Ryde Social Heritage Group research the social history of the citizens of Ryde, Isle of Wight. Documenting their lives, businesses and burial transcriptions.
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St John the Baptist Church & Cemetery, Oakfield


The first plans for a church on the present site of St John’s, Oakfield were produced in 1841. Building commenced the following year on land given by Sir John Simeon, Bart, of Swainston House. The original church was a good deal smaller than the present church, generally cruciform in structure; it consisted of a Nave with no side aisles, very short North and South Transepts, a small Chancel and no Lady Chapel. The north door and main entrance porch, on Appley Road, were placed further to the east than now, approximately mid-way along the Nave.

The Church was consecrated in the name of Saint John the Baptist on 18 July 1843 by the Bishop of Winchester. St John’s formed a Chapelry of the Parish of St Helens and was under the patronage of the Vicar of the Parish until 1879.

Population increase and new developments with the advent of steam ferries and railway expansion greatly increased the importance of Ryde and it became evident the newly built church of St John’s was no longer adequate for the worshipping population of the district.

Plans were produced by Thomas Hellyer to extend St John’s Church. The first additions were the building of a side aisle on the south side of the Nave and a Gallery over the west end with a small spiral staircase housed in a specially built turret in the west wall. This turret now houses an electric clock with an illuminated dial. The new Gallery was primarily intended for seating children and the South Aisle had additional seating for 160 people.

An organ with 15 stops was built in the Gallery and a Vestry built adjoining the Chancel, in the place where the Lady Chapel now stands. Previously this had been a small Robing Room where the porch entrance to the South Transept now stands.

By the mid 1860s it had again become evident further extensions to the Church were necessary to accommodate the increasing numbers of worshippers. The North Aisle was built to match the South Aisle. A new font was built in the same position as now.

The Gallery was removed as traditional seating was provided in the North Aisle and by extension of the Transepts. At the same time the organ was removed from the Gallery and rebuilt in the Organ Chamber, roughly where it now stands. To appreciate the work entailed in adding the north and south aisles, it should be noted that the entire weight of the Nave roof had to be supported in a different manner in order to give proper access to the aisles. This had to be done by building a series of stone pillars on each side of the Nave to support the arches which, in turn, carry the roof structure. At the same time, in order to try to improve the lighting by day, two pairs of dormer windows were constructed on each side of the Nave roof. The walls of the side aisles, although rather low, were each pierced with three and four sets of stained glass windows depicting various Biblical scenes.

The consecration of the enlarged church took place on 3 December 1870 and the new Parish of St John the Baptist, Oakfield was declared.

The Parish became a separate entity and the man who held the incumbency at this important period in the history of the Parish was the Rev Henry Ewbank whose portrait can be seen in the Vestry. In the early days of St John’s Church, right up until 1924, the incumbent had to find his own place of residence. Rev Ewbank owned and occupied the Parsonage next to the church on Appley Road until he died in 1921. It was not until 1924 the Parish was to have a permanent Vicarage. This was due to a later incumbent, the Rev C L Blake who, during his ministry at St John’s owned and occupied the house in High Park Road adjacent to the church. On his death he bequeathed the house to the church. It became the Vicarage until 1963 when the Diocesan Parsonage Board sold the property and acquired a house in Victoria Crescent which is now called St John’s Vicarage. The old vicarage and the adjoining Waxham House have been converted into a residential care home.

Entering the church through the north door you approach the font. This is a stone font, lead-lined as customary, octagonal in shape with a polished oak cover and a brass lifting ring.

Beyond the font, at the west end of the south aisle is the Children’s Library. This was created during the incumbency of the Rev Henry Pearce in 1912. The aspect and furnishings of the Children’s Corner have been modified along more modern lines but the underlying concept still remains. A separate children’s door was originally provided so they could come and go without disturbing the main worship in the church. A new church hall was built in 1970 during the incumbency of the Rev Roger Whitehead.

On the west end wall is a ‘batik’ screen made by Irene Ogden which covers the entire wall up to the level of the windowsills. The scene depicts the Baptism of Jesus with a range of ancillary figures. In one corner Mother Teresa can be seen with the children of Calcutta. Moving up the Nave on the right there is a framed oil painting of ‘The Madonna and Jesus with John the Baptist’, a copy of an original picture painted by Raphael which hangs in the gallery of the Pitti Palace in Florence.

The seating in the church consists entirely of pitch-pine pews and can accommodate about 350 people.

The years 1978-1980, during the incumbency of the Rev Edward Fox, saw the establishment of a Central Nave Altar, situated at the point where the axis of the Nave meets the Transepts. The pulpit was removed from its traditional position and a new altar was erected on a wooden dais in the central position. In order to accommodate these alterations some pews in the Nave and Transepts had to be removed. The result of the alterations means that Holy Eucharist can now be presented from amidst the congregation.

For the Millennium a new High Altar Cloth and a Kneeler were made by the ladies of the church.

Millennium Altar Cloth

Project Artistic Director – Ann Jacobs
Co-ordinators – Doreen Kent, Jocelyn Stedman, Kath Marshall & Sheila Cox.


Notable features

Church layout (2012)

Location H4 on the church layout map


Isle of Wight College window

Isle of Wight College window inscription

This window is given to the glory of god
and memory of their old school
The Isle of Wight College, Appley, Ryde,
by the Head Master, Masters and boys,



IW College memorial

Isle of Wight College Memorial

The Isle of Wight College, 1880 – 1905, was located in Appley House, Appley Rise (now part of St Cecilia’s Abbey) offering a public school education to boys from about 8 to 18 years of age. The memorial is now situated in a locked cupboard in St John’s Church and is for both the South African War and The Great War. The Historical Record of the Isle of Wight College, Apley, Ryde was written by K J M Teesdale in 1934 and contains the Roll of Honour which is now housed in a case beneath the commemorative window for the college. For more information please visit isle-of-wight-memorials.org.uk


Historical record of
Isle of Wight College
Appley, Ryde
St Johns Church



Location F3 to F5 on the church layout map

WW1 memorial

St John’s Church First World War Memorial

The First World War Memorial is situated either side of the Old Vestry door in St John’s Church. There are no Second World War names. For more information please visit isle-of-wight-memorials.org.uk


GREAT WAR 1914 – 1918 THE

History of St John’s Cemetery

The history of the cemetery is not so well documented but there is a plan, dated 3 November 1895 recording what is believed to be the gift of land to the church by John Henry Glynn Oglander Esq. of Nunwell House. We have not yet found a copy giving the whole of the text on the right hand side.

The plan has the legend:

‘Plan from a Conveyance

dated 3 November 1895

J G Oglander and others (1)

Ecclesiastical Commissioners

for England (2)’

It shows the plot by the junction of Smallbrook Lane and Great Preston Road. The dimensions given are 240 feet by 171 feet with an area of one acre. The areas surrounding the plot are clearly marked as belonging to John Oglander but at the entrance to the cemetery plot there is an area marked ‘Right of way’. The first burial took place 10th February 1896.


RSHG would like to thank Doreen Kent, the Church Warden/Church Secretary, church volunteer Charlie Snow, David Marshall and David Earle for their work providing and documenting the history of the church and cemetery.

Doreen Kent was able to provide a map of the cemetery which proved invaluable as it provided an understanding of how the cemetery was laid out and the names of the various plots. She was also able to provide a large number of hand-written records which, although sometimes difficult to read, were of great assistance.

David and David mapped, transcribed and photographed the graves. Making the task of mapping easier, Charlie Snow had done some strimming of the cemetery allowing access to the much overgrown burial ground.

The initial mapping and transcribing was completed in November 2012.