931/2/115 WITHYCOMBE ROAD
15-JUN-78 WITHYCOMBE RALEIGH
PARISH CHURCH OF ST JOHN, THE EVANGELIST
1862-4, by Edward Ashworth.
Materials: Squared and coursed limestone, banded slate and brown clay tiled roofs.
Plan: Cruciform plan with four-and-a-half-bay nave, lean-to aisles, two-bay chancel, south vestry, north organ chamber, tower over the south transept.
Exterior: Quite a large church, the south side parallel to and set back from the road. The Geometric Dec details are fairly conventional for the 1860s, in robust grey stone with long steep roofs. The strong roof-lines are broken by the dominant tower, forming an asymmetrical accent over the south transept. The tower has three stages with angle buttresses and a stair-turret at the south-west. Four-light south window lighting the transept, then a clock stage, then paired belfry lights with louvres. Embattled parapet. The aisles are buttressed at each bay, with low broad windows of three lights; the clerestory has foiled circles in square frames, cf. Ashworth's design for St Margaret, Topsham, Devon. South porch that projects strongly; moulded entrance arch without columns or imposts. The west gable is high, with an impressive five-light window with intersecting tracery.
Interior: The interior is spacious, with high open roofs; that in the nave has arch-braced collar trusses rising from small hammerbeams, while the chancel has a ceiled vault with square panels intersected by subsidiary diagonal ribs. The nave arcades have moulded arches on polished marble piers with moulded capitals. The aisle roofs have idiosyncratic Y-trusses (again, as at St Margaret, Topsham). Around the crossing are big corbels carved with naturalistic foliage, birds, fruit etc. Painted plaster walls, carpeted floors.
Principal Fixtures: A low screen of oak with panels of dalle-de-verre (chunks of glass set in a resin or concrete slab) was installed at the west end of the nave in 1964. The maker was Dom Charles Norris of Buckfast Abbey, Devon. The nave altar, stalls, communion rails and the unusual modernist pulpit of oak incorporating supports of Victorian Gothic wrought-iron of about the same date. The font (1864) has a heavy square bowl on four colonnettes, with a hewn oak cover. Complete set of good quality pine benches with blind-traceried ends and fronts, probably original. Stained glass: east window by Clayton & Bell, c. 1872. Small south aisle west, by Hardman, 1865. In the south transept chapel, the south window is by Morris & Co., 1919, a memorial to the Shaw family; figures of Fortitude, Faith, Love and Endurance in silvery tones with violet and red accents. The south porch has 20th century wrought-iron gates with leafy tracery.
History: The mother church is St John in the Wilderness, c. 1½ m. north-east, and almost 3 miles from the centre of Exmouth. By the 18th century it was little used and parts were demolished; services were held at St Michael, a chapel-of-ease in Exmouth. The land for St John the Evangelist was given c. 1862 by John Wood of Withycombe, and the church was consecrated on November 3, 1864. The cost of c. £5,000, was largely borne by Lady Rolle. It seated 708. St Michael was demolished in 1865. St John in the Wilderness was rebuilt c. 1926-36 (architects Ralling & Tonar). Edward Ashworth (1814-96) was articled to Robert Cornish of Exeter and was later a pupil of the London architect Charles Fowler. He emigrated to New Zealand in 1842 and practised in Auckland until January 1844. He returned to his home country in 1846 and practised in Exeter where he established a reputation for himself as a church architect.
Cherry, B and Pevsner, N., Buildings of England: Devon (1989), 915-6.
Weller Harrison, E. The Parish of Withycombe Raleigh, Devon (n.d., c. 1930s).
Lambeth Palace Library, Incorporated Church Building Society, archive 06014 (www.churchplansonline.org)
Reasons for Designation: The church of St John the Evangelist, Withycombe Raleigh, is designated at grade II for the following principal reasons:
* A Victorian Gothic church with features typical of the 1860s, by Edward Ashworth
* Some original fittings, including the seating and font
* Good Victorian and early 20th century stained glass, notably by Clayton & Bell (1872) and one window by Morris & Co., 1919
* Reordered c. 1964, including a dale-de-verre screen by Dom Charles Norris, whose work in this material became well-known and influential