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A History Of The Candle Snuffer – A look at the St. John Greenhill Church in Harrow

Every day, people in Harrow pass the St. John Greenhill Church in Harrow on their way to work, school, or the shops – and few give it a second thought; particularly in comparison to its more revered neighbor, St. Marys. In this article, therefore, we’re giving St. John’s a second look.

Built in 1866, St. John’s Church stands on a corner of Station Road and is known for its music – in particular, the fortnightly concerts which are enjoyed by many Harrow residents. While the grounds of the church have, unfortunately, gained a reputation as a hangout for a less than religious demographic, the church is still very much a beloved place of worship for many.

Serving the village of Greenhill

For centuries, the famous St. Mary’s Church on the hill was the only prominent place of worship within Harrow; however, by 1866, the village of Greenhill had grown to some 400 residents at which point it was decreed that the villagers should have a church of their own. In 1885, the Reverend Thomas Smith (known to his parishioners as Tommy) was licensed as the Church’s Curate. In 1896, Greenhill was declared a separate parish and Tommy its first vicar.

By 1902, the parish of Greenhill was home to 4892 residents – a population which had outgrown its church which was now too small and showing signs of subsidence. Work therefore began in 1904 with new designs from architects John. S. Alder and Martin Travers and the church was first extended in 1925 and work completed in 1938.

Sadly, the much-loved vicar, Tommy, resigned from his post in 1933 due to ill health and passed away that same year. His successor, the Reverend H. Wolferstan Beck would serve the parish for 11 years and, following Reverend Wolferstan’s tenure, the church continued under the watchful eye of nine more Vicars – two of which, George Ingle and Joost de Blank, would go on to become Bishops.

While the church has undergone significant rebuilding and modification over the years, some original features remain, including the church’s tower which was nicknamed “the candle snuffer” because of its unique shape.

Today, the church is in the capable hands of Reverend Barry Hingston and permission has recently been granted to build a one-story annex to the church. In 2024, St. John’s continues to hold a number of events throughout the year – all of which are open to the public, and you can find more information about these on the church’s website.