St John the Divine Kennington is a splendid Grade I Listed building and boasts the tallest spire in South London.
The church was designed by the architect George Edmund Street in the Decorated Gothic Style between 1871 and 1874. G.E. Street also built the church of St James the Less in Vauxhall Bridge Road and the Law Courts on Strand. The church was completed by Street's son, Arthur Edmund Street. The interior decoration was carried out by G.F. Bodley.
The church was hit by a Luftwaffe oil bomb in 1941 and sadly most of the original Victorian fittings were destroyed by fire. Fortunately G.E. Street's architectural drawings had been kept and restoration work began in 1955. Bodley's scheme of decoration was not followed, and today’s interior is the result of the restoration by architects H S Goodhart-Rendel and H. Lewis Curtis. St John the Divine re-opened in September 1958.
The spire and tower were repaired in 1994. The general construction is of red brick, but all parapets, window openings, doorways, etc. are dressed with stone. The upper part of the spire is entirely of stone.
The church is regarded as one of the finest examples of Victorian Gothic in the country and its magnificent spire can be seen across London and, at over 260 feet, is the highest in south London. The spire and tower were recently restored and are now covered with carvings of royalty, bishops and many local people associated with the church over the years (see Meet the Gargoyles for more information). The design was deeply influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement, and is filled with extraordinarily fine furnishings and fitments which were uniquely made by the local people.
The interior is enriched with the famous, beautifully carved, Stations of the Cross and Statues of Our Lady and St John the Divine made by Mother Maribel. The church has a thriving congregation and is a centre for some of the most magnificent work among the poor and vulnerable in London. The architecture and the splendour of the liturgy was deliberately designed to be integrated with Anglo-Catholic Social Witness which makes this one of the most exciting churches to be visited in London. Bishop Edward King, at its founding, described St John the Divine as 'A garden in the City'.