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Listed Building
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Statutory Address:

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Cheshire West and Chester (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SJ 40922 66138



SJ4066 VICARS LANE 1932-1/6/284 (South side) 28/07/55 Church of St John the Baptist


Collegiate church, briefly cathedral then with Coventry co-cathedral; from Dissolution a parish church. Late C11, late C12 and early C13, C14, said to have been damaged c1470 by collapse of supposed central tower and 1572 and 1574 by partial collapse of north-west tower; much of transepts and presbytery abandoned mid C16; nave and crossing restored by RC Hussey 1859-66; collapse of north-west tower 1881 destroying north porch; porch rebuilt by John Douglas 1882; north-east belfry tower by Douglas 1886. Sandstone. PLAN: the present church and adjoining ruins indicate: west front with twin towers, that to south not built; bay between towers, destroyed; 6-bay nave truncated to 4 bays; north and south aisles truncated to 4 bays; crossing: north and south transepts each truncated to one bay; 5-bay aisled chancel with apse between north-east and south-east chapels, truncated to one bay with south aisle as Lady-chapel and north aisle replaced by vestry in belfry-tower; chamber south of south aisle, probably formerly chapter house. EXTERIOR: ruined lower stage of north-west tower of badly eroded red sandstone has west window opening with ogee hoodmould C14, and east archway formerly to north nave aisle; ruined medieval walls link tower to north porch and C19 narthex on site of fifth bay of nave. North porch has large pointed archway, the jambs having 7 colonnettes carrying 7 receding mouldings of the arch; wrought-iron gates; oak boarded doors on ornate hinges; niche above archway has recovered statue of a bishop flanked by arched panels; moulded coping; cross-finial; the inner archway, C12, has renewed colonnettes and original voussoirs with eroded mouldings. The narthex is flat-roofed and simply detailed, the porch has a steep-pitched slate roof; a rainwater head, west, dated 1881. The north aisle and clerestory were wholly refaced by RC Hussey 1859-66, with broad colonnetted lancets, in the clerestory alternating with blank panels; heavy raked buttresses. The north transept has pre-C19 stepped buttresses and medieval coursed stonework below sill-level of north window, containing an inserted vestry door. Restored 3-light mullioned and transomed Tudor-arched window with cusped heads to upper lights; coped gable; corner rainwater head dated 1866.

The 3-stage north-east belfry tower by Douglas has flat corner buttresses to the first stage, with vice at north-east corner; stair loops and small lancets; the vice has an oak boarded door on wrought-iron hinges in arched opening; the massive oak bell-frame is expressed as a 3-panel bell-opening to each face; a short steeple with 2-stage roof, each with belled eaves, the upper stage oversailing the lower stage. The east end has a stilted tripartite window, a broad stilted round-arched light flanked by lower, narrow lights, 1863 by TM Penson; large stepped buttresses, that to north pre C19; eaves-level stringcourse; coped gable. East of the present church the south side wall of the former chancel is visible at ground level, with badly eroded red sandstone arches of the east bay and former north-east and south-east chapels rising nearly to full-height; the Lady chapel arch is Romanesque, the others probably C13. The retro-transepts far east, which had 3 chapels, have floor substantially lower than the chancel. The supposed chapter house and former upper chamber immediately south-east of the crossing has diminishing buttresses and lancets, now not glazed; the surviving lower part of the walls to the upper storey indicate the openings for former windows; a vice at corner of chapter house with south transept. Medieval stonework below sill of south transept window, refaced above; a Tudor-arched 3-light transomed window with cusped heads to upper lights. The south-aisle wall to the nave was rebuilt C19; broad lancets; double oak-boarded doors in archway with stiff-leaf colonnettes; the refaced clerestory has broad lancets alternating with arched panels, all with colonnettes; pinnacles at corners wherever RC Hussey rebuilt or refaced. C19 triple lancets in west end of nave, above the narthex. INTERIOR: the 4-bay nave has simple probably late C11 arcades with plain circular columns on cruciform bases; varied scalloped capitals and twice rebated voussoirs; triforium c1190 has 4 arches on bay piers with 5 attached colonnettes and intermediate piers with 3 colonnettes; the early C13 clerestory repeats the triforium rhythm, but with mouldings more developed. The arcade columns lean outward and westward; the angle of lean which increases from crossing to third columns, then begins to decrease, is carried up through triforium and clerestory; the present height above floor level of successive pairs of columns suggests that, until RC Hussey's restoration, the nave floor sloped upward towards the crossing. The diagonal lean of the arcade columns is evidently deliberate. The plinths on which they stand have vertical sides and, beneath the recessed padstones, level tops; the padstones are tapered from inner east corners to the outer west corners, to give appropriately sloping beds for the

columns. Roofs to nave and aisles were renewed 1859-66. The side wall of the south aisle is rebuilt; colonnettes in the reveals of north aisle windows appear to be angled outward in relation to the wall-face, to accentuate the upward broadening. The east column of the south arcade has suffered some subsidence; damaged medieval painting on east column of north arcade. The crossing, approximately contemporary with the nave, has oblong piers with inner corners rebated to receive attached shafts; 3 half-round shafts on north and south faces, 2 on east and west faces; simply-moulded arches, those to nave and chancel wider and less than semicircular, those to transepts slightly horseshoe; roll-moulded aisle arches to nave and chancel, the sides broadening in a slight curve as they rise. The drastically shortened transepts have C16 end walls. The now one-bay chancel was damaged supposedly by the fall of the central tower c1470. The north side of the chancel has roll-moulded aisle arch, blocked 1886 by vestry wall; blocked Romanesque triforium arch on very short respond with scalloped capital; the stonework above is rebuilt. The south side has roll-moulded aisle arch with fragment of triforium respond above, and upper stonework rebuilt. Doorway c1300 to former supposed chapter house which, like the ruined bays of chancel and Lady chapel, has floor level substantially lower than the crossing; a chancel crypt may have been intended. The chapter house has an octagonal central pillar carrying a quadripartite vault of 2 x 2 bays on wedge-section ribs. STAINED GLASS: west window glass by Edward Frampton 1887-90 at expense of first Duke of Westminster, depicting ecclesiastic historic events in Chester; east window 1863 by Clayton and Bell at expense of Meadows Frost, depicting Biblical scenes, to commemorate marriage of Edward Prince of Wales; memorial windows in nave aisles include, north-east, 1901 by Shrigley and Scott at expense of Chester master builders commemorating the architect TM Lockwood, depicting Hiram, builder of the Temple at Jerusalem. FITTINGS: small red sandstone font, probably C17 re-discovered C19; C19 pulpit; reredos 1876 by Douglas, made by Morris and Co, with painting of Last Supper by Heaton, Butler and Bayne; Lady chapel reredos in timber, Baroque, now 2-panel, formerly wider, 1692; organ used at Queen Victoria's wedding then brought to Chester, rebuilt 1901, in case by TM Lockwood 1895; gates to Lady chapel C17, altered; aluminium figure of the Virgin 1969 by Michael Murray; mace board listing mayors of Chester 1529-1848. MONUMENTS: include: to Diana Warburton 1693 by Edward Pearce, with sculpted skeleton; Cecil Warburton 1729 with bust in relief; effigies on floor of north aisle, Agnes de Ridlegh

1347, a C14 Knight and C14 priest; reputedly Irish Norse C11 cross-heads; in south aisle Anne Truslove 1833; Major J Bedward Royle RWE, 1917; Matthew Anderton (Baroque plaque) 1693; Thomas Gamul 1677; Humphrey Phillips et al. 1662 & 1639; Jane Brother 1666; Rev. William Richards 1837; John Bostock 1716; brass to Edmund Borlase 1682 Mary Townshend and son George Crufts 1751; Robert Bulkeley 1679; Thos Hassall (C17); John Powell, sexton, 1881; brass to Alice Wright 1906; John Jones 1816 & Grace 1828 & Edward 1834; Katherine Wynne (sculpted plaque) 1650. Edward Harbert 1691; on west wall of nave Pryce Holland Williams 1892; Thos Hughes, Sheriff of Chester, 1890; brass war memorial 1939-45, 13 names; George Baxter 1890; Charlotte Morris 1850; H Trowbridge Moor 1857; Thos Tolver 1829; painted alabaster armorial shields from tomb of Alexander and Alice Looes, c1600. North aisle; Hannah Aldersey 1718 & daughter Eliz. Davies 1717; Giles 1720 & Katherine Peacock 1721; Robert Barker Physician to Infirmary 1808; Arthur Forbes of County Meath 1788; Mary Drury 1895; Benjamin Perryn & wife 1761 & 1781; Emily Marsden 1913; Edith Howard Haswell et al, 1916; Sidney Lee 1785; Mary Ellen Fleetwood 1905; Charles Falconer 1702 (?) William Falconer & wife 1764; Meadows Frost 1883; Chas W Seller 1889; Margaret Thomason 1807. In the Lady chapel Cornelius Hignett et al 1785 & 1735; Susannah Jane Scott wife of Rev.Samuel Cooper Scott 1909; two presently unidentified hatchments; armorial paintings by the Randle Holme family. HISTORICAL NOTE: St John Baptist is the best example of C11-C12 church architecture in Cheshire, and of special interest for the upward broadening and horizontal curves observable in the stonework of the nave shown by WH Goodyear in 1914 to have been intentional rather than accidental. The church was remeasured by OJP Bott, F Harrison and SG Jardine in 1990 confirming Goodyear's findings. (Cheshire Sites and Monuments Record: Scheduled Ancient Monuments Nos.1 to 29: 1989-1992: 3008/1/1; RIBA Journal: Goodyear WH: St John Baptist Church, Chester: 25.7.1914; Chester Diocese Parish Records: St John Baptist, Chester: 51/7).

Listing NGR: SJ4092366142

This List entry has been amended to add sources for War Memorials Online and the War Memorials Register. These sources were not used in the compilation of this List entry but are added here as a guide for further reading, 30 October 2017.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

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Books and journals
Goodyear, W H, 'RIBA Journal' in 25 July 1914, (1914)
War Memorials Online, accessed 30 October 2017 from
War Memorials Register, accessed 30 October 2017 from
War Memorials Register, accessed 30 October 2017 from


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

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Date: 28 Jan 2002
Reference: IOE01/07252/34
Rights: Copyright IoE Dr John L. Wishlade. Source Historic England Archive
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