Waterloo, London

St. John's Church, Waterloo, London

After the Napoleonic Wars ended the population of south London began to explode. In 1822 the Commissioners for Building New Churches decided to purchase land owned by the Archbishop of Canterbury on the swampy approaches to Waterloo Bridge to build the first of what became known as the “Waterloo Churches”.

The architect employed was Francis Octavius Bedford who began work in 1824. Bedford’s style of Greek revival architecture was considered passé by this time but Bedford’s addition of a spire deflected some criticism as it gave St. John’s a “typical English profile”. In retrospect St. John’s marks the beginning of a change from the boxy churches of post-Great Fire London towards a more attractive church-like shape which would lead to the Gothic revival in the Victorian period.

Blomfield renovated the church in 1885 and the insides were kitted out by the inimitable Ninian Comper in 1924. Alas, all of this was lost when a bomb hit the church in 1940 destroying the roof and most of the interior. It took ten years to rebuild the church. Interior remodelling was undertaken in a modern style by Thomas Ford and in 1951 the Church was re-dedicated as the “Festival of Britain Church”.

In 1998 an 8-year programme of rebuilding and renovation came to an end leaving the church now clean, white and gleaming amidst the grime and heaving traffic around Waterloo.

Photo - Andrew J. Müller

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