818/11/202 DESBOROUGH ROAD
28-JUN-73 CHURCH OF SAINT JOHN THE EVANGELIST
1901 by W D Caröe.
MATERIALS: English bond red brick with limestone dressings. Red, clay-tiled roofs
PLAN: Nave with narrow aisles (shorter than the nave and under the same roofline), choir and lower sanctuary, NE organ chamber and vestries. W end (with tower) and SE chapel not executed.
EXTERIOR: The N side, facing has buttressing to the nave which has two-light windows with cusped Y-tracery. To the E the organ chamber projects under catslide roof and has narrow lancet windows. Further E there is a vestry block with rounded E end, embattled parapet and a ribbon of cusped windows in square-headed openings. At the W end a probably post-Caröe brick porch is attached to a plain stepped brick wall. The S side has two pairs of Y-tracery, cusped windows towards the W and one buttress and two lower-set, probably, secondary windows are square-headed with timber mullion and transoms. The choir has a two-light cusped, Y-tracery window above a projection where there was to have been a chapel. There is a large seven-light E window in the gable of the choir which is much taller than the lower-roofed sanctuary. This has three-light square-headed N and S windows with reticulated tracery. The blind E wall has a shallow embattled gable and is decorated with a brick cross. A one-light bellcote straddles the roof ridge and marks the division between the nave and the choir.
INTERIOR: The interior is painted white with bare brick and stone to the arches. The chancel arch is much harrower than the nave and is tall and with inventive mouldings. Beyond it there is a further, lower arch demarcating the division between the choir and the sanctuary which has a much lower roof than the choir. In the E wall there is a shallow stone-framed recess decorated with fleurons and evidently intended to contain a reredos. The three-bay arcades to the aisles are tall and have lozenge-shaped piers which extend upwards as brick shafts supporting the braces of a good open roof. This has arch-braced trusses, a king post above the collar flanked by queen posts with 2-way braces to the upper purlins. The organ chamber on the N side occupies the E bay of the N aisle with a two-bay stone-arched opening into it. The choir has low N and S aisles, the N giving access to steps down to the vestry. Over the choir roof is a boarded wagon roof with deep arch-braces and a wall-plate carved with fleurons; simple, low-pitched rafter roof to the sanctuary.
PRINCIPAL FIXTURES: There are a number of good quality wooden fittings: the sanctuary rail, reading desk, choir stalls and a particularly ornate polygonal pulpit. The pulpit narrows from base to top and is decorated with richly carved overlapping traceried panels with ogee arches. The font has an octagonal bowl with moulded base. In the sanctuary there is a triple sedilia with low transverse arches between each seat, the rear wall of the seat recesses being cusped. The aumbry on the N wall has a timber door with good ferramenta. The choir has a floor of patterned grey and cream tiles, woodblock floor to nave. In the nave the seating consists of wooden chairs.
HISTORY: The architect, William Douglas Caröe (1857-1938) was a leading church architect at the end of the C19 and the early C20. He was articled to Edmund Kirby of Liverpool in 1879-80 but transferred his articles in 1881 to the great Gothic revivalist, J L Pearson, until 1883. He travelled extensively on the continent in 1877-82 before setting up in practice in London in 1883 after which he developed a prolific church-building and restoration practice and became architect to the deans and chapters of Southwell, Hereford, Brecon and Exeter. He was architect to the Charity Commission and to the Ecclesiastical Commission from 1895. Caröe is noted for his freely-treated and inventive Gothic as seen, for example, at St John's in the unusual differential heights of the choir and sanctuary and the details of, for example, the pulpit and treatment of the chancel arch.
Nikolaus Pevsner and E A Williamson The Buildings of England: Buckinghamshire, 1994, p 387
Jennifer Freeman, W D Caröe: his Architectural Achievement, 1990, p 56
Antonia Brodie et al., Directory of British Architects 1834-1914, vol 2001, pp 335-6
REASONS FOR DESIGNATION:
The church of St John the Evangelist, High Wycombe, is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* It is an inventive and interesting design by a leading architect of the late Gothic Revival although sadly not completed to his intended designs
* It has a number of good fixtures and furnishings