, the oldest parts at the foot of the W tower. Rubble and ashlar for the upper parts of the tower and the clerestory. The tower is embraced by the aisles, and the tower E, N, and S arches are in their mouldings and responds earlier than the work of 1402, though probably not earlier than the C14. Re-used also the W doorway and the window above it. The rest is all of a piece. Large Perp four-light windows,* tower bell-openings of four lights with transom. The tower buttresses are polygonal. Decorated parapets; pinnacles.** S porch of two storeys and two bays deep, the outer bay open to the W and E as well as to the S. Tierceron-vaults with ridge ribs and bosses with Annunciation and Crucifixion. Interior of seven bays, tall arcades with slender piers of the usual section with four shafts and four hollows. The chancel arch of the same type, the E chapel arches too. - FONT. Big, Perp, octagonal, with quatre-foil panels. - EMBROIDERY. Cruciform piece of the C15 with the Crucifixus and two angels; English. - STAINED GLASS. One N aisle window by Kempe, 1896. - PLATE. Flagon, Breadholder, and Spoon, 1675; Flagon, 1703; silver-gilt Almsdish, 1704; silver-gilt Paten, 1711; Patens, 1731 and 1734; two silver-gilt Cups, 1799. - MONUMENTS. William Wyldbore d. 1781, by Richard Hayward. Standing monument. Obelisk with urn in relief, two female allegories in relief to the l. and r. (SE chapel). - John Image d. 1786, by Edward Bingham. with a female figure by an urn (S aisle). - William Squire d. 1826, by Flaxman. A mourning Grecian by a tall pedestal with a medallion showing the heads of Mr and Mrs Squire in proļ¬le.

* The tracery is all renewed. The intersecting tracery cannot be regarded as authentic even in design.
** A spire was removed in the C19.

St John (2)

St John’s Church was built in the 15th century, when the people complained that they could not attend their parish church on account of floods. Much of the materials were brought from St Thomas’s Chapel, and from a chapel that has disappeared on the east of the minster.

The south porch is delightful, with a stone vaulted roof, and sitting on the gable is the heraldic antelope of Henry the Fourth, during whose reign the Church was built. The porch has three lofty arches, two of them to allow processions through the churchyard without interference. The bosses in the roof (which has a room over it) are carved with great detail, one showing the Annunciation, another the Crucifixion.

The clerestoried nave has seven bays with slender pillars, and in the aisles the medieval windows have modern tracery. In the tower hang 16th century embroidery pictures of the Crucifixion done in gold thread on a dark background, and there is a fine lifesize painting of Charles Stuart which has been rescued from a grocer’s shop. It is undoubtedly the work of a great artist, and has been attributed to Van Dyck. An elaborate triptych on the altar shows Our Lord in Majesty, with gilded figures in niches. The sanctuary is panelled, and there are four oak screens of fine craftsmanship, with excellent stalls and poppyhead benches. In the Lady Chapel is a marble monument to members of the Wyldebore family, and on a wall one of Flaxman’s finest works, a memorial to William Squire showing him with his wife on a medallion, a graceful figure representing Grief leaning on an urn.

The church has some fine windows, one with four lovely figures of the Madonna, Elizabeth, Hannah, and the Shulamite woman; another with four bishops is very rich in a jewelled setting; a Kempe window of David with his harp and the kings offering their gifts at Bethlehem; and the east window full of gorgeous colour showing Christ and the Disciples on the Sea of Galilee, with the Miraculous Draught of Fishes. The old chest in the vestry comes from the year 1569 and was carved with the Crucifixion in high relief, but it has lost the original figure of Our Lord.

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