Ilford - St John the Baptist

Wanstead Park Road, Cranbrook, Ilford, Essex IG1

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A large modern church with an attached belltower. Below the church are  a  hall  and  a  car  park.  The  sanctuary  furnishings,  including  the prize-winning altar and ambo, were transferred from Brentwood Cathedral in 1990. Two stained glass windows are by Patrick Reyntiens.

The parish was erected on 27 February 1967 with a resident priest and the church was opened by Bishop Wall on 2 March 1967. The architect was John Newton of Burles, Newton and Partners and  the  builders  Messrs Hammond &  Miles of Ilford. The church was built on the site of a demolished Victorian semi-detached house, whose other half was preserved as the presbytery. As the site slopes steeply down from the road, a parish hall and an underground car park were built below the church and the rear garden.

The church was consecrated by Bishop Casey on 2 May 1976. In 1978 alterations were made to the original porch. In 1990 carved stone furnishings of 1974 were installed (formerly at Brentwood Cathedral), including the altar and ambo for which the sculptor John Poole (1926-2009) of Bishampton, Worcestershire, won the Sir Otto Beit Medal in 1974.

The church faces southwest. This description uses the conventional, liturgical orientation.

The basement is supported on piloti and load-bearing brickwork, while the upper part of the church has walls of brickwork in Flemish bond which, together with four reinforced concrete columns, support the butterfly roof. The plan is roughly rectangular, with the altar set against a long wall and a shallow curve to the east wall. At the southwest is the porch, out of which grows the triangular-plan bell-tower. Behind the porch is the baptistery with the sacristy beyond. The entrance to the underground car park is at the southeast.

The west front has a projecting centre below a pitched roof, with wings with large windows and monopitch roofs. These two west windows are filled with stained glass by Patrick Reyntiens, depicting the Tree of Knowledge and the Tree of Life. (Reyntiens’s plan for further stained glass windows to modify the bright interior remained unexecuted due to lack of funds.)

The interior is one large space with a ceiling panelled in Parana pine. The north side has a two-light clerestory window above the door to the presbytery. To the left of the sanctuary is a statue of St Joseph. The sanctuary is lit by concealed side windows. The stone altar is carved with the Last Supper, the lectern with the ChiRho, Alpha and Omega. The elaborate brass tabernacle is supported on a stone pedestal of a circular stem carved with flames with a hexagonal top. The presidential chair of timber and stone is placed below the crucifix. Altar, lectern, tabernacle and possibly the chair came from Brentwood Cathedral (John Poole, 1974) and were installed in 1990.

The south side has three clerestory windows. At the southeast is the Lady Chapel with a plain timber altar and a statue of Our Lady. Beside it is the baptistery with a sunken terrazzo floor and the original, cylindrical font of axe-chipped stone. The baptistery is lit by a large corner window of twelve lights with pre-cast stone mullions. The floor is of hardwood blocks. The Stations are small square ceramic panels.

Diocese: Brentwood

Architect: John Newton of Burles, Newton & Partners

Original Date: 1966

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not listed