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Church of St James the Less

A Grade II Listed Building in Bethnal Green, London, London

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Latitude: 51.5318 / 51°31'54"N

Longitude: -0.0479 / 0°2'52"W

OS Eastings: 535503

OS Northings: 183241

OS Grid: TQ355832

Mapcode National: GBR J8.4MP

Mapcode Global: VHGQV.4R1K

Plus Code: 9C3XGXJ2+PV

Entry Name: Church of St James the Less

Listing Date: 27 September 1973

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1357854

English Heritage Legacy ID: 206216

Location: Tower Hamlets, London, E2

County: London

District: Tower Hamlets

Electoral Ward/Division: Bethnal Green

Built-Up Area: Tower Hamlets

Traditional County: Middlesex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Greater London

Church of England Parish: St James the Less Bethnal Green

Church of England Diocese: London

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Bethnal Green

Listing Text

27-SEP-73 (Northeast side)

1840-2 by Lewis Vulliamy. Much reconstructed in 1960-1 by J. Antony Lewis after war damage.

MATERIALS: Stock brick with limestone dressings for the 1840s work. Buff brick for the 1960s rebuilt work. Red brick for the c1960s parish centre. Clay tile roofs. Flat roof to parish centre

PLAN: Nave, short chancel with three-sided apse, SW tower and spire, parish centre to S.

EXTERIOR: The church, originally built in a round-arched revival style, has been profoundly changed following serious war damage in 1940. The Italianate steeple remains but the body of the building has been lowered in height and the W end rebuilt to a new design. The tower has five unequal storeys all of which are treated in different ways. On the ground floor the main feature is a doorway with three orders in the head with a roll-moulding on each step, two nook shafts set beneath cushion capitals and a carved tympanum in a quasi-Byzantine style and including a peacock and a dove, and signed `Woodford RA'. The first floor of the tower has large round-arched windows with shafts; the second and third stages rows of differently treated arcades; and the belfry stage has pairs of tall, round-arched lights. The spire is a brick pyramid with light-coloured bricks at the corners and a spine of the same bricks running up the middle of each face. The seven-bay nave was originally of two storeys, reflecting the existence of galleries but it was reduced in height in 1960-1 and now has single round-arched windows in each of the bays which are divided by brick pilasters. The roof ridge to the nave and chancel now continue through at the same height. The chancel has a three-sided apse with single-light windows on each face. The W end is partly embraced (on the S side) by the tower and was rebuilt in 1960-1 and has a large glazed centre portion which stretches nearly to the ground: it is of seven lights with vertical glazed strips and horizontal bands of lozenges.

INTERIOR: The main feature surviving from the original church is the chancel arch, of three orders with scalloped capitals and engaged shafts. The reconstruction of the nave involved the use of arched, reinforced concrete trusses of a type commonly used in church of c1960 and which divide the nave into three-and-a-half bays. The walls of the church are plastered and painted cream. The floor consists of wooden blocks.

PRINCIPAL FIXTURES: The furnishings are plain and functional and date from the reconstruction of 1960-1; the modern glass, by Keith New is described as 'excellent' in the Buildings of England volume.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: Two-and-a-half storey brick vicarage to the N of the church with railings, gates and gate piers in front.

HISTORY: The church is one of many built in east London in the early Victorian period to supply Anglican places of worship in this area of rapidly expanding population. It cost £4,885, £500 of which was provided by the Church Building Commissioners. It had 1,133 seats, 645 of which were free. The designer, Lewis Vulliamy (1792-1871), was a London-based architect who had been a pupil of Sir Robert Smirke and won the RA Silver Medal in 1810 and the Gold in 1813. He set up in practice c1822. He enjoyed a widespread career with works ranging from Co Durham to Somerset and Norfolk to Gloucestershire.

Basil F L Clarke, Parish Churches of London, 1966, p 162.
Bridget Cherry, Charles O`Brien and Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: London 5: East, 1983, p 551-2.
Michael Port, Six Hundred New Churches: The Church Building Commission 1818-1856, p 336.

The church of St James the Less, Bethnal Green is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* It is an early Victorian church in the round-arched revival style which still retains its steeple intact and otherwise preserves something of its original character despite serious wartime damage and very necessary reconstruction in 1960-1.
* The post- Blitz reconstruction was carried out with imagination by a practice specialising in church reconstruction in this area.

This text is from the original listing, and may not necessarily reflect the current setting of the building.

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