The church is well worth a visit. The present building dates from 1951 when the earlier “Tin Tabernacle”, with its corrugated tin-roof was demolished. This latter was built in 1879 by a Liverpool Merchant, Mr J.T. Lawrence, who had a retreat at Craigieburn House in Moffat Water Valley. The history of St John’s parallels that of the well-known boys’ preparatory school, St Ninian’s, which was founded by the father of Air Chief Marshal Lord Dowding, of Battle of Britain fame. School Chaplains often took the service at St John’s and boys from the school formed the choir.
In the 1980s the school was demolished, to be replaced by Dowding House, which provides sheltered accommodation for members of the ex-R.A.F. Association. It was most fortunate, and appropriate, that the stained-glass window from the old School Chapel found a home in the West Window of St John’s when it was refurbished in 1989.( The church, unusually, faces west.)
The window, depicting a crucifix and the figure of St George, will particularly interest connoisseurs of stained-glass.It was made in the work-shop of the noted Victorian craftsman Charles Eamer Kempe, whose trademark of a small wheat sheaf you can find on the lower right of the window. Kempe was one of the first to use silver stain on clear glass; this process leaves a yellow tint whose tones can be pale or deep according to the amount of stain used. The window commemorates the St Ninian’s Old Boys who died in the Boer War. Their names, including D.R. Younger V.C. can be seen on a plaque in the church.
When you visit the church search for the two (some say three) tiny carved mice, the emblem of the “Mouseman of Kilburn”, Robert Thompson, another admired craftsman, this time of hand-crafted oak furniture, found in many churches, particularly in England. One of these churches has at least 28 mice hiding in odd corners. We are fortunate to have two or three and they take some finding.
Visiting organists will be pleased to see, and even play, another of our treasures; the Father Henry Willis organ, which was restored in 2004 with the welcome help of The Heritage Lottery Fund. The two-manual organ is much as it was when built in the 1870s, but the bellows needed to be replaced after about 140 years’ use and a general overhaul was carried out at the same time.
Unfortunately the church cannot be left open permanently but we hope that you will visit it. If you do not wish to attend a service you will still be very welcome to look round after the services, which last about an hour. Otherwise, phone the Rector’s Warden: (01683) 221141 or the Vestry Member nearest to the Church (01683) 220241.