St James's Church, Piccadilly

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.

St James's Church, Piccadilly
Church in 2011
51°30′31″N 0°8′12″W
LocationPiccadilly, London
DenominationChurch of England
Dedicated13 July 1684
Heritage designationGrade I
Architect(s)Christopher Wren
DioceseDiocese of London
RectorLucy Winkett
Curate(s)Lindsay Meader
NSM(s)Hugh Valentine
Ivan Khovacs
Churchwarden(s)Deborah Colvin and Trevor Lines

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]


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), a 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.[2] Concerts have included performances by popular contemporary musicians such as R.E.M.,[3] the folk musician Laura Marling as part of her "church tour",[4] the collegiate Indian-American music group Penn Masala [5] and Devin Townsend on his 2015 UK acoustic tour.[6]

Outdoor art space

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.[7] 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.[8]

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.


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 1940, during the Second World War. Works of restoration were designed by Sir Albert Richardson and carried out by Rattee and Kett.[9]

Notable vicars and other staff

Notable baptisms

Notable weddings

Notable burials

Notable memorials

Detached burial ground

A separate burial ground[15] of St James's Church was developed in Camden,[16][17] in use from 1790 until 1853.[18] The cemetery became St James's Gardens in 1878 with only a few gravestones lining the edges of the park.[19] Part of the Gardens, located between Hampstead Road and Euston railway station, was built over when Euston station was expanded[20] in around 1887. To avoid public outcry, the affected remains were reinterred at St Pancras Cemetery.[21] The Gardens were closed to the public in 2017[22] to allow the further expansion of Euston station for the High Speed 2 (HS2) rail project.[23] As of January 2019, archaeologists working on HS2 are excavating approximately 40,000 burials.[23] It is proposed to re-bury the remains, at a site to be decided, after they have been examined by osteo-archaeologists.[23]

Notable burials include:


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

See also


  1. "History - St James's Church Piccadilly London". Retrieved 8 February 2019.
  2. Corinthian Chamber Orchestra One of the groups which gives concerts in the church Archived 11 October 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  3. Evening Concerts Website detailing REM performance.
  4. Laura Marling unveils church tour details. NME reveals details of Laura Marling's church tour.
  5. "Penn Masala to Perform at Jorgensen, 12/3". Retrieved 5 July 2017.
  6. An Evening with Devin Townsend Jon Stickler, 07 September 2015, accessed 29 July 2019
  7. "Hauser & Wirth / St James's Church, Piccadilly". Glass Magazine. 1 September 2009. Retrieved 7 September 2009.
  8. "The Churchyard". The Survey of London: about St James's Church Piccadilly. 2008. Retrieved 7 September 2009.
  9. "The Building - St James's Church Piccadilly London". Retrieved 6 October 2017.
  10. "England birth and christenings". Retrieved 21 April 2015.
  11. The Lost World of Francis Scott Key - By Sina Dubovoy, accessed 29 July 2019
  12. Mayer, Dorothy Moulton. (1972) Angelica Kauffmann, R.A. 1741–1807. Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe. pp. 57–63. ISBN 0900675683
  13. 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.
  14. Barbara Brandon Schnorrenberg, "Montagu, Elizabeth (1718–1800)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison (eds). Oxford: OUP, 2004.
  15. Location of St James's burial ground 51.52849°N 0.13702°W / 51.52849; -0.13702 (St James's Park)
  16. "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.
  17. "Final resting place". Matthew Flinders Memorial. Retrieved 25 January 2019.
  18. "HS2 exhumations prompt memorial service". BBC News. 23 August 2017.
  19. "St. James' Gardens". London Cemeteries. 12 July 2011. Retrieved 2 March 2015.
  20. "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.
  21. Jackson, Alan (1984) [1969]. London's Termini. David & Charles. p. 43. ISBN 0-330-02747-6.
  22. "St. James Gardens – A Casualty Of HS2". Retrieved 25 January 2019.
  23. Addley, Esther (24 January 2019). "Grave of Matthew Flinders discovered after 200 years near London station". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 January 2019.
  24. "Remains of Captain Matthew Flinders discovered at HS2 site in Euston". UK Government. 25 January 2019. Retrieved 26 January 2019.
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