The foundation stone for a permanent church was laid by Bishop Samuel Wilberforce, son of the anti-slavery campaigner, William, in July 1871, on a site donated by William Mercer in the centre of the new Spring Grove Estate. Mercer also gave £2000 towards the cost of building the Church whose original design by Surbiton architect A.J. Phelps included a tower and spire. In fact it was with difficulty that £7000 was raised to build the essentials, and the Church was consecrated in November 1872 without tower or spire and with little in the way of internal ornament.
Additional work such as carving, painting and the provision of coloured windows and an organ went on as the years passed, but it was not until 1935 that the tower was added, using legacies from Letchworth and his sisters.
The next major change was the removal of the pews and installation of new heating and lighting in 1974, to enable Kingston Polytechnic to hire the Church on weekdays as an examination hall. Some ten years later the choir stalls and pulpit (which had become unsafe) were removed.
During the 1980s various future options for the Church were investigated and in 1988 a scheme for wider community use was adopted, involving the installation of a first floor over the nave. In the event, this project had to be abandoned; the future of the Church was, however, secured by the much-needed new roof, work on which was completed in 1992.
In February 1993 St John’s Church narrowly escaped destruction when fire broke out in the basement and burnt through the floor. The extensive smoke damage made a complete redecoration of the Church necessary, leaving the interior in far better order than it had been for many years.