The story of St John’s Church began on the 17th January 1873 when William Henry Kinnaird GIBBONS Esq. of West Square, Lambeth and of Old Lodge, Moor Lane, Dormans Land, signed his last Will and Testament. Mr Gibbons made several charitable bequests including “the sum of Five hundred pounds for the erection of a Church at Dormans Land near my estate at Lingfield”; the fund was left in trust to Captain Cuthbert Jeddere-Fisher of Wilderwick, and Colonel William Augustus St. Clair of The Beacon, Dormans Land. Mr Gibbons died on 29th January 1873 at St Saviours, Southwark.
On 11th May, 1874, the newly formed Building Fund Committee met for the first time, at Nortons (now Morven House), the home of John Elphinstone Fatqua Hochee. Also present were Messrs Cuthbert Jeddere-Fisher, (Treasurer), Frederick Bamford of Starborough Castle, Benjamin Andrew (farmer) and Henry Bassett (local butcher and farmer, and owner of the land on which St John’s now stands). The church site was purchased from his then widow, Mrs Eliza Bassett, on 22nd April 1880. One week later Mr Arthur W.Blomfield was chosen as the architect to design a church to hold about 350 persons, work began in May 1880.
The Church, which consisted of a Chancel, Nave, North and South transepts and a North Aisle was opened on 14th April 1882 by Archdeacon Burney as a chapel of ease to Lingfield. Four days later the first marriage took place in the new Church when Arthur Cuthbert Jeddere-Fisher married Emma Compton Barr of Apsley Town. On 14th July 1884, the Church was consecrated by the Bishop of Rochester and dedicated to St John the Evangelist.
The original Vestry was in the South Transept, now the Lady Chapel. A photograph of the newly completed building shows the Vestry Door in the east end, facing the present graveyard, no evidence remains in the stonework. A new Vestry was added on the north side of the North Transept in 1899.
In 1913 plans were approved for a South Aisle, Porch, adjoining room, Tower and Spire. The additions were needed “to counterbalance the existing aisle on the North side...and completion of the Holy edifice as originally designed... [which] is much required especially at times of Holy Festival when the poorer people of the parish have longing desire to attend the services...to its inconvenient overcrowding”. The plans were drawn by William Thorold Lowdell, nephew of J.E.F. Hochee. Insufficient funding meant that the Tower and Spire were not added.
The Centenary of the Dedication was celebrated in 1984 by the construction of an adjoining hall, kitchen area and toilets, built on the North side of the Church and known as the Centenary Room.
A major fire on 26th October 1990 caused the general reordering of the Church as we see it today.
Janet H. Bateson
History Tour, starting outside the Church - at the Lych Gate
The Lych Gate was built in 1909, the gift of Major Harry Cuthbert Jeddere-Fisher,
of Wilderwick and Apsleytown, in memory of his grandfather, Cuthbert Jeddere-Fisher who
died 24th May 1891, and his father Arthur Cuthbert who died (aged 33) in 1886. Cuthbert Jeddere Fisher was one of the two original trustees of Gibbons’ bequest, and was himself a major benefactor of St John’s Church, contributing over £1,900 of the total £3,900. The names of the architect and builder of the Lych Gate are unknown.
The War Memorial was designed by Mr John Millgate, Architect, using Portland and Hoptonwood Stones, and was built in 1920 by Messrs Ebbutt and Son of Croydon. Miss Harriet Barr wrote of “the beautiful service...It was very gratifying to find General Sir Ian Hamilton managed to be present and performed the unveiling ceremony. The cross is simple and dignified.”
The Porch and Porch Room were built in 1915. Designed by William Thorold Lowdell the project was part of the new South Aisle scheme. The walls were strengthened to take the weight of a Tower and Spire but funds were insufficient to cover the cost of the tower building. The Porch Window was inserted in 1970. The window depicts St. Michael & St. George and is in memory of Michael George Harold Brown Esq. of Ladycross House, former Chairman of the Bank of New Zealand and Director of Lloyds. The window was designed by Arthur Lucas & Robert L.Baldwin, Vanpoules, London
St Andrew’s Chapel was constructed in 1971 from the conversion and enlargement of the Porch Room. Funding for the conversion was given by Mrs Mona Kathleen Anderson (nee Daintry) in memory of her husband Col. Ian Forrest Anderson O.B.E., M.C., of Old Surrey Hall. The window decoration and furnishings reflect their joint Scottish family ancestry.
The Chapel was designed by Mr David Nye of Guildford and the building completed by local builders, Messrs Head Bros.
The Main Church
The Font was the gift of Captain David William Barr and his four sisters: Mrs Anna Tomkins, Miss Eliza [Lizzie] Barr, Miss Emma Compton Barr, and Miss Harriet Barr and is a memorial to their brother, 2nd Lt. Henry James Outram Barr who was killed in the Battle of Maiwand, Afghanistan, on 27th July 1880 while carrying the colours, he was aged 19. In 1908 the Font was moved from its original position (the corner near the entrance door) to a central position in line with the main aisle of the Church.
The hammered copper tablet dated 1929 on the panelling behind the font, was provided by Major Harry Cuthbert Jeddere-Fisher in memory of his mother, Mrs Emma Compton Jeddere-Fisher. As Emma Compton Barr she was the first bride to be married in Dormansland Church in 1882. The three children of her marriage to Arthur Cuthbert Jeddere Fisher were all baptised in the font between 1883 and 1885. Her husband died in 1886. Emma Compton Jeddere-Fisher, nee Barr, was the 3rd of 4 daughters of Lt.-Gen. Harry J. Barr of Apsleytown and his wife, Eliza.
The Nave Screen was originally positioned across the Chancel Arch between the chancel and nave. The Screen was given by Mr Walter Waterhouse of Starborough Castle in 1902. The Arch was repositioned after the fire of 26th October 1990. Designed by J.Wippell & Co, Exeter.
The oak panelling covering the lower portion of the western wall of the Church was added in 1908 when the Font was moved to that area.
The Good Shepherd Window, a small single lancet in the North side of the West Wall, was inserted in 1893. The window depicts Christ as the Good Shepherd. It is recorded as ‘the children’s gift to the Church.’.
Artist W.G. Taylor, 4 Berners St London
The North Aisle
North-West Window was inserted in 1900 in memory of Mrs Eliza Bassett and Mrs Mary Turner. The window depicts the Adoration of the Magi.
Artist W.C. Taylor, 4 Berner’s St London
2nd Window inserted 1892 in memory of Henry, husband of Eliza Bassett, and their son John. Henry Bassett owned the land on which the church now stands. The subject is Christ the Healer: A young mother kneels before Christ holding the body of a limp child.
Artist W.C. Taylor, 4 Berner’s St London
3rd Window inserted 1898 depicts St. Elizabeth with her son, the infant St. John, and Hannah and her son Samuel, erected 1899. A memorial window to Henrietta, wife of the Hon. Henry Richard Graves, Artist, son of 2nd Baron Graves. Henrietta died 31st July 1898. The window was provided by their son Mr Algernon Graves, Art Historian. Algernon Graves also provided a clock for the Vestry.
Artist: Charles Eamer Kemp [later ‘Kempe’] Kemp’s signature wheatsheaf is incorporated in the design, at the bottom of the left light.
Chancel and Sanctuary
The East Window was inserted Christmas, 1885. The three-light window depicts The Ascension. The middle light shows the risen Lord ascending on a cloud, making the sign of benediction with the right hand. Angles on clouds kneel on either side while the earthly figures of the eleven Apostles gaze up in awe at the departing figure of Christ. The Virgin, a symbol of Mother Church kneels on earth. The window was given by F.H. Birley in memory of his father, Thomas Hornby Birley of Claridge House who died 26th January 1885.
Artist: Heaton, Butler and Bayne, Covent Garden
The single light window in the south wall of the Sanctuary was inserted in 1890 and depicts St John the Evangelist. Artist W.G. Taylor, Berners Street, London.
The single light window in the north wall of the Sanctuary was inserted in 1890 and depicts The Blessed Virgin Mary. The window was presented by the Hon. Henry R. Graves of Dormans Court.
Artist W.G. Taylor, Berners Street, London.
The Altar was made in 1912.of limed oak. The front carving is of Christ at the Last Supper, flanked by the four Evangelists. The Artist was Miss Eliza [Lizzie] Barr. The Altar was the gift of Major Harry Cuthbert Jeddere-Fisher, nephew of Miss Barr.
Altar Rails of pink alabaster were given by Mr Walter Waterhouse Esq. of Starborough Castle in 1902. The bronze, brass and steel gates with moulded handrail of pure bronze were presented by Major Alexander Forsyth in 1971 in memory of his wife Mary.
Altar Reredos and nearby Sedile were erected to the memory of Mr Joseph Spender Clay of Ford Manor (now Greathed Manor), one of the main benefactors of the Church building. Carved from pink Alabaster with marble columns, they were made in1886.
The inscription at the top of the Sedile reads: ‘SACERDOTES TVI INDVANTYR JUSTINIUM’: May thy ministers be imbued with righteousness (1662 Book of Common Prayer)
The Pulpit is a demi octagon. The main drum is alabaster decorated with marble columns, and carved with the emblems of Our Lord and St. John. The pulpit is supported on five marble columns. Given in 1890 by Mrs Sydney Melville (formerly Mrs Joseph Spender Clay).
The Nave Pews were added between 1912 and 1914 when the original Pitch Pine pews were replaced, the cost was borne by Mr Cuthbert Jeddere Fisher. All are carved with circular motifs and carved finials, several bear initials, one has ‘DONER’ superimposed over the donor’s initials. Clara Allwork, a pupil of Miss Lizzie Barr, and Walter East are known to have worked on the carvings, although one pew has ‘L B’, possibly Lizzie Barr’s own initials, indicating her own work on the pews.
The Bronze Lectern in the form of an eagle was presented to the Church by Mr Walter Waterhouse Esq. of Starborough Castle in 1891. The Lectern was moved forward to its present position in 1902 when the Chancel Screen was built.
The Lady Chapel in the South Transept was designed by Ian B.M. Hamilton in 1934. The Transept was the original Vestry until 1899. The chapel was refurbished in 1960 to the memory of James Beachcroft Roberts 1882 – 1960.
The South Aisle Designed by William Thorold Lowdell
Building began on this extension to the original church in April 1914 and was finished four months later. The South Aisle was consecrated on July 27th 1914 at 3.30 pm. by Hubert Bishop of Southwark.
Three of the four windows in this aisle were originally in the South Wall of the Nave, and were reinserted in the new South Aisle wall in 1914
South-East Window was presented by Mrs Sydney Melville (formerly Mrs Joseph Spender Clay) in memory of her Mother (Elizabeth Garrett) and Sister (Sylvia Innes). The two Marys meet the Risen Lord (Matthew XXVIII v.9, 10)
Artist: Heaton, Butler and Bayne, Covent Garden
2nd Window, in memory of Mrs Ellin Kate Philpott. The window depicts Martha & Mary with the Master (Luke X 38-42). Artist: A.L.Moore, 89 Southampton Row, London
3rd Window was given by Col. Herbert Spender Clay in memory of his mother, Mrs Sydney Melville, widow of Joseph Spender Clay. Window depicts the two disciples meeting Jesus on the road to Emmaus (Luke XXIV 13-32). The village of Emmaus is depicted as a fortified town. Window attributed to Henry Dearle but unsigned.
Memorial to the Casualties of the Second World War
The memorial records the names of seven casualties of WW2. At the top is a naval emblem of anchor, chain and laurel wreath below a crown; around the edges are the appropriate regimental badges. The Memorial and the Wall tablet below were designed by Ian B.M. Hamilton and Alan Chalmers F.L.R.I.B.A. of Lincoln’s Inn. Mr Ian B.M. Hamilton of Winns, Moor Lane, was the nephew of Sir Ian Hamilton of Lullenden, and WW1 Gallipoli fame.
The Wall tablet below is the Civil Defence Memorial. The four named casualties died in the Whitehall bombing incident in East Grinstead on 9th July 1943.
South-West Window was inserted in the new South Aisle in 1914 and is a memorial to members of the St Clair family. The window depicts St Peter’s escape from prison (Acts XII, 1-10)
v.6 ‘Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains: and the
keepers before the door kept the prison.
And behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison: and
he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his
chains fell off from his hands.
And the angel said unto him, Gird thyself, and bind on thy sandals. And so he did. And
he saith unto him, Cast thy garments about thee, and follow me’.
The Angel, on a cloud, bids Peter to follow him, past the sleeping guards. At the top of the window (the middle light) are the crossed keys to the gates of heaven, symbol of St Peter.
Artist A.L. Moore, 89 Southampton Row, London.
The Oak Pews in the South Aisle were the gift of Major and Mrs Forsyth in memory of their son, 2nd Lieut Alistair Glanville Forsyth who was killed in the Second World War. Various motifs refer to Alistair Forsyth’s School, College, and Regiment.
Centenary Room Window originally inserted in the North Aisle of the Church in 1959, in the position of the present doorway between the Church and the Centenary Room. The window was moved to the newly built Centenary Room in 1984. Window depicts The Flight into Egypt. Memorial window to Reta Vere-Kennedy, daughter of Dr Kennedy (Formerly Director of St Pier’s School) & Mrs Kennedy.
Artist H. Warren Wilson.
Janet H. Bateson