St James Church

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Chipping Campden was the centre of the wool trade in the 15thC and was a very wealthy settlement of attractive pale honey stone buildings. The church was built to reflect the wealth and status of the town and its merchants. At the edge of the village, the church is next to the splendid gatehouse built by Sir Baptist Hicks as as suitable entrance to the grand house and gardens he was planning to build. Then came the Civil War and the house was burnt down to prevent it falling into the hands of the Parliamentarians.

The present church is almost entirely 15th Perpendicular. It is reached along an avenue of pollarded lime trees which were planted in 1770. There are twelve, in honour of the twelve apostles.

The tall square tower is decorated with blind ogee arches and has tall crocketted pinnacles. There are more pinnacles along the top of the nave and side aisles. The nave has lovely clerestory windows. Entry is through the south porch with old stone slabs on the floor ad a notice asking walkers to remove muddy boots before entering the church.

The inside of the church is as impressive as the outside with the clear glass windows of the clerestory windows flood the church with light. Tall octagonal pillars with low arches lead the eyes upwards.

What most visitors come to see are the 15thC altar hangings displayed under protective curtains in two glass cases beneath the tower. They would have hung behind and in front of the altar and were probably given to the church by William Bradway, one of the prominent merchants in the town. They are unique as they are the only complete set of that age in England. They are beautiful with gold embroidery on silk damask. Also in the tower is the old clock mechanism.

So what else is there to see?

At the back of the church is a large carved font. There are benefice boards at the back of the church which always make interesting reading. The wooden pulpit is Jacobean and covered with carvings. It was presented to the church by Sir Baptist Hicks as was the brass lectern.

Above the chancel arch is a ‘Cotswold’ window with the Last Judgement. The top of the east window contains some 15thC glass. The three seater sedilia is set under a stone lintel with flower motifs. Next to it is a piscina.

The largest brass in Gloucestershire lies in front of altar, but is covered by a carpet. It commemorates William Grevel d 1401 ‘formerly a citizen of London and flower of the wool merchants of all England’, with his wife Marion. He provided funds for rebuilding the church.

In the north west corner is the canopied tomb of Sit Thomas Smith, Lord of the Manor of Campden until his death in 1593. He lived at the court of Henry VIII. His first wife Elizabeth Fitzherbert and his second wife Katherine Throckmorton are kneeling below his effigy with their children.

The South Chapel is virtually filled by the massive black and white marble tomb of Sir Baptist Hicks. The effigies of Sir Baptist and his wife are lying on top of a black marble base with marble pillars supporting a canopy with Sir Hicks painted coat of arms.

On the south wall is the memorial to Lady Juliana, daughter of Sir Baptist, with her husband Sir Edward Noel. He died at Oxford in 1643 while fighting for Charles I. They are shown rising from the tomb on the Last Judgement Day. On either side are opening ‘door’ with eulogies to them both.

On the east wall is a memorial to their daughter Penelope Noel who died of blood poisoning when when she pricked her finger while embroidering. On the other side of the window is the memorial to her sister in law, Ann.

The embroideries were worth seeing, but we found the rest of the church a bit pedestrian. It didn’t fire the imagination. We are glad we went, but it isn’t on the list for a repeat visit. Perhaps we just prefer smaller churches, especially if they are Norman.

The church is open 10-5 and there is some parking along the road outside.

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