St Helena Online

Tag: Ivy Ellick

Steeple appeal is launched as Ivy clings to her dream

Sepia print of church and steeple, looking up Chapel Valley
St James’ Church, photographed in 1860 by John Lilley (with thanks to Nick Thorpe)

Ivy Ellick’s dream of restoring the steeple to Jamestown’s parish church has taken a first step to being realised – more than 30 years after she vowed to make it happen.

She and fellow churchwarden Cathy Hopkins have launched an international fund-raising campaign to replace the spire, which was dismantled in 1980 after warnings that it might collapse.

Their aim is to have the work finished in time for the bicentenary of Napoleon’s arrival on St Helena. His death is recorded in St James’ church register.

The amount needed was not yet known, said Ivy. “At the moment we are in discussion on what material we are going to use for the steeple. We don’t have an exact figure, but we are looking for a lot of money.”

Some money was left over from the £50,000 raised since 1999 to pay for two previous phases of restoration.

In July 2012, Ivy told St Helena Online that the new spire could be glass fibre, or a steel frame covered in lead. Stone was ruled out on cost and safety grounds.

Ivy, who was churchwarden when the old spire was dismantled, said: “St James Church is the oldest Anglican church south of the Equator. It is also one of the seven wonders of St Helena, and we are very proud of it.”

She said that building a new steeple would recreate a landmark “that has for generations guided ships and our local fishermen into the safe haven of St James Bay.”

Modern navigation means it would no longer be needed for that purpose – but the captains of the RMS St Helena have offered to support the appeal.

In an address to fellow worshippers at a Sunday service, Governor Mark Capes said: “St James’ Church is part of the fabric of this historic town and so has an importance even to those who do not worship here, including to our welcome visitors to the island.

“We must be sure to preserve those things that we value, the things that make St Helena the special place that it is and which we and those who visit the island find so attractive.

“I urge you to do whatever you can to support the appeal.”

Cathy Hopkins, who is the appeal secretary, said: “The church is an important part of island heritage and Christian witness.

“Every visitor coming here sees St James’ as they come through the Archway into Jamestown, and many come into the church to look around or to say a quiet prayer.

“It will be good to finish off the overall restoration for which we started raising funds about 12 years ago.”

The first church in Jamestown was probably built soon after the arrival of the East India Company’s first chaplain in 1761. A century later, the explorer Captain Cook found it in ruins.

The current church was completed in 1744. It has actually had two steeples, both of which became unsafe and had to be dismantled – the first in 1835.

The church itself was so badly ravaged by white ants in the early 1860s that services had to be held elsewhere, and complete demolition was considered.

The second spire was built from compressed volcanic ash. Large metal rods that held the spire in place eventually rusted and expanded, cracking the fragile ash blocks.

Replacing the spire will need works to the tower, adding to the cost – but a statement said they needed to be done before there was further deterioration to the structure.

Local expertise is now available to undertake the necessary restoration, as a result of training in traditional building skills organised by the St Helena National Trust.

How Jamestown lost a landmark – and Ivy vowed to restore it
Fundraisers plan global push in Jamestown steeple campaign

History of St James’ Church – John Grimshaw’s website

How Jamestown lost a landmark – and Ivy vowed to restore it

IVY ELLICK made a vow when St Helena lost one of its best-loved landmarks. One day, she said, she would see the steeple put back on the oldest Anglican church in the Southern Hemisphere. Here, she tells the story behind the loss.

I was the vicar’s churchwarden, in my late twenties, when the decision had to be made to remove the steeple of St James’ Church. 

Being the first woman on the island to hold such an office in the Anglican Church, I was probably considered young and foolish, but I resolved to see the steeple restored.

The parochial church council was advised by the bishop that the plaster rendering on the steeple was falling away, and cracks were appearing at the base towards the top.

He had spoken with the resident civil engineer and the officer in charge of the Royal Engineers, who were on the island at the time. They had advised, after making an inspection, that it should be taken down.

Two public meetings were held to get the views of the parishioners, one in St James’ Church and the other in the Church of St John, which is near the general hospital at the other end of the town.

There were those people who agreed that the risk was too great to ignore: that at the top of the 17 feet of the spire was a solid block of concrete weighing in the region of two tons, which could cause serious damage to people and the surrounding area should it tumble.

There were people who were of the opinion that the steeple should remain, as was too solid for anything to happen and that the cracks were superficial and should be filled.

The steeple was a landmark. Fisherman took their bearings from it to lay their nets for crayfish, and it was used as a point for navigation when they went deepwater fishing. It was a landmark for ships entering and exiting the harbour.

Because there was a 50/50 split between those for and against removal, the decision had to be taken by the church council, which was supported by Governor Geoffrey Guy and the Lord Bishop of St Helena, Edward Cannan.

The account of the demolition process was recorded in Bishop Cannan’s book, Churches of the South Atlantic Islands.

I am very proud of St James’ Church. It has always been part of my life. I was born and brought up in Jamestown and for many years my grandfather, Robert Francis Bizaare MBE, held the same position that I now hold in St James’ parish. So my love or obsession for the church goes back to the first memories of my life.

And in the vast expanse of the Southern Hemisphere, here on the tiny island of St Helena, in the middle of nowhere, stands the oldest Anglican church.

I was upset and sad when the steeple was taken down. It was then that I made a vow that I would do all in my power to put the steeple back. I have become more adamant than ever since St James’ Church was voted as one of the Wonders of St Helena.

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

Fundraisers plan global push in Jamestown steeple campaign

A worldwide appeal is to be launched for money to restore one of St Helena’s lost landmarks: the steeple on St James’ Church, one of the ‘wonders’ of the island. Here, churchwarden IVY ELLICK outlines a campaign plan worthy of Napoleon.

We are looking at 2015 as our target date for restoring the steeple of St James’. That is when we celebrate the centenary of the landing of Napoleon Bonaparte on St Helena.

Most surprisingly, Napoleon’s death was not registered in any of the country churches, but it is in the register of St James’.

We do some have money left over from phase 2 of the restoration of the church. That will be set aside for the steeple. It is not very large sum, but it will be there and we won’t have to find that amount.

I am determined that once approvals are had, and plans and costings known, we will fund-raise here on the island and appeal to St Helenians and as well the many, many friends of St Helena spread all over the world.

The captains of the RMS St Helena are supportive of the proposal and will do all they can in helping us to raise funds.

We are very fortunate to have a young, energetic vicar in Jamestown, Archdeacon Dale Bowers, who is also very passionate about the proposed project.

The parochial church council is in agreement and we are waiting on our young enthusiastic engineer, Adrian Duncan, to produce plans, options on materials, and costing.

Stone is not one of the options, so we are looking at fibre glass, or lead with a steel frame.

We have not formally put our proposals to the National Trust, the Heritage Society or the Lands Planning Department, but there shouldn’t be a problem. We want to work together with them to restore our heritage.

We must, first of all, meet formally with our bishop to discuss our proposals, and seek the assistance of the Governor to jointly launch the appeal. This will carry more weight in the outside world.

  • A second phase of restoration work on St James’ – the oldest Anglican church south of the Equator – has just been completed. It involved replacing plaster that had fallen  from the tower, walls and pinnacles, and reinforcing the affected areas with steel and concrete. The roof of the tower was replaced, and window frames were repaired and given new leading. Exterior walls were also redecorated. Andrew Duncan was praised for his work.

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

Sepia print of church and steeple, looking up Chapel Valley

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.

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