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St James'
St James' Church, Stretham
St James' Church Stretham 17-08-2010.jpg
North-west view from High Street. Single clock face can be seen on east face of tower
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OS grid reference TL 513 747
Location Stretham, Cambridgeshire
Country England
Denomination Church of England
Churchmanship Evangelical
Website St James' Church, Stretham
Founded c. 12th century
Dedication Saint James
Events Extensive rebuilding 1868
Severe restoration 1876
Functional status Active
Heritage designation Grade II*
Designated 5 February 1952
Architect(s) J P St Aubyn
Architectural type Church
Style Gothic
Capacity 312
Length 28 metres (92 ft)
Width 13 metres (43 ft)
Nave width 5.5 metres (18 ft)
Number of spires 1
Materials Mainly rag and Barnack stone; crested ridge tiled roof
Parish Stretham
Diocese Diocese of Ely
Province Province of Canterbury

St James' Church, Stretham, is an active Anglican church in the village of Stretham, Cambridgeshire, England. Founded in the 12th century, it was heavily restored by the architect J. P. St Aubyn in 1876. English Heritage, a body responsible for preserving historical sites in the United Kingdom, assessed the church a Grade II* listed building. The turret clock on the east face of the tower was also made in 1876, by JB Joyce & Co of Whitchurch, Shropshire, and still keeps good time. The church has a ring of six bells hung for change ringing. Regular ringing resumed at the church in June 2011 after several years' silence. St James' is one of eight churches in the Ely Team Ministry.


St James drawing
Plan view showing arrangement of windows and columns

St James' Church stands in the centre of the small village of Stretham, which has a population of 1,685. The village lies 6 kilometres (4 mi) south-south-west of Ely in Cambridgeshire, England, about 119 kilometres (74 mi) by road from London. The earliest written record of this still active church is in the Liber Eliensis, a 12th-century history of the Isle of Ely. In 1137, during Bishop Nigel's (c. 1100–1169) time, Anglo-Saxon conspirators were said to have met in Stretham church. Fragments of the east chancel are known to be from about the 12th century, corroborating the record of the church's existence in that period.

Lancelot Ridley (d. 1576), appointed one of the first Six Preachers of Canterbury Cathedral in 1541 and a rector of Stretham from 1560, was buried in the parish. Mark Ridley (1560–1624), one of Lancelot's sons, became the physician to the Tsar of Russia.

In 1751, Francis Blomefield, in his Collectanea Cantabrigiensia, recorded St James' as having a square tower, with four bells and a clock. The north aisle was leaded and there was a chantry chapel at the east end with a screen. He concludes this to be the Chancel of the Resurrection. At this time, the south aisle, nave and chancel were also recorded as leaded.

The church was restored very heavily in 1876 by the architect J. P. St Aubyn at a cost of £4,400 (equivalent to £296,521 in 2023). The north and south transepts were added at this time as well as the whole south aisle of the nave, the chancel, a clerestory and a new porch.

St James' Church, Stretham, is an historic building protected by Acts of Parliament. Originally, the church was listed Grade A in a publicly available register on 5 February 1952 until a resurvey and regrading by the English Heritage on 19 August 1988. Since then, it is listed as a Grade II* building, which makes the church particularly important to the country's heritage and warrants every effort to preserve it. The church records are kept in the County Records Office, Cambridge. Since 1990, St James' Church has had an ecumenical agreement with the Stretham Methodists.

St James' is part of the Ely Team Ministry, a group of eight churches: St Mary's, Ely; St Peter's, Ely; St Leonard's, Little Downham; St Michael and All Angels, Chettisham; St George's, Little Thetford; St James, Stretham; Holy Cross, Stuntney; St Peter's, Prickwillow. The Prickwillow church was closed for worship in 2008; it is part of the parish of St Mary's, Ely.


Part of St James clock mechanism Stretham
Part of the turret clock mechanism showing clockmaker as JB Joyce & Co of Whitchurch, Shropshire and date of manufacture of 1876


The building is mainly 14th century although the east wall of the chancel contains remnants of 12th-century material, including two clamped buttresses. The ashlar-faced tower is 14th century with angled buttresses north and south. The west window has three lights with flowing tracery. The clock on the east face of the tower, dated 1876, is by JB Joyce & Co of Whitchurch, Shropshire, the oldest firm of tower clockmakers in the world; it is wound weekly by the churchwardens.

The east wall of the chancery has one window with five lights (stained glass panels) with tracery above in a Gothic style. The church floodlighting is supported by funds from the National Lottery church floodlighting trust


Inside St James'
Chancel east five-light window
Nave, east towards chancel; aisles either side enclosed by arcades of four bays supporting the clerestory's and the wooden rafters of the roof. The north (left) octagonal columns are 14th century; the south round columns were added during the 1876 restoration

There is a lowered sill on the southeast window of the chancel for a three-seat (sedilia); a cabinet (aumbry) is along the east of the north wall with an arched tomb recess to the west of it with an inscribed tomb lid which commemorates Nicholas de Kyngestone, late 13th-century rector. A 1440 oak screen to the chancel is very finely carved. Lying in the chancel is a black marble slab that dates back to 1667; it is a memorial, commemorating Anne Brunsell, sister of Sir Christopher Wren and wife of the rector of the time. The pipe rack organ, built in 1886 by J W Walker and sons of London, is in a chamber built onto the south wall of the chancery. Paddy Benson of Norman & Beard, carried out a reconstruction and enlargement of the organ in 1907 at a cost of £350 (equivalent to £26,540 in 2023); it was converted to electric blowing sometime after 1937.


Until 1952, the church had a ring of five bells hung for change ringing; and at this time, a sixth bell was added and one bell was recast, replacing a 1727 bell by Henry Penn of Peterborough. The oldest bell as of 2010, is the 840-millimetre (33 in) 360-kilogram (790 lb) number four bell of 1796 by Joseph Eayre; the newest are of 1951 by John Taylor & Co of Loughborough. This set of six bells are rung from a first-floor ringing chamber above the recently constructed servery and toilets.

According to Canon K W H Felstead's records, now maintained by the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers, there have been 78 peals rung at St James' Church, Stretham, since 1952.


Rectors of Stretham and Little Thetford, Cambridgeshire, 1222—
From To Name Comment
1222 Arnulf
1276 Wymbisse, Thomas de
1302 Dogelly, Richardus de
1338 Hatherston William de; Bagthorpe, Nicholas de Sub Deacon
1351 Seyr, Robert; Thomas Darrant
1366 Stratton, Robert de Prebendary of Masam at York Minster and Prebendary of Biggleswade, Lincoln Cathedral
1383 Osgodby, William de By exchange with Thomas de Dalby
1383 Lindesay, John
1407 Burgess, William
1415 Braunston, John; Spalding, William
1458 Redman, Richard Distinct from Richard Redman, who became Bishop of Ely
1488 Ryplingham, John
1488 Ryplingham, Richard
1523 1554 Ryseley, Richardus
1554 1559 Young, Johannes
1559 1570 Ridley, Lancelotti Father of Mark Ridley (physician)
1570 1592 Parker, John Archdeacon of Ely
1592 1598 Jones, Edwardus
1598 1621 Lawrence, Willimus This gives dates 1598–1621, but tentatively
1621 Brownrigg, Ralp Afterwards Bishop of Exeter
1623 1638 Felton, Nicholaus Deprived by the Earl of Manchester and Parliamentary Visitor
1643 Clarke Matthew; Car, Robert Rector in the time of Richard Cromwell (son of Oliver)
1662 1678 Brunsell, Henricus He married Anne, a sister of Christopher Wren.
1678 1690 Oldham, Richard
1690 1691 Kemp, Robert
1696 1727 Perkins, Ralph
1727 1771 Thomas, Charles
1771 1784 Brown, James
1784 1802 Swaine, John
1802 1812 Morgan, Caesar
1812 1818 Law, Henry As a JP he was a figure of the Ely and Littleport riots 1816.
1818 1827 Sparke, John Henry Canon of Ely; he was eldest son of Bowyer Sparke.
1827 1869 Baber, Henry Hervey Keeper of printed books at British Museum
1869 1884 Pigot, Hugh Manchester Guardian obituary
1885 1906 Cockshott, John William Hon. Canon of Ely. Times notice of appointment
1906 1945 Stitt, S Stuart Times notice of appointment following resignation of J W Cockshott; Times notice of death 31 July 1945
1945 1952 Cowgill, John E Lambeth Palace records
1952 1955 Loughborough, George W Times notice of promotion
1955 1965 Foulds, Dennis Times notice of appointment
1966 1974 Hornby John H Times notice of appointment
1974 1993 Askey, John Stuart
1994 1998 Kilner, Fredrick James From 1994 incumbents are known as Team Vicars
1999 2005 Sansom, John
2005 2009 Scott, Pauline Claire Michalak
2009 Harper, Margaret

Records before 1523 have not been confirmed; they have been checked (other than minor spelling differences) with the painted board in the south-west corner of the nave

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