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South Hackney Church

Source: The Illustrated London News, July 22, 1848, p.48

St.John of Jerusalem Church
St. John of Jerusalem - view at 600K

This very handsome Church is, perhaps, one of the best examples of modern skill in church architecture which we have lately had occasion to notice. It has been along time in course of erection. Our presentation of the exterior, as seen from the west, and a slight descriptive notice of it, was given in our Journal of May 17, 1845, on the occasion of laying the first stone. We have now to record the completion and consecration of the church; and, to aid us in describing the interior of the building, which is very striking, we give a faithful view of it, and premise that our representation is taken from the western end of the church.

Passing through file west doorway, which is in the centre of the lofty tower, a square vestibule formed in the tower is entered, and separated from the church by a screen of open arches, above which is the organ gallery, supported by massive brackets of timber of extremely bold design. Doors in the screen give ingress to the Church, and its beautiful design at once arrests the eye.

The edifice is divided into a nave, with aisles; and a chancel, separated from the nave by transepts. The nave is partitioned from the aisles by five pillars, carrying six arches, above which rises the clerestory. The pillars are not of uniform shape-some of them being octangular, and others circular; and it very good diversity of ornament has been studied in the details of the capitals. The mouldings of the arches are enriched by characteristic ornamentation; and a moulded string-course, just above the arches, separates them from the clerestory.

In the spandrils between the arches are richly sculptured brackets supporting the clustered pillars, whence spring the arches of the roof. The clerestory windows are of varied design and character, and are all filled with stained glass, as are also the windows of the aisles.

The roof, of open-work, is of excellent style, and of extremely lofty pitch, it being sixty feet in the highest point from the pavement. The arched and foliated ribs supporting the roof are of massive construction, and a degree of enrichment is given by the bolt-heads at intervals around them. At the intersection of the nave and transepts is a stone arch, of corresponding pitch to the ribs of timber just mentioned.

A striking and most effective portion of the church is the meeting of the transepts, chancel, and nave. From piers of clustered columns spring richly moulded arches, spanning the before-mentioned parts of the edifice; and from short octagonal columns, at the angles, rise groins of timber meeting in the centre, the spaces between the groins being filled with timber, and painted; whilst by the sides of the groins texts are painted, which were selected by the Rector, to illustrate the will of God, that in all times there should be a place set apart for his worship. The transepts have timber roofs; and, with the exception of large windows, of good design, filled with stained glass, are unornamented. The nave aisles open into the transepts by arches, and in the northern transept there is a door into the vestry.

The chancel is of stone, the roof being of the same solid substance as the walls. In plan, the chancel terminates with an apse, forming a portion of an octagon, at the corners of which and sides of the chancel are columns, whence spring groins, meeting in the centre of the roof. Tall, narrow, single-light windows are in each compartment of the walls, and beneath them au arcade of trefoil-headed arches is introduced. In the panels of the arcades in the apse, the walls are painted, and adorned with diapering. In the centre or eastern compartment, the wall is blue, powdered with stars, and the inscription, "Peace and goodwill towards men," painted on it; whilst the north-east wall is red, diapered with fleurs-de-lis, and the sacred monagram "I.H.S." The text "He was known of them in breaking of bread," is painted on it, as are also the Creed and Lord's Prayer. The south-east wall is enriched with the same diaperings as the opposite corner, with the commandments and the text "When I see the blood I will pass over you." In the north wall of the chancel within one of the arches of the arcade is an arched recess, somewhat resembling inform the memorials of the founders of churches to be met with in our old ecclesiastical structures; on the keystone of which two angels are sculptured, one of them pointing upwards, as if to say, "He is not here; He is risen." This recess forms the table of prothesis, or table on which the sacramental elements are placed, previous to consecration. The space within the altar-rails is covered with a beautiful carpet. The pulpit and reading-desk are on either side of the chancel arch, and entrance to them is attained from the steps leading to the chancel. They are of admirable design and workmanship. The pulpit is of octagonal form, and the whole surface covered with diapering, elegantly wrought. The reading-desk is of open-worked arches, and has fronts looking westward and southward, the spandrils being filled with diapering. Many of the seats are free; and others have doors to them, as pews; while all have floreated ends. The last seats at the western end of the Church have very highly enriched bench ends, one of which we represent in our initial letter ; and on the buttresses are different devices—one having the crest of the rector, a stag pierced with an arrow; another, the lamb with a flag; the third has an eagle; and the fourth a lynx, as symbolical of Christian watchfulness. The backs of these last seats are very elegantly ornamented with panels and quatrefoils, as may be seen in our large view of the church.

The windows in this Church are filled with stained glass, all of it of very meritorious design. The chancel windows contain, in small compartments, the incidents in the life of our Saviour, figures of the Apostles, &c., executed with great depth and brilliancy of colour, by Wailes, of Newcastle. The windows in the transepts are by Messrs. Powell, and represent in the tracery of the north window Abraham offering up Isaac; and, in that of the south, scenes in the life of Moses typical of the Redeemer, such as Moses striking the rock, Moses with the Laws, and lifting up the Serpent in the Wilderness. The remaining portions of the windows are filled with richly diapered glass. The aisle windows are simply but elegantly diapered, with the exception of the two at the western end of the aisle, which have separate subjects in them ; these latter are by Wailes, the former by Mr. Castell. The clerestory windows are of various design and character; one of them is a memorial window, placed there in lieu of erecting a monument to a little child, and in it are represented Christ blessing little children, and raising Jairus' daughter. This window, which is exquisitely painted, is the production of Messrs. Ward and Nixon; and by the same gentlemen are two other clerestory windows, containing scriptural subjects. The clerestory windows on the north side contain, in single lights, figures of Elias and John the Baptist; then, in double lights, the Royal arms of England; the arms of the sees of Canterbury, London, &c., are diapered: these, and one in the western entrance, are the work of Messrs. Powell, of Whitefriars.

In front of the altar-rails the floor is laid with Minton's tiles. The font, placed near the western end, is beautifully sculptured; it is not, however, from the design of Mr. Hakewill, but was presented to the Church. The organ is the one from the old church at Hackney. Of the peal of bells, eight in number, one was given by his Grace the Archbishop of Armagh; another by Mr. Bowdler; and we believe some of the others are also gifts.

From this brief description it will be imagined the Church is one of no ordinary beauty or interest, and that the greatest praise is due to its architect, Edward C. Hakewill, Esq., for so admirable a specimen of his talents.

The Church was on Thursday consecrated by the Bishop of London, assisted by the Rector, the Rev. H. H. Norris, whose clear good voice was distinctly heard over the whole of this large Church, in spite of the storm of wind, which caused great noise in the roof.

There were upwards of 1500 persons assembled within the building, of whom about 200 were clergymen, in their robes; the parochial clergy entering with the Bishop within the altar-rails.

The Bishop preached all excellent sermon, after which, while the sentences of the offertory were read, a collection was made, amounting to 617.

The Bishop mentioned in his sermon that the entire cost of the building had been 16,000, and that 600 was wanted to make up the deficiency.

After the sermon, the worthy Rector entertained the Bishop, and an immense assemblage of his friends and parishioners with great liberality in his grounds; where, ever and anon, the music of the peal of bells of the new Church seemed to rejoice every heart.