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St James the Less and St Helen Church, Colchester facts for kids

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Not to be confused with St James the Great, Colchester.
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St James' Church
St James the Less and St Helen Church
Catholic church of St James the Less and St Helen, Colchester - - 189284.jpg
Coordinates: 51°53′22″N 0°54′30″E / 51.889355°N 0.908454°E / 51.889355; 0.908454
Location Colchester, Essex
Country United Kingdom
Denomination Roman Catholic
Former name(s) St James the Great Church
St James the Less Church
Status Parish church
Dedication James the Less and Helena
Functional status Active
Architect(s) Joseph John Scoles
Style Romanesque Revival
Groundbreaking 3 March 1837
Construction cost £2,750
Deanery Colchester
Diocese Brentwood
Province Westminster

St James the Less and St Helen Church is a Roman Catholic Parish church in Colchester, Essex, England. It was built in 1837 and designed by Joseph John Scoles. It is situated on Priory Street between the junction with East Hill and St Thomas More Catholic Primary School in the town centre. Next to it is the church hall which was built in 1911 and designed by Alexander Scoles.



At the end of the eighteenth century, the Roman Catholic community in Colchester consisted of exiles from the French Revolution. In the early nineteenth century Irish Catholic soldiers were stationed in the town. In 1814, a French priest, Fr Amand Benard, served the community and the local garrison.

In 1831, a building was provided for the local Catholic community near North Hill. It was given by William Dearn, a former soldier and local tradesman. A priest would come from Witham to say Mass there.


The site for the present church was donated by James Hoy, a farmer from Stoke-by-Nayland. The church mission there was funded by Alfred Stourton, 23rd Baron Mowbray. On 3 March 1837, the foundation stone for the church was laid by the Vicar Apostolic of the London District, Thomas Griffiths. Construction of the church cost £2,750 in total. The architect was Joseph John Scoles. He designed the church in the Romanesque Revival style reminiscent of the nearby ruins of St Botolph's Priory. Scoles later used a similar plan when he designed St John the Evangelist Church in Islington four years later. The church was originally dedicated to Saint James the Greater. Also it had no external statues or images, to lessen any hostility from the local non-Catholic community.


Church hall, Priory Street, Colchester - - 189283
Church hall

In 1861, to make more space for the soldiers in the increasing number in the congregation, the church organ was removed from the church gallery. From 1902 to 1932, the parish priest was a Canon Bloomfield, who oversaw the enlargement of the church. In 1904 the north aisle and sacristy were added. In 1907 the south aisle was added. The architect for these additions to the church was Charles Edward Butcher. They cost £2,000 and were paid for by Dean Lucas.

In 1911 the church hall was built next door, with the architect being Canon Alexander Scoles, the son of Joseph John Scoles. It was opened by the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Francis Bourne. It was renamed as the Cardinal Bourne Institute.

In 1975, the church was reordered. In 1987, stained-glass windows were added to the Blessed Sacrament chapel in the church. They were taken from a redundant church and were originally designed by Augustus Pugin.

St Theodore of Canterbury Church, Monkwick, Colchester by Peter Stack Geograph 2184035
St Theodore of Canterbury Church, Monkwick, served from St James' Church


The nearby churches in and around Colchester are served from St James' Church: St Cedd and St Gregory's Church in West Mersea, St Joseph's Church in Mile End and St Theodore of Canterbury Church in Monkwick. Each of these churches has one Sunday Mass: St Cedd and St Gregory Church at 8:30am, St Joseph's Church at 9:15am and St Theodore of Canterbury's Church at 10:15am.

St James' Church has five Sunday Masses: 6:15pm on Saturday, as well as 8:00am, 10:30am, 2:00pm (in Polish) and 6:30pm on Sunday.

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