St John's maintains the Catholic tradition, an essential part of Anglicanism and we use Eucharistic services from "Common Worship". The tradition of openness and welcome in being the first Anglican Church in Taunton to have no "pew rents" is one that we strive to uphold and maintain today, underpinned by our mission and ministry, and support of Inclusive Church.
The Revd Frederick Jeremiah Smith arrived in Taunton in 1842 as the first perpetual curate of Holy Trinity Church. During his ministry he worked hard and gave generously in order to improve the standard of living for the children and the poorest in the parish. By 1858 he had resigned the living in order to build a new church in the Tangier area of Taunton.
It was to be dedicated to St John the Evangelist and was to be primarily for the poor.
Only the best was good enough for God, so the Revd Smith obtained the services of Sir George Gilbert Scott, one of the most eminent architects of the Victorian age, and a leader of the Victorian Gothic Revival Movement, He influenced buildings such as the Natural History Museum, Albert Memorial, Houses of Parliament, and Keble College, Oxford.
The significance of St John's Church has been recognised by English Heritage, who re-graded St John's as a Grade I listed building, one of national importance in the country's heritage; one of only two in Taunton.
On 9th November 1858, Master Frederick John Smith - the 10 year old son of Revd Smith - laid the foundation stone using a silver trowel with ivory handle, now kept at St John's and later for the foundation stone of St. Michael's, Galmington. In 1863, St John's was Dedicated, and at the luncheon afterwards the Revd Smith made it clear that the church was primarily for the use of the poor, although the wealthy would be welcomed if they wished to attend. He announced that there would be no "pew rents" in this church, ignoring the class system of the time, becoming the first Anglican church in Taunton where all pews would be available to all worshippers. The church cost the Revd Smith £12,000, a huge sum of money at the time, equivalent to over a million pounds today. The original Parish covered Shuttern, Tangier, and parts of Bishops Hull, serving the west of Taunton.
The first glimpse of the church, then as now, from all points, would have been of the spire, which sits upon an eighty-foot tower. It is the only Church in the town centre with a spire, "a veritable finger pointing towards heaven", leading us to use the slogan "Be inspired!".
The "Father" Henry Willis organ was installed in 1864 and on the wooden screen behind the console is Willis' autograph:
"Henricus Willis Londonni anno 1864 mente concoepit, manu fecit"
- he conceived in his mind what he made with his hands.
An essential major overhaul and repair has just finished for which fundraising is open.
In 2014 St. John's entered into a new phase in its service to the life of Taunton in a joint Benefice with St. Mary Magdalene, ministering jointly to our community.
Founded in 2008 celebrating the 150th anniversary of the laying of the Foundation Stone, the Friends of St John work in partnership with the Parochial Church Council to care for and improve the building, safeguarding the church, which has been re-graded by English Heritage to a Grade I listed building, recognising it as a building of national architectural importance.
The work of the Friends focuses on preserving all that is notable in this prime example of a Sir George Gilbert Scott church, equipping it's access for the widest possible use and audience, whilst maintaining it's spirituality and prime role as a place of worship, in the twenty first and future centuries.
On 13th April 2013 we celebrated another milestone in the life of this church - the 150th anniversary of it's Consecration. We hope this will give impetus to the Friends in supporting our current major programme of refurbishment to protect the fabric, and our plans to increase opening the church to our community, through the provision of new facilities.
The membership of the Friends will work with these aims, giving grants to support the Parochial Church Council, raising funds and accessing grants from other bodies. The Friends act as a charity under the oversight of the PCC, who will be the executors of any scheme or works, and any contributions are eligible for Gift Aid. The Friends support the current plans to improve and re-order the church, fully in sympathy with the original design, and the continuous improvement of the fabric.
The Friends is a network of members with diverse interests and skills, who feel able to contribute and support these aims. There will be the opportunity to get together at events, promoting a sense of ownership and belonging to an organisation with clear values and objectives. Importantly, it is hoped that membership will both inform and entertain.
We hope for and thank you in anticipation of your support.
If you wish to discuss the Friends of St John, receive further information, make a donation (which may be Gift Aided), or become a member, please contact us:
Friends Co-Ordinator, Friends of St John
St John the Evangelist Church, Park Street, Taunton, TA1 4DG