St John the Baptist Church Calvary, Holland Road

Restoration of the Calvary

St John the Baptist church was built between 1872 and 1885. The church is laid out on a cruciform plan with Gothic detailing by architect and high churchman James Brooks (d. 1901). Unusually for a Victorian church in London, is it built of rag stone with Bath stone copings and a Bath stone interior rather than the less expensive option of brick. It was originally intended to have a west tower but the ground was too soft to support it. Instead, it has a cathedral-like west front, with a large wheel window. The interior is vaulted and reminiscent of Cistercian abbey churches in layout, though much grander in detail. Its fixtures and fittings have remained remarkably intact. The church is a unique survival of the Anglo-Catholic movement.

The Calvary on the west front of the church is believed to have been completed in 1910. It is often used by visitors passing by the church who will stop and pray in front of it. The clergy and congregation often find flowers or other small votive objects left at its foot. It is a much loved part of the built environment and landscape but badly eroded—with the lower part of Christ’s arms missing entirely. The church has considered either cleaning and consolidating the stonework, or completely recurving the sculpture from a single block of stone. HOLT has encouraged a midway approach that would include fully restoring the missing arms and hand and repairing the rest of the statue.

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