SIDCUP, Bexley, London – St John. 


The story of this building was told in an article in the architectural journal The Builder, on 13 September 1902.

Fellowes Prynne was asked to enlarge upon the existing church, and designed all but the chancel, vestries and Lady Chapel, which were by R. J. Withers who was originally consulted in 1882.  In 1898 George Fellowes Prynne was consulted.  It was decided at this stage to abandon Withers’ plans, except for what was already in place.

Fellowes Prynne was instructed to prepare designs for a new church, with tower, embodying the existing chancel and vestries.  The plan of the new church consists of a broad nave, 30 ft. wide by over 150 ft in length, giving accommodation for 510 adults, north and south transepts and aisles, and south chapel, with accommodation for 311.  This, together with the choir, and possible extra seats in the church, shows a total accommodation of over 900.

The tower is placed at the west end of the south aisle, and its ground floor space is designed to form a baptistry…

Externally the architect felt bound, to some extent, to carry out the somewhat simple architectural style and treatment of the existing chancel, but internally red brick and stone are used freely.  The tower, with its copper-covered roof, will rise to the height of about 140 ft.

The architect’s main difficulty was to work in the old chancel to prevent it appearing small and commonplace, in comparison with the larger and somewhat more ornate new nave.  This he has endeavoured to do by putting in an entirely new chancel arch, and raising it to the highest limit, and increasing its breadth as much as possible, and then splaying the ends of the nave wall to meet the jambs of the chancel arch.  The splays are enriched by niches, brackets, and canopies, which are designed to be placed with figures of the twelve Apostles and Archangels.

The article goes on to describe the dimensions of the nave, divided into six bays.  The roof was stained green (a device used in other buildings, but usually for chairs or dados) with the ribs and cornice picked out in a cream-coloured rope pattern.  The stone screen was made of Corsham Down stone, with green stone shafts.  The wrought iron gates and grilles were fashioned by Messrs. Percy Bacon Brothers, of Newman Street, West London.  (This firm was Fellowes Prynne’s contractor of choice for fashioning stained glass windows; this is the only example I am aware of where Bacon Brothers fashioned wrought iron, and I have not seen documentation to verify it, just this report in The Builder.)  The other contractors were builders Messrs. Goddard & Sons, of Dorking, and the carving work was by H. H. Martyn & Co., of Cheltenham.  The heating system was installed by Messrs. J. Jones & Sons, and the whole church cost around £11,500.

Observing the church, internally there are many standard Fellowes Prynne hallmarks, but probably the most eye-catching feature is the set of two ranks of statues of saints on either side of the chancel arch, as mentioned in the report. Fellowes Prynne used the idea of “stacked” saints elsewhere (for example at Ealing) but here they are placed at an angle to draw the eye into the chancel, which was already there when he started his designs. It is this piece of ingenuity which helps the chancel, which is smaller than Fellowes Prynne himself would have wanted, to look comfortable in the context of the building.  Not all the fixtures and fittings are by Fellowes Prynne; there are some significant items such as the lectern, pulpit and altar canopy that are much older.

In 1920 the War Memorial chapel was dedicated. This was also designed by Fellowes Prynne.

The postcard of the exterior was sent in 1905.  The great stone screen is shown to excellent effect in the card, posted in 1907, of the interior, as are the “stacked” saints.