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?
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 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.
"Mission work was always strenuously exercised in the neighbourhood by St James’s...." Beyond the needs of the parish itself, St James’s contributed generously to the work of the church through the Home and Foreign Missions and other charities. Advent Sunday became its Mission Sunday, when this work was celebrated and collections taken to support it. St James's has undertaken various types of witness, mission and outreach through the years.
The giving of charity was one of the most important social functions of the church before the advent of the Welfare State. Twenty-first century Britain is a very different place from Victorian Britain, but sadly the need to think of those less fortunate has not gone away and charitable giving is still at the heart of our parish outreach - an essential part of the good news our Christian faith encourages us to proclaim.
Have a look at Witness, Mission & Outreach through the years which shows what happened from when records began up until 2017. The Annual Parochial Church Meeting Reports show the latest reports from most teams and groups.
Find out more
The Office on 020 8941 6003
A Life Group
Charities supported by St James's
The Upper Room