A churchyard is the land surrounding the church and is used as a graveyard. It has been consecrated (set apart as sacred) by a bishop and is sometimes called 'God's Acre'. St James's churchyard is an approximately quadrilateral area with an indentation on the south-west corner on which the vicarage and church hall are built. The church itself is situated on the north-west corner of the churchyard. There is a double garage beside the hall which is used mainly for storage for the church and for the nursery school, who are regular weekday hall users. There is also a shed in the churchyard for the storage of garden equipment.
The churchyard is bounded on three sides by St James's Road to the west of the church, Park Road to the north of the church, and partly by St James's Avenue to the east of the church. The fourth side of the churchyard is partly fenced and the boundary runs beside private houses, the back of the vicarage and beside the church hall. The size is approximately 380 feet, Park Road boundary, by 250 feet, St James's Avenue boundary. The churchyard area, including the church building, may be estimated as about 1.6 acres. Look at the Plan of the churchyard. Footpaths run through the churchyard, but there are no public rights of way. The remainder of the churchyard is a burial ground.
There are over 1,000 graves and over 4,000 people buried in the churchyard. The first burial was that of Walter Richard Daines, aged 11 months in l864 and the very last burial was Bruna (Walter) Blaschke in 1987. The churchyard was closed by Order in Council in 1991 and is now cared for by the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames. From this point onwards only previously booked spaces could be used for burials and the interment of ashes in the Garden of Rest (sometimes called Garden of Remembrance). Find out about the graves in the churchyard on the page Graves in the churchyard and look at some more photos on the page Graves.
In the early 1990s a working party was set up to record all the names and position of all the graves in the churchyard and plans were drawn. All this was eventually collated into a booklet 'Churchyard Records 1864-2000' which was published in February 2001. An online searchable database for the churchyard records was developed in 2007 where the churchyard records could be searched by surname or year. See the page Churchyard records and the database Churchyard records - search by surname or year.
The Lych gates
St James's lych consists of a roofed porch-like structure over a gate, built of wood with four upright wooden posts in a rectangular shape. On top of this are a number of beams holding a pitched roof covered with clay tiles.
The lych is the roofed gateway of the churchyard, it is really part of the church, lyc being the old English word for corpse or body. Thus the words 'lych gate' really means 'corpse gate'.
Plant life in the churchyard
Some of the trees, shrubs and flowers growing in the churchyard have long been thought to have a symbolic meaning. They remind us of things connected with the Christian faith. Read more about these on the page Plant life.
Find out more
Through the year in the churchyard (photos)
St James's grounds through the years: The churchyard