The Church of St James, Shaftesbury
There has been a Church here dedicated to St. James for nearly 900 years - the first recorded Rector, John de Kymerich, was appointed in 1327 and over the centuries we have recorded 45 Rectors and Vicars.
A bit of History
The Original church was thought to have been built around 1138, simple in design a tower was added in 1660 in which there was a clock and three bells including a 14th century bell which was dedicated to St. James and was believed to have been cast in Shaftesbury. The Church originally stood on open ground until sometime about 1725, when it was enclosed by a stone wall but by the end of the mid 19th century the church had became dilapidated and too small: it could only seat 200 people while the population of the parish was almost a thousand. So it was proposed to take it down and rebuild it about 30 yards away from the road. Plans were prepared to build the present church to seat 400 people with a total cost of just over £3,000 and the Marquis of Westminster (whose family owned much of Shaftesbury) donated £2,000 and various other notables made up the difference. The demolition of the early church revealed decorated Chancel walls. The Architect, T.H. Wyatt, rebult in decorated or Middle-pointed style in the local green sandstone with dressings of Bath stone. Wyatt also re-used much of the fabric of the old church - the east window became the window of the Blessed Sacrament Chapel in the South side of the church. In addition the former Chancel windows were also reused as aisle windows, while the castellated parapets were also from the original building.
Guide to the church
As you enter the main door of the church, you see on the right The Font the oldest item in the building. This Norman font was originally in St. Rumbold's church, in Cann Shaftesbury, which was deconsecrated in the post war years and the font given to St. James. It is inscribed "1664 John Monde, Church Warden" and it is suspected the Mr Monde may have hidden the font during the commonwealth period and resurrected it at the Restoration - then marking the even by having his name written in very large letters on the font. The walls of the font have plaques to the Bennett Family some of whom ran New Foundland; another was a Surgeon: they settled in Shaftesbury and lived in Bimport House.
The Stations of the Cross
These are particularly fine and beautifully executed opus sectile depictions made by James Powell of Whitefriars. James Powell was a glass maker who revived this ancient form of decoration using coloured glass as the medium. The beautiful panels have marble surrounds.
The Blessed Sacrament Chapel is located in the South Aisle of the church and is used for mid-week communions on a Thursday night communion service. The altar in the blessed sacrament chapel was erected in 1929 in memory of Fr. Yarnall to a design chosen by his successor, Fr. Charles Blood. The three carved wood panels at the front have a central panel of the Lamb of God and the panels on either side have angels sensing the Lamb. The carvings on the upper par of the alter are all symbols of the Crucifixion (Pincers, nails, crown of thorns etc) In the centre of the Altar is a tabernacle which used to be covered but now shows the brass door which is decorated with a Chalice and host.
The window above the altar in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel was reinstalled in the new church and stained glass was installed. The central figure is that of St. James flanked by St. Peter to the left and St John the Evangelist to the right. Unfortunately, when the stained glass was cleaned, the faces of the Saints were also accidentally wiped out. The same applies to the two widows in the font corner - we are unsure who was a fault, either a over zealous cleaner with strong washing soda or an error by Diocesan oppointees!
On the south wall of the Chapel hang two paintings - the largest painting is of Our Lord titled "The Man Christ Jesus" with the subtitle "The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath". The painting is by F. Dicksee (1819-1895), a well known portrait artist and father of Sir Frank, a leading member of the Pre-Raphaelites. The picture was presented to the church by a long time rector Fr. George Yarnall (1900 to 1927) who was an American of considerable charisma. The other picture is of Mary Magdalene by an unknown artist and was presented to the church by Miss Edith Bennett, a one time Sacrestan and member of a leading family in Shaftesbury.
The glass fronted framed collage set into the wall is of St. Cecilia and is Italian. It was presented by Miss Crockcroft, a benefactoress, wo lived in "Cottage Green" on Foyle Hill just below the church.
The Organ is rather splendid made by Norman & Beard in 1908; it is a 2 Manual and 1 Pedal with 12 Speaking Stops and a pedal extension and has tubular pneumatic action and cost over £400 in 1908. When the organ made its debut, Lord Shaftesbury himself was not only present but sang several solos.
The organ has played a major part in the Liturgy over the years and also continues to contribute to the musical life in Shaftesbury.
to be continued...