Monument record MCC402 - St James's Church, High Street, Colchester


12th century church, much altered, located on the south side of the High Street, close to the site of East Gate.


Grid reference Centred TM 00159 25233 (44m by 31m)
Map sheet TM02NW
1848 Parish ST JAMES


Type and Period (1)

Full Description

12th century church with later and 19th renovation. Topographic observation (i.e. it's location on the High Street), however, suggest that the church was an Anglo-Saxon foundation.<4>

The walls are of flint and septaria rubble, partly faced with knapped flints, tower has a large admixture of Roman brick. Dressings are limestone; roofs are tiled and lead-covered. NW. angle of C12 nave remains but is the only visible work of that period. West tower possible added in the C13. N. & S. nave arcades suggest four different periods of enlargement of the main body. The two E. bays of the S arcade belong to later in the C13 and there is some structural evidence that at this time the church had transepts. Early in the C14 the two E. bays of the N. arcade were built or rebuilt. Early in the C15 the chancel arch was rebuilt, the W. part of the S. arcade built or rebuilt, and the E. part rebuilt with C13 materials. The W. part of the S. aisle is of this date and was probably built to line with the S face of the former transept which was incorporated in it. Late in the C15 the N. arcade was reconstructed on similar lines to the S arcade and the N. aisle rebuilt, the former transept on this side being apparently reduced in length. In c.1500 the chancel, N. and S. chapels and N. vestry were rebuilt. The W tower seems to have been much rebuilt in the C15 but exact extent of this work is uncertain. The church was restored in the C19 when the tower arch, with a N. porch in place of an earlier one of unknown date were rebuilt and the clerestory added. Features and fittings include: windows and window details C13, C14, C15, C16; C14 and C16 doorways; early C16 N. and S. chapel roofs; N. aisle roof incorporating some carved brackets; two C15 beams incorporated in supports; early C16 bracket moulded, with carved angel support, in S. chapel, E. wall; C15 doors in N. chapel, doorway to vestry; C15 doors in doorway to staircase to tower; early C16 piscina in chancel, C14 one in S. aisle; sedilia in chancel, S. chapel, S. aisle- sills of SE. window carried down to form seating.<1>

The Church was restored in the C19 when the tower arch, together with the N porch, in place of an earlier one of unknown date, were rebuilt and the clerestory added. The early C16 N. chapel roof has the two middle principals with carved braces carved with the arms of the Sww of London, probably C17 repairs. Features and fittings include: two bells 1622, bell frame is 'old' 2 late C16 brasses; early C18 glass in N. chapel (cartouche with the arms of the See of London); C17 monument in tower on W. wall; floor slab (1677 and 1714); plate includes a slaver of 1705.<1>

DOE Survey of Church of St James, Grade B. A building of many dates, probably C12 in origin (north-west corner nave). C13 and C14 alterations and rebuilding and a considerable amount of work done in C15, especially the tower. This has a large admixture of Roman brick. A good deal of C19 restoration, when the clerestory was added and the tower arch and north porch rebuilt. Marble monument at west end of north aisle to Arthur Winsley dated 1727. The Roman Town Wall forms part of the property boundary (east side of churchyard). <2>

The odd little spire does not belong to the restoration of 1871. Stained glass of c.1850 said to have been obtained from Belgium or Holland. Plate includes 2 flagons of 1752. Wall monument of 1727. <3>

Tradition says that a shrine of wattle and daub stood here for the use of travellers arriving at the east gate of the town. Certainly the large transeptal building encapsulated in the present church cannot be regarded as that shrine; St James's must have been built by the C12 at the latest. <4>

There was an anchorage here in 1155 endowed by the crown.<5>

Sources/Archives (5)

  • <1> Monograph: Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England. 1922. Royal Commission on Historical Monuments (England): Essex, (North-East). Volume III. No 4.
  • <2> LIST: Department of the Environment. 1971. List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest: Borough of Colchester (Essex). TM 0025 SW 6/40.
  • <3> Serial: Pevsner, Nikolaus. The Buildings of England: Essex. pp.119-120.
  • <4> Monograph: Rodwell, Warwick J with Rodwell, KA. 1977. Historic Churches: a wasting asset. p.34.
  • <5> Monograph: Clay, Rotha Mary. 1914. The Hermits and Anchorites of England. pp.214-215.

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Record last edited

Oct 19 2016 9:01AM

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