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The tower & spire through the years
Back in 1885 the magazine reported; "We must not forget the unfinished state of our Church, and that there is still wanting the Tower and Spire, a Peal of Bells and a Parish Clock. The only funds hitherto set apart are the proceeds of the sale of honey produced in the Vicarage garden. This amounts now to £8 12s. 0d." Read the articles The Proposed Tower and Spire.
To celebrate Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee in 1887 it was decided to complete the church by building the tower and spire. It was seen as important for two reasons: firstly as an expression of loyalty to the Queen, and secondly as a landmark to put Hampton Hill on the map. The architects were Messrs Romaine-Walker and Tanner of 19, Buckingham Street, Adelphi, the contractors were Messrs Dove Bros, of Islington, while as much as possible of the labour was provided by local men. The total cost was £2,425 and £1,325 was promptly subscribed by the parishioners.
On June 20th 1887, the anniversary of the Queen’s accession, local clergy and gentry, led by the choir chanting Psalm 84, ‘Oh how amiable are thy dwellings’, processed to a platform on the site of the tower for a short service. The pink granite foundation stone, at the base of the southern wall, was laid by the vicar’s only son, Edward. It was inscribed ‘To the glory of God and in commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the accession to the throne of his servant Victoria, Queen of the realm by public subscription on foundations laid by Revd Fitzroy John Fitz Wygram, first Vicar of the Parish. This stone was laid by Edward Bligh on the 24th June 1887. Revd Henry Bligh Vicar, xxxx Churchwardens,.xxxxx Architect’. One each of every coin in the country, from a farthing to a guinea, was placed behind this stone. After the ceremony everybody went to the vicarage grounds and “the rest of the day was spent in general rejoicings”.
The well-proportioned tower, made of mellow stock brick with stone dressings, grew during the next few months and the opening of the baptistry beneath the new tower took place after the Christmas Eve service in 1887. The Parish Magazine of 1888 January reported: "The first instalment of our additions to the Church has left the builder’s hands, and we have to record the opening of the Baptistery beneath the new Tower, on Christmas Eve. After the usual Christmas Eve service, the clergy and choir proceeded to the Baptistery. Standing round the Font a short service was held, including the 127th Psalm, and the following collect specially compiled for the occasion. 'Almighty and Everlasting God, mercifully be pleased to bless this Baptistery which we have built in the Name and strength of Him Who is the tried and precious Stone; visit it, we beseech Thee, with Thy merciful loving kindness; cleanse it by Thy grace from all pollution, and keep it ever pure; bless those who shall here be admitted through the holy waters of baptism into the fold of Thy Church; and may all who witness baptisms here, be stirred up to a more worthy fulfilment of their own baptismal vow. We ask all in the Name and for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord.' The procession then left the Baptistery, singing the 242nd Hymn, 'We love the place, O God'." Find out about the tower on the page The Tower and Spire and the baptistry on the page The Baptistry.
The gracefully tapering Portland stone spire was completed in the New Year and on January 3rd, the vicar, Mrs Bligh, the church wardens and other parishioners climbed the scaffolding to the top of the spire. Mrs Bligh placed the capstone in position while the choir sang the ‘Te Deum’ up in the new belfry. After the ceremony Mrs Bligh delighted the crowds below by throwing buns out of one of the windows.
Climbing a staircase to about eighty-five feet, then a ladder to the middle look-out, parishioners could experience the spectacular view for sixpence. It was the tallest structure in the then Borough of Twickenham, standing 156 feet and remains a prominent landmark. From the lower platform in the steeple, which is 83 feet above the ground, a fine view of the surrounding countryside could be seen, including Windsor Castle and Box Hill, both more than 12 miles away. Find out about the spire on the page The Tower and Spire. The £2500 required to pay for the tower and spire came in very slowly and caused great anxiety, so in June, 1891, a “Fancy Fair” lasting two days was held to clear the remaining loan. Read the articles Fancy Fair for Tower and Spire.
In 1893 Messrs. J. Smith &
Sons of Derby supplied and fixed a clock with four dials in the tower,
and also four ordinary bells for chiming. An inscription read "J
Smith & Sons, Midland Steam Clock Works Derby".
The clock and four bells were dedicated on December 23rd 1893, when
the former vicar, Revd Henry Bligh, who had been chairman of the Clock
and Bells committee from 1887-93, returned from Fareham to preach
a sermon appropriate to the texts on the bells. He then "set
the clock in motion by pulling a tassel, which liberated the pendulum
and immediately the sweet-toned chimes were heard".
A short peal was rung and the choir sang "To
Thee O God we dedicate our bells now raised on high".
By starting the clock and the first chime “which
delighted everyone within receiving distance”
Revd Bligh had the satisfaction of completing the work he had begun
with the building of the tower. Read the articles Clock
Parts of the tower needed
re-pointing in 1920 and there were several outbreaks of dry rot in
the tower, the one in the fifties causing extensive damage to the
floors at the east end, and another in the early sixties.
The church clock had to be
stopped on 7th September 1970, when it was found that the bottom pulley
anchorages of the driving weights (which total nearly half a ton)
were affected by dry rot. Read the article Our
Clock. A preliminary inspection in 1970 showed that some repairs
were needed to the spire stonework, lightning conductor, and weathervane,
and that the upper brickwork of the tower needed extensive re-pointing.
Read the article The Spire.
Strong wire-mesh was put up on all openings in the tower in 1956 to
stop the pigeons coming in. Read the article Pigeons
in the Tower.
The Parish Church of St James, Hampton Hill, TW12 1DQ
Main site: stjames-hamptonhill.org.uk