777/10/497 WEST BAY ROAD
19-SEP-75 WEST BAY
CHURCH OF ST JOHN
CHURCH OF ST JOHN
By W.H. Randoll Blacking, built in two phases: south aisle 1935; nave 1936-9.
Materials: Roughcast rendered stone, limestone dressings, slate roofs
Plan: Nave of five bays with no separate chancel, three-bay south aisle with porch at its west end, and small vestries east of the aisle and running behind the east wall of the chancel.
Exterior: The design is influenced throughout by the ideas and forms of the Arts and Crafts movement, though without the more obvious Voyseyesque hallmarks (such as catslide roofs, asymmetric gables, sloped buttresses). St John is a simple building in traditional forms. The white rendered exterior is contrasted with yellow limestone dressings, the windows mainly flat-headed with simple mullions. There are coped gables east and west, the latter with two even windows of two lights, set high up. Above them is a clock face, and on the gable is a small bellcote. The angles are defined by slightly irregular long-and-short quoins, and between the side windows are buttresses with a single sloped set-off. On the north and south sides the windows are of three lights. Set close to a neighbouring building, the east end is not easily visible. The south aisle has a very shallow roof slope, the roof hidden by a flat parapet. The main entrance faces west, with the doors recessed within a square opening.
Interior: From the porch, the main internal door leads north into the nave. A subsidiary door opens into the west end of the aisle; this was the main entrance in phase one of the construction. The simple interior has white-painted rendered walls, and a gently curving ceiling with plaster ribs and iron ties. The nave has a five-light east window of late Perp form, with cinquefoil cusping and a little tracery. This is the only overtly Gothic feature. There is a piscina under a concave gabled opening, and a matching aumbry (north). The three-seat sedilia has elegant segmental arches of dressed stone. The floors throughout are of polished stone. The three-bay arcade has square piers without capitals, and chamfered segmental arches. The aisle ceiling has painted timber ribs forming square panels, with small curved braces rising from stone corbels against the walls. At the east end of the aisle is another piscina, and north of the altar, the vestry door.
Principal Fixtures: The reredos has five panels formed by downward continuation of the window mullions. The central crucifixion was installed in 1939, the two flanking saints in 1940 and the outer pair in 1950. The lectern, pulpit, stalls and communion rail are of limed oak, of simple but high quality design and craftsmanship. The pulpit has linenfold panels and a wineglass stem. The communion rail in the south aisle is Neo-Georgian, with moulded rail, panelled newels and turned balusters. There is a small Victorian font from the predecessor church in West Bay. The upper part of the organ case is in the 18th century style, of oak; it came from the chapel at Bryanston School, Blandford in the 1970s. The only in-situ stained glass is the east window, by Christopher Webb, 1959; it includes depictions of Portland lighthouse and a sailing vessel. A window in the south aisle has two ex-situ panels showing Christ and St Peter; brought from St Andrew, Bridport on its closure in 1978, and possibly by Heaton, Butler & Bayne, c. 1865. The seating was replaced in the late 20th century with upholstered oak chairs.
History: The small fishing harbour of West Bay lies at the east end of Chesil Beach, and about 2 miles south of Bridport. In 1927 West Bay west of the river mouth became part of the parish of Bridport. In 1862 a church was opened in an upper room of a cottage on the harbour, as a mission from Burton Bradstock a little to the west. After years of fundraising, W.H. Randoll Blacking was commissioned to design a replacement church in 1926. There is no churchyard, the site being hemmed in by the main road on the south and west, and by buildings to the north and east. The foundation stone was not laid until May 28, 1935, by which time the plan had been modified to provide a Lady Chapel in the south aisle. The south aisle was opened on November 10, 1935, and served as a temporary church while the nave and its furnishings were completed. St John was opened fully on May 21, 1939. The total cost was c. £6,000. The plans included a west gallery, but it is not certain if this was built. William Henry Randoll Blacking (1889-1958) was a pupil of Sir Ninian Comper, and one of the foremost church architects of the early 20th century. He practised in Salisbury, was Diocesan architect for Winchester, and Cathedral architect at Coventry. He formed a long association with the stained glass artist Christopher Webb after the First World War.
Anon, St John's Church, West Bay (2007)
Lambeth Palace Library, Incorporated Church Building Society (ICBS) archive; file 12262, dated 1932.
Reasons for Designation: The church of St John the Evangelist, Bridport, is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* An elegant and simple church of 1935-9, in traditional forms informed by the Arts and Crafts movement.
* Designed by W.H. Randoll Blacking, who did much work in the Comper tradition in the early decades of the 20th century.
* An airy, light-filled interior with much clear glass, appropriate to the seaside setting. It has a good east window by Christopher Webb, 1959.
* Complete limed oak chancel fittings designed by Blacking, with artful simplicity of form and fine workmanship.