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Listed Building record MDR12627 - St John the Baptist's Chapel, St John's Road, Matlock Town

Type and Period (1)

  • (Victorian - 1897 AD to 1897 AD)

Protected Status/Designation

Full Description

A grade II* listed chapel, with supporting retaining wall, attached boundary walls and integral trough. It was built in 1897 by E Guy Dawber, for Mrs Louisa Sophia Harris. It is built of rubble carboniferous limestone, of massive construction in the lower part of the retaining wall, with ashlar gritstone dressings. It has stone slates, laid to diminishing courses, replaced in concrete tiles to the south slope, and with a single moulded ashlar coped gable to the east with kneelers and finals. It is a single cell chapel, with a small square bell turret, beneath a lead-covered pyramidal roof, projecting from the south elevation. The west entrance front has a central pointed-arched doorway in a moulded ashlar surround, with a wooden gabled porch that continues to the north and down the north side of the chapel as a lean-to covered walk. The interior contains many fine Arts and Craft fittings, including a perpendicular style rood screen by E Guy Dawber, decorated ceiling plaster work by George Bankart, a painted wooden altar piece by John Cooke, and stained glass in the east window by Louis Davis. The remainder of the fittings include pulpit, pews and choir stalls, probably also by Dawber, and pendant light fittings. The chapel, which was never consecrated, is the only church designed by Dawber. The chapel stands upon a massive retaining wall, itself constructed of massive blocks of limestone, laid roughly to courses. The wall extends 45 metres to the west, and incorporates a stone water trough, and 10 metres to the east, it forms a boundary wall which encloses the approach to the chapel. See list description for more details. (1) In 1897 Mrs Louisa Sophia Harris, a devout Anglo-Catholic, commissioned Guy Dawber to design for her a private place of worship. The dedication of the chapel to St John the Baptist was probably suggested by the spring of water issuing from the hillside just below. Dawber's ambition was to create the impression of a chapel springing from the living rock of the hillside. Consequently, towards the road the foundations of the chapel form a cliff face built of very large limestone blocks so as to disguise the artificial nature of the structure. The plan of the chapel is simple, with no formal distinction between nave and chancel. There is a bell turret, a projecting oriel window and a shingle-roofed cloister or verandah on the west and north sides. Internally the limestone gives way to wall surfaces of mellow red brick. Doors, pulpit, pews and choir stalls are all in oak and inspired by the organic forms and flowing decoration of the Art Nouveau style, then at its height. St John's was never consecrated. After the death of Mrs Harris in 1908 the chapel served the local community but was eventually abandoned and subsequently vandalised. However, it was taken over by the Friends of Friendless Churches and repaired. It is now listed Grade II*. (2) Sir Guy Dawber admitted that his own work was unspectacular. He was a very typical Edwardian country house architect, though St John's Chapel despite it not being a dwelling, still is typical of the architect. It is an early work for Dawber (1897) which explains some of the free detailing of the furniture inside. Its details are quiet, though the interior is simething of a surprise. It is lined with a timber panelled dado and exposed brickwork walls. The roof is plastered and has Arts and Crafts style fibrous plaster mouldings. Another Arts and Crafts touch is the pulpit. (3)

Sources/Archives (3)

  • <1> Listed Building File: Historic England. 2011. The National Heritage List for England. Ref: 429658.
  • <2> Bibliographic reference: Drackley, J. 2003. The Chapel of St John the Baptist, Matlock.
  • <3> Unpublished document: The Victorian Society. 1985. A Day Tour of the Peak.



Grid reference Centred SK 2942 5941 (14m by 16m)

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Record last edited

Nov 10 2023 7:25AM

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