About St John’s

About St John’s


We were reluctant to close our doors on Mothering Sunday this year as lockdown was announced – but recognised how important it is to keep the community safe – both our congregation and the wider community who would be affected by our actions.

Since then Fr Alan has continued to say Morning Prayer every day in the closed church and a regular pattern of Masses – Sunday 10am, Tuesday and Wednesday 7pm as well as the major festivals. With any luck (!) you can join all of these Masses on our website here and, in addition, the information to join each service on zoom can be found here, and here.

The Government is allowing faith buildings to open for individual or private prayer from 13 June. As with most Church of England churches in Tower Hamlets we will not be opening at this time, because we believe that, in a borough that has had the 4th highest rate of COVID related deaths in London, we still cannot risk endangering our congregation or the wider community. This is explained in more detail by a statement released on 9 June by Fr Alan, as Chair of Tower Hamlets Inter Faith Forum, John Biggs, Tower Hamlets Mayor, Cllr Sirajul Islam, Deputy Mayor, and Dr Somen Banerjee, Director of Tower Hamlets Public Health asking all faith buildings to remain closed in the borough at this time.

If you wish to speak to Fr Alan please ring him 020 8980 1742 or email alan.green@virgin.net.

Our church building is sadly closed, but our church – the people – remain open and committed to serving the whole community of Bethnal Green.

Safeguarding at St John’s

Click on the link for full information

St John on Bethnal Green, a grade 1 Listed Building, was designed by Sir John Soane and built between 1826 and 1828. It also contains Chris Gollon’s magnificent 14 Stations of the Cross. St John’s has been listed in  The Guardian newspaper  as one of the top five cultural highlights of the East End because of our mixture of spirituality and art. If you are interested in family history, read this page to see where our registers are stored.

How to get to St John on Bethnal Green

Building work began in 1826 and the finished church was consecrated by the Bishop of London on 16 October 1828. Since then it has survived fire, the blitz and continues to play a central role in modern Bethnal Green. Use the boxes below to discover more about the church’s history.

The East End of London experienced a huge increase in its population after the Battle of Waterloo and the Commission for New Churches responded with a flurry of church building. The commissioners appointed the eminent architect Sir John Soane (1753-1837), designer of the Dulwich College Art Gallery, to draw up plans for St John on Bethnal Green, the third of his three London churches. The foundation stone was laid on 6 June, 1826. The church, especially the vestibule, staircases and crypt, are fine examples of Soane’s restrained and elegant style. The original plans survive and can be seen at Sir John Soane’s Museum (www.soane.org), while copies are in the Local History Department of Tower Hamlets Library (277 Bancroft Road, London E1 4DQ).
On 16 February 1870, the roof and interior were destroyed by fire, though the west end was largely untouched and Soane’s graceful staircases remained intact. The architect responsible for the restoration was a local man, William Mundy, who gave the church a hammer beam roof and wooden galleries in keeping with the neo-Gothic fashion of the time. The building reopened on 25 March 1871. At that time, the church acquired its bells, cast at the famous Whitechapel Bell Foundry (www.whitechapelbellfoundry.co.uk) where the bells of St Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey and “Big Ben” were also made. G.F. Bodley extended the chancel in 1887. Despite these later interventions, most of St John’s retains the beautiful proportions of Soane’s original design and the nave is still as light and airy as he intended.
From the Boer War till 1945, St John’s was the regimental church for the East London Regiment of the Royal Engineers, a link attested to by five brass plaques in the south aisle. During the war of 1939-1945, a bomb destroyed the vicarage and damaged the church. Services were held in the crypt which also served as an air raid shelter for part of the war. The vicarage was not rebuilt till 1969 and in the intervening period the land was used for allotments. After World War II, the population of Bethnal Green declined and parishes were amalgamated. In 1978, St Bartholomew’s church was closed and a new parish of St John with St Bartholomew was created. Since 1985, the church has simply been known as St John on Bethnal Green. St John on Bethnal Green has now embarked on a comprehensive repair programme which seeks to restore the crisp, clean lines of Soane’s original building and to ensure the church remains at the heart of community life in Bethnal Green.