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St. John the Baptist, Cirencester, Gloucestershire


The church of St. John the Baptist is a fine structure in the Early English, Early Decorated and Perpendicular styles, with traces of Norman work, and consists of chancel with one south and three north chapels, clerestoried nave of six bays, north aisle, with chapel, south porch or gate house and an embattled western tower of Perpendicular date, with pinnacles, and containing a peal of 13 bells, with a chiming apparatus, which strikes the quarters, and plays the 113th psalm at three, six, nine and twelve o'clock; in 1870 a clock was placed in the tower, the bells re-hung, and other improvements made, and in 1895 one bell was re-cast, and a new fire-bell, the gift of the Cirencester society in London, hung and so tuned as to be capable of making one of a second peal of eight hells: the nave, rebuilt in 1514, is Late Perpendicular, highly enriched, but the style is pure and not overloaded with ornament; there are six lofty arches on either side, supported on clustered columns; at the spring of the arches are figures bearing shields, with the armorial bearings of the various contributors to the work, mostly woolstaplers and inhabitants of the town: the tower opens to the nave by a fine arch: the east and west windows contain ancient glass, arranged about the year 1790 from detached pieces collected from various windows of the church, the designs being furnished by Samuel Lysons, the famous antiquary, and executed by a plumber of the town: the chancel is Early Decorated, the piers on the south side being very Early English: Trinity chapel, on the north side or the nave aisle, is a Perpendicular work, erected about 1440, and retains its altar steps and the sedilia, and on the wall is a curious painting in fresco, representing the martyrdom of St. Erasmus, with a singular list of the benefits to be derived from the worship of that holy saint, bishop and martyr: here also are several busts of the Bathurst family: St. Catherine's chapel, on the north side of the chancel, is narrow, but has a fine stone roof of fan tracery, taken from the Abbey church, and dates from 1508: on the wall to the right ot the altar is a representation of St. Catherine and other figures: the window has been filled with modern stained glass at the expense of Joseph Cripps esq. as a memorial of his family: northward of this is the chapel of St. Mary, 1440, and on the south side of the chancel is St. John's chapel, containing some good modern stained glass, and between which and the chancel is a short pillar with a foliated capital supporting an acute pointed arch in the Early English style, evidently part of a building much older than the nave or tower: at the south-east corner of the south aisle formerly stood a handsome carved oak screen inclosing the east end, or Jesus chapel, but now removed into the Lady chapel, to form a choir vestry: the fine three-storied porch or gate house, erected about 1500, has fan-traceried graining and pierced battlements with pinnacles; the upper story, lighted by three large windows, is used as a Town Hall, by the permission of the churchwardens: there are a number of curious brasses and some monuments, interesting as memorials of local families: the church was thoroughly restored in 1866-7, from designs by the late Sir G. G. Scott R.A. at a cost of about £14,000, and has since been decorated at a further cost of £2,500: the organ was built in 1896 at a cost of over £1,750, and placed in St. John the Baptist's chapel: the choir stalls, arranged by the late Sir G. G. Scott, outside the chancel arch, have been moved into the chancel, within the screen: there is a memorial window, erected in 1873, to Mrs. Cripps, and others to Mrs. F. Cripps, placed in 1877, and to Mr. F. Cripps, in 1888, and there is another to Allen Alexander, 6th and late Earl Bathurst, d. 1892: the communion plate includes two large chalices of the time of Edward VI.; two flagons of Queen Elizabeth's reign, dated respectively 1570 and 1576, and a covered cup, dated 1535, and surmounted by a crowned and sceptred falcon, the badge of Queen Anne Boleyn: the east end and reredos were restored and decorated in 1889, from designs by Mr. J. O. Scott: there are 1,498 sittings.

Church Records

The parish register of St. John the Baptist dates from the year 1560, but there is a lapse of four years from 1581: there is also a book containing the minutes of the vestry from 1586 to 1886.

St. John the Baptist

Denomination:Church of England