St John the Baptist Church
St John the Baptist Parish Church opened on Pier Hill in 1842. The church of St John the Baptist is a building of stone in mixed styles, consisting of chancel, nave, aisles, transepts and an organ chamber. The nave was built in 1840 and aisles added later, the chancel was erected in 1872-3, the chancel and transepts were enlarged in 1912 and a side chapel added at a cost of £5,000. The reredos of alabaster and sculptured stone was presented by the Rev. Francis and Mrs Dormer Pierce, and the oak screen, carved in mediaeval ecclesiastical style, was erected in memory of the men of the parish who fell in the Great War, 1914-18. The register dates from the year 1842. Thomas Dowsett, Southend’s first Mayor is buried in the churchyard. The church was designed by Thomas Hopper in 1838. Hopper had no formal architectural training but he had designed and worked on a wide range of buildings for the Prince Regent and many of the nobility. He was also for many years County Surveyor for Essex and was responsible for converting Chelmsford jail to the 'modern' cell system. Hoppers plans for St John's were for 'a building in the Norman style seating 500 worshippers'. A sketch of the first building shows it to have been a relatively small stone building with a traditional arrangement of Nave, Chancel and short Transepts. A bell turret was over the west door. Window and door openings had round 'Norma' arches. It is difficult to believe that the building shown could have held 500 worshippers and Hopper's original design may, therefore, have been adapted and reduced. Today this key Southend church is hidden behind the Palace Hotel/Park Inn, but in 1842 when it was completed it had clear views out across the estuary and was an important landmark for crews sailing up the estuary. The graveyard has some significant inhabitants that would provide an interesting history of Southend in itself with early Mayors of the town, and a couple of prominent writers including Robert Buchanan and a memorial to Warwick Deeping, who was born in Prospect House on the top of Pier Hill.
2021 St John the Baptist Church Southend
Johnathan James Going, China & Glass Dealer, Park Street
Thomas William Ingram, Lodging House & Bath Proprietor
Thomas Dowsett, Shopkeeper & the town’s first Mayor
John Chignell, once proprietor of the Lion Hotel, also William J. Chignell Alderman of Southend and 18 years Pier Master
John Frederick Moore, first coxswain of the Southend lifeboat crew
Robert Williams Buchanan, Scottish poet, novelist & dramatist
John Rumble & the novelist Warwick Deeping memorial
John Rumble Plaque, long term resident of Southend who resided at 14 Royal Terrace
Others buried here are former Alderman, relatives of Admiral Lord Nelson and the Absalmon’s, just to name a few

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