The oldest Anglican church in the Southern Hemisphere
One of the biggest secrets on St Helena is St James’ Church, founded in 1674 (a new building was constructed in 1774, to which the church is often dated) after the East India Company began sending Church of England chaplains to the island. Today St James’ Church is the oldest surviving Anglican church in the Southern Hemisphere. It is part of the Diocese of St Helena, stretching across St Helena and Ascension Island. In total there are ten Anglican churches on St Helena that includes the mother church, St Pauls’.
St James’ Church has survived a huge period of St Helena’s colourful history along with its most famous protagonists, from the hundreds of troops stationed here by the East India Company to Edmond Halley – who visited the island to set up an observatory in 1676 – and arguably the most famous resident of all, Napoleon Bonaparte. Pay a visit to the church in Jamestown and you can find plaques and tablets showing some of this rich history.
One of the biggest changes in recent years to St James’ was the dismantling of its spire in the 1980s due to safety concerns. Now more than 30 years on, work has begun on the church with repairs taking place on the beams supporting the bells. It is hoped that the spire will be replaced if development permission is granted.
If you’re really brave with a head for heights, then you can spot St James’ Church tucked away to the right when peering straight down Jacob’s Ladder.
The inside of the church is full of memories; such as the plaque inside the porch dedicated to the workman who removed the spire (due to structural issues) in 1980. The first stained glass window you see as you enter the church, called the Good Shepherd, was installed in 1874. These details, plus more, make St James an important part of the history of St Helena and a secret worth exploring.