Church history

The original church of St John’s was situated at the corner of Crabtree Lane and Southdown Road and was called St John the Evangelist Church.  It was known as the 'paper' church as it had been constructed on a timber framework and filled in with frail material, and it was destroyed by a spectacular fire on Sunday 31 December 1905.

Determined that the people of Southdown (or Bowling Alley as it was then called) would not be overwhelmed by this misfortune, the Rev William Wingfield Colley, curate-in-charge on the staff at St Nicholas' Church, became the driving force behind the building of a new church.  The land for the present church on Harpenden Common was given by Sir Charles Lawes Wittewronge, son of Sir John Lawes, and was in the midst of an old orchard.  One ancient tree still remains in the vicarage garden.

Work on the new church building began on 24 June 1907, and as this was St John the Baptist’s day, he was chosen as the new patron saint. The new church was designed by FC Eden, and the contract for the building work was given to the local Harpenden building firm Philips & Blake. The new church, with its simple design and wonderful sense of light, was consecrated on Monday 2 March 1908.

Initially part of the parish of St Nicholas, St John's became a parish (‘Harpenden St John’) in its own right in 1936.

In 1963 the Lady Chapel, behind the altar, was completed and consecrated. This chapel continues to offer a special sacred space in which we hold midweek services and evening services on Sundays.

A generous legacy from Ted Ward, a long-standing and faithful parishioner of St John’s and a local butcher, who died in 1984 allowed for extensive improvements to the building, particularly the building of the porch at the west end of the church and the renovation of the organ.

We are privileged to have inherited this beautiful building in which we can meet to worship and also to host musical events.  We are also aware that our worship is at the root of our mission to help spread God’s love to the people of Southdown and beyond.