St James's Parish Church is an elegant Victorian church with a fine acoustic. The church was built in 1863, marking the beginnings of Hampton Hill as we know it, and was listed Grade 2 in 1995.
During the 1850s and 1860s the Thames Valley Railway Line was extended and the Hampton Water Works was built. These two projects brought an enormous number of extra labourers into an area with terrible conditions and with many people living in wooden shacks. There were no facilities or services and so poverty, drunkenness and violence were widespread.
So in 1862, a simple, rectangular building with a nave, a chancel and a small vestry room was erected to serve this rather scattered, outlying village called New Hampton. When it was finished Revd Fitzroy John Fitz Wygram was appointed vicar, and the building was consecrated on December 11th, 1863, by Bishop Tait, Bishop of London.
The Common, as our area was then called, was described as “a miserable area inhabited by an even more miserable brand of people” and the little district chapelry of St James as “a barn of a church in a wilderness of a parish”. Revd Fitz Wygram and his wife devoted their lives and much of their fortune in improving the living conditions and prospects of the parishioners. Consequently, matters speedily improved and people started flocking to worship in the little church.
By 1873 the population had grown to 1,400 and more space was needed in the church. So during the next twenty years there were many alterations and extensions which changed the little barn into the gracious building we know today. The north aisle and west porch came first, their stained glass windows dedicated to well-known parishioners; an organ chamber and a splendid organ was given by the vicar in 1874; the present vestry was added; the chancel was enlarged by eight feet and tiled in 1876; and the beautiful stained glass window was installed above the altar. The south aisle and porch, in 1879, were the last of Rev, Fitz Wygram’s additions as he died in 1881.
To celebrate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887, the tower and spire were planned. Funds for the tower came in and that was built, but the spire was not completed until 1888. The clock and the four carillon bells were installed in December 1893. Two more bells were added in 1902.
More stained glass windows were added in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Those of the south aisle are notable, depicting various parables, while those in the north aisle are more muted, but are fine examples of the period. The great east window represents the Ascension, flanked by the Nativity and the visit of the Magi. The most memorable, however, is the west window, 'The Transfiguration', provided by the parishioners as a memorial to Revd Fitz Wygram. The marble pulpit was given by his successor, Revd. Henry Bligh. Four beautiful mosaics depicting Christ the King, St James, St Michael, and Mary with the infant Jesus were placed in the nave in the early 20th century.
The interior of the church remained largely unaltered until 1963 when it was brightly painted and varnished. The pews were removed from the south aisle in 1970, giving extra space and also room for storage cupboards. In 1983 the chancel was extended into the nave with an apron stage, the upper section of which could be raised for dramatic performances.
Later came a complete redecoration of the interior, the installation of a new wiring and lighting system and at the same time the stonework was thoroughly cleaned. In 1991 the pews in the north aisle were replaced by separate, comfortable, movable chairs (shown right). The children’s area is also located here, with books, toys and games, and also a prayer corner with seating suitable for small meetings. Further seating can be provided by stackable chairs in the south aisle, allowing for a very flexible seating pattern with the church being capable of seating about 360 people.
In September 1994, the new church hall was opened, a new garage was built for the vicarage, and the old garage given to provide storage for the Nursery School.
In 2004-5 the small and little used west porch was rebuilt on a larger scale to provide a new parish office and small store room. The entrance has a glass roof, and two sets of double glass doors give an open view into the church from outside.
In 2014 the church’s central heating system was replaced, with a new boiler and new radiators and pipes. A pipe was also laid into the vestry, allowing for a basin to be installed.
Since 1992, the churchyard has been closed for burials except for reserved places in existing plots, though the interment of ashes is permissible. The maintenance of the churchyard is now the responsibility of the Local Authority.