St James Garlickhythe - The Worshipful Company of Parish Clerks

St James Garlickhythe

• St James Garlickhythe church, which possibly dates back to the late Saxon period, stands in the Ward of Vintry. It was rebuilt in the fourteenth century by Richard de Rothing and his son John, both Vintners. A religious guild for men and women, from which the Joiners' Company traces its origin, was founded in 1375, and a number of chantries were established. Priests serving these were provided with quarters which came to be known as 'St James Commons'. Six medieval mayors buried in St James's are commemorated by plaques on the north wall of the Church.

• After the Great Fire of 1666, Sir Christopher Wren rebuilt the church, the foundation stone was laid in 1676 and the re-opening took place on 10 December 1682, although the tower was not completed until 1717.

• The exterior of the church is deceptively simple; however the steeple is one of the City’s most beautiful and ornate. It has a belfry storey with louvre windows, a pierced parapet with urns and the spire proper is an elaborate three stage lantern with diagonally projecting columns. The spire on top of the West tower is entirely characteristic of Wren's work. The baroque influence can be seen once again here, where complex details are used in ascending tiers which diminish in cross section approaching the top. This is said to resemble an ornate wedding cake, an image emphasized by the pure whiteness of the Portland stone, brought by sea from Weymouth in Dorset.

• St James Garlickhythe suffered less than most City churches during World War II. A 500 lb bomb buried itself in the south-east corner, fortunately without exploding, and the loss of the Victorian stained glass was, perhaps, a blessing in disguise. In 1954, however, minor repairs led to the discovery of death-watch beetle in the roof timbers, and the Church was closed until 1963.

• The tower clock surmounted by a figure of St James, destroyed by bombing on 11 January 1941, was restored in 1988, largely through the generosity of the Vintners' Livery Company. They are one of the ten Livery Companies who use the Church regularly and who have contributed greatly to its restoration and maintenance.

• In 2012 a new peal of eight bells were cast for the church. The Jubilee Bells figured prominently in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee River Pageant of one thousand vessels when they rang continuous peals from the leading barge.


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