The Church of St John at Enmore Green

Plan

The church is cruciform shape with apsidal chancel, and crossing tower. Three-bay nave. There are galleries at the west end and in both transepts, the latter originally reached by stair turrets in the angles between the chancel and transepts. These were accessed originally only from the exterior at ground level.

Exterior

The church is built in the Neo-Norman style, with a squat crossing tower which rises in one short stage above the roofline. The tower has raised strips like clasping buttresses at the angles, two bell-openings in each face, each of two narrow lights under an outer round arch. There is a corbel table and an embattled parapet. Generally the windows have a single order of colonnettes with simple scallop-type capitals, under a round arch. The lower walls of the four arms are plain, with all the windows high up, above a continuous stringcourse at sill level. The apse is semicircular in plan. It has three small single lancets, widely spaced. The transepts have triple windows facing north and south, under a continuous outer moulding, and a single light above in the gable. The west gable has a big oculus with star-pattern tracery, and a small central door with one order of colonnettes. The staircases in both eastern gallery turrets have gone; the southern turret now connects with the interior to form a secondary exit. The massing and fairly bold detailing outside give a sense of authenticity, with nothing of the feebleness often seen in Norman Revival architecture c. 1840.

Interior

The interior is quite plain, with white painted walls, and the expected crossing with big round-arches on all sides. The nave bays are defined by heavy columnar wall shafts with Norman capitals which act as corbels for the roof trusses. The roof is of dark-stained deal, with simple trusses in the nave, and radial rafters over the apse. Stone flagged floors, with boards beneath the seating. The west end has a tongue-and-groove boarded partition forming a small inner lobby, and enclosing the gallery stairs (south) and toilet (north). The latter was created in 2004 along with a small kitchen fitted under a new staircase to the north transept gallery. The north-west corner of the nave was originally the site of a small robing room, removed when a larger vestry was formed beneath the south transept gallery.

Principal Fixtures

The most interesting fitting is the font, perhaps 15th century, with a square bowl and chamfered angles on a square foot. Each face of the bowl has two crudely incised ‘poppyhead’ motifs. It must have been ejected from a church, probably either in Shaftesbury or a local village (but seemingly not Motcombe, which retains a medieval font). The font cover is of oak, and has a flat panel with raised border within which is a cyma reversa moulding, i.e. probably 17th or early 18th century. It has a central finial which is clearly of different origin, perhaps 15th century. It is crudely cut from a single piece of oak, with pierced ogee arches on each face. Each arch has a mullion and transom forming a cross through its centre; the ‘transoms’ are actually the edges of a solid shelf. Its top is roughly pyramidal. The commemorative pulpit is of dark oak, c. 1950. Of good quality, with linenfold panels and painted military insignia in shields at the top of each panel. In the nave the benches are of stained pine, perhaps original; they are thinly detailed, spartan, and in poor condition. A faculty for their removal has been applied for (2009). There are pews of the same type in the galleries, which have original gallery fronts with Neo-Norman arcaded openings. The ex-situ vestry screen is of pine, c. 1850-70 with Gothic arched openings. Three apse windows have stained glass c. 1843, with some heraldic devices and typical orange-yellow in the patterning.

Subsidiary Features

The west entrance is approached by stone steps with a ramp for disabled access, added in 2004

History

The church was begun in 1842 as a chapel of ease to St Mary, Motcombe, and opened in August 1843. Enmore Green lies below a steep escarpment c ½ mile north west of Shaftesbury. The graveyard rises so steeply behind the church to the south and east that the visitor looks down upon its tower, an oddity noted by Thomas Hardy: “It was a place where the churchyard lay nearer heaven than the church steeple" (Jude the Obscure, Part Fourth, chapter 1). George Alexander (died c. 1884) practised in London and Highworth, Wilts. He designed several small Neo-Norman churches around this time, including the very similar Christ Church, East Stour, a few miles west of Enmore Green. A craze for Norman Revival churches swept the country for a few years from c. 1840, before falling from fashion equally quickly. Enmore Green became part of the borough of Shaftesbury in 1933.

The church of St John the Evangelist is designated at grade II for the following principal reasons:

  • A simple but robust village church in the Neo-Norman style popular c. 1840, picturesquely set on a steep hillside
  • Unusually original in its architectural form, though less so in its fittings: it apparently had no Victorian restoration, only piecemeal changes made locally
  • Crudely carved 15th century font of unknown origin, and font cover with a curious oak finial of similar date
  • Stained glass c. 1843, of the early 19th century type which preceded the medieval revival in stained glass production