The tower & spire
The most striking and characteristic external features of the church are its tower and spire at the west end of the church.
The baptistry is housed in the lowest part of the tower - find out about this on the page Baptistry. The clock and bells are also housed in the bell tower and the four clock faces show on the tower, one on each side. The actual place where the bells are hung is called the belfry. The clock, with four dials, is a simple pendulum wall clock and was made in 1893 by J. Smith & Sons of Derby, the builders of the great clock of St Paul’s Cathedral in London. Read more about the clock and bells on the page Belfry.
The windows in the tower do not have glass, but openings or louvres (shown right) in the stonework so that the sound of the bells can travel. A stone spiral staircase of thirty one stairs leads from the baptistry up to the belfry, then from there a wooden staircase leads up to a viewing platform at the lower lancet window level. From this, there is a wooden ladder rising twenty four feet to a landing at the upper window level leading to the clock chamber.
From the clock chamber, a further similar ladder rises twenty feet to the belfry. In the belfry, are further flights of wooden stairs, totalling fifty two steps, leading to a wooden landing from which it is possible look out of window openings in all six faces of the spire.
Members of the public are allowed access to this viewing level, strictly at their own risk, only by prior arrangement with the vicar or churchwardens, and must be accompanied by a church official.
A gargoyle is the carved stone waterspout rather like an ugly-looking head. There is a different gargoyle on each of the four corners of the top of the tower. Find out about the gargoyles on the page Gargoyles on the tower.
The spire is a familiar and prominent local landmark. Many people think it looks like a finger pointing upwards to heaven, reflecting the mystery and wonder of God. The celestial and hopeful gesture of the spire is one reason for its association with religious buildings. Built to coincide with Queen Victoria's golden jubilee, the spire was the last of several enlargements and additions to the originally rather modest church of St James, built in 1863 by its first vicar, thus marking the beginnings of Hampton Hill as we know it.