St James Church in Jamestown is the oldest Anglican Church in the southern hemisphere. The East India Company was granted a charter by Oliver Cromwell in 1657 to fortify and colonise places of strategic value to it. The Company claimed St Helena on 5 May 1659 at which stage the first Anglican church was built. An earlier Portuguese church is recorded as existing on this site as far back as 1571.
The first Church of England Chaplin, William Noakes, arrived in 1671. The church was extended in 1674 and replaced by the current building one hundred years later in 1774 (with some variations since, including the addition of a spire – removed for safety reasons in 1980).
St James’ is part of the Anglican Diocese of St Helena which covers St Helena and Ascension Island. The diocese comes under the jurisdiction of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa.
Externally the church is a rather drab steel grey colour contrasting with the more colourful Georgian buildings in its vicinity.
I have to admit a (non-morbid) predilection for visiting churches and graveyards, the older the better, as you learn so much about an area or indeed a whole community by so doing.
Inside St James’ I found numerous plaques and tablets depicting the fascinating history of the island including the loss of the good Mr Singer who “accidentally precipitated from off Egg Island when faithfully serving his employers.”
Look carefully at the pews and you will see some marked ‘military’ – this reminds the visitor of the island’s history as a garrison town. The British Army withdrew its garrison in 1906 and, apart from a military presence in the two World Wars and more recently during the Falklands conflict, the island has had no military presence since. Based on the inscription ‘J Mallcott London’, the black and white marble font dates from the 1700s, given that Mallcott died in 1776.
This is an active Anglican Church with regular services.
This blog entry is one of a group (loop) of entries which will take you on a virtual tour of St Helena as experienced by The Rambling Wombat. Do continue with me on this tour via my next entry – Back in the Bosom of Mother England. If necessary, go to my St Helena Introduction entry to start this loop at the beginning.