St John's Church, Sparkhill

a multicultural community following Jesus

English Heritage Report on the Church

 Form, plan and Development

St John's Church is a remarkable Victorian building with an interior of vast proportions for its age, comprising a nave, north and south transepts, chancel, a narthex and west steeple. The open plan of the interior is achieved by intersecting lattice iron arches springing from four corners of the crossing. This is not expressed in any way on the exterior, although a feat of engineering is hinted at by the very large tiled roofs with projecting gable windows but no side aisles. The highest levels of the interior are lit by small dormer windows

A choir vestry has been added to the south-east side, and a porch to the west end adjacent tower. The tower is off centre to the south.

The church is built on a hill to the south of Birmingham on the road to Stratford; an area populated by a multi-ethnic community including Christians of several denominations. The church building remains a focal point for the community as a whole.

Historical Development

The church was built in 1888 by Birmingham architects Martin & Chamberlain. This firm was more famous for school buildings than churches, and most notably the Birmingham School of Art, one of the finest buildings in the city centre. St John's church is prehaps as bold an architectual statement, in its own way.

The architectual style of the exterior is the Victorian version of Early English Gothic, but with c19 engineering advances displaying no further similarities to the medieval in its interior arrangement.

The spire was added in 1905, and in the century since then various alterations have been made, including the addition of a church hall to the south-east, and the incorporation of offices in the choir vestry. The west end of the church has been improved to include toilets and further space for the varied activities which are attracted to the site.

Construction and Materials

The building has a cast- and wrought iron structure, with red brick walls with terra cotta and stone dressings. The gables have stone copings, and the plain machine roof tiles drain to eaves gutters and cast iron downpipes. The triangular dormer windows in the roof slopes are softwood painted, and even though these are difficult to maintain, it seems that they are originally no different.

Internally the walls are plastered and painted.