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St James's Church, Piccadilly

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Location  Piccadilly, London
Denomination  Church of England
Dedicated  13 July 1684
Country  England
Churchmanship  Liberal
Architect  Christopher Wren
St James's Church, Piccadilly

Address  197 Picadilly, St. James's, London W1J 9LL, UK
Burials  James Gillray, Charles Cotton, Augustus Egg
Similar  St Martin‑in‑the‑Fields, St John's - Smith Square, St Paul's - Covent Garden, Wig Hall, St Mary le Strand

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.


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 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.

Samuel Clarke was rector from 1709 to 1729 and was one of the leading intellectual figures of eighteenth-century Britain. William Blake was baptised at the church in 1757. Leopold Stokowski was choirmaster from 1902 until 1905 when he left for a similar position in New York.

The church was severely damaged by enemy action in 1940, during the Second World War. Works of restoration were carried out by the architect Sir Albert Richardson. The church’s website carries a detailed history.

Notable baptisms

  • William Blake, baptised 1757.
  • George Thomas Smart, baptised 2 Jun 1776.
  • Lord Chesterfield
  • Lord Chatham
  • Notable weddings

  • Ince and Mayhew, founding partners of the furniture-makers, married sisters in a double wedding here in 1762.
  • Frederick de Horn and Angelica Kauffman, 1767. Horn was an imposter who was already married and Kauffman was a successful artist.
  • George Bass, explorer of Australia and the Bass Strait, married Elizabeth Waterhouse in 1800.
  • Philip Hardwick, the architect, married Julia Shaw in 1819.
  • General Sir Robert Arbuthnot, KCB, married Harriet Smith in 1826.
  • Prince Friedrich Wilhelm von Hanau, eldest son of Frederik William, Elector of Hesse-Kassel (or Hesse-Cassel), married the actress Auguste Birnbaum in 1856.
  • Also in 1856, George Augustus Hopley, the Belgian Consul to Charleston South Carolina, in the US, married the French-born Felicité Claudine Rancine on 26 July. (George later died in Paris on 28 May 1859, age 52.)
  • John Cyril Porte, an aviation pioneer and air racer, married Minnie Miller on 16 August 1916. The ceremony was conducted by John E T Evitt, Curate.
  • Robert Graves, an author and poet, married Nancy Nicholson in the church in 1918. The best man was George Mallory.
  • James Arbuthnot MP, married Emma Broadbent, daughter of Michael Broadbent, in 1984.
  • John Seward Johnson I, the American heir and son of Robert Wood Johnson I (co-founder of Johnson & Johnson, married Ruth Dill, the sister of Diana Dill, in 1924.
  • Notable burials

  • John Arbuthnot, buried 1735
  • Sir Charles Asgill, 2nd Baronet, equerry to Frederick, Duke of York
  • Mary Beale, one of the first professional women artists, buried 1699
  • Sir Richard Croft, obstetrician
  • William Elliot of Wells, equerry to King George II, buried 1764
  • William Douglas, 4th Duke of Queensberry (also known as "Ols Q.")
  • James Gillray, notable caricaturist
  • The Earl of Grantham, Lord Chamberlain to Queen Caroline of Ansbach
  • William Hunter, anatomist
  • Pedro Vicente Maldonado, Ecuadorian scientist
  • William McGillivray and his wife, Magdalen MacDonald
  • Benjamin Stillingfleet, botanist, the first bluestocking
  • Willem van de Velde, the elder, marine painter
  • Willem van de Velde, the younger, marine painter
  • Samuel Turner, early British visitor to Tibet, interred 1802
  • Concerts

    Concerts are regularly held in the church. Concerts have included performances by popular contemporary musicians such as R.E.M., the folk musician Laura Marling as part of her "church tour", the collegiate Indian-American music group Penn Masala and Devin Townsend on his 2015 UK acoustic tour.

    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. 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.

    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.


    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.


    St James's Church, Piccadilly Wikipedia