Rebuilding lost steeple – next job for church fund-raisers?

Sepia print of church and steeple, looking up Chapel Valley

St James’ Church, photographed in 1860 by John Lilley (with thanks to Nick Thorpe)

After more than a decade of restoration efforts, a group of church fund-raisers are braced for their most ambitious project yet – to replace the missing steeple on Jamestown’s historic parish church.

The steeple had to be dismantled in 1980 because it had become unsafe.

A second phase of restoration work, on the exterior of the building, has just been celebrated at the annual St James’ Day service.

Black and white image of the church, with cars parked in front

Picture by Bryan Heseltine, taken shortly before the steeple was removed

Adrian Duncan won the restoration contract on the building – the oldest surviving Anglican church in the Southern Hemisphere, built in 1774.

Ivy Ellick, one of the fund raisers, said: “He has done a tremendous job and the cost of it was much less than we dared hope for.”

She told the St Helena Broadcasting Corporation: “We started in 1999 and we had no money at all, and then a group of women got together in Jamestown and we formed ourselves into St James’ Action Group, and we raised over £20,000.

“I was one of the committee that in 1980 had to make the decision to take the steeple down, so I’ve really got that on my conscience.

“I know a lot of people, especially the townsfolk, they weren’t too happy with it at the time, but we just had to do it.

“So our next phase will be to try and put the steeple back.”

In fact, it was the second time the church’s steeple had to be removed. According to internet writer John Grimshaw – citing the island historian Janisch – by July 1835, the previous church steeple was in danger of falling down and its removal was ordered. In 1843 a new tower and porch were built by the north door, as it is today, but with a spire surmounting the tower.

The church was voted one of the seven wonders of St Helena in a public poll.

LINKS:
St Helena Tourism: St James’ Church
John Grimshaw on St James’ Church history – with pictures

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