St. John Church is located in the wilderness of Dharamshala on the way to Mcleodganj. It is surrounded by dense deodar trees which gives it a wild feel and attracts many tourists also. It’s nearby the main road so you don’t have to travel much on foot to reach here.
It is an Anglican church, which was built by British troops and their families stationed at Dharamshala. Constructed of hand-cut local granite, it is one of the only buildings in the Dharamshala area known to have survived devastating 1905 earthquake and remains of the finest Anglican churches in Himachal Pradesh.
In 1863, the second Viceroy of India, James Bruce, the Eighth Earl of Elgin, was buried in the church grounds having expressed a wish to be laid to rest here. In a letter detailing his death. Arthur Stanley, Dean of Westminster, wrote; “Lady Elgin, with his approval, rode up to the cemetery at Dharamshala to select a spot for his grave and gently expressed pleasure when told of the beautiful and quiet aspects of the spot chosen, with the glorious view of the snowy range towering above, and the wide prospect of hill and plain below.”
Lord Elgin, The former Governor General of the Province of Canada. Governor of Jamaica and High Commissioner of China, spent the last month of his life in Dharamshala, drawing his terminal breath in the nearby Army officers’ Mess. In spite of his rapidly deteriorating health, Lord Elgin developed such affection for what would become his final resting place, that he had three Dharamshala Deodar trees send back to his family home. Broomhall House, near Edinburgh, where they still grow today. After his death Lady Elgin, donated in her husband’s memory, two Belgian stained glass windows depicting Jesus and John the Baptist, from whom the church takes its name.
The church suffered extensive damage during the deadly Kangra earthquake on 04 April 1905, during which the upper part of the building including its spire and roof were reduced to rubble. An appeal for funds to rebuild the church, which appeared in the British newspaper. The TImes in June 1911, stated that; “The station church of St. John in the wilderness is still in ruins although temples throughout the district have been built.”
As the original bell suffered damage in the earthquake, in 1915 a new bell was built by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry (then trading as Mears & Stainbank), which is listed in Guinness Book of Records as the oldest manufacturing company in Great Britain. The bell was shipped in 1915 from England to replace the original bell. However, its considerable weight prevented it from being raised it to the bell tower and is hung from beams resting between supporting walls in the church grounds. On a clear day, the bell was said to have been heard as far as Yol, 18 Kms away. In 1994, thieves attempted to steal the bell, but once again due to its weight, they were unable to carry it away. The famous bell was subsequently encased for its safety in the current structure and inaugurated by Prince Richard, the Duke of Gloucester in October 1995.
Other points of interest include the original front, used for baptisms (found and restored by Indian Army in 2013), the graves of a number of earthquake victims are memorial plaques commemorating soldiers who fell in the battlefields.

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