St. John’s Church Newport was built in 1837 by a local builder, William Stratton, to designs by Robert Gunten Wetten ( 1804-1872), a fashionable London architect of the day and who has an entry in the monumental Directory of Britsih Architects by Howard Colvin. The Church is the only remaining building by him. It is in the early Gothic style and its exterior is virtually unaltered apart from the addition of the Vicar’s vestry in the 1840s and a stone cross on the rear of the building. The Church has 2 castle-like turrets on its front extension.
It was the brainchild of the Rev. Henry Worsley who paid for the construction. It was to be an additional place of worship in the Parish of Carisbrooke as the mother Church, St. Mary’s was now too small. The Church was not originally a Parish Church but was assigned a District within the Parish of Carisbrooke which extended into the heart of Newport. It became a Parish Church in 1896. It is one of the few Churches in England to have its name officially changed by order of the Privy Council in 1986. For most of its lidfe it was called “St. John’s Carisbrooke” although some miles aweay from that village. It is now “St. John’s Newport”.
St. John’s has always been in the Evangelical tradition and noted for its support of missionaries. Between 1880 and 1914 there were 6 missionaries from the Church working for the Church Missionary Society in Africa, India and the Arctic. The famous Arctic missionary, Edgar Greenshield, was brought up in the Church and acted as Curate 1916-1917.
An Organ was provided for the Church in 1837 and the first Church records show payments for female Singers and suppers for male singers. The unrobed Choir sang from the West Gallery until 1953. In that year the Choir became robed and sang from the Choir pews now in front of the Gallery.
The Church is noted for its music of all kinds. The 25- strong Choiir leads the worship each week and provides musical concerts for Churches throughout the Island and on the mainland. For many years, the Choir won many trophies at the Isle of Wight Musical Competitive Festival.
Entering the Church, the visitor will find a sever and plain interior consistent with the Protestant ethos of religion at the time. The furniture and its layout however is now very different to what it would have looked in 1837. The windows are plain except for red beading.
On the left as one faces the Sanctuary, can be seen a memorial showing a weeping soldier reading his Bible. This is by one of the Westmacott family of sculptors and is a memorial to the Rev. William Carus Wilson, in his retirement an Lecturer at the Church. It was erected by the privates and non-commissioned officers of the Army in recognition of his provision of Bibles for the troops in the Crimean War. Carus Wilson was the original of “Mr Brocklehurst” in “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Bronte, having in his younger days established a school for the daughters of clergy ( which still exists) where all the Bronte sisters attended and where 2 of them died from typhoid.
The pulpit dates from 1896 and the carved wooden Holy Table from 1895. The Reading Desk to the right of the Table is probably original and is a rare example of that type of furniture. The brass Lectern dates from 1937 and is based on a real bird. The font dates from 1837 although not in its original position. St. John’s also had a Baptistery, the only one on the Island, provided in 1837 and at the front of the Church, removed in 1937. The War Memorial dates from 1920.
In the gallery can be found the Organ, built by Bryceson Bros in 1890 but extended and greatly changed.
The Church’s first Bible was presented by the Rev. William Sewell, paradoxically in view of the Church’s Evangelical tradition, to become a leader of the Oxford Movement, and the founder of Radley College.