‘The church is rich in plate, dating before the Great Fire’
Like many churches, St James is fortunate enough to be able to tell much of its story through its treasures.
The first ever church register in England, dating from 1535 is from St James, and a number of parish registers are now kept in the Guildhall and the British Museum.
Christopher Wren could walk into St James today and largely remember the church he had designed and built.
The altar table, thought by many to have been carved by Grinling Gibbons, is actually the work of William Newman, but is original and has been used ever since its installation in the 1680s.
The church wardens' pews, and font cover are also all original woodwork. Wren might also recognise the choir stalls and pulpit, though he would be right to point out they had once belonged to St Michael Queenhithe before its demolition.
Saunders, in The Art and Architecture of London describes the “woodwork and carving throughout as exceptionally good”, though Rogers in Down Thames Street says “most of the work is rather heavy and not above the average to be seen in City churches”.
Let the viewer decide!
Historic church registers
St James also has a remarkable set of church accounts and registers.
One set dates from 1682, when the church was first opened following its rebuilding. It shows items such as:
- Two bottles of sherry and pipes [wine containers] at the opening of the church 3s 4d
- Hire of 3 dozen cushions and porterage 13s 4d
- Wine when the Lord Mayor and Aldermen were at our church £1 11s
- Wax links to enlighten my Lord Mayor home 4s 6d
The year after, the church
Paid for a Church Bible and Common prayer booke £3 7s 6d
And an entry in 1690 shows the parish spent 1s 6d ‘when we went enquiring after Papists’!
St James Garlickhythe has an enviable collection of church plate, albeit now housed in various museums.
This includes two rare Edward VI chalices from 1549, the year of the first Prayer Book, and 1552, the year of Second Prayer Book.
There is also a chalice and paten from All Hallows the Great.
A dozen other pieces survived the Great Fire, including a 1639 Chalice of St Michael Queenhithe inscribed "ex dono Leonardi Hamond. For a Fine not Sarvin Churchwarden".
There are also two loving cups, from St Michael Queenhithe and St Martin Vintry, and the City's only silver font bowl for private baptisms.
Click to see details.