SUPPORTING OUR NEIGHBOURS FROM ST JAMES’S CHURCH
In support of our local community, the Club is proud to announce our new charity for the next three years is going to be St James’s Church. We invite you to play your part not only in securing this historic place for generations to come but by ensuring that a unique place dedicated to human flourishing and the tolerant, open-hearted practice of religion fulfils its purpose like never before.
EVENTS & INITIATIVES
We will be organising various events and initiatives to help raise funds for this cause.
We invite you to join us on this fascinating journey as we support our local community.
St James’s Church Piccadilly has been at the heart of the community since 1684. Generations of Londoners and international visitors have found a place here, attending services, and concerts, meeting in its unique courtyard and enjoying the green space of the garden. Following the bombing of 1940, the church was rebuilt. In the decades since, the church has developed a reputation for being creative, engaged and inclusive, rooted in its Christian faith as part of the Anglican Communion but welcoming to people of all faiths and none. It’s now time to restore and rejuvenate the whole site; celebrating London’s 17th-century inheritance fit for 21st-century work.
The Wren Project is a scheme to restore and rejuvenate the historic Sir Christopher Wren church of St James’s, here at the heart of the community since 1684. Led by architect Ptolemy Dean, the church building will be carefully restored with a new organ built for the incomparable Grinling Gibbons organ case. New walkways, a restored courtyard and re-landscaped gardens will provide publicly accessible historic and beautiful spaces to enjoy and new business partnerships will provide social enterprise hospitality. A new arch will connect Piccadilly and Jermyn Street and new public access from the east is planned from Church Place.
The Rag met with The Reverend Lucy Winkett to discuss the project and how it is hoped that £16 million will be raised to make it happen.
TR: Which part of the project are you most excited about?
LW: The first is to see the historic parts of this Christopher Wren church renovated. In particular, a newly commissioned organ which is going to be placed in the original case. Secondly, to see the church connected with the garden and the surrounding area. On the south side, there will be a new door and a new archway, and on the east side, a new walkway through to the courtyard. This will give our neighbours and anyone walking by the sense that we are open. The church was originally built for the residents of St James’s Square. By opening up the doorway that was part of Wren’s design, we are re-establishing that connection.
TR: Who is the architect on the project?
LW: Ptolemy Dean is leading the design and we have been working closely with him for the past eight years. As the Surveyor of the Fabric of Westminster Abbey, we know we are in safe hands!
TR: The project goes beyond the walls of the church. Can you elaborate?
LW: There are two key aspects – one is to landscape the garden to make it fully accessible – in particular for wheelchair users – so that a person in a wheelchair can come to every part of the site without having to ask for help. We are working closely with ecologists on biodiverse planting to ensure a mix of plants in the garden that will encourage wildlife. We are also working with new social enterprise partners to run a café and food market in the courtyard. We want to give those who need it a second chance, whether they have just got out of prison or are going through homelessness.
TR: Are there parts of the church that will be modernised during the project?
LW: We hope to change the church’s heating system from a gas boiler to an air source heat pump. The conundrum has been where to put this, and we think we might be able to put it in the church tower! In addition, the organ will be a traditional pipe organ, but with an additional console so that you are able to see the organist play.
TR: What have you discovered about the church during the project?
LW: The church was badly damaged in the war. Luckily, it was chosen to receive funds for its restoration. By the 1960s, the money had started to run out. To save on costs, a spire made out of fibreglass was commissioned. If you look up at the church today, although it looks like lead, it is in fact the 60s fibreglass spire.
TR: Is there a timeline for the project?
LW: 2023 is the 300th anniversary of the death of Sir Christopher Wren. If we could raise enough to be able to do something for the tercentenary, we would love to do that, be it redecorating the church, restoring the carvings or putting the original south door back in. The whole transformation of the site will take just a little longer!
– Reverend Lucy Winkett
Registered Charity No. 1133048