History of St John’s with St Mary’s

St John the Baptist has a fascinating history starting in the late 19th century. The ceremony of laying the first stone was held on 25 June 1855, and the consecration took place on 7 August 1856. The first vicar, Rev John Yarker was instituted on 26 September 1856.

The carvings on the pulpit are a replica of the shape of the windows, in St John’s. In the same way the windows bring in light, the preacher sheds light on the Gospel from the pulpit.

The baptismal font is positioned near the door of the church, as it is usually the first life event of the church-goer. Our font has an inscription at its base that reads:

The Font and Communion Plate of this Church were presented by the Parishioners of Isleworth as a memorial of respect to the
Revd Henry Glossop A.M. who resigned his Cure in October 1854,
after being 33 years Vicar of Isleworth.

The east window, above the altar, was gifted to St John’s in 1858 and depicts 14 scenes from Holy Week, including: the Last Supper, Jesus washing the disciples’ feet, Jesus praying while the disciples sleep, the kiss of Judas, Simon helping to carry the cross, Jesus on the cross, and Christ triumphant. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, writers of the four Gospels, are also depicted near the top of the window.

In the early years of St John’s, congregants would reserve their pew seats for services. The pew numbers, at the outside ends of the pews, and the card holders, for the name of those reserving that seat, can still be seen at St John’s. In an 1862 report, mention was made that one in every seven sittings was ‘obliged to be sacrificed on account of ladies dresses’ as large skirts were fashionable.

Today there are no seating reservations, except perhaps for the church warden.

The first window on the left, as you enter the church from the porch, depicts the parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:3-9) and the parable of the Lost Sheep (Luke 15:4-6). The scroll held by the angel at the top reads ‘The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God’. This window was dedicated to the parents of James Deason, the architect of St John’s.

The First World War memorial in St John’s near the baptism font was unveiled in October 1920, and lists the 88 parishioners who lost their lives during the war. The Second World War memorial was added beneath it in April 1951 and bears the names of the 34 parishioners who lost their lives.

The verse inscribed near the centre reads, ‘He will swallow up death in victory and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces.’ Isaiah 25:8.

St John’s formerly used a hot water gravity fed system for underfloor heating, and the gratings that cover the pipes are still visible throughout the church. When the system became dangerous the overhead heaters were installed in the 1950’s and still keep the pews warm for our services.

The organ and its beautiful pipes, were gifted by the Farnell brothers in 1858. Repairs, including a new blower being fitted, were carried out in 1975, but by 2002 many of the pedals and keys were no longer working properly, and as a result an electronic organ has been used ever since.

The long organ pipes were too tall for the roof at installation, which meant they had to dig down and place the organ a couple of feet lower than the rest of the chancel. The organist’s seat is thus very low down and he would not actually be visible when playing.

The second window on the left side as you enter St John’s depicts the Parable of the Talents (Matt 25:14-30) and the Parable of the Young Rich man (Matt 19:16-30).

The inscription reads, ‘Without a parable spake he not unto them. In memory of Anna Maria Milne died Oct 11th 1857. Thy will be done.’

The flat-roofed tower of St John’s is 72ft high and has views that include Twickenham stadium, Wembley stadium, the Shard and the London Eye on a clear day, as well as the areas of Osterley, Twickenham, Teddington, Richmond and Kew.

The cushions found in the pews at St John’s are kneelers, used for padding under the knees when kneeling to pray. Some of the designs are emblems representing all or part of the trinity, some are emblems or memoirs of the country or historical events, and some commemorate church groups.

The 11 stonework heads placed between the arches in St John’s, are thought to represent Jesus’ disciples (excluding Judas Iscariot). It is also believed that the stonemasons used the likeness of themselves or their relatives as inspiration.

St Mary the Virgin on Worton Road had its foundation stone laid on 22 November 1952. The consecration, which took place on 12 June 1954, was reported on the front page of The Middlesex Chronicle under the heading ‘First New Parish Church in Area since War’.

Between 1929 and 1937, what was previously farming land around St Mary’s, experienced significant housing development. Around 1300 or more houses, flats and bungalows were built in the Worton area alone. The creation of new communities in the area also created the need for a new church. The St Mary’s Hall church was built as a temporary church building, and dedicated on 24 February 1933. It functioned as a place of worship until the full church building was consecrated, when it changed role and housed many a community group, social gathering, and jumble sale. The St Mary’s hall still stands today, although not as a safely useable building. There are plans for possible refurbishment, which will hopefully allow it to be a well-used building again.

The current church bell at St Mary’s sailed the seas as a ship’s bell for 13 years (1915-1928) before being presented and dedicated on 12 November 1950. The first name of the ship, SS Sandford is still inscribed on the bell. Zoom into the image to read her full, fascinating history.

This reredos at the front of St Mary’s depicts the life of Mary the Virgin. It is executed in painted tiles with a matte glaze, which was very innovative at the time. Much experimentation was needed by its makers Messrs Carter & Co. of Poole, and its designer Mr J Ledger to achieve the bright colours.

Anti-clockwise from top left: St Mary as a child with St Anne and St Joachim; the Purification; the Annunciation; the Flight into Egypt; the Assumption; Descent from the cross.
Centre: Our Lady crowned with Child.

Four kings are depicted at the bottom of the painted tile reredos in St Mary’s instead of the traditional four Gospel authors. The reason was that the church was built largely in the year of the Coronation of our present Queen.

The kings are (left to right): Melchizedek, King of Salem; David, King of Israel; Edward the Confessor, King and former Patron Saint of England; and Charles I, King of Great Britain.

In the chapel of St Mary’s, the small window over the alter shows a modern version of St Joseph as a working carpenter, surrounded by the tools of his trade.

Taken from The Story of St John the Baptist and The Story of St Mary the Virgin by Brian Grumbridge – please contact us for details on purchasing a copy of these books if you are interested.