History in Structure

This site is entirely user-supported. See how you can help.

Church of St James

A Grade II* Listed Building in Devizes, Wiltshire

More Photos »
Approximate Location Map
Large Map »


Latitude: 51.3527 / 51°21'9"N

Longitude: -1.9858 / 1°59'8"W

OS Eastings: 401083

OS Northings: 161517

OS Grid: SU010615

Mapcode National: GBR 2V1.2RR

Mapcode Global: VHB4G.J8JB

Plus Code: 9C3W9237+3M

Entry Name: Church of St James

Listing Date: 9 April 1954

Grade: II*

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1263715

English Heritage Legacy ID: 431607

Location: Devizes, Wiltshire, SN10

County: Wiltshire

Civil Parish: Devizes

Built-Up Area: Devizes

Traditional County: Wiltshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Wiltshire

Find accommodation in


09-APR-54 (South side)
(Formerly listed as:


15th century Perp tower. The rest rebuilt 1831-2, probably to the design of John Peniston, in collaboration with Benoni White. Interior reordered by Peter Kent, 2008.

Materials: Coursed and dressed limestone. Slate roofs, with leading on the south vestry and south porch

Plan: West tower, short three-bay nave with west gallery, and wide aisles; the body of the church is almost square. The short chancel is constrained by Church Walk immediately to the east. There are low vestries in the returns east of the aisles (that at the north c. 1932-7). South porch, now a heating chamber.

Exterior: 15th century Perpendicular west tower, to a fine design of three stages with a moulded string at base of each stage. The base has diagonal buttresses, the upper stages are unbuttressed. The top stage has panelled tracery in triplets on each face, the centre panel only pierced as a bell-opening. The embattled parapet has blind arcaded panelling and corner pinnacles. Above the parapet rises a weathercock, on a tall rod with wrought iron supports. The body of the church was rebuilt in 1831-2. Competent and surprisingly accurate handling of Perpendicular Revival style for this date, which could be explained by copying, or even re-use, of old stonework. The aisles have four- and five-light windows under four-centred heads, pinnacles in relief on the buttresses, battlemented parapets with pinnacles on aisles and chancel.

Interior: The three-bay aisle arcades have piers of four shafts and four hollows on high plinths, and four-centred arches. The aisle walls have an irregular building break below the window cills, possibly indicating that the old walls were retained up to plinth level. However the medieval plan was not retained fully; the old north aisle was narrower than the south, and had fewer arcade piers. Shallow chancel. Inside the tower is a Perp tierceron star vault with large bell hole. The tall tower arch has two concave hollows with a rebate between. The ceilings are curved and plastered, with coved wall plates decorated with fleurons (all of 1832); panelled vault over the chancel. The interior was cleanly reordered in 2008: glazing below the gallery created a vestibule inside the main tower entrance and a meeting room in the west end of the north aisle. There is also a small room within the tower at gallery level. The gallery was refronted in glass and oak, and houses a resited organ console. The south aisle east end is furnished as the regimental chapel of the Wiltshire Regiment, based at Le Marchant Barracks nearby from c. 1878.

Principal Fixtures: The Victorian pews were replaced by moveable chairs and a carpeted floor (2008). Neo-Perp oak pulpit, c. 1890-1914. Good stained glass, including the east window by William Wailes, 1849, and the north aisle north, first window from the east, by C.E. Kempe, c. 1901. Large standing wall monument in white, grey and black marble to Bridget Nicholas of Ashton Keynes, d. 1752. No figure decoration, triptych inscription flanked by Ionic columns with a flat entablature. Tablet by John Hancock of London, to Edward Colston + 1859: two putti raise a reclining boy by the arm from his deathbed, while three siblings kneel in mourning. In the south aisle, various fittings reflecting the Wiltshire Regiment's association, notably a green marble tabernacle with two bronze figures of soldiers, containing the Regimental book of the fallen in the First World War. Maker, Powell & Sons, Whitefriars, 1921, cost £145. Against the south aisle east wall is a fluted cast-iron column, possibly for fresh air ventilation, probably c. 1832. Maker, Shillito & Shorland of Manchester.

Subsidiary Features: The Church is a prominent feature of Devizes Green, particularly from the west with the large pond known as the Crammer in front. The big churchyard extends down to the water's edge.

History: A chapel of ease to Bishop Cannings may have been built in the late C14 or early C15 (it was certainly extant by 1461), possibly on the site of a hospital chapel which disappeared after 1338. It developed parochial status by the 16th century, and the dedication to St James was recorded in 1505. 19th century enlargement began in 1815 with an unexecuted design by Richard Ingleman for an enlarged chancel grafted onto the old nave and aisles, but eventually full rebuilding of the nave, aisles and chancel was agreed. Work began in July 1831, and the church re-opened on August 10, 1832. The architect was reportedly a 'Mr Pennistone', presumably John Peniston of Salisbury. However, Benoni White, a Devizes architect, seemingly drew the actual plans. (Colvin suggests that Benoni was the designer and Peniston took over after Benoni's death; however, Benoni died in July 1833, almost a year after rebuilding was complete. The split of responsibility for the design is unclear). A choir vestry was added in 1932-7, and the 1830s side galleries were removed c. 1937-46.

Colvin, H., A Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, 1600-1840 (1995), 1041.
Lambeth Palace Library, Incorporated Church Building Society (ICBS) archive, ref. 01375.
Powell of Whitefriars catalogue, entry no. 857, (7.1.1921).
Victoria County Histories, A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 10 (1975), 285-314.

Reasons for Designation: The church of St James, Southbroom, Devizes is designated at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:

* A fine Perpendicular tower with triplet arrangement of traceried panels in the bell stage, reminiscent of some Somerset towers.

* Within the tower is an excellent medieval tierceron vault.

* The nave, aisles and chancel are in an unusually robust and accurate Gothic Revival style c. 1830, possibly incorporating parts of the medieval wall bases.

* Good 19th century fittings, including work by Wailes, Kempe, Powell & Sons, etc.

* It is integral to the religious and social history of Devizes, and makes an important contribution to the townscape, sited in a prominent position on a broad green next to a pond.

Recommended Books

Other nearby listed buildings

BritishListedBuildings.co.uk is an independent online resource and is not associated with any government department. All government data published here is used under licence. Please do not contact BritishListedBuildings.co.uk for any queries related to any individual listed building, planning permission related to listed buildings or the listing process itself.

British Listed Buildings is a Good Stuff website.