Our church's history
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 workers into an area with terrible conditions and with many people living in poor wooden shacks. There were no facilities or services and so there was a lot of poverty, drunkenness and violence.
So in 1863, a simple church was built to serve this rather scattered village that was then called New Hampton. The church was a rectangular building with a nave, a chancel and a small vestry room.
When it was finished Revd Fitzroy John Fitz Wygram was appointed vicar, and the building was consecrated (dedicated to God) on December 11th, 1863, by Bishop Tait, Bishop of London.
The Common, as the area that included New Hampton was then called, was described as "a miserable area inhabited by an even more miserable brand of people" and the new little church 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 their parishioners. As a result, people's lives got better and they started coming to worship in the little church.
By 1872 there were many more people in the parish so the church therefore needed to be enlarged. During the next twenty years there were many alterations and extensions which changed the little church into the elegant building we know today. The west porch and north aisle came first with stained glass windows in memory of well-known parishioners. Then an organ chamber was built and a splendid organ was given by the vicar. The vestry was added and in 1876 the chancel was enlarged and tiled. A beautiful stained glass window was installed above the high altar. The south aisle and porch were the last of Revd Fitz Wygram’s additions as he died in 1881.
In 1887 Queen Victoria had been on the throne for 50 years. It was decided to celebrate this Golden Jubilee by building a tower and spire, so completing the church. The clock and four bells were installed in December 1893. Two more bells were added in 1902.
More beautiful stained glass windows were added in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and four beautiful mosaics were placed in the nave in the early 20th century. 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 Revd Fitz Wygram's successor, Revd Henry Bligh.
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. In 1991 the pews in the north aisle were replaced by separate, comfortable, movable chairs. The children’s area is here, with books, toys and games and a prayer corner is also here with seating suitable for small meetings. The 1979 speech reinforcement system was brought up to date with new microphones, an additional speaker and facilities for audio recording and use of tapes and CDs.
In September 1994, the new church hall was built with a covered way linking it to the south entrance of the church. Then in 2004-5 the small and little used west porch was rebuilt on a larger scale with a glass roof and a set of double glass doors giving an open view into the church, and providing the new parish office and small store room. In 2014 the church’s central heating system was replaced, with a new boiler and new radiators and pipes. 2016 saw the installation of a big screen and a completely overhauled speaker system.
Print out and fill in our History of St James's Church Quiz.