Why was St James's church built?
What was to become Hampton Hill was originally the southern corner of Hounslow Heath which was used as common land to graze animals. It was a haunt of highwaymen and footpads, with a gibbet for the punishment of these criminals on the corner at the Hampton Hill end of Burton’s Road. The Commons Enclosure act of 1811 allowed parts of this heathland to be enclosed and the land, which is now between St James’s Church and Hampton Hill High Street, was converted into glebe (land providing income for a clergyman) for the benefit of St Mary’s Church, Hampton.
During the early 1860s the Thames Valley Railway Line was extended, the Hampton Water Works was built and the local nursery trade developed. These projects brought an enormous number of rowdy, hard drinking labourers and artisans into an area with terrible conditions, many people living in “miserable hovels”. They helped to increase the number of public houses in the district to thirteen, these being the scenes of not a few “public affrays”. There were no facilities or services in the area and consequently poverty, drunkenness and violence were widespread. The shacks in which these people lived gradually developed into a community on the common and it was described as “a wilderness with a number of habitations of the most wretched kind, inhabited by a still more wretched class of people”.
The name New Hampton replaced the earlier one of The Common which was again replaced in 1890 by the official name of Hampton Hill.
The Revd James Burrows, MA was appointed vicar of St Mary’s, Hampton, in 1861. Within a year it was decided that a new church, the District Chapelry of St James, should be built to cope with this appalling situation and serve the scattered village of New Hampton situated a mile or more away on the hill above Hampton. The mother parish of St Mary’s gave some of its glebe land for this purpose and a simple church was built.
Read the booklet New Hampton and Hampton Hill in Victorian and Edwardian Times.