St James Duke's Place - The Worshipful Company of Parish Clerks

St James Duke's Place

• The area which was to become Duke's Place was occupied until its dissolution in 1531 by the Priory of Holy Trinity, Christ Church. Henry VIII then gave the land to Sir Thomas Audley who cleared it and built houses on the site, although fragments of the medieval buildings still survived at the beginning of the nineteenth century. The area was eventually inherited by Audley's son-in-law, the Duke of Norfolk, from whom the name "Duke's Place" is derived.

• In the early seventeenth century the residents of the area, who found St Katherine Cree "uncongenial” sought permission from the king, James I to build a new church. This they named in his honour and it was consecrated in 1622.

• The church survived the Great Fire of London, but fell into disrepair and was rebuilt in 1727, retaining much of the original woodwork. George Godwin, writing in 1839, called it "a plain warehouse like construction of brick, quite unworthy of description". It was 65 feet long and 42 feet wide, and divided into nave and aisles by wooden columns supporting entablatures and a flat ceiling. The stained glass in the east window included the arms of Sir Edward Barkham, the Lord Mayor who had been instrumental in the establishment of the church. There was a tower; Godwin suspected its trefoil openings were survivals from the priory building.

• An organ ‘exceedingly small’, according to Godwin was installed in 1815 and the church restored in 1823.

• The poverty of the area and its increasing Jewish population made it increasingly difficult to raise funds to maintain the church; Godwin described it as being ‘in a very dirty and dilapidated state’. In 1874, under the 1860 Union of Benefices Act, it was demolished and the parish joined to that of St Katherine Cree.

• The site of the church is now occupied by the Sir John Cass School.


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