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St James's Church, Piccadilly

Coordinates: 51°30′31″N 0°8′12″W / 51.50861°N 0.13667°W / 51.50861; -0.13667
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St James's Church, Piccadilly
The church in 201151°30′31″N 0°8′12″W / 51.50861°N 0.13667°W / 51.50861; -0.13667
LocationPiccadilly, London
DenominationChurch of England
DedicationJames the Great
Dedicated13 July 1684
Heritage designationGrade I
Architect(s)Christopher Wren
DioceseDiocese of London
RectorLucy Winkett
Assistant priest(s)Ayla Lepine
Curate(s)Mariama Ifode-Blease
NSM(s)Daniel Norris
Ivan Khovacs
Churchwarden(s)Claire Wright and Dee Hetherington

St James's Church, Piccadilly, also known as St James's Church, Westminster, and St James-in-the-Fields, is an Anglican church on Piccadilly in the centre of London, England. The church was designed and built by Sir Christopher Wren.

The church is built of red brick with Portland stone dressings. Its interior has galleries on three sides supported by square pillars and the nave has a barrel vault supported by Corinthian columns. The carved marble font and limewood reredos are both notable examples of the work of Grinling Gibbons. In 1902, an outside pulpit was erected on the north wall of the church. It was designed by Temple Moore and carved by Laurence Arthur Turner. It was damaged in 1940, but restored at the same time as the rest of the fabric.[1]


The church's interior

In 1662, Henry Jermyn, 1st Earl of St Albans, was granted land for residential development on what was then the outskirts of London. He set aside land for the building of a parish church and churchyard on the south side of what is now Piccadilly. Christopher Wren was appointed the architect in 1672 and the church was consecrated on 13 July 1684 by Henry Compton, the Bishop of London. In 1685 the parish of St James was created for the church.

The church was severely damaged by enemy action in the London Blitz on 14 October 1940.[2] After the war ended, the church was restored by Sir Albert Richardson. Specialist contractors, Rattee and Kett, of Cambridge, under the supervision of Messrs. W. F. Heslop and F. Brigmore, undertook restoration work, which was completed in 1954.[3] The old lead-covered spire was replaced by a much lighter fibreglass copy.[4] The restored interior, with its pews and light fittings, represents a rare survival of a full suite of church furnishing by Richardson. Southwood Garden was created in the churchyard by Viscount Southwood after the Second World War as a garden of remembrance, "to commemorate the courage and fortitude of the people of London", and was opened by Queen Mary in 1946.[5]


View looking southeast from the tower, showing many of the landmarks of London

Like many central London churches surrounded by commercial buildings and ever fewer local people, St James's lost numbers and momentum in the 1960s and 1970s. When, in 1980, Donald Reeves was offered the post of rector, the bishop allegedly said "I don't mind what you do, just keep it open."[citation needed] During that decade and most of the 1990s numbers and activity grew, the clergy and congregation gaining a reputation for being a progressive, liberal and campaigning church. That has continued. The "congregation" rejects that description and prefers "community". It is centred on the Eucharist, the celebration of the principal Christian sacrament. It finds expression in a wide range of interest groups: spiritual explorers, labyrinth walking, Julian prayer meetings, the Vagabonds group (a lively discussion group which takes its name from a William Blake poem and in faithfulness to that text meets in a local alehouse), an LGBT group and many others. The community has actively supported, and supports, the ordination of women to all the orders of the church, the just treatment of asylum seekers and those living in poverty. It celebrates what it regards as the "radical welcome" found in the heart of the Gospels and attested to by the Incarnation. The church was embroiled in a controversy in 2023 after organizing a drag show in the Church,[6] it drew some criticism, being described as "inappropriate".[7] In May 2024 St James's was the first church to have a show garden at RHS Chelsea Flower Show. Its gold award-winning 'Imagine the World to be Different' garden was designed by Robert Myers to highlight the restorative power of urban green spaces and was sponsored by Project Giving Back in support of its fundraising campaign for the Wren Project, to revitalise the church and garden.[8][9][10]


The west wall of the Church is dominated by a sumptuous organ case of carved and gilded oak by Grinling Gibbons, which originally contained an organ by Renatus Harris, originally built for the Roman Catholic chapel in Whitehall Palace, and installed here in 1691. This organ was entirely rebuilt in 1852 by J. C. Bishop, who added the choir case that now sits in front of the original Gibbons Case. A restoration project has been underway since at least 1982,[11] which has not yet come to fruition. The current proposal is to re-build a new organ within the historic case.[12] At present, the case sits empty, and an electronic replacement is used instead.


Concerts are regularly held in the church.[13] Concerts have included performances by popular contemporary musicians such as John Grant,[14] Tokio Myers,[15] Victoria Canal, R.E.M.,[16] the folk musician Laura Marling as part of her "church tour",[17] the collegiate Indian-American music group Penn Masala[18] and Devin Townsend on his 2015 UK acoustic tour.[19]

Creative art programme[edit]

Replica section of the Israeli Security Wall, built in the church grounds, as part of the international protest against the Israeli wall
The River, and Passage by Che Lovelace installed in St James's Piccadilly. Photo Stephen White & Co
The River, and Passage by Che Lovelace installed in St James's Piccadilly. Photo Stephen White & Co

Hauser & Wirth, a contemporary art gallery, ran a programme of outdoor sculpture exhibitions in Southwood Garden in the grounds of the church in 2009–2010. The first exhibition was of work by the Swiss sculptor Hans Josephsohn.[20]

From 23 December 2013 to 5 January 2014 the "Bethlehem Unwrapped" demonstration against the Israeli West Bank barrier featured an art installation by Justin Butcher, Geof Thompson, and Dean Willars, which included a large replica section of the wall. The installation blocked the view of the church, other than a section of the top of the tower, which was stated by church authorities to be part of the point of the demonstration.

Revd Lucy Winkett and Revd Dr Rosemarie Mallett at the dedication of the plaque commemorating 250th anniversary of Ottobah Cugoano's baptism
Revd Lucy Winkett and Revd Dr Rosemarie Mallett at the dedication of the plaque commemorating 250th anniversary of Ottobah Cugoano's baptism on 20 Aug 2023

Following a short-term residency based in the bell tower at St James's, Turner Prize nominated artist Jesse Darling's Miserere (a substantial new work in the form of a choir or congregation) was installed in the church 12-16 October 2022.[21]

In September 2023, a series of murals by Che Lovelace were unveiled in the church, to mark the 250th anniversary of the baptism of abolitionist Ottobah Cugoano, which took place at St James's in 1773; it was the first permanent artwork commissioned by the church, as well as the first anywhere in the world to commemorate Cugoano.[22]

Rectors of St James's[edit]

The external pulpit
  • 1685–1692 Thomas Tenison (later Archbishop of Canterbury)
  • 1692–1695 Peter Birch (in opposition to Wake, removed by House of Lords adjudication in 1695)
  • 1693–1706 William Wake (later Archbishop of Canterbury)
  • 1706–1709 Charles Trimnell (also Bishop of Norwich from 1708, later Bishop of Winchester)
  • 1709–1729† Samuel Clarke (philosopher)
  • 1729–1733 Robert Tyrwhitt
  • 1733–1750 Thomas Secker (also Bishop of Bristol then Oxford, later Archbishop of Canterbury)
  • 1750–1759 Charles Moss (also Archdeacon of Colchester, later Bishop of St David's then Bath & Wells)
  • 1759–1763† Samuel Nicolls[23]
  • 1763–1802† William Parker[24]
  • 1802–1825† Gerrard Andrewes (also Dean of Canterbury from 1809)
  • 1825–1845 John Giffard Ward (later Dean of Lincoln)
  • 1846–1853 John Jackson (later Bishop of Lincoln then London)
  • 1853–1895 John Edward Kempe[25]
  • 1895–1900 Alfred Barry (formerly Bishop of Sydney)
  • 1900–1914† Joseph McCormick
  • 1914–1918 William Temple (later Archbishop of Canterbury)
  • 1918–1922 Herbert Priestley Cronshaw
  • 1922–1954† Charles Lambert (also Archdeacon of Hampstead)
  • 1954–1967 John Brewis (formerly Archdeacon of Doncaster)
  • 1967–1980 Bill Baddeley (formerly Dean of Brisbane)
  • 1980–1998 Donald Reeves
  • 1999-2009 Charles Hedley
  • 2010– Lucy Winkett

Rector died in post

Other staff[edit]

  • Leopold Stokowski was choirmaster from 1902 until 1905, when he left for a similar position in New York.

Notable baptisms[edit]

Notable weddings[edit]

St James's in 1815

Notable burials[edit]

Notable memorials[edit]

Detached burial ground[edit]

St James's Gardens, shown west of Euston Station, on an 1890 Bacon Traveler's Pocket Map of London by George Washington Bacon
Saint James, Westminster Improvement Act 1789
Act of Parliament
Long titleAn Act for providing an additional Burying Ground for the Parish of Saint James, Westminster, and erecting a Chapel adjoining thereto, and also a House for the Residence of a Clergyman to officiate in burying the Dead.
Citation29 Geo. 3. c. 47
Royal assent31 July 1789

A separate burial ground[33] of St James's Church was developed in Camden,[34][35] in use from 1790 until 1853.[36] It had been obtained via a 1789 act of Parliament (29 Geo. 3. c. 47), which also provided for the erection of a chapel of ease for the parish, designed by Thomas Hardwick and opening in 1791.[37]

With the railway-related expansion around Euston Station, the Chapel was given a parish of its own in 1871,[38] but the cemetery fell into disrepair and became St James's Gardens in 1878 with only a few gravestones lining the edges of the park.[39] Part of the Gardens, located between Hampstead Road and Euston railway station, was built over when Euston station was expanded[40] in around 1887. To avoid public outcry, the affected remains were reinterred at St Pancras Cemetery.[41] The Gardens were closed to the public in 2017[42] to allow the further expansion of Euston station for the High Speed 2 (HS2) rail project.[43] Between October 2018 and 2020, archaeologists working on HS2 excavated approximately 40,000 burials.[43] It was proposed to re-bury the remains after they had been examined by osteo-archaeologists.[43] The remains were agreed to be re-interred at Surrey's Brookwood Cemetery which has received relocated remains from London since the 1870s. While almost all remains would be relocated there, it was agreed in 2019 that Matthew Flinders' remains would be buried in his home village of Donington, Lincolnshire.[44] Work to prepare for the arrival of the remains at Brookwood began around August 2020 and was completed sometime after November 2020.[45] The Church hosted an exhibition, Stories of St James's Burial Ground, with Museum of London Archaeology in spring 2023.[46]

Notable burials included:


  • London Architecture, written by Marianne Butler, published in 2004 by Metro Publications, ISBN 1-902910-18-4

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "History – St James's Church Piccadilly London". Sjp.org.uk. Archived from the original on 18 September 2020. Retrieved 8 February 2019.
  2. ^ "St. James's Church, Piccadilly | Survey of London: volumes 29 and 30 (pp. 31-55)". british-history.ac.uk. 2011. Retrieved 28 November 2011.
  3. ^ "The Building – St James's Church Piccadilly London". Sjp.org.uk. Archived from the original on 18 September 2020. Retrieved 6 October 2017.
  4. ^ by (18 September 2019). "Visit St James's Church Piccadilly". ianVisits. Retrieved 19 September 2023.
  5. ^ "The Churchyard". The Survey of London: about St James's Church Piccadilly. 2008. Retrieved 7 September 2009.
  6. ^ "Preach!".
  7. ^ "The culture wars drag on | Fred Skulthorp". 8 March 2023.
  8. ^ Rear, Jack (21 May 2024). "Chelsea Flower Show: Best Show Garden and medal winners – plus your favourite revealed". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 1 July 2024.
  9. ^ RHS Chelsea Flower Show - 2024: RHS: Countdown to Chelsea. Retrieved 1 July 2024 – via www.bbc.co.uk.
  10. ^ "Mayfair Times". edition.pagesuite-professional.co.uk. Retrieved 1 July 2024.
  11. ^ "St James, Piccadilly". 7 December 2016.
  12. ^ "The Wren Project".
  13. ^ Corinthian Chamber Orchestra One of the groups which gives concerts in the church Archived 11 October 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ Lynskey, Dorian (10 February 2023). "John Grant review – uncanny beauty with jagged edges". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 24 August 2023.
  15. ^ "Review: Tokio Myers Raises the Roof at The Piccadilly Piano Festival, London". The Luminaries Magazine. 15 February 2023. Retrieved 24 August 2023.
  16. ^ Evening Concerts Website detailing REM performance.
  17. ^ Laura Marling unveils church tour details. NME reveals details of Laura Marling's church tour.
  18. ^ "Penn Masala to Perform at Jorgensen, 12/3". BroadwayWorld.com. Retrieved 5 July 2017.
  19. ^ An Evening with Devin Townsend Jon Stickler, stereoboard.com 07 September 2015, accessed 29 July 2019
  20. ^ "Hauser & Wirth / St James's Church, Piccadilly". Glass Magazine. 1 September 2009. Retrieved 7 September 2009.
  21. ^ "Jesse Darling: Miserere". SJP. Retrieved 24 August 2023.
  22. ^ Khomami, Nadia (20 September 2023). "London church unveils artwork to commemorate African-born abolitionist". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 October 2023.
  23. ^ "Nicolls, Samuel (NCLS731S)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  24. ^ Foster, Joseph (1888–1892). "Parker, William (3)" . Alumni Oxonienses: the Members of the University of Oxford, 1715–1886. Oxford: Parker and Co – via Wikisource.
  25. ^ "Kempe, John Edward (KM829JE)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  26. ^ "England birth and christenings". familysearch.org. Retrieved 21 April 2015.
  27. ^ The Lost World of Francis Scott Key – By Sina Dubovoy, accessed 29 July 2019
  28. ^ Mayer, Dorothy Moulton. (1972) Angelica Kauffmann, R.A. 1741–1807. Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe. pp. 57–63. ISBN 0900675683
  29. ^ Arabella Menage in the London, England, Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1754-1932: Ancestry.com (subscription required)
  30. ^ Westminster, London, England, Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1754-1935 for Michael William Sharp St James, Piccadilly (St James, Westminster), 1803-1858: Ancestry.com (subscription required)
  31. ^ Robinson, John Robert (1895). 'Old Q': A Memoir of William Douglas, Fourth Duke of Queensberry, K.T., One of 'the Fathers of the Turf,' with a Full Account of His Celebrated Matches and Wagers, Etc (2nd ed.). London: Samson Low, Marston and Company, Limited. p. 249. Retrieved 6 November 2017.
  32. ^ Barbara Brandon Schnorrenberg, "Montagu, Elizabeth (1718–1800)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison (eds). Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.
  33. ^ Location of St James's burial ground 51°31′43″N 0°08′13″W / 51.52849°N 0.13702°W / 51.52849; -0.13702 (St James's Park)
  34. ^ "St. James Church, Hampstead Road". Survey of London: volume 21: The parish of St Pancras part 3: Tottenham Court Road & Neighbourhood. 1949. pp. 123–136. Retrieved 15 December 2012.
  35. ^ "Final resting place". Matthew Flinders Memorial. Retrieved 25 January 2019.
  36. ^ "HS2 exhumations prompt memorial service". BBC News. 23 August 2017.
  37. ^ "'St. James Church, Hampstead Road', in Survey of London: Volume 21, the Parish of St Pancras Part 3: Tottenham Court Road and Neighbourhood, ed. J R Howard Roberts and Walter H Godfrey (London, 1949), pp. 123-136. British History Online".
  38. ^ "Euston's lost burial ground". 13 October 2020.
  39. ^ "St. James' Gardens". London Cemeteries. 12 July 2011. Archived from the original on 5 November 2018. Retrieved 2 March 2015.
  40. ^ "The body now lying under Platform 12 at Euston Station is ... | London My London | One-stop base to start exploring the most exciting city in the world". London My London. 10 August 2013. Retrieved 2 March 2015.
  41. ^ Jackson, Alan (1984) [1969]. London's Termini. David & Charles. p. 43. ISBN 0-330-02747-6.
  42. ^ "St. James Gardens – A Casualty Of HS2". 6 August 2017. Retrieved 25 January 2019.
  43. ^ a b c d Addley, Esther (24 January 2019). "Grave of Matthew Flinders discovered after 200 years near London station". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 January 2019.
  44. ^ "London's deceased from Euston's St James's Gardens to be reburied in Surrey's Brookwood Cemetery". High Speed Two Ltd. 16 September 2020.
  45. ^ "HS2 Reburials from Euston Station". John Clarke, Historian of Brookwood Cemetery. Retrieved 7 June 2022.
  46. ^ "Stories of St James's Burial Ground". SJP. Retrieved 24 August 2023.
  47. ^ a b c "Remains of Captain Matthew Flinders discovered at HS2 site in Euston". UK Government. 25 January 2019. Retrieved 26 January 2019.

External links[edit]