938/3/221 ST JOHN'S SQUARE
30-MAR-71 CHURCH OF ST JOHN THE BAPTIST
DATES OF MAIN PHASES, NAME OF ARCHITECT: Parish church of 1791-5 by Charles Watson, altered 1885 and extended 1905 to designs of J.T. Micklethwaite
MATERIALS: Ashlar sandstone, hipped slate roof to nave, hipped leaded roof to chancel and chapel and vestry.
PLAN: Nave and aisles under a single roof, west tower with flanking porches, chancel with south chapel and organ loft and north vestry.
EXTERIOR: In a consistent classical style, set in the centre of a matching square, within a courtyard. The 5-stage tower has angles with deep hollow chamfers. The west doorway has Tuscan columns, Doric entablature and pediment, and fielded-panel doors. The second stage has round-headed windows, then short bands of blind balustrading below the short third stage, which has oculi with radial glazing bars. In the fourth stage pairs of Tuscan pilasters frame round-headed windows, above which urn finials are set back from the angles. The upper stage is octagonal, with round-headed belfry openings, clock faces in the main directions, and polygonal dome with apex weathervane. The nave is 5 bays, the centre 3 bays emphasised by a rusticated plinth and paired Tuscan pilasters. An upper tier of round-headed windows has small-pane radial glazing, and a lower tier has blind segmental headed windows, in moulded architraves to the central bays, including a blind doorway on the south side, and with glazing to the south-west window. The parapet incorporates sections of balustrade and urns, and on the south side is a central field with oval panel, festoons and surmounted by an urn. Porches are set back at the ends of the main nave elevations. They have plain parapets, segmental-headed west windows and field-panel north and south doors. The 2-bay chancel parapet matches the details of the nave. The chancel has Diocletian north and south windows, set high. The east wall is blind, with a statue of John in a round-headed niche, `1905¿ in raised numerals on the eaves cornice, and parapet incorporating a panel with IHS monogram. The 1-bay chapel and organ loft is set back slightly from the nave south elevation and has similar fenestration, including blind east windows. The low vestry has segmental-headed windows and field-panel door.
INTERIOR: Arcades have Tuscan columns on high bases, and coffered arches. The plaster ceiling includes 3 large sunken round panels, and gilded friezes. Aisles have similar but simpler ceilings, each with 3 roses. The chancel arch is a serliana, probably of 1905. The chancel has Tuscan pilasters, and a painted and gilded barrel ceiling. The chapel is reached by colonnaded entrances from chancel and aisle. In the tower base is a round stair well with 2 cantilevered stone staircases. There are half-glazed doors at the west end of the nave and gallery, and fielded-panel vestry doors in chancel and north aisle. Walls are plastered. Aisles have flagstone floors and beneath the pews are raised floorboards. The chancel has a black and white diaper marble floor. A screen beneath the gallery was inserted c1978.
PRINCIPAL FIXTURES: The west gallery is carried on 4 cast-iron Tuscan columns, and retains its original foliage entablature, but the panelled frontal is a replacement of 1889, but incorporating the original painted Royal Arms. The gallery also retains some original benches, which have fielded panels to ends and backs. Most furnishings belong to the later C19 and the major restoration of the late 1880s. The square polished marble front is dated 1889, and has a domed metal cover. Pews have shaped ends and panelled backs. The polygonal pulpit has fielded panels below open balustrade. The date 1822 is on the base, but the pulpit itself seems later. Choir stalls are dated 1900. They have ends and backs with fielded panels, and foliage cresting to the ends. The fielded-panel dado of the chancel is dated 1912. The reredos, in the style of Grinling Gibbons, features a painting of the Crucifixion framed by Corinthian columns, entablature and a segmental pediment. Communion rails have balustrading and are probably of 1905. In the north chapel is a fielded-panel reredos and communion rail on turned balusters. There are C18 and C19 wall tablets and 3 square panels that probably come from a Stations of the Cross sequence of the early C20. There are several stained-glass windows. Chancel glass is dated 1905. In the chapel is a window by E. Pickett & Co of Leeds, and one south window is by H. Hughes (1868).
HISTORY: Built 1791-95 by Charles Watson (c1770-1836), architect of Doncaster and York, as the centrepiece of a planned development of c1800, the only Georgian town planning scheme in Wakefield. An engraving by Malton assigns the church to Lindley and Watson: Watson was in partnership with William Lindley of Doncaster (c. 1739-1818), a long-time assistant of John carr, whose influence is detectable here. The tower was rebuilt in 1885 (date on building) by J.T. Micklethwaite (1843-1906), architect of London, and some internal alterations were made at this time. He also designed the new chancel, chapel and vestry, but they were not built until 1905 (dates on building and rainwater head). This replaced what was probably a short chancel, and possibly also an earlier vestry. A 2007 faculty creates facilities at the rear of the church; changes to the worship space are pending.
Pevsner, N., The Buildings of England: Yorkshire, West Riding (1967), 530-31.
REASONS FOR DESIGNATION: The church of St John the Baptist, St John's Square, Wakefield, is designated at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:
* The church is an elegant and imposing classical design which, despite being the work of more than one period, maintains a unity of style and retains its Georgian character and detail.
* Its plan, with west porches and a wide tall nave accommodating a gallery, is typical of the Georgian period.
* The church is the centrepiece of the well-preserved Georgian town planning scheme encompassing St John¿s Square and St John¿s North, forming a notable episode in Wakefield¿s urban development.
* It is a prominent work by leading Georgian Yorkshire architects.