Number One on my to-see list was the Christopher Wren designed church, St. James’s. It did not disappoint. And yes, it is St. James’s.
Taken from The Survey Of London: The MUCH MUCH MUCH longer version of the history of the church is in this link.
“St James’s Piccadilly is in many ways the finest of the group of four closely similar churches designed by Sir Christopher Wren for building on large open sites, the others being St Anne’s Soho, St Andrew’s by the Wardrobe, and St. Andrew’s Holborn.
In April 1664 the inhabitants petitioned the House of Commons that theirs might become separate parish from that of St Martin in the Fields, and have its own church. Leave was granted to Edmund Waller, who lived in St James’s Street, to bring in a Bill, but neither this nor another Bill for the same purpose which was considered in November 1664 proceeded further than the second reading stage. Other Bills introduced in 1668 and 1670 were equally unsuccessful, the chief opponents being the incumbent of St Martin’s, and members of the vestry of the parish of St Martin in the Fields.
The foundation stone was laid on 3 April 1676 (ref. 5) by the Earl of St Albans and the Bishop of London and in Robert Hooke’s Diary for this date is an entry”
Today there was a fair going on outside and Christmas cards for sale inside. Several homeless men were asleep in the pews and I note that the church is very active in helping the homeless, even having a Sleep Out night soon with proceeds going to homeless shelters.
Renatus Harris, organ maker. Grinling Gibbons, carver. I again refer you to the church website for detailed history of the organ. Sadly, it is awaiting restoration and I suspect funds are hard to come by. It’s a shame to let it sit idle. The sound must be magnificent.
The font and the ornate carving at the altar are attributed to Grinling Gibbons. The white marble font consists of an ovoid bowl on a stem of realistically carved today represent the Tree of Knowledge, with the serpent entwined about it, Adam standing on one side and Eve on the other. The church website has fabulous photos of the font.
Next time I will make a point of organizing a visit to th e church for a concert. The acoustics must be wonderful and just the history of its walls – well, it was almost overwhelming. I’m so glad we made time to get there.