St John's History

St John’s in the Past

The history of St John’s goes back to 1832 when the church was built on land given by Joseph Baxendale (1785-1872), at the southern end of his Woodside House estate. An earlier record of the land on which it stands dates from 1254, when it was known as Wood End Field and belonged to one Adam de Basing, a draper.

Baxendale petitioned Charles Blomfield (1786-1857), Bishop of London, to build the church. The Bishop not only approved the scheme but served as its architect. Although not professional, the simple beauty of his design has been recognised and today the church is a Grade II Listed Building. The construction was financed by private subscription (probably with Baxendale taking the lead) and endowed from Queen Anne's Bounty.

Built as a chapel of ease, St John’s was originally overseen by trustees, in 1835 patronage was transferred to the Bishop of London in return for a stipend for a perpetual curacy and the following year it became a district chapelry.. In 1851 the church had seating for 407 people and one Sunday in 1903 morning service was attended by 120 and evening service by 122.

In 1848 Whetstone and St John’s were described in Samuel Lewis’s Topographical Dictionary of England: ‘a hamlet and chapelry, in the parishes of Fryern-Barnet and Finchley, Finsbury division of the hundred of Ossulstone, union of Barnet, county of Middlesex, 8 miles (N. N. W.) from London; containing 782 inhabitants. The living is a perpetual curacy, in the patronage of the Bishop of London, and of Trustees; net income, £120. The chapel, dedicated to St. John, has had a district assigned to it under the 59th year of George III.

In 1876 St John’s became a parish and three years later underwent extensive changes: the Baxendale family donated the east window, made by William Morris & Co; the building was also extended with the addition of a chancel designed by James Brooke. The present roof was added at the same time. In 1898 the vestry was built and the church was restored in 1948. The organ (‘unusually fine’) dates from 1909 and was restored in 1965. The church hall dates from 1958, replacing one that was burned down in 1955. The church has had 14 vicars.

The History of the County of Middlesex notes the presence of a statue of the Virgin and Child and other ‘indications of High Church practice’.

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