The early history of the Parish of St John’s, Upper Norwood was inextricably linked to the Crystal Palace, relocated to the summit of Sydenham Hill in 1854. Its presence defined the Southern slopes that form the parish as a fashionable and pleasant place to live. As the population grew, much of what remained of the Great North Wood was destroyed to make way for housing.
Its spiritual needs were originally catered for by an Iron Church, but this soon proved inadequate and the remarkable Reverend William Fairbairn La Trobe-Bateman inspired the great building that you see today.
Interior 1908 Never a man to do things by halves, Bateman commissioned one of the finest architects of the age to design a building of cathedral-like proportions. Funded largely by the donations of parishioners it was completed except for the spire by 1887.
In the last days of the Second World War, the building was hit by several doodlebugs resulting in extensive damage to the roof. Ever resourceful, the parishioners bricked up the North Aisle to serve as a temporary church and set about raising the funds to restore the building to its former glory under the guidance of the formidable, Revd. Eric Bailey. It is to him that we owe both its recovery and much of the financial legacy that remains today.
The nature of the parish has changed beyond all measure. Whilst a few 7-bedroom Victorian mansions remain in single ownership, much of the housing is now suitable for those of more modest means. The growth in car ownership means that many on our present electoral roll travel from elsewhere to worship in a style they find most inspiring to their spiritual needs.
Bateman’s legacy and Pearson’s building stand as a continuing rock against the world’s troubles; a place of peace and spiritual fulfilment.