Detail from East window
The parish church of St. John the Divine was built in 1865 by the architect William White. It was constructed in 'rubble Wealden stone in the Decorated style', the stone used being quarried a bare half-mile away in Cooper's Wood. Twentieth-century experts generally regard the building itself as a very successful example of the Victorian Gothic style.
There had previously been a chapel almost opposite in what are now the grounds of Whittington College. James Evelyn had built that chapel in 1787. He owned the Felbridge Estate, and in 1783 he founded the village school, which still stands today.
In 1864, Charles Henry Gatty inherited the Felbridge Estate from his father. At the same time as building the church, he built the Vicarage, ample in size, at the rear of the church, providing it with spacious gardens.
The old Victorian vicarage eventually became inconvenient for twentieth-century use, and in 1965 a new one was built on the site of the old vicarage orchard. Considerable space was allotted to a much-needed car park, but the remaining land was sold for development. In 2008 further development was undertaken on the site when the diocese built a new vicarage and social housing and two additional homes. In 1965 also, a hall extension to the church was erected and, in 1969 and again in 1987, it was extended. Our Church Hall and related facilities were further improved with new windows, roof, upgrade and refurbishment of the heating, kitchen, toilets and entry completed in 2012.
From its inception as the parish church, St. John's has been a 'low' church with an evangelical ministry, a friendly congregation and a strong family atmosphere. There is a great emphasis on children's work, with many and varied groups linked to the church, and the All Age Service is a highlight of each month. The whole of the church's interior was re-planned and redesigned between 1972 and 1974. New floor levels were created, and the whole area carpeted. New choir and clergy stalls, a new pulpit and communion rail, finely made and carved in a clean, modern idiom, were introduced and arranged about the Table and Cross to heighten the concept of family worship.
The church's original two-manual, hand-blown pipe organ was replaced in 1936, through the generosity of Mr Ivan Margary, by one of the very first electronic organs, a Hammond, with a specially constructed loud-speaker unit placed in a 'loft' about the Chancel. In 1973 the Hammond was replaced, again through Mr Margary's benevolence, with a Rodgers Colombian 75 dedicated at Easter 1973. The church roof was replaced in 2002. The two bells situated at the West end of the roof were rehung in 2012.
St. John's is the most southerly parish church of the Diocese of Southwark, which was founded in 1905. It is a member of Churches Together in East Grinstead and is involved in several East Grinstead community projects, such as CARE in East Grinstead. CARE offers neighbourly help with transport, help in the home, odd jobs, shopping, and can be contacted on 01342 410086 at any time. Volunteers of all kinds are always needed and should contact the same number for further information.