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COVENTRY, St John the Baptist 5, 9-3-21 in A

Grid Reference 140/330790 Coventry SJB - Source: Saxonsky
Postcode CV1 3AY
Peals None
Date Lost 1889
Other Information Church Website


This is a prominent red sandstone church with a central tower on Corporation Street, near to the mediaeval Spon Street. This fine cruciform church was originally built as a chapel for one of the City Guilds on land given by Queen Isabella in 1344. It was consecrated in 1350 but the original building was substantially enlarged and rebuilt in the C15th and early C16th. After Bablake College was dissolved in 1548 the building became the property of the City. It did not become a parish church until 1734. It is very much in the "High Church" tradition.

It is the origin of the phrase "Being sent to Coventry" as is was used as a prison for Scottish Royalists in the Civil War. The prisoners were allowed to wander inside the city walls, but the locals refused to speak to them, hence the phrase.

The bells were hung for ringing until the latter part of the 19th century. The chime contains one of the former ring of 8 from St Michael's, now the Cathedral. St John's tenor bell was cracked and it was swapped in 1774 for one of the ring going from St Michael's to Lester and Pack for recasting into 10. The weight given is as supplied to St Michael in 1675. The bells were rehung in 1774 and 1825, and there is a short contemporary report of the ringing which took place when the bells were reopened on 4 January 1826. They were probably never rung after the lantern tower was opened up during the 1858 restoration. The clock was installed in 1889 and in the same year an iron ringing gallery was erected in the open stage of the lantern tower. This is when the bells were rearranged (still with their old ringing headstocks and in part of the old frame) as a chime. The ringing gallery - where the chiming manual was positioned - was designed by Mr. Webster of Coventry and made at the Eagle Iron Works, and dedicated in June 1889. Chimed by John Greenhough in the middle of June 2001, he suggesting that they form 2-6 of an 8.

The inscriptions are given in Tilley and Walters' book, "The Church Bells of Warwickshire":

The bells are now hung for chiming in the remains of a 17th century bellframe, part of which was removed to accommodate the clock in 1889. The treble occupies a pit on the south side of the tower, bells 2 and 3 are on the west side and bells 4 and 5 are on the east. The trusses consist of sills, braces, curved jack-braces and long heads. Along the sill on the north side there is a carved inscription (partially concealed) which appears to read "FE BOW ... RICHARD BAR ... [OVGHTON]". The part in square brackets was noted by William Saunders in 1891 but it is no longer visible.

The bells are chimed by Ellacombe hammers from a chiming manual on the ringing gallery. They are still hung from their old ringing headstocks, but without wheels, stays or sliders. They have wooden stocks with strap gudgeons and stock hoops. The tenor is secured by bolts through the crown, the fourth has U-bolts through the canons, and the others have traditional ironwork. They still retain their clappers. There is evidence of the former bearings in the frame-heads. These fittings are of late C18th or early C19th date, and may have been supplied by Robert Turner or William Worton in 1774 and 1825 respectively. There is a three-train flatbed clock movement by Joyce of Whitchurch, 1889, with double three-legged gravity escapement. It strikes the hours and ding-dong quarters, and shows the time on three dials 7¾ ft. in diameter.

This is a fascinating belfry, although it is a pity that the bells have become so badly corroded (especially the mediaeval ones) and unfortunate that the present arrangement makes examination of the bells and frame an awkward and difficult task. The frame deserves closer study, and it would be interesting to work out how the bells were arranged before they were rehung in their present positions in 1889. Full examination is not possible at present owing to the position of the clock case. Although once hung for ringing, the bells have only been chimed since 1889. The cast iron ringing gallery,  although unusual and interesting (especially for its local manufacture),  is impractical for modern use.

(With thanks to Chris Pickford for the majority of this detail)

Details of the Bells

1 Henry Bagley I, Chacombe        1676  4cwt
2 Pack & Chapman, London          1778  4¾cwt
3 John Hose, Leicester           c1350  5¼cwt
4 John of Stafford, Leicester    c1360  8cwt
5 Henry Bagley I, Chacombe        1675  9-3-21

Photo Gallery

The Church in 1870   The Sanctuary. Source: Wendy Bishop Coventry SJB - The Nave. Source: Chris Pickford
The Church in 1870.
Note the comparatively poor condition
of the, then, unrestored west end.
The Sanctury  The Nave
Coventry SJB - The Lantern. Source: Chris Pickford Coventry SJB - The Vault. Source: Chris Pickford Coventry SJB - The Gallery. Source: Chris Pickford
The Lantern The Vault The Gallery
Coventry SJB - The Belfry. Source: Chris Pickford Coventry SJB - The Tenor. Source: Chris Pickford Coventry SJB - The Treble. Source: Chris Pickford
Richard Taulbut's Sketch Plan The Tenor The Treble
Coventry SJB - The Tenor's Headstock. Source: Chris Pickford Coventry SJB - The Ellacombe. Source: Chris Pickford Coventry SJB - The Reused Beam. Source: Chris Pickford
Teh Tenor's Headstock The Ellacombe A Reused Beam Below the Tenor

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