St John's Church, Stratford, E15
St John's Church, Stratford, London E15

A drawing of St John's c.1880
St John's c.1880

St John's Church was constructed in 1833 and cost £23,000 to build, of which £5,000 was granted by the church commissioners and much of the rest of the money was given by local people, in 1834 it was opened as a Chapel of Ease for West Ham Parish. The land on which it stands was given by Lord Wellesley-Pole of Wanstead and Thomas Humphreys, Lord of The Manor of West Ham.

The building was designed by Edward Blore who was one of the leading architects of his day, he was given the job of finishing off Buckingham Palace after John Nash was sacked for being too extravagant.

St John's clock was built by Benjamin Lewis Vulliamy in 1834. Vulliamy came from a noted clock making family, and he was himself an eminent and respected maker. He built clocks in Canada and Australia as well as those at Hampton Court, Oriel College Oxford, Windsor Castle, Plymouth Dockyard and others.

Originally there was a gallery at the back of the Church, which was removed in 1887, and building work in the mid 1990s revealed the bricked-up door which lead from the tower on to the gallery.

In 1847, £600 was raised by subscription, for the purchase of an organ; the erection of a richly carved recedos of Caen stone, extending the whole width of the chancel; in beautifying the altar window with painted glass... These, and other decorations in painted glass, were executed by Mr C Clutterbuck, a resident artist, and are much admired. (Whites Directory for Stratford, 1848)

In 1879, during the incumbency of the Rev William Jay Bolton, the huge 6-sided Martyrs Memorial was built in St John's churchyard to commemorate 23 Protestant men and women who were burnt alive at 'Stratford the Bowe' in 1556, during the reign of Mary Tudor, for their religious views.

In 1884 the interior of St John's was completely changed when it was extended with the extension of the Chancel, and the building of the Choir Vestry and the Organ Chamber. The 'richly carved recedos of Caen stone' erected in 1847 was cut in half and placed in either side of the new chancel. There is a plaque near the organ stating that the Chancel is in memory of Sir Antonio Brady, a famous local geologist of the time.

The building was badly damaged by bombing during World War II, in particular all the windows were blown out. The only pre-war window is the small window in the Chancel which is a copy of the famous picture by Holman Hunt "The Light of the World". This was taken out and stored before the bombing. The churchyard railings were also removed for the war effort.

The Friends of St John's was formed in 1944 to keep members who had been bombed out of the East End in touch with each other. The Friends contributed towards the cost of repairs and St John's was finally restored from war damage in 1951, the new East Window being dedicated in 1955.

A new extension was built at St John's in 1998 to provide facilities for the church members and the local community. The bricks used to build the extension were recycled from a demolished building and came from the original brickyard and the same period as when the church was first built. (the architects for the new extension were Purcell Miller Tritton)

Chris Aubrey, Dave Richards, Carol Richards

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