Brentford - St John the Evangelist

Boston Park Road, Brentford, Middlesex TW8

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A brick-built, mid-Victorian church, constructed on a small budget yet a building of great charm and some architectural interest. Distinctive features include the squat tower and its two-stage capping, and the cast-iron north arcade. It has undergone minor, sympathetic structural changes. It is notable for having contained early work by J. F. Bentley, now largely removed (but leaving the western screen).

 

The church was built primarily to serve the needs of Irish railway construction workers. It opened in 1866 and the architect was a Mr Jackman, about whom nothing certain is known. The only architect of this name noted in the Architect’s, Engineer’s and Building Trades Directory of 1868 is a J. T. Jackman of 34 Soho Square. J. T. Jackman was the architect of the Leyburn Union Workhouse, North Yorkshire (1875-77).

There have been a series on minor structural changes, chiefly at the west end. At the outset the mission was very poor and the church was unadorned. In 1879 the Rev. J. W. Redman took charge of the mission and, in 1883, he brought in J. F. Bentley to make improvements. The first of these was the building of a low enclosing wall at the front and the following year he produced the high altar, throne and reredos. Bentley was also responsible for the screen at the west end. This latter survives but his other work has been destroyed. The rich effect of Bentley’s work is shown in the two historic postcards reproduced here (figures 1 and 2).

The main entrance was originally into the west face of the tower. In the twentieth century (post-1947) it was moved to be in the centre of the narthex and a porch added to harmonise with the original building. Then in c2008 the entrance was moved again (for reasons of safe access) to the south side of the porch (hence the fresh-looking polychrome work, designed by Anthony Delarue to be in keeping with the Victorian fabric). In 1947 a plan was prepared to add a south aisle and confessionals but this was cut back and just a pair of confessionals, projecting on the south side, were added, it is thought, in the 1950s. At some stage in the mid-twentieth century the decoration on the walls was painted out. Some investigative work has been undertaken and revealed traces of the former patterns. The parish centre, behind the presbytery, was built in 1972-73 and was designed by Clive Broad ARIBA.

 

The church is built of buff stock brick with polychrome details over the arch heads. It consists of a nave (which encompasses a western narthex), north aisle, west porch, northwest tower, and a three-sided apsidal sanctuary. The most distinctive and attractive feature is the tower: this is squat and has a slight batter. There is a pair of buttresses at the exposed corner and at the top of the tower the corners are chamfered off to align with the short faces of the lower part of the slate-covered spire arrangement above. This comes in two stages with open timber arcading half way up, below a regularly shaped, concave-sided octagonal spirelet. The roof of the body of the church is also slate-covered and there is a break in the angle between the nave and aisle. The fenestration is chiefly of paired, pointed lights.

Inside there is a wide nave separated from the north aisle by an arcade of five bays with slender, octagonal iron shafts with high bases. At the top of the shafts are three-way, traceried braces to a band of open, triangular detailing which runs along at the junction of the nave and aisle roofs. The roof has thin members with an arch-braced collar above which are curved struts. The roof is reinforced with iron tie-rods. On the underside of the roofs are acoustic tiles (added to reduce noise from the adjacent motorway). The walls were covered by extensive decorations but these were painted over. Recently, however, investigative work has revealed the designs in several areas at the east end. The chancel has been reordered and fitted with seats round the walls.

  • Screen at the west end between the narthex and nave by J. F. Bentley although it  is a somewhat conventional Perpendicular design.
  • The    stained glass in the north aisle dates from 1883-84 and looks like the  work of Lavers & Westlake. Bentley designed the window nearest the  Lady altar, depicting St John administering communion to the Virgin at her  Coronation; the painter was N. H. J. Westlake. The trefoil in the east  window (St John) is by Paul Woodroffe, possibly 1903
  • At   the east end of the north aisle is a Victorian altar with carved Gothic  detail and a painting on canvas of adoring angels.
  • The  bench seating appears to be post-war work.

Diocese: Westminster

Architect: J. T. Jackman

Original Date: 1866

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not listed