Petition is successful with 1,737 signatures
To: Church Commissioners and Guildford Borough Council
SAVE ST.JOHNS CHURCHYARD FROM DEVELOPMENT
'St. John's plans were pronounced "Dead in the Water" by church officials at Westminster.
THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU. From the bottom of our hearts for all your wonderful help and support in SAVING ST. JOHNS CHURCHYARD FROM DEVELOPMENT!'
Defend and protect our open local green space and rich cultural heritage from development.
Why is this important?
St. Johns church Stoke next Guildford listed in the Domesday book has shocked and appalled Guildford residents by seeking to sell its west churchyard for development.
The churchyard is an area of timeless beauty, an oasis of green in a frenetic place, full of bird song and wildlife, created on a site of earlier Palaeolithic activity. It has an informal layout of trees ,grass and tombs. It has always been a public green open space, it is defined ecologically, environmentally and historically by its Christian architecture and planting . The oasis contains 9 native evergreen Yew trees 3 described as Notable approx. 300 years old, 5 well over 200 years old the most in any Guildford churchyard and a Box tree over 150 years old all historically significant to British churchyards. The trees are habitat for solitary Bumble Bees, Blackbirds, Thrushes and Green Woodpeckers.
You can see images of the churchyard and the pink granite memorial of Admiral Sir James Stirling by following the link below.
Well maintained by the local council, the verdant churchyard enclosed by a galletted local Bargate sandstone wall, in the heart of the community, is something residents feel deeply about.
St. John's churchyard was bisected by a road built in the eighteenth century and is enjoyed by a constant flow of people who pass through this historic green approach to Guildford. It contains about 1000 graves, and 200 Portland stone memorials recording local ancestry, forming part of the social history of the area, reminders of past generations who helped shape the town today. It features the Paynter obelisk and grave of Ross Donnelly Mangles Chairman of the East India Co. and Guildford M.P. 1841-58 brother of Ellen Mangles who married Admiral Sir James Stirling who settled and Governed Western Australia why there is another Guildford in Australia. Surrounding the churchyard in direct line of sight is the Grade 2* listed St. John's church, locally listed Lido Lodge, and the recently listed War Memorial, to the side are sixteenth century listed cottages all in harmony with each other.
E.R. Chamberlin in his 1970 book Guildford Biography described it as " an abandoned churchyard, almost hidden beneath its luxuriant trees and shrubs, survives to demonstrate in its own way that an open space did not necessarily have to be garnished with 'amenities' to be of social value. ' In 1977 half of that churchyard was destroyed, developed to build the Rectory, stripped of its heritage, Yew trees felled, graves smashed sent for landfill and remains removed or lost including those of Sir James Stirling. The heritage value of the remaining half of the churchyard is unreservedly recognised, the need to retain historic architecture and places for wildlife poignant as they have diminished at an alarming rate since the 70s. Prince Charles has written that if you destroy the past, or consistently deny its relevance to the present, man eventually looses his soul and his roots.
St. John's church is seeking to sell the churchyard to fund a new extension to the church. Residents have suggested that by following the fundraising examples of other local churches and the Cathedral, Heritage Lottery funding etc. the church could achieve its development goal without sacrificing its west churchyard. This becomes crystal clear as to the north the land has already been the subject of a development application for high density four story flats, which was withdrawn. To the west the Rectory the 70s development owned by the Diocese of Guildford which the Rector has said will also be sold. This combined would form a very sizable building plot for dense urban intensification. Development of those sites will happen, which crystallises the need for the green historic churchyard to be saved as the soul and oasis of an ever more urban society.
In 2003 Holy Trinity churchyard was saved from development by a group of dedicated Guildford residents. councillors and GBC planners. Churchyards are ever more valued by English Heritage , wildlife and ancestry organisations and individuals . Now we need to act again to ensure St. John's west churchyard is also saved to create a legacy making a contribution by conserving a tangible piece of history and open green space for future generations.
Please sign in support of keeping West St. Johns churchyard an open community local green space protected from development.
“UPDATE (July 2015): Good News. Thanks to your support, Guildford Borough Council has now made permanent Tree Preservation Orders (TPO’s) to protect 7 of the 9 native evergreen Yew trees and the iconic Box tree.”
"UPDATE (Feb 2016) Good News. Guildford Borough Council confirms Bargate west churchyard wall as protected curtilage grade II* Listed Structure. Any damage must be repaired like for like.