St John Baptist, King’s Norton, Leicestershire
Eighteenth century Anglicanism has not had a good press. According to this view, it was complacent and inactive. Church repairs were financed by selling off bells and lead. Yet some medieval churches were thoroughly rebuilt. This is one such, entirely rebuilt by the younger John Wing of Leicester during the period 1757–75 (his father rebuilt Gaulby, just across the fields, in 1741). The church is structurally simple, a high and slender rectangular box, attached to a west tower (there was a spire which was destroyed by a lightning strike in 1850). It’s more than ‘Strawberry Hill’ Gothic; it is a serious essay with ogee arches forming mouldings over the tall windows in nave and belfry. You approach the church up steps at the west end, much as you might do in Italy or Portugal.
Inside is an unspoilt Prayer Book interior of the 18th c.; west gallery on Doric columns, white walls, box pews and three-decker pulpit, but the latter is placed centrally, facing west. The pulpit blocks the view of the altar, but there was normally no need to see the altar which was only in use on ‘Sacrament Sundays’ when the congregation would have been beyond the pulpit in the (liturgical) sanctuary. The pulpit is flanked by small gates, which enforce the liturgical separation between ‘nave’ and ‘chancel’; beyond, the pews face north–south, as in a college chapel. The sanctuary floor is marble-paved, whilst the Holy Table lacks the candles which the pulpit and reading desk retain.
‘A perfect expression of eighteenth century Anglicanism, its lucidity, its classical view of life, its freedom from cant and humbug, its objectivity’ (Addleshaw and Etchells’ comment upon King’s Norton).
Give thanks for clergy who faithfully administer Word and Sacrament.