The church in 1864 The church in The church in

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In the beginning

What was to become Hampton Hill was originally the southern corner of Hounslow Heath, 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”.  

Why was St James's Church built?

Revd Fitzroy John Fitz WygramThe 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 the above mentioned 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, with a nave, a chancel and a small vestry room, was built. When it was finished Revd Fitzroy John Fitz Wygram was appointed vicar, and the building was consecrated on December 11th, 1863, by Bishop Tait, Bishop of London.

The Common, as our area was then called, was described as “a miserable area inhabited by an even more miserable brand of people” and the little district chapelry of St James as “a barn of a church in a wilderness of a parish”. Revd Fitz Wygram and his wife devoted their lives and much of their fortune in improving the living conditions and prospects of the parishioners. Consequently, matters speedily improved and people started flocking to worship in the little church.

The People 

From the beginning the inhabitants of the community were described by the Hampton historian, Henry Ripley, as being “destitute of every social and useful institution”. Revd Fitz Wygram’s response was to say that “if people are taught to say thanks to God, they must have something to give thanks for”. He and his wife then dedicated their lives and a good deal of their money to improving the unpleasant living conditions and poor prospects of the parishioners. As he was a man of considerable private wealth, he became a local benefactor and worked relentlessly on social reform, particularly trying to end the drunkenness which was a major national problem at the time. He did this by buying up slums in his parish, demolishing them and replacing them with new cottages with rents that working people could afford. This was Revd Fitz Wygram’s legacy and from then on St James's Church has tried to help the people of the community in many different ways.

Information about different groups of people cand be found on the pages The History of St James's Provision for ChildrenThe History of St James's ClergyThe History of our Church in the CommunityThe History of St James's Involvement with MissionThe History of St James's Parochial Church Council and The History of St James's Social Life.

The Development of the Church

By 1873 the population had grown to 1,400 and more space was needed in the church. So during the next twenty years there were many alterations and extensions which changed the little barn into the gracious building we know today. To celebrate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887, the tower and spire were planned.

Detailed information about the developments can be found on the page The History of St James's Church Buildings.

History History History

Fitting the new heating system

Building the church hall

Fitting the new AV system

The Development of the Churchyard

Originally the churchyard was just the area immediately surrounding the church. However, because of the growing population of the new parish, this was found to be too small so in 1882 the vicar of Hampton gave an acre of land next to the church in Park Road to be used as the parish burial ground.

Detailed information about the developments can be found on the page The History of the Churchyard.

The Gardening Club The churchyard in 1909 Felling the beech tree

The Gardening Club

The churchyard in 1909

Felling the beech tree

Further information

The Birth and Growth of Hampton Hill (documents)
New Hampton and Hampton Hill in Victorian and Edwardian Times (document)