The Story of St John’s
ST JOHN’S CHURCH, BRIDGETOWN, has an interesting story to tell. Originally part of the parish of Berry Pomeroy, it was built in 1832 for the rapidly growing suburb of Bridgetown, by the Duke of Somerset. Its first minister was the radical preacher, Revd. James Shore. Under his leadership, St John’s left the Church of England for about thirty years to become the first congregation of the breakaway Free Church of England.
• read more History here
St John’s is now part of the parish of Totnes with Bridgetown in the Totnes Team. Since then, Bridgetown has continued to grow. A lot of new homes were built in the post-war period, and major development continues today. St John’s has provided pastoral care for many generations and has a long track record of community engagement and provision.
The social, relational, and community need continues to escalate in Bridgetown, and real investment is needed to prevent further community and personal breakdown.
Bridgetown has pronounced loneliness, drug and economic deprivation problems, and the primary school in the heart of the community has been placed in Special Measures.
Through our Community Café (left) and our Parent and Toddler Group (right), we are seeking to meet local people at their point of need.
The church building is now in need of a major redevelopment to make it ﬁt for its present-day and future purposes. After a serious ﬁre in 1976, the vision of the then vicar, the Revd. Roy Harris, was for St John’s to become a conference and community centre, as well as a worship centre. In 1979-80, the church was reconstructed as a multi-purpose building, but unfortunately much of the work has not stood the test of time.
We are now developing our Five-Year Strategy for the whole building, which embodies our vision for progressive development of the interior, together with an enhanced frontage and setting of the Grade II Listed Building. We are deeply committed to supporting the use of the building in many rich and diverse ways, and to the wellbeing of those who enjoy the welcome and hospitality that we offer.
St John’s is built in the Perpendicular Gothic style of robust local stone, having a dominant tower with tall slim pinnacles and mirroring St Mary’s on the other side of the River Dart. It is a Grade II Listed Building situated in the Bridgetown part of the Totnes Conservation area. After the 1976 fire, it was restored in 1980 as a multi-purpose building on three levels, with a modern and functional interior.
The ground floor has a worship area; a foyer where refreshments can be served; and sub-standard tea and coffee making facilities, as well as toilets. The mezzanine level has a large open space and small meeting room. Upstairs on the main first floor level, there is a substantial hall, medium-sized meeting room, a kitchen and sub-standard storage and toilet accommodation. Each floor is served by a very basic lift.
Many items in the 1980 restored church were produced locally in South Devon: the ‘Tree of Life’ East window, by Peter Tysoe of Totnes; the fine Baroque organ by William Drake of Buckfastleigh; the church furniture designed by local architect Pedro Sutton and made by Chris Faulkner, of the Devon Guild of Craftsmen, from Devon ash; the font bowl turned by local woodturner Rendle Crang and the slate surfaces made by local stonemasons Allwood.
• quick link: How to find St John’s Church