Between the chancel and the Chapel of St. John is the south lane of the ambulatory, the ceiling of which is painted with the Crown of Thorns bursting into leaf and flower. The chapel is divided from the ambulatory by a handsome gilded grille which closes the arch nearest to the altar and occupies half of the next. Metal foliage and two symbolic eagles are carried by the cornice which is pierced with the words “S. Joannes, ora pro nobis” (“St. John, pray for us”) and “Si sic Deus dilexit nos, debemus alterutrum diligere” (“If God so loved us, we must love each other”). On the other side of the grille is inscribed “Carissimi, diligamus invicem, quia cariras ex Deo est” (“Dearly beloved, let us love one another, since love is of God”) and “S. Evangeliste, ora pro nobis” “Holy Evangelist, pray for us”.
*Daniel’s cartoons for these angels and those of the Sacred Heart Shrine are preserved in the British Architectural Library Drawings Collection. (www.riba-library.com/drawcol.html) at the Royal Institute of British Architects’ British Architectural Library (www.riba-library.com)
The ceiling is a canted vault painted venetian red and patterned with golden circlets and St. John’s initials radiating light. The cornice is painted in Latin with the resounding opening words of St. John’s Gospel “in principio erat Verbum…..” etc. (In the beginning was the Word……etc.)
The altar is modern and is dedicated to those who died in the two World Wars. The story is that Bentley deliberately left the two chapels without altars so that the parish could involve itself to some degree in the furnishing of the church. The altars and reredos were, indeed, provided for from parish funds and designed by an architect parishioner, Mr. T. .J. Denny, shortly after the Second World War. The reredos has three carved wooden panels of excellent quality. In the centre a reclining St. John faces an eagle with outstretched wings; on the left St. Michael and on the right St. George, both in battle array. The three-light window above the altar has very fine tracery. In the centre is a four-cusped ogee arch, while the side lights are trefoil headed. The subject matter, the Last Supper, is spread across the whole window and shows Our Lord giving Holy Communion to St. John, with the other apostles grouped about the table. Above are angels holding a crimson drape behind Christ and St. John. Below is the eagle of St. John carrying in its beak a quill and inkpot. A scroll says “Ego sum panis vivus qui caelo descendit” (“I am the bread of life which descended from heaven”). At the bottom of the window an inscription asks for prayers for Sophia Rivaz who died in 1892.
There are two windows in the south wall of the chapel, again of three lights. That nearest the altar is concerned with the Apocalypse, or mystical writings of St. John, the other with events of St. John’s life. The lower third of each window is decorated in the must beautiful grisaille foliage, flowers and scrolls. Glints of gold, shades of green and tiny gem-like emerald medallions make the term ‘grisaille’ seem almost inappropriate. The apocalyptic window shows, from left to right, the Woman with a scarlet dragon beneath her feet, a gloriously coloured dragon with a very odd expression; Christ in Glory with a sword coming from his mouth, stars in his hands and the seven candlesticks at his feet; the angel commanding St. John to write. Below is the name of the donor, Joshua Walker, and the date, 1891.
The second window represents: Jesus calling John, James and Simon from their fishing boat. The inscription says “Relictis omnibus, secuti sunt eum” (“Leaving everything behind they followed him”). St. John leading the Blessed Virgin away from Calvary, a very tender and beautiful scene this, inscribed “Ex illa hora, recipit eam discipulus in sua” (“From that hour, the disciple received her into his home”). The last light shows St. John in a huge cauldron being boiled alive. It is known that St. John was not martyred, but died in his old age at home in Ephesus. Tradition has it that St. John was boiled in oil and suffered all the pains of martyrdom, but did not die as a result. The inscription is “Circumdederunt me dolore mortis” (‘They have surrounded me with the anguish of death”). The window carries the name of Susanna Walker.
Pomegranates feature in the iron-work of the altar rails, four in each panel, the top rail is of brass. The marble altar step has written on the riser “STE JOANNES DILECTI” (“St. John the Beloved”). The attractive tiled floor includes the curious device of armorial shields with lions rampant divided by a continuous band of blue.