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The west porch through the years
"Church architecture is not just about designing a practical building, it is also about beauty and belief." As early as 1998 there was a proposal for glass doors at the west end of the church to convey these ideas by opening the view from the street to the full length of the church, right up to the altar with its cross. The July 1998 Spire reported: "We have a beautiful church which we want to share with those who pass by. More than this, the glass doors would also state that this church is open and welcoming. It is a church which is active in proclaiming the mission and purposes of God in our community. Glass doors would help to open up the mystery of God's presence in our world."
St James's Church is an important building for many people. For those who worship there it is a sacred place where God is known and where every member of the Body of Christ can feel at home. It is a much prayed-in building and one which makes the presence of God known in the community. For others who pass by it is obviously a church but, from Park Road and from the important turning into St James's Road, it used to look rather dead.
The plan created:
A view from the street through the whole length of the church to show that it was an open and active organisation.
A place for the administrative load of the parish to be securely and effectively undertaken, and allowing the church to be staffed and open much more of the time.
A small room for work with individuals.
Compliance with accessibility legislation.
The plan envisaged removing the current west porch, which was in a poor state and was not part of the original building. However, the architect suggested that the brickwork and stonework from the west front of the porch should be retained and re-used in the new scheme. The scheme blended well with the rest of the church and this would help in the planning process. A major difference, however, was that the new construction would be lit naturally by a glass roof which would create a light and welcoming space.
June/July 2002 - The official launch of the project to develop the west porch
The project was named 'Opening Our Doors' and was introduced more widely at the Jubilee Open Day in June. A Festival Weekend & Launch of 'Opening Our Doors' was organised in July, not only to celebrate St James's Day, but also to launch the project officially. It was hoped that planning permission would be granted in September, tenders issued in October and most of the fund raising done by December. The target was £100,000, with the hope that a third would come from events and donations, a third from charities and grants, and the remaining third from church reserves.
Following initial discussions in the summer of 2001 about how to provide some space to accommodate the increasing amounts of church administration, plans for a development of the West Porch were drawn up that autumn. A visit of the Diocesan Advisory Committee in December was encouraging. The PCC supported the scheme in principle in January 2002 and a planning group was established.
After a series of very successful fundraising events, including the St James’s Day Family BBQ, a Spire to Spire Sponsored Cycle Ride to Chichester, a Dream Auction, and a number of personal donations, funds reached the magnificent total of £30,000 - nearly a third of the way to achieving the target.
To help keep everyone up to date with how the 'Opening Our Doors' project was progressing, the symbol of a Key was developed, and the amount raised was added to it and updated each month in the magazine. 'Opening Our Doors' Key badges were designed. By wearing a badge people could not only help the project financially but also hopefully help spread the message about the project and its aims to the wider community.
The Key showed that over £40,000 of the £100,000 needed had already been raised, a very encouraging position to be in at the start of the year. However, the large copper beech tree outside the church was causing a problem with the planning application because the planned foundations would interfere with its roots. This was to result in a delay and some extra cost.
The Tree Trust had been asked to provide guidance on the options available in relation to the beech tree that was holding up the planning application to the Council. Many people wrote to the council or signed a petition, and everybody continued with the campaign. Fundraising events continued and included a Quiz Night, David Brodowski's Concert and another concert, Songs of Springtime. There was also a Roving Supper where groups of six to eight people ate a starter in one house, moving on to another house for the main course and then to the church hall for a sweet.
By now, the amount raised nearly reached an amazing £50,000. Despite a great deal of effort, no money at all could be raised from grants, but there was a windfall in the form of a developer buying out a covenant owned by the church, some of which the PCC agreed would be put towards the project.
It took much longer than expected to get the planning permission, firstly because the plans had to be modified to keep the building a little further away trom St James's Road, and then because of the concerns about the beech tree. This meant that the application had to be withdrawn and resubmitted with a report from the church's own tree expert. Then, more than twenty parishioners packed into the Salon at York House for the local authority Planning Committee meeting on Thursday 22nd May to support the vicar, Revd. Leathard, the church's tree expert, Derek Patch and the architect, Ian Stewart, in their bid to get planning permission passed. The application also had the support of parishioner Cllr Sallie Colak-Antic, and Cllr Malcolm Eady. The Council's tree officer's objections were overturned, so, with some conditions, the project could proceed.
The architect sent out tender documents, an application
for a Faculty from the Diocese went ahead, and it was hoped to start
building as soon as possible. The Bishop visited the church on St
James's Day, 13th July 2003, and turned the first sod. See
the photographs St
Summer and Autumn 2004
The Parish Church of St James, Hampton Hill, TW12 1DQ
Main site: stjames-hamptonhill.org.uk