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Major Repairs

St John Bethnal Green In an ideal world all our historic places of worship would be in pristine condition and easy to care for. Sadly, reality is a little bit different and some congregations have to deal with some very tricky problems indeed. One such tricky church is St John Bethnal Green, a fabulous Grade I listed building, designed by the great architect Sir John Soane (1753-1837).

Sir John designed three London churches for the Commission for New Churches including St John's, which was estimated to cost £16,000 and was completed in 1828. However on 16 February 1870 the roof and parts of the interior were destroyed by fire and William Mundy was instructed to carry out the repairs.

Paint on stone dressingsA few years later in 1887 George Frederick Bodley was asked to extend the chancel.

The efforts of these three architects have resulted in a rather unusual church building which has more than its fair share of problems. As with many buildings the main issue is water penetration caused in part by Mundy's design for the replacement roof. Soane's choice of Bath stone rather than Portland stone has also led to problems with regard to the deterioration of the fabric of the tower. There is also an issue of structural movement in the chancel caused by Bodley's extension settling at a different rate from Soane's structure.

Faced with these sorts of issues you might think that the worshippers at St John's would have given in. Thankfully they haven't and work is underway to raise money to repair the church fabric.

External downpipesA first phase of repair work to the church tower and roof has already been completed, with the PCC taking the opportunity to make some vital improvements. The downpipes, which were formerly hidden within the walls, are now placed on the outside where problems can be spotted and remedied more easily. Gutter cleaning and other important maintenance tasks are instructed by the Building Committee under the aegis of the PCC. Wisely, the Building Committee also meets regularly to discuss any necessary building works and has implemented a maintenance plan to help it look after the building effectively.


Most of the minor repairs are carried out by a local contractor who comes to the church for a day at a time to attend to all the little jobs that have accumulated since his last visit.

Art class in the basement The church is also fortunate to have Sebastian Sandys as its Treasurer and Community Premises Development Manager. He looks after the day to day business of running the building and the wide variety of user groups who inhabit Soane's brick built crypt. Further assistance comes from project manager, Donna McDonald, along with inspecting architect, Robin Mallalieu and conservation architect, Jon Bolter. There is much work still to be done at St John's but those involved can be justly proud of their achievements so far. If you would like to help the St John's appeal please contact us and we will pass on your details.

Services at St John's are held ten times a week and follow the Anglo-Catholic tradition. Everyone is welcome to join in worship and tea and coffee is served at the back of the church after the Sunday service. The church has various study groups and opportunities for informal worship and exploration of faith.