History of St. John's
ST JOHN THE EVANGELIST HOLLINGTON
A BRIEF HISTORY & CHURCH GUIDE
Whether you are reading this as a booklet and walking around the Church, or viewing it on our website and feel you want to visit our Church, we hope you find this brief history and guide both of interest and useful.
The Church of St John the Evangelist at Hollington is situated in the Parish of Croxden-with-Hollington and is part of a United Benefice with Rocester, located in the Uttoxeter Deanery, which itself is part of the Stoke Archdeaconry, in the Lichfield Diocese.
The Church is Grade II listed, being “of Special Architectural or Historical Interest”.
In 1859, a plot of land was purchased in a sale of freehold estate (including quarries) in Hollington that was sold by Edward Philips. G E Street (see below) was commissioned to design the building which was completed in Spring 1861. The intention was to build a Church as a Chapel-of-Ease in the Checkley Ecclesiastical Parish. The Philips family of Heath House Tean have long been associated with Churches in the area, both as clergy and patrons.
A Petition for Consecration was presented on 3 June 1861 and the Church and Churchyard were consecrated on 22 June 1861. The original signatures to the Petition were Rev William Hutchinson, William Ball, Robert Charlesworth, John Carrington, James Gallimore, James Marson, Thomas Kent and Thomas Cooper junior. The Rev Hutchinson had been Rector of Checkley since 1839.
The Consecration service was led by the Bishop of Lichfield (the Right Reverend John Lonsdale) with the Rev Hutchinson; the Rev Bullivant, Curate of Checkley; Rev Kirkpatrick, Curate of Leigh, and Rev Dr Stocker, Rector of Draycott, and was attended by 103 communicants. Some three hundred people then sat down to a “sumptuous and elegant luncheon” (according to the Staffordshire Advertiser) provided by Rev Hutchinson, in a tent near the Church.
At the Evening Service which followed, the collection amounted to £62-11s-2d (£62.56) which even today would be a most welcome contribution, but consider that the equivalent sum would now be a massive £7200!! The collection was intended as a contribution towards a Curate’s house.
In 1868 St John’s received its Licence to celebrate marriages in the Church.
By Order in Council approved by HM King George V on 17 March 1913 the Parish status & boundary were changed and St John’s became a Chapel of Ease in the Parish of Croxden on 28 March 1913. At the same time other changes were made locally with Stramshall Parish gaining area from Checkley, but in turn giving up ground to Croxden. The Rev Ernest Deacon was admitted to the new living of Croxden-cum-Hollington (sic) on 29 October 1913, by the then Archdeacon of Stoke.
1938 saw the installation of electric light and in 1942 benches near the font were removed and the pendant cross in the chancel arch was installed.
In June 1984 an Action Group was established to raise money for the renewal of the Church roof. After a lot of effort and with a number of grants, the roof was renewed in 1986, largely using second-hand tiles but with new felt and laths.
Various repairs to the Church were carried out in Aug 1985 and it was rewired and new light fittings were installed in 1989-1990.
The Church was redecorated (including repairs to plaster) by Rev John Hall and members of the congregation in April/May 1992.
In the summer of 1992 the tile floor of nave was sealed with Coolas Hydrotite to prevent damp seeping up and then in September was covered with a Wilton carpet.
On 22 June 1994 the name of the Parish of Croxden was changed to Croxden-with-Hollington and on July 1st St John’s became part of the United Benefice of Rocester and Croxden-with-Hollington.
In 1996 the clear-glass windows were renewed and two hopper windows were included for ventilation.
The Church became a Parish Centre of Worship (within the Benefice of Rocester & Croxden-with-Hollington) on 29 September 2004 and became entitled to elect its own two Churchwardens.
Part of the western section of the Churchyard wall collapsed in 2006. This was eventually repaired in November 2008. The cost was defrayed by way of a grant from Staffordshire Moorlands District Council and by a donation from the Friends of St John’s Hollington.
In 2009 St John’s came into the 21st Century with its own website, www.stjohnshollington.org.uk
St John's celebrated the 150th Anniversary of its consecration on 22 June 2011. A programme of events was held through out the preceding 12 months, culminating in the Open Day on 18 June followed by a special anniversary Eucharist and re-dedication led by the Bishop of Lichfield on 19th June. The Bishop unveiled a plaque in Hollington stone marking the anniversary. The service was followed by a Parish Picnic, held in the grounds of the Star Inn. The service and picnic replicated the original consecration by the Bishop of Lichfield John Lonsdale 150 years ago. That too was followed by a celebratory lunch. A number of special guests also attended as did Radio Stoke who recorded the service and it was broadcast on 17 July. Also present was Ben Philips representing the Philips family who not only donated the land on which the Church was built, but also whose forebears, Edward Philips and George Philips were Rectors of the Parish from 1878 to 1909. A number of clergy previously associated with St John's also attended, as did a large congregation.
The Church was beautifully decorated for the anniversary with floral displays depicting various aspects of the life of St John's Hollington. A number of church artefacts were also displayed. A celebratory china mug depicting St John's from the east end, was commissioned and was available for just £5.
Interestingly, part of the Parish of Croxden-with-Hollington (172 acres) is detached, being located some 11 miles away at Calton Green and bounded by Blore, Calton and Ilam Parishes. This was land left to the Parish by the Rev. John Ashton, a former vicar of Croxden, in October 1722.
A list of Clergy responsible for Hollington since its consecration can be accessed at Hollington Clergy
George Edmund Street - Architect
George Edmund Street RA FRIBA (1824-1881), a committed High Anglican, designed Hollington Church and also, later, Denstone Church. He had been an assistant to George Gilbert Scott for five years from 1844 before setting up his own practice and was one of the most celebrated English architects of the nineteenth century. He was in the forefront of the Victorian Gothic revival movement, becoming its virtual leader from the 1850s to the 1870s. The best-known building designed by Street is probably the Royal Courts of Justice in The Strand in London. He also designed St Paul’s within the Walls on the Via Napoli in Rome.
As a designer, Street was considered brilliantly imaginative and inventive, insisting on being responsible for every detail and fitting in each of his buildings. As a result St John’s Hollington is not only a strongly individual piece of recreated Early English Gothic, but contains splendid furnishings, stained glass and fabrics, all from Street’s designs. Street displayed drawings for Hollington Church to his colleagues in the Ecclesiological Society on 21st June 1859, with the design being reviewed in the Society’s magazine “Ecclesiologist” in August 1859 (vol. 20 page 287).
The Church is built with rough-faced random-coursed irregular blocks of Hollington sandstone giving a “rock-face” finish to the exterior. The roof is steeply pitched and tiled, with a crested ridge, verge parapets and a bellcote with a weathercock (another Street design) at the west end. The single bell is inscribed “J Warner & Sons London 1860". At the east end, there is a gablet roof running into the curved Apse. There is a Benchmark on the north-west corner of the Church showing a height above sea level of 184.83 metres (606 ft 4 in).
The entrance has a gabled pointed arch and an oak door with wrought iron hinges. Street produced individual drawings even for features such as the hinges.
The interior stonework is tooled ashlar, and consists of a Nave with a north porch, and an Apse. The Minton tiled flooring, with a Street designed pattern, is now largely covered by carpeting. The Church has movable oak pews with seating for 150.
The Nave has low walls with diagonal buttresses at angles and strings at cill level. The eaves are low, being taken down to the cill level, and are lower to the west than the east. A large three-stage buttress runs axially up the west face to the gabled bellcote. The timber roof trusses, purlins and rafters have been described both as deal and pitch pine. The arched wooden brackets running up to the roof give a semi-barrel vault effect.
East of the entrance, to the right of the North porch, there are two double lancet windows which are trefoil-headed. The further window of the two depicts St John holding a chalice and St Agnes holding a lamb.
On the north wall is an oval copper plaque surmounted by two kneeling cherubs, in memory of Emily Philips (1850 – 1929). The Pulpit is of Hollington stone, cylindrical in style (once more designed by Street) and with a brass desk. It too dates from 1861. There is also an oak double-sided lectern with brass fittings.
The Nave and Chancel are separated by a dwarf wall in a Portland type stone. A stone shelf and niche on the north side of the Sanctuary provide the Credence Table. The Chancel ceiling is boarded and a hanging cross in oak is suspended from the Chancel arch. The Chancel ends in the form of an Apse which has greater eaves height than the Nave and two-light, plate tracery trefoil-headed (with quatrefoil over) side windows. The north window depicts the Annunciation, and the Nativity, with the Holy Spirit in the quatrefoil; whilst that in the south shows the Resurrection, the risen Christ, and the angel by the tomb.
There is a similar (but three-light) curved east window which depicts the Crucifixion (in the quatrefoil), The Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene and St John the Evangelist. The stained-glass windows in the Chancel/Apse were manufactured by Clayton & Bell of London. The east window, together with the gablet over, runs into the curve of the Apse, which is unusual. Some say it gives the building a slightly eerie perspective. Street had earlier designed a similar structure for the tiny church at Frisby in Lincolnshire.
An oval brass plaque in the south wall of the Chancel is in memory of Edward Philips (giving dates of his service in Hollington) and bears the Philips’ arms.
The altar table is of oak and believed to date from 1861. The Sanctuary chairs and Litany desk are also of oak, whilst the bench ends of the clergy and choir stalls are in carved oak. The reredos is alabaster and Purbeck marble with an abstract central cross motif and a rich diamond patterning of coloured marble, fluorspar (three insertions of blue-john) and mastic. The oak communion rails are supported on wrought iron and brass stanchions and there is a pair of brass standard candlesticks flanking the altar. A double sedilia is cut into the stone on the south side.
There is a vestry, described as a “lean-to”, located off the Sanctuary at the south-east corner of the Church. Below this is a cellar which previously housed a boiler which discharged its smoke through a cylindrical chimney that was cut down in 1970.
On the south wall of the Nave is a circular bronze plaque in memory of Alice Armishaw which was placed there in 1938, and also a brass plaque in memory of Olive Bayliss dated 2nd November 1984. In one of the windows on the south side is a Triptych containing three Van Eyck prints, and close by is a copy of Leonardo Da Vinci’s painting of the Last Supper.
For a small Church, one of the most striking aspects is the large font (again designed by Street) at the west end of the Church which is of a lined cylindrical style, with an oak and wrought iron cover, and dating from 1861. Close by are the Rolls of Honour from the two World Wars, that for the Second containing the names of the wounded as well.
The right hand west window depicts St Paul and Moses whilst the left hand shows St Peter and Abraham. The inscription shows that this window is in memory of John Lonsdale DD Bishop of Lichfield (1843-1867) who led the original consecration and dedication.
Finally, just to the west of the entrance, there is a large quatrefoil window depicting St John the Baptist (complete with staff and scallop shell) which seems strange for a Church dedicated to St John the Evangelist! However, the likely explanation is that, as this window is adjacent to the font/baptistery, who better to overlook the area than St John the Baptist.
The original Churchyard was extended in February 1912 by the purchase of land from George Herbert Carr. A Certificate of Readiness was issued on 21 February 1913 followed by a Record of Consecration dated 7 March 1913. The total area of the Church and Churchyard became just over half an acre or 0.352 hectares. The names of those buried in Hollington Churchyard are available to those researching their ancestry.
The Churchyard wall to the south-east, fronting the road and the oak lych gates have also been Grade II listed, being “of Special Architectural or Historical Interest”. The wall has a deep niche on the southeast side which is believed to have formerly been a coke store.
Tapestries, Plate & Books
Hollington Church possesses a number of important tapestries. These include a white altar frontal with a red super frontal, and a green altar frontal, both designed by George Street, the Church architect. The frontals were worked by Miss Hutchinson (the daughter of the Rev Hutchinson and a well-known ecclesiastical embroideress of her day) and friends, and date f rom 1861. There is also a sedilia hanging (at the rear of the double sedilia in the Sanctuary) designed by William Morris (1834-1896), although there is a view that Street had a hand in this design as well! Street employed Morris for a year in his Architectural Office and was also involved with him in the Arts and Crafts Movement. Again, Miss Hutchinson was responsible for the execution of this work. These embroideries form the largest extant group of embroidery made to designs by Street, who was a major instigator of the revival of ecclesiastical embroidery in the nineteenth century. Street confirmed in a report for the “Ecclesiologist” magazine in October 1863 (vol 24 pp225-280), the involvement of Miss Hutchinson in creating these tapestries.
The green altar frontal, referred to above, was loaned to the Victoria & Albert Museum in June 1961 until 1972, during which period it was conserved by the Museum’s Department of Conservation. The V&A also asked to borrow the white altar frontal for an exhibition of Victorian Church Art but the Church Council declined the loan. However, the white frontal, red super-frontal and sedilia hanging were all taken to the V&A for treatment by the Conservation Department. The William Morris sedilia hanging was also exhibited at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1995 and returned to St John’s in September 1996.
Against all that finery the altar plate, consisting of a chalice, two patens and a flagon dating from 1861 and made by John Keith silversmith to the Ecclesiological Society, are of standard designs, but approved by Street.
A Book of Common Prayer (Altar copy) was donated by Lewis and Catherine Bagot in 1861. Interestingly this is inscribed with the words " For the Church of St John the Baptist". This book contains some well-worn pages and replacements have been pasted in. In 1862, George and Mary Gertrude Mather presented St John’s with a leather-bound Bible complete with Apocrypha. Part of Malachi Chapter 2 has, at some time been ripped out (presumably accidentally) and has been replaced with a hand-written section. There is also an Altar copy of the English Missal (1912 edition) inscribed as having been presented to St Oswald's Church Small Heath by Servers of the Sanctuary and Friends at Christmas 1917. We have yet to discover how it found its way to Hollington. Two other interesting books are both Orders for Holy Communion (According to the Use of the Church of England). The older of the two is inscribed " In memory of my mother and your kind help in the 15 years you were Vicar of Dresden" and is signed Margaret J Smith. The cover bears the gold-embossed initials, HMT. The second was given in memory of Louisa Elizabeth Armishaw (1865 - 1942) "faithful worker at Hollington School and Church". The Rev John Hall and his wife Kay presented the Church with a New Revised Standard Version lectionary in October 1998 to mark the occasion of Rev Hall’s becoming Archdeacon of Salop and leaving the parish.
Whilst this is a guide to St John’s Church, it may be of interest to readers to know a little about the stone with which it is built. Hollington is renowned for its sandstone, which has been a quarter of a trillion years in the making, and can be red, cream (sometimes referred to as white) or mottled. Whilst soft to quarry, it becomes very hard on exposure to air. Apart from many local buildings (the most notable being the now derelict Croxden Abbey) the stone has been used in many well-known buildings including:-
Derby Town Hall (1828)
Trentham Hall (1838)
Drayton Manor (1835)
Stafford County Buildings (1895)
Walsall Town Hall (1904)
Coventry Cathedral (1960)
It has also been used in the restoration of Lichfield, Worcester and Hereford Cathedrals, and to replace local Collyhurst sandstone on St Ann’s Church in Manchester City Centre. Replacement crosses in Hollington stone were provided on St John’s Church in Keele as recently as 2006, and the mottled stone was also used on repairs to St Mary’s Nantwich in 2009.
St Chad’s Church Burton-on-Trent built in the early 20th century and Barlaston Church, built in 1984, are of Hollington Stone. St James Parish Church in Congleton has 6 nave pillars, the Chancel Arch and the font all in Hollington Stone. The interior of All Saints Burton-on-Trent has red Hollington stone dressings. On secular buildings it has been used at Chester Town Hall, Alton Towers, Warwick Castle, and Warwick University amongst many others.