This very beautiful, Victorian-built church is one of the best examples of Piers St Aubyn’s designs and was built so that the people of East Penzance could have a church of its own.
Today our church hosts the Penzance civic service which starts the Galowan Festival …the Feast of John the Baptist.
St. John’s church is now home to a large Playzone structure. So this church serves the families in the community and is open seven days a week.
You will find us a friendly group of people.
A Brief History
In the second half of the 19th century Penzance was expanding in an easterly direction and the Anglican church began to realise that a parish church was needed in this location for the spiritual life of the community. The Vicar of St Mary’s at the time, Philip Hedgeland seems to have been the driving force behind the project to have St John’s built and the present site in Trewartha Terrace was chosen following a gift of the land. The church was designed by the architect J P St Aubyn & built in 1880/81. It is still regarded as one of the best examples of the architect’s work. It was consecrated by the Bishop Benson of Truro on 4 October 1881. There was never sufficient funds to build a church spire and to this day St John’s has not been the easiest place to find.
St John’s Vicarage, next to the church was built in 1899 and only sold in the mid 1990s. In 1908 St John’s Church House, or the parish rooms, was built, mainly for church and other social events in the parish but over the years hosted a whole variety of events. It was finally sold in 2001 as a Community Room had been created downstairs at the church. At one time St John’s was renowned for its wonderful choir and still has an impressive organ. St John’s Church Day School, just beyond Church House, was built around 1895 and existed as an infants & junior school until its closure in 1961. The School buildings were finally converted into flats around 2008. St John’s Church was therefore very much at the centre of the community for its first 80 years.
The church building itself is deceptive. It appears rather drab externally but visitors are surprised by its internal space and its impressive layout. Originally designed to seat 600, over the years some of the pews have been removed to make it a more user-friendly space for today’s activities.
Notable features in the church are the painted screen behind the altar, which was designed by G H Fellowes Prynne, and installed in 1902. It features many characters from the Bible. The other notable feature of St John’s are the many beautiful stained glass windows, which range from the Victorian & Edwardian periods to the most recently installed in the 1970s. The main east window is a memorial to Queen Victoria, being designed by Clayton & Bell, and shows the ascension of Christ in glory.
The south transept window is a memorial to a Mrs Lane, from the 1950s. More modern windows from the 1970s are in the north aisle and are illustrations of St Francis & St Giles as well as the Mothers’ Union centenary window.
Since 1996 the church has hosted a service at the start of the Golowan Arts Festival, which is held each June, around the time of the Feast of John the Baptist.