Crowborough – St John, Withyham
The western outskirts of Crowborough were formerly in the parish of Withyham and as the population grew, a new chapel for the area, St John, was opened in 1839, becoming a separate parish in 1871. Only in 1999 was the parish officially renamed St John, Crowborough (Church guide) and the former title is still found.
An application to the ICBS in 1839 names the architect as W L Blaker. The appended plan shows a single-cell chapel with large lancets, including an east triplet. Built of local stone, it was said to be a copy of Littlemore church, near Oxford (ICBS), designed by J H Underwood, which served as a model for other small churches at this date. In their original state, there was no chancel at either and St John’s at least had a west gallery. There were many alterations in 1869-70 before it became a parish church. W Slater and R H Carpenter added a chancel with a three-sided apse and a plain, pointed chancel arch (WSRO Ep II/37/253); curiously, the plans attached to the faculty show a square east end and in attached correspondence the architects asserted that work was complete, so the reasons for the change are not known. They kept to lancets, but smaller and roll-moulded outside. All the roofs are similar and were probably altered at this time, particularly at the east end of the nave. However, the plain hammerbeams are likely to be Blaker’s work.
Work by an unnamed architect in 1892 (WSRO Ep II/27/255) included a vestry and organ chamber. Otherwise, he concentrated on the west end, with a shafted doorway, a two-light window with plate tracery and a stone bellcote, mostly in different stone. Possibly of the same date is the painted decoration on the roof-timbers. Later changes have included the moving of the organ to the west gallery in 1930 by L Dennis and Ball (ESRO Par 513/4/2/7) and a re-ordering, mainly at the west end, by R G Covell in 1971 (ibid Par 513/4/2/11).
1. (Apse windows) Clayton and Bell, 1870 (largely replaced) (B 28 p972).
2. (Side and apse lancets) C E Kempe, ranging in date from 1895 to 1902. Perhaps because the glass is on a fairly small scale, it is superior to much of his later work.
3. (South nave, second window) Clayton and Bell, 1887 (worn) (www.stainedglassrecords.org).
Monument: (Over side altar) Gilded and coloured effigy of the Madonna in a mandorla by Sir J N Comper to the mother of Tom Driberg MP, 1943 (ESRO Par 513/4/2/8).
Pulpit: The carved panels on the side are Flemish of around 1600. These are said (BE(E) p316) to come from the chapel of Buckhurst Park in the parish of Withyham, though their origin is unknown.
Reredos: Large and in three parts. It was designed by Kempe and carved and painted by J Mayr (1 p22 (as ‘Meyer’)) in Oberammergau, 1895 (CDG 24 p188).
Stalls: 1924 by ‘A G Humphrey’ (i e A G Humphry) (ESRO Par 513/4/2/5).
1. I R S Cosby (ed): Withyham, Sussex, (Second edition) 1977
My thanks to Nick Wiseman for the photographs of the interior, glass and fittings