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St John's £5m Restoration under way!

Update - 19.7.21


St John’s Waterloo, one of London’s landmark churches and cultural venues and a beacon of hope for the homeless, is about to undergo a major £5 million restoration. Work will start in July and the church will re-open in spring 2022.

The project will restore and enhance St John’s vast open nave as a place of worship, concert, and event space and transform its semi-derelict crypt into a place where community, arts wellbeing, employment, and youth initiatives can thrive.

Eric Parry Architects whose award-winning previous commissions include the renewal of St Martin’s-in-the-Fields among many other heritage projects has designed and will oversee the restoration. Buxton Building Contractors Limited has been appointed as the building contractor. Buxton has worked on Canterbury, Rochester, and Guildford Cathedrals, the Imperial War Museum, numerous churches, and other listed buildings.

The Revd Canon Giles Goddard, the vicar of St John’s Waterloo, said: “After 10 years of fundraising and a year’s delay due to Covid, we are thrilled that work is finally to begin on-site.

“St John’s opened in 1826 to serve a burgeoning population of working people on the South Bank. During the Second World War, a firebomb devastated the nave but services continued, and the crypt provided shelter.

“In 1951, St John’s was restored and rededicated as the official church of the Festival of Britain. Now, in the wake of the pandemic, we need more than ever for our magnificent Grade II* church to be here for everyone, a place where we can come together to grow and to heal.”

Eric Parry said: “The overall vision for St Johns Waterloo is one of creating the open door, the welcome, the space for different uses from the informal to the formal, and to enable the capacity for solemnity on the one hand and celebration on the other. The project is wonderful because of the simultaneity and diversity of people involved and because these spaces are able to deliver a sense of tranquillity and introspection in a world that is so manic and so stressed, their value is enormous and this is why this project is so important.”

David Norman, Managing Director of Buxton, said: “We’re very excited about starting on-site at St John’s Church in Waterloo. With its rich history and its exciting future, I am sure it will be a rewarding project for all involved. A complex heritage restoration and adaptation project such as this brings with it exceptional challenges and allows us to extend our skills once more to an ecclesiastical scheme.”

In detail, the restoration project, entitled “ReIGNITE”, will involve:

  • creating space for St John’s charity arm, The Bridge at Waterloo, to run Waterloo Well – its new programme of employment training, resilience, wellbeing, and therapy projects

  • creating new offices and state-of-the-art rehearsal facilities for world-renown academy orchestra Southbank Sinfonia's alumni,

  • creating three new meeting, rehearsal and training rooms, a studio space, two counselling/practice rooms, a community kitchen, and showers for times when the church runs as a homelessness shelter

  • opening St John’s entrance with a new foyer

  • improving acoustics and lighting to provide state of the art performance facilities

  • restoring the very significant murals by Hans Feibusch and making them even more of a focal point

  • creating a new baptistry and prayer space near the entrance

  • installing a new lift to give full access to the crypt

  • making the atmospheric, brick-arched Long Room in the crypt into a spectacular space for events, exhibitions, performances, and private hire

  • providing new lavatories and a store for the churchyard gardeners.

Fundraising appeal

So far, almost all the £5 million project cost has been raised and St John’s is making a final appeal for the remaining £150,000. A list has been drawn up of ways in which donors can choose to be associated with the restored church from naming a room to being remembered for a windowpane. Other donor rewards include the use of the church for an event, Vespers by candlelight for you and your friends, or a vicarage tea. (To donate and see a full list of rewards click here.)

The £4,850,000 raised so far has come from the Big Lottery Reaching Communities Fund, Heritage of London Trust, The Mayor of London’s Good Growth Fund, The Clothworkers' Foundation, Garfield Weston Trust, Allchurches Trust, The Swire Charitable Trust, London Borough of Lambeth, The City Bridge Trust, The Bernard Sunley Charitable Foundation, The Rayne Foundation, The Kirsch Foundation and from many individual donors and the congregation.

Most recently, St John’s was awarded a grant of £30,000 from the London Community Energy Fund to install 114 solar panels on the roof, a vital element of the project and part of St John’s ongoing commitment to climate action.

Pilgrim church

When the Sunday service ends on 4th July, the congregation will process out of the church and through the streets of Waterloo to St Andrew’s Short Street, a sister church to St John’s. Worship, charity, and community projects will continue from here for the duration of the restoration, with the addition of a programme of visits by the congregation to other churches around London.

Revd Canon Giles Goddard concluded: “St John’s may be closed until next spring but we’re still here for you. Everyone is welcome to drop in and see us at St Andrew’s (just off The Cut) and our beautiful churchyard garden at St John’s will continue to be open for everyone to enjoy.”

Written by Giles Goddard -

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