Home > Church & grounds > The tower & spire

The tower & spire

The most striking and characteristic external features of the church are its tower and spire at the west end of the church. 

A pinnacleThe tower
The church tower (shown above) is well-proportioned, with three stages, a battlemented parapet, pinnacles (shown right) and corner buttresses. It was made of mellow London stock bricks with stone dressings in 1887, and reminds us of the times when churches (though not St James's) were used as posts of defence against enemies, being square, solid and strongly built. The main walls of St James's tower are over three feet thick at the base, reducing to just under two feet thick at the upper belfry level. It is 64 ft high to the top of the battlements.

The clockThe baptistry is housed in the lowest part of the tower - find out about this on the page Baptistry. The clock and bells are also housed in the bell tower and the four clock faces show on the tower, one on each side. The actual place where the bells are hung is called the belfry. The clock, with four dials, is a simple pendulum wall clock and was made in 1893 by J. Smith & Sons of Derby, the builders of the great clock of St Paul’s Cathedral in London. Read more about the clock and bells on the page Belfry.

The wooden louvresThe windows in the tower do not have glass, but openings or louvres (shown right) in the stonework so that the sound of the bells can travel. A stone spiral staircase of thirty one stairs leads from the baptistry up to the belfry, then from there a wooden staircase leads up to a viewing platform at the lower lancet window level. From this, there is a wooden ladder rising twenty four feet to a landing at the upper window level leading to the clock chamber.

From the clock chamber, a further similar ladder  rises twenty feet to the belfry. In the belfry, are further flights of wooden stairs, totalling fifty two steps, leading to a wooden landing from which it is possible look out of window openings in all six faces of the spire.

A gargoyleMembers of the public are allowed access to this viewing level, strictly at their own risk, only by prior arrangement with the vicar or churchwardens, and must be accompanied by a church official. 

A gargoyle is the carved stone waterspout rather like an ugly-looking head. There is a different gargoyle on each of the four corners of the top of the tower. Find out about the gargoyles on the page Gargoyles on the tower.

The spire   Cross on the spire

The spire
The spire, with a cross at the top, is a gracefully tapering structure which rises above the tower in the form of a tall cone or pyramid. It was made entirely of Portland stone, pierced with brick banding and rises to 157 feet (approx. 48m). It is hexangonal (six sided) with three sets of bands each enclosing six windows. The height of the spire above the tower is eighty two ft, and on top is the cross, making a total height above ground of about 152 feet. 

The spire is a familiar and prominent local landmark. Many people think it looks like a finger pointing upwards to heaven, reflecting the mystery and wonder of God. The celestial and hopeful gesture of the spire is one reason for its association with religious buildings. Built to coincide with Queen Victoria's golden jubilee, the spire was the last of several enlargements and additions to the originally rather modest church of St James, built in 1863 by its first vicar, thus marking the beginnings of Hampton Hill as we know it.

Looking back
Church & grounds through the years