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St James's Church, Piccadilly
Church of St Jamess Piccadilly 2 (5123798865).jpg
The church in 2011
51°30′31″N 0°8′12″W / 51.50861°N 0.13667°W / 51.50861; -0.13667
Location Piccadilly, London
Country England
Denomination Church of England
Churchmanship Liberal
Dedicated 13 July 1684
Heritage designation Grade I
Architect(s) Christopher Wren
Diocese Diocese of London

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, United Kingdom. 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.


Nave of St James's Church, Piccadilly
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 Blitz of London on 14 October 1940. After the war ended, 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. Southwood Garden was created in the churchyard by Viscount Southwood after World War II as a garden of remembrance, "to commemorate the courage and fortitude of the people of London", and was opened by Queen Mary in 1946.


Tower view 2013
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." 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.


Concerts are regularly held in the church. Concerts have included performances by popular contemporary musicians such as R.E.M., the folk musician Laura Marling as part of her "church tour", the collegiate Indian-American music group Penn Masala and Devin Townsend on his 2015 UK acoustic tour.

Outdoor art space

Israel Wall in London
Replica section of the Israeli Security Wall, built in the church grounds, as part of the international protest against the Israeli wall.

Hauser & Wirth, a contemporary art gallery, is running a programme of outdoor sculpture exhibitions in Southwood Garden in the grounds of the church. The first exhibition was of work by the Swiss sculptor Hans Josephsohn, running from September 2009 to January 2010.

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.


The Piccadilly Market was established in 1981 and operates six days a week in the courtyard of St James's Church. Monday and Tuesday: Food Market, 11:00 am – 5:00 pm. Wednesday – Saturday: Arts and Craft Market, 10:00 am – 6:00 pm.

Rectors of St James's

The external pulpit of St James's Church, Piccadilly
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
  • 1763–1802† William Parker
  • 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
  • 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

Other staff

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

Notable baptisms

Notable weddings

St James's South and east fronts 1814 edited
St James's in 1815
  • John Ross and Alicia Arnold (the paternal great-grandparents of Francis Scott Key; who wrote the American national anthem) were married.
  • The Scottish composer James Oswald married Mary Ann Melvill on 12 February 1744.
  • Ince and Mayhew, founding partners of the furniture makers, married sisters in a double wedding here in 1762.
  • Frederick de Horn and Angelica Kauffman, 1767. Horn was an imposter who was already married and Kauffman was a successful artist.
  • George Bass, explorer of Australia and the Bass Strait, married Elizabeth Waterhouse in 1800.
  • Michael William Sharp, portrait painter, married the actress and dancer Arabella Menage in 1804.
  • Georges-Alexis, marquis d'Amboise and Louisa Barwell, daughter of Richard Barwell, Member of Parliament, in 1815.
  • Philip Hardwick, the architect, married Julia Shaw in 1819.
  • General Sir Robert Arbuthnot, KCB, married Harriet Smith in 1826.
  • Prince Friedrich Wilhelm von Hanau, eldest son of Frederik William, Elector of Hesse-Kassel (or Hesse-Cassel), married actress Auguste Birnbaum in 1856.
  • Also in 1856, George Augustus Hopley, the Belgian Consul to Charleston South Carolina, in the US, married the French-born Felicité Claudine Rancine on 26 July. (George later died in Paris on 28 May 1859, age 52.)
  • On 5 November 1865, Samuel Baker, explorer of Africa, married Florence Barbara Maria von Sass, a woman he had rescued from the white slave trade when she was a girl. He was twenty years her senior.
  • In 1873 the actor and dancer Fred Vokes married the actress Martha Isabella 'Bella' Moore.
  • John Cyril Porte, an aviation pioneer and air racer, married Minnie Miller on 16 August 1916. The ceremony was conducted by John E. T. Evitt, Curate.
  • Robert Graves, an author and poet, married Nancy Nicholson in the church in 1918. The best man was George Mallory.
  • John Seward Johnson I, the American heir and son of Robert Wood Johnson I (co-founder of Johnson & Johnson, married Ruth Dill, the sister of Diana Dill, in 1924.
  • James Arbuthnot MP, married Emma Broadbent, daughter of Michael Broadbent, in 1984.

Notable burials

  • John Arbuthnot, buried 1735
  • Sir Charles Asgill, 2nd Baronet, equerry to Frederick, Duke of York
  • Sir George Baker, 1st Baronet, FRS, FSA, physician to King George III (memorial in church)
  • Mary Beale, one of the first professional women artists, buried 1699
  • Robert Anning Bell, artist and designer (memorial in church)
  • Lieutenant-General Sir Colin Campbell, KCB, British Army officer and colonial governor
  • Charles Cotton, poet and writer, best known for translating the work of Michel de Montaigne from the French, for his contributions to The Compleat Angler and for the influential The Compleat Gamester (memorial in church)
  • Sir Richard Croft, 6th Baronet, physician to the British Royal Family and obstetrician to Princess Charlotte of Wales. He became famous due to his role in 'the triple obstetrical tragedy' of 1817. (memorial in church)
  • William Douglas, 4th Duke of Queensberry (also known as "Old Q.")
  • William Elliot of Wells, equerry to King George II, buried 1764
  • James Gillray, notable caricaturist
  • Lieutenant General Hugh Mackay Gordon, British Army officer who became Lieutenant Governor of Jersey (memorial in church)
  • The Earl of Grantham, Lord Chamberlain to Queen Caroline of Ansbach
  • Lord Anne Hamilton, younger son of James Hamilton, 4th Duke of Hamilton
  • Field Marshal Studholme Hodgson, British Army officer who served throughout the 18th century
  • William Hunter, anatomist (memorial in church)
  • Pedro Vicente Maldonado, Ecuadorian scientist (memorial in church)
  • William McGillivray and his wife, Magdalen MacDonald (memorial in church)
  • Stephen Peter Rigaud, mathematical historian and astronomer (memorial in church).
  • Bartholomew Ruspini, 18th century surgeon-dentist and philanthropist, remembered for founding the Royal Masonic School for Girls (memorial in church)
  • Benjamin Stillingfleet, botanist, the first bluestocking
  • Thomas Sydenham (1624–89)
  • Samuel Turner, early British visitor to Tibet, interred 1802
  • Willem van de Velde, the elder, marine painter (memorial in church)
  • Willem van de Velde, the younger, marine painter (memorial in church)
  • Frances Deering Wentworth, wife of Sir John Wentworth, 1st Baronet

Notable memorials

  • William Blake, poet, painter and printmaker, now considered a seminal figure in the history of the poetry and visual arts of the Romantic Age.
  • Sir William Bowman, 1st Baronet, surgeon, histologist and anatomist, best known for his research using microscopes to study various human organs.
  • Richard Bright, physician and early pioneer in the research of kidney disease, particularly known for his description of Bright's disease.
  • Mary Delany, artist and Bluestocking, equally famous for her "paper mosaicks" and her lively correspondence.
  • William Curtis Green, architect.
  • General John Studholme Hodgson, British Army officer who served as Colonel of the 4th (King's Own) Regiment of Foot.
  • Sir Herbert Hughes-Stanton, watercolour and oil painter, predominantly of landscapes.
  • Francis Ernest Jackson, painter, draughtsman, poster designer and lithographer.
  • Sir George Johnson, eminent physician, who became recognized as an authority on cholera and kidney diseases.
  • Joseph McCormick, cricketer, Canon of York and Chaplain to Queen Victoria, King Edward VII and King George V.
  • Frederick William Pomeroy, prolific sculptor of architectural and monumental works.
  • Sir Henry Rushbury, painter and etcher.
  • Sir James Jebusa Shannon, Anglo-American artist.
  • Air Vice Marshal Sir Arthur Vyell Vyvyan, KCB, DSO, officer in the Royal Navy in the early 20th century and later a senior officer in the newly created Royal Air Force.
  • George Spencer Watson, portrait artist of the late romantic school who sometimes worked in the style of the Italian Renaissance.
  • William Yarrell, zoologist, writer, bookseller and naturalist, admired by his contemporaries for his precise scientific work.

Detached burial ground

1890 Bacon Traveler's Pocket Map of London, England - Geographicus - London-bacon-1890 (cropped to show St James's Gardens, Camden)
St James's Gardens, shown west of Euston Station, on an 1890 Bacon Traveler's Pocket Map of London by George Washington Bacon

A separate burial ground of St James's Church was developed in Camden, in use from 1790 until 1853. The cemetery became St James's Gardens in 1878 with only a few gravestones lining the edges of the park. Part of the Gardens, located between Hampstead Road and Euston railway station, was built over when Euston station was expanded in around 1887. To avoid public outcry, the affected remains were reinterred at St Pancras Cemetery. The Gardens were closed to the public in 2017 to allow the further expansion of Euston station for the High Speed 2 (HS2) rail project. As of January 2019, archaeologists working on HS2 were excavating approximately 40,000 burials, with excavations due to continue until late 2020. It is proposed to re-bury the remains, at a site to be decided, after they have been examined by osteo-archaeologists.

Notable burials include:

  • James Christie (1730–1803), naval officer and auctioneer
  • Matthew Flinders (1774–1814), naval officer and explorer, whose burial was re-located in January 2019.
  • Lord George Gordon (1751–1793), politician
  • Bill Richmond (1763–1829), boxer
  • John Charles Felix Rossi RA (1762–1839), English sculptor
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