Church Guide – The Story of St. John the Baptist

The Parish Church of Saxmundham

Welcome to St John’s! Those whose spiritual home this is; we are delighted that you have come to see it. Please make yourself thoroughly ‘at home’ here in our Father’s house and enjoy the beauty and living history to be discovered as you explore the inside and outside of this very special building, on a spot where people have worshipped for a millennium and more!

Our visitors soon discover that St John’s is no mere museum or ancient monument, but is a living, working building, which is still active use as a vibrant nucleus of Christian worship and witness – the purpose for which it was first built, and for which it has been altered and beautified over the centuries by people from different periods and Christian traditions – including our own. This is indeed a special place, made sacred by centuries of Saxmundham people’s prayer and care. It is a place where people have felt God to be very real to them. If you have time, you may like to sit quietly, to think, and feel, and pray.

Whoever you may be – you are welcome here. Our churches are places where people of all faiths or of none may find peace and beauty and where Christians of all denominations or of none may look upon as ‘Home’.

May God bless and take care of you.


Henry Davy’s etching of the church in 1848, showing the former porch.

The church is much changed from the original church which was recorded in the Domesday Survey of 1086. All that remained of the 11th century nave – including its Norman doorway (also the 15th century porch) – went in 1872-3 when the south aisle was extended westwards. Work of the 1200s survives in the chancel, of the early 1300s in the Swan Chapel and tower and of the 1400s in the clerestory, nave roof, font and elsewhere. The north aisle was added in 1851 and extended westwards, as the south aisle was, in 1872-3, when the church was transformed by a major restoration. The north transept (i.e. the organ chamber and vestry was added in 1908, leaving the building structurally much as we see it today. Yet much has happened to further transform the interior since then.

Although much of what we see here today was restored or added in the 19th century, the church still contains many original items of an earlier date. To help you identify some of the important features, we have grouped them under the following headings The Tower Base and Nave, The North and South Aisles, The Chancel, The Swan Chapel and The Exterior.

A more comprehensive history, focusing on the last 200 years is appended to this guide.