St John's Church on Town Road in Hanley, the city centre of Stoke-on-Trent, has been empty and unused for as long as we have lived in the Potteries which is twenty years this year.
This interesting church is now wedged between the two halves of the Intu Potteries Shopping Centre and was crying out for someone to care for it. It was bought a few years ago and the idea was to turn it into a restaurant but that fell through and it has recently been bought and refurbished. A few weeks ago it opened as the 6 Towns Antique and Vintage Emporium and Elsie's Tea Room.
Having never seen inside the church we decided to pay a visit last Friday. After spending half the morning at doctors, vets and opticians - the vet's bill was far more than that of the optician - we were in need of coffee and cake.
The tea room is placed near the side entrance to the church, the staff are very friendly and helpful and the coffee and bananna and chocolate cake was delicious.
There was a general buzz about the place, a few people had come in for coffee, some just to look at the antiques and a few more like me to look at the interior and specifically the windows and monuments.
The piano is there for anyone who can play and apparently someone played for a couple of hours one afternoon when there was a party in for afternoon tea. He'd only popped in to have a look and ended up spending most of the afternoon there. I can see why.
According to the notes on the menu for Elsie's Tea Room the church was built in 1792 and replaced another church which had been on the same site from 1738. Apparently a stone was found from the earlier church during excavations.
The windows were fascinating.
As were some of the monuments on the walls. The one above is to commemorate the life of Samuel Alcock of Cobridge who 'for a period of twenty years joined with the congregation of this church in the sacred offices of public worship' He died 10th November 1848 aged 49 years and 'was singularly kind and charitable in disposition' and 'upright and liberal in all his dealings' The members of the church paid for the memorial.
Apparently the window above is quite unique in that it is the only known stained glass window dedicated to a solider who was killed during the Anglo Zulu wars of 1879. The solider was Pte William Henry Hickin of the 24th foot who fell at Isandhlwana in South Africa on 22 January 1879 aged 25. He was born in Hanley in 1854, the son of Henry and Hannah Hickin. On the 1871 census the family lived on High Street, William's occupation then was a writing clerk. His father Henry's occupation was locksmith and bell hanger.
Above is a memorial to the memory of Ephraim Chatterley of Shelton who 'in humble reliance on the mediation of his redeemer exhchanged this life for a better' on 7th day of May 1811 aged 66. According to the inscription he had a 'zealous and stedfast (sic) attachment to his native place.'
The East Window of painted, rather than stained, glass c. 1830
The upper galleries where the vintage sales areas are to be placed later on.
In one of the articles I read about the church it was described as having been built when 'ecclesiastical architecture was at its lowest ebb' and was 'a brick built edifice of a debased style of Gothic'. The church is also noteworthy because of its early use and cast iron in both structural and decorative work including the gallery columns.
The window above is dedicated to the memory of Abraham Dutton who was the parish clerk of the church for fifty five years. He died on 10th October 1883 aged 80 years. On the 1881 Census Abraham Dutton was living at 28 High Street and was recorded as a widower and his occupation as watch and clock maker.
Above is part of a stained glass window which is a memorial to some of those from the area who lost their lives during the First World War.