In her article Elaine Oldham described the ministry of the Rev. Francis Merewether, the rector of Coleorton in the first half of the 19th C, and his role in initiating the building of the new St John's Mortuary Chapel and associated cemetery in 1856. The chapel was built on part of that land known as Coal Pit close previously used for the more mundane purpose of stacking of coal. The Sandstone and timber used in its construction and the surrounding cemetery walls were provided gratis from the Coleorton Estate, excluding carriage and working. Although modest in size, the resulting Gothic revival building of ashlar sandstone dressed in irregular granite blocks and approached by an avenue of yews sits serenely within its landscape evoking memories of Thomas Gray's Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard. The lancet window depicts St John full length and the two stained glass side windows commemorate Canon William Beresford Beaumont a former rector of the village.
However, after serving the community for over 150 years St John's role as a community building is now in doubt. In 2018 the unusual weather conditions caused shrinkage of the clay below its foundations on one corner and the appearance of alarming cracks in the wall, fortunately this subsidence has now stabilised. However, the combination of falling congregations and ever increasing maintenance costs mean that the Coleorton Church community can no longer afford the upkeep of two buildings, St John’s Chapel and St Mary’s Church, in the same village and the decision has been taken that St John’s Chapel will be declared redundant.
The Village of Coleorton has already lost three community buildings in the last two decades in the form of three chapels, now converted to residential properties. Can we and should we save St John’s from the same fate?
Avenue of yew trees leading to St John's Chapel, Coleorton
Since St John's is a part of our heritage and is Grade II listed it is not surprising that Coleorton Heritage Group believes that every effort should be made to preserve this beautiful building for the community. For our part the heritage group is in desperate need of a building to store and display our archive material and make it available to researchers, but we also believe it could serve the whole community as a venue for all sorts of village activities. We have approached the Church authorities expressing an interest in the building and believe the Church Commissioners would look favourably on transferring ownership to a suitable community trust. In order to assess support in the village the group are initially organising a petition in support of saving St John's for the community. If you feel as we do, then copies of the petition are available at The Angel, The New Inn, The King's Arms and The George Inn or contact Coleorton Heritage Group at email@example.com or phone Sandra on 01530 440000.
Compiled by: Terry Ward
The Heritage Group is actively engaging with the Diocese regarding options. We would like to secure this lovely building for continued use by the residents of Coleorton, as a community heritage centre:
To achieve this we will need support from local residents and businesses, including financial support. Heritage Lottery and other similar grant providers usually require "matched funding" and so we are asking people to help if they can. You can click on the DONATE button to pay by PayPal / credit card, donate at one of our events or contact me directly - details below.
We would also like to hear from people or groups who would like to use a modest meeting space at St John's on a regular basis.
26 August 2023