St John's Church, Waterloo

St John's Church, Waterloo, is an Anglican Greek Revival church in South London, built in 1822–24 to the designs of Francis Octavius Bedford. It is dedicated to St John the Evangelist,[1] and with St Andrew's, Short Street, forms a united benefice.

St John's Church, Waterloo
St John's Church, Waterloo Road, Waterloo, London (IoE Code 204772).JPG
St John's Church in 2010
LocationWaterloo Road, London
CountryUnited Kingdom
DenominationChurch of England
ChurchmanshipLiberal Catholic
DedicationSt John the Evangelist
Dedicated3 November 1824
Functional statusParish church
Architect(s)Francis Bedford
Years built1822–1824
DioceseDiocese of Southwark
Episcopal areaKingston Episcopal Area
ArchdeaconryArchdeaconry of Lambeth
DeaneryLambeth North
ParishWaterloo, St. John with St. Andrew
Bishop(s)The Rt Revd Richard Cheetham
Vicar(s)The Revd Canon Giles Goddard
Assistant priest(s)
  • The Revd Les Acklam
  • The Revd Georgie Heskins
  • The Revd Godfrey Kaziro
Curate(s)The Revd Jeffrey Risbridger


The church is located in Waterloo, opposite the London IMAX, close to Waterloo station and the Waterloo campus of King's College London. In 1818, when the country was settling down into a period of peace after the Napoleonic Wars and the population was beginning to expand rapidly, Parliament decided to allocate a sum not exceeding a million pounds for the building of additional churches in populous parishes and "more particularly in the Metropolis and its Vicinity." Of this sum, the Commissioners for Building New Churches appropriated £64,000 in 1822 for the needs of the parish of Lambeth. It was decided that a new church should be built on the Waterloo Bridge approach, with a piece of ground on the east side of the road to be purchased from the Archbishop of Canterbury and his lessee and the sub-lessee, Gilbert East and a man named Anderson.


The Church of St John was built to the designs of the architect Francis Octavius Bedford in 1824. Bedford designed three other churches for the Commissioners, St George's, Camberwell, St Luke's Church, West Norwood and Holy Trinity, Newington. They were all built in the same Greek style inspired by Bedford's background as a well-respected Greek scholar and antiquarian. Bedford's churches were fiercely criticised by contemporary critics at a time when the tide was turning away from the Greek revival towards Gothic. St John's however gained more critical appreciation mainly because of its fine spire which used classical detail to build up a more traditional English parish church shape.[2]

The ground was very swampy, consisting in part of a pond, and the advice of John Rennie the Younger was sought as to the most suitable type of foundation. His recommendation that piling should be used under all the walls was adopted with such success that, after the lapse of 125 years, heavy damage by bombing and ten years' exposure to the weather, the walls were still strong and sound enough to be used in the renovated church.[3]

The churchyard was converted into a garden in 1877. In 1883 Lord Brabazon, the Chairman of the newly formed Metropolitan Public Gardens Association, gave a swing and giant stride as part of a children's playground; the MPGA itself provided parallel bars, a seesaw and six seats. In more recent years the garden had become neglected, but has since been restored. The playground equipment is no longer present.[4]

The church was renovated by Reginald Blomfield in 1885 and altered internally by Ninian Comper in 1924. The church was struck by a bomb in 1940, when the roof and much of the interior was destroyed. Services were then held in the crypt, and the church described itself as St John's-in-the-crypt.[5] The building stood open for ten years until it was restored and remodelled internally by Thomas Ford in 1950. In 1951 the church was rededicated as the Festival of Britain Church.[6]

Thomas Ford removed the galleries and a new decorative scheme was installed using Greek ornamental motifs, gilt and light pastel shades. A mural by Hans Feibusch was commissioned and replaced the damaged Victorian reredos. The overall effect is vastly different from the essentially Victorian interior that previously existed. The highlights of decorative detail and colour are typical of a tradition evolved by Thomas Ford through the 1930s and into the 1950s.

The much-modified organ was by Bishop & Sons, dating from the construction of the church in 1824.[7] Badly damaged by the war-time bombing, it was restored in 1951 by Noel Mander.[8] There is a ring of 8 bells, all by Thomas II Mears of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry and all dating from 1825.[9]

During the construction of the Jubilee line, the structural stability of the church was closely monitored as the soil underneath the church began to dry out as a result of the building of the new London Underground line. Still supported by the piles driven into the marshy soil in 1824, millions of gallons of water had to be pumped into the foundations of the church to prevent its collapse as a result.[10]

The church is undergoing a 10-month restoration of the nave and crypt in 2021–22, designed by Eric Parry Architects.[11]


The church that exists today is a thriving multicultural congregation that has developed strong links with the local community. Every June it hosts the popular Waterloo Festival. It is also home to The Bridge at Waterloo and a large and thriving Churchyard garden.

There is a choir under the musical direction of Euchar Gravina. The church also hosts the Okusinza Church, which is a Luganda language church with a mainly Ugandan congregation. The church also holds a very strong link to Fairtrade products with stalls outside the Church selling items from Monday – Friday every week, in tandem with a Food Court.

List of vicarsEdit


  1. ^ "St John's Waterloo". Retrieved 5 April 2014.
  2. ^ "Waterloo, St John the Evangelist - Waterloo, St John with St Andrew - Lambeth North Deanery - The Diocese of Southwark". Archived from the original on 7 June 2011. Retrieved 5 April 2014.
  3. ^ "St John's Waterloo - Waterloo, London, UK - This Old Church on". Retrieved 5 April 2014.
  4. ^ "London Gardens Trust: St John's Churchyard Garden". Retrieved 20 January 2021.
  5. ^ "Church Times, 29 March 1945, p 185". Retrieved 27 February 2021.
  6. ^ Croft, Catherine (10 January 2017). "St John's Waterloo Court Hearing". Twentieth Century Society.
  7. ^ "National Pipe Organ Register: Entry No N16073". Retrieved 25 July 2021.
  8. ^ "National Pipe Organ Register: Entry No N16075". Retrieved 25 July 2021.
  9. ^ ."Dove's Guide for Church Bell Ringers: St John's Waterloo". Retrieved 25 July 2021.
  10. ^ "The "secret crypt" under St John's Church in Waterloo". Retrieved 5 April 2014.
  11. ^ "Southwark News: "Waterloo - £5million restoration begins on 19th century church", 21 July 2021". Retrieved 25 July 2021.
  12. ^ a b c Church of England Clergy database — Location: Parish (Church): Lambeth St John The Evangelist Waterloo Road (Accessed 10 September 2016)
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Church of St John the Evangelist, Waterloo Road, in Survey of London: Volume 23, Lambeth: South Bank and Vauxhall (Accessed 10 September 2016)
  14. ^ a b c Framed list of "The Church of St. John with All Saints Waterloo Road Vicars" in atrium of the church.
  15. ^ Diocese of Bristol — John Robinson Commemoration Day (Accessed 10 September 2016)
  16. ^ "Crockford's Clerical Directory: Giles Goddard". Retrieved 23 January 2021.

External linksEdit

Coordinates: 51°30′16″N 0°06′43″W / 51.5045°N 0.112°W / 51.5045; -0.112