St John’s Church on Railway Street Chatham, is a jewel in the crown of Chatham’s Architectural Heritage. It is certainly an important anchor site for us working on the Chatham Placemaking Project.
Maybe you don’t agree !
What about now…? No?
A much better image in great light – showing off it’s tower and Italianate form.
Built in 1820/21 by the Architect Sir Robert Smirke – who by the way also built the Facade and main block of the British Museum – the Grade II Listed Italianate Style Anglican Church is one of the few Waterloo Churchesleft intact.
The Church has been closed since the early 1990’s – but has in the interim been used for an arts installation – Chatham Vines in 2006.
I only came to Chatham for the first time in 2015 to start work on the Chatham Placemaking Project – I loved the building from the start – with its robust symetric form and landmark tower. It is the anchor building along our route. However – those familiar with Chatham will know all too well the condition of the building today. It has been bypassed by most and is diminished by the constant flow of traffic and cut off from lower Railway Street and the town centre by the busy road. Stained glass windows are dark. The stone elevations are dirty. The paintwork on the doors is peeling. It is forlorn – but actually it has not been forgotten !
My images aren’t brilliant – but just take a look inside …
Laura Knight of Francis Knight and I were accompanied by Project Manager Peter Welshof the Diocese of Rochester. He had agreed to show us around & allowed us to take pictures whilst discussing the Chatham Placemaking Project and the importance of this building to our project. The building is still of importance to the Diocese too. ‘The strategic project at Chatham includes re-establishing a worshipping community for St John’s Church, bringing the building back into use (potentially with an interim solution) and establishing mission activities in the local community. The area around St John’s is one of the most deprived in the Diocese in terms of employment rates, income, education and quality of life’.
The interior is quite stunningly beautiful with interior furniture and finishes – albeit dirty and in need of repair & a little tlc – hardly touched since the day the doors were closed and locked. So much original detail and wonderful features remain, including bespoke benches and seating, lighting, plasterwork, ironwork and of course brilliantly coloured stained glass. Could you have guessed that from the outside?
The first public building in Chatham to be lit by electricity !