St John’s Ladywood, Birmingham

Consecrated in 1854  St. John’s Church in Ladywood central Birmingham is in many regards quintessential of the new Anglican churches that were erected in Britain’s inner-cities in the mid to late Victorian period.

Solid in appearance and neo-gothic in style, St. John’s harks back to romantic conceptions of the middle ages whilst also bearing the more rounded hallmarks of the machine age. Today it is centrally located in Birmingham’s poorest ward (also one of the poorest in the country), although when it was built its setting was far more rural in character. The church was commissioned from the architect Samuel Sander Teulon in 1852 by the Diocese of Worcester as part of a general drive to expand the number of Anglican churches to meet the spiritual needs of region’s rapidly growing population. The land was given by the King Edward’s Foundation Schools and-reputedly-had been partially used as a plague pit during an outbreak of the Black Death in the early 17th Century.

Today though, St. John’s primary interest lies in the way that it has been adapted to meet the needs of inner-city Birmingham’s Church of England community today. Merged with the near by St. Peter’s, Spring Hill in 2001; St. John’s has been extensively “modernised” inside.

The church retains much of its grand, original Victorian decoration and fittings, the eagle lectern (reminding worshipers not to look away from the word of God), the ornate crucifixes, the large stone font. Yet, they have been augmented by newer additions and changes. The mid-Victorian windows designed to inspire awe and serve a didactic purpose have been joined by newer ones that tell the story of the local community and reflect it back to itself. Similarly, the heavy wooden pews so characteristic of 19th Century religious buildings have vanished, being replaced with easily movable wooden chairs allowing the space to be adapted to serve different functions and the needs of the community within which it stands.

How St. John’s has been adapted also serves to tell a story of how Anglican worship changed in pattern during the 20th Century. The church today is less imposing in character, focusing on accessibility rather than grandeur, something that is also reflected in the modern and contemporary nature of some of the building’s devotional items and decorations.


St. John’s Exterior


 

St. John’s Stone Carvings


 

Interior of St. John’s Church


 

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