The Bishop with Keble College, Oxford
Kingston Episcopal Area
Details of the Church
Around 1805 a dozen wealthy residents of Balham, including William Wilberforce, Henry Thornton, and Zachary Macauley came together to build a proprietary Chapel at the 5 mile stone between Balham and Tooting. The Chapel opened for worship on the 24th April 1808. Little now exists of this first building, although the walls of the present nave are those of the original chapel. However a more familiar legacy exists; the church bell which still chimes the hours and announces services was cast and hung at that time.
The building was extended in 1824 by the addition of the two transepts. These now form the Children’s and Holy Family Chapels. On the 24th May 1855 the Parish Church was consecrated and dedicated to St Mary by the Bishop of Winchester.
In 1882, the Chancel, Sanctuary and Reredos, designed by A Cawston, containing elaborate decorations and fine mosaics were added. The side Galleries were removed in 1891. The dominant feature externally is the classical Wren style west front added by William Newton Dunn in 1903 with porches, clock tower and domed baptistry. Other features are: painted ceiling in the church; alabaster pulpit; stained glass by Clayton & Bell in the apse, clerestorey, baptistry windows by Heaton, Butler and Bayne.
During the second world war the church was damaged by enemy action. The stained glass window at the rear of the gallery was destroyed. An incendiary device also fell through the roof of the present Family Chapel but fortunately failed to explode. In 1976 the Family Chapel suffered bomb damage, when an IRA bomb exploded at Irene House next door.
A glass screen was added in 1973 to create a narthex at the West end. An extension on the north side of the church to provide toilets was added by Thomas Ford & Partners in 1985.
A fire broke out in the early hours of 20 March 1998 destroying the Narthex and Baptistry areas. Fortunately the remainder of the church suffered little damage. The opportunity presented by the rebuilding works allowed for improved facilities with lift access above the Narthex.
During 2015 extensive restoration of the Chancel, Sanctuary and Reredos was completed enabling worshippers and visitors to appreciate the beauty of Cawston’s 1882 design once more.
The church of Balham, St John the Divine was declared redundant in 1985.