St James Church

St James Church 2011

St James Church has been at the heart of village life for over 150 years. It is there to enable people to worship regularly, to drop in for times of quiet (it is open 24 hours a day) and to mark important moments in the lives of people in, or associated with, the village: baptisms, marriages and funerals. In responding to the 2005 Village Parish Plan survey 94% of people felt that the church was important with 73% attending a church either regularly or on special occasions.

In addition the Parochial Church Council maintains the Churchyard which is available for the burial and interment of ashes of members of the village community of whatever religious persuasion or of none.

The life of the Church in the village is through the lives of the members of the church and those who support it, whether this be through the day to day support of neighbours and friends, supporting children's activities, the work and the activities of the Parish Council, the WI or responding to particular needs.

Please see the church's dedicated website for further information.

A Brief History of Leckhampstead's Church

The present church was built as a replacement to the original Saxon church of St Edmund dedicated in 1050 AD and demolished in 1860, which stood at Chapel Farm Hill Green. Artefacts from that church were saved and incorporated into the Church, including the 11th century font, the Jacobean pulpit and the altar rails.

The church is the work of the High-Victorian Gothic revivalist architect Samuel Saunders Teulon and was designed midway through his career. The foundation stone was laid on 3rd May 1859 but it took another 18 months before the church was completed. All accounts suggest that it was a difficult contract; not only did Teulon have to work with a surprisingly small budget, but his original builder Mr Taylor of Sunbury went bankrupt during the contract and was succeeded by Messrs Child, Son & Martin of London. The work was finally completed at a cost of £1,745.0s.0d, met largely by the Rev John Robinson who was the Vicar of Chieveley at the time. The church was consecrated on 30th October 1860.

Teulon's use of red brick, knapped flint and Bath stone quoins and window surrounds combine to give the church its outstanding appearance. While the exterior is distinguished the element which singularly transforms Leckhampstead to the status of 'truly extraordinary' is its interior, and in particular its vibrant use of polychromatic brickwork. When seen against the other churches being built in West Berkshire around the same time, with their standardised plastered and lime washed walls, Teulon's use of coloured brickwork was both adventurous and amazing.

St James Church contains a series of valuable stained glass windows, most notably the east window by Lavers and Barraud. An examination of the window indicates that extensive repair work is now required. Recent research has indicated that the bell is one of three taken from the old church at Chapel Farm and dates from about 1350.

The Lady Chapel, on the south side, was once occupied by the pipe organ which was moved to its present position after World War 2. This organ is not currently used and a new electric organ was installed a few years ago. The bellcote and frame at the west end of the church were erected in 1949 when the bell tower over the crossing was taken down and replaced.

The church is listed grade II* and is of national importance.

The upkeep of the church building requires much investment. We are conscious that our architect has advised us that we need to continue to plan for further work on the church, including repairing and strengthening the roof and the walls. He is unable to quantify the likely expenditure until we have further results from the monitoring of the roof movement due next year, but has indicated we should allow for expenditure of between £50,000 and £300,000.

This article is based on information provided by the Church's architect Andrew Plumridge of Peter Scott and Partners, Newbury.