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Navigation : Home > Feature Article #4
Feature Article #4

Chester Millennium Festival Trail
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Chester Landmark Tour
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old St. Johns
old St. Johns

St. John the Baptist Church

Rebuilt Porch

This church is the most interesting of Chester's churches after St. Werburgh's. The church is located to the east of the Amphitheatre outside the city walls near Newgate.


King Rthelred the founder

The foundation of the church can be traced back to Saxon times. When in 689 AD King Ethelred (675 - 704) of the Mercians visited Chester and was told by God in a vision to 'build a Church on the spot where he should find a white hind'. Or so the story goes. The church was built of local red sandstone on a small cliff over looking the River Dee.

A modern stained glass window of the founder of the church can be seen in the porch entrance.

Saxon Crosses Tomb Slabs

Fragments of assorted Saxon crosses can be seen in the West End of the Church. As well as tomb slabs.
They were used to date the foundation of the church when they were discovered.
Here is a fine incised slab depicting Agnes De Ridlegh, wife of the Sheriff of Chester. Who died in 1347.
There are also painted alabaster shields from the tomb of Alexander Cotes. Patron of the church.
The tomb was destroyed during the civil war.

The Old Cathedral

Norman Pillars

During the Normal period the church was rebuilt and massive stone pillars were added in the nave. The main fabric of the church dates to 1120 and was completed in 1250. The church became a Cathedral in 1075 when the seat of the Bishops of Mercia was transferred there by Bishop Peter. Only to be moved 20 years later in 1095 to Coventry. The Norman Pillars were designed to lean outwards. A feature only found in other great Cathedrals of Orvieto and Rheims.

Pillar base

Inside the Church

Painting of St. John
Click for a larger picture >>>

On the last Norman pillar on the north aisle before the altar is a medieval fresco depicting St. John the Baptist.

Commonwealth Font Commonwealth Font

In front of the choir is an example of a Commonwealth font. It is a small font with the initials W W carved on the side.
It was given to the church after the civil war (1642 - 1649) by Churchwarden William Wilson.

West Window

The West Window contains scenes from the history of the church. It was installed in 1890. Enlarged pictures of each scene can be found on a board in front of the choir.

Jacobean Screen        Jacobean Screen

This Jacobean Screen was installed in 1660. And was originally positioned across the Norman arch of the sanctuary.
Enclosing a small chapel belonging to the Warburton family.

The Organ

The organ, which was installed in the church in October 1838 was originally in Westminster Abbey and was used for the Coronation of Queen Victoria.

The East End Ruins

The East End Ruins The East End Ruins The East End Ruins

The Church was shortened and the three east end chapels were left in ruin after the church lost its collegiate status at the time of the Dissolution.
Placed high in the wall of the ruin has been placed a medieval solid oak coffin found during repairs in 1813. Inside are painted the words "Dust to Dust".

The Collapse of the Tower (before)

Painting of St. Johns Church Tower Painting of St. Johns 	Church from the River Dee from Boughton

During the civil war the church was captured by Parliamentarian forces. Who raised a cannon with tackle onto the top of the tower. Were it was used to bombard the town and breach the city walls in the Roman gardens. Also it was used by snipers. Sheriff Ralph Richardson was killed with a shot from the tower.
During the Amphitheatre excavation impacted musket balls were found in front of the church.

The Collapse of the Tower (after)

On Good Friday 15th April 1881 the North East corner of the tower collapsed. The crash could be heard all over Chester. The West Tower was never rebuilt.
On the remaining base of the tower can be seen tracery bands and an alcove in which stood the figure of St. Giles.

The Tower Now The Tower Now

The view from Boughton today
The view now from Boughton

The entrance to the Grosvenor Park is close by. Click to enter >>>
St Johns

The entrance Roman Amphitheatre is next to St. John's
St Johns

Chester Millennium Festival Trail
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The Anchorite Cell

(Private) from the Groves
St Johns

Anchorite Cell

Time Line

St John's Time Line

689 Saxon church founded by King Ethelred and Bishop Wulfryce.
972 Edgar the Peaceful rowed by eight tributary Kings up the River Dee to St. John's to receive their fealty.
1066 According to legend King Harold fled from Hastings and took refuge as an anchorite in a cell attached to St. John's.
1075 Present building begun by Bishop Peter as the cathedral of West Mercia.
1085 Death of Bishop Peter. The See was removed to Lichfield.
1190 Triforium and clerestory completed in Transitional and Early English styles respectively.
1190 St John's becomes a collegiate church.
1470 Collapse of Central tower.
1548 Dissolution of collegiate church and building falls into disrepair.
1559 Parish registers begin.
1581 Parishioners obtain grant of fabric from Queen Elizabeth I and restore nave as parish church.
1645 Chester besieged by parliamentary forces who use the church as a garrison.
1756 Last service for Cheshire minstrels after their annual licensing, a tradition maintained continuously since
1838 Installation of organ (brought from Westminster Abbey after use at coronation of Queen Victoria).
1860-66 Extensive restoration including new East Window.
1881 Collapse of the West tower destroying an early English porch.
1890 New west window installed.
1970 Refurnishing of Lady Chapel sanctuary.
1972 St John's becomes part of the new Chester Team Parish.

The Ruins of Old St Johns

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St Johns Page Three

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The Roman fortress Dewa
The Blue Bell
Olde Leche House

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