SAINT JAMES HISTORY
The parish of St James Clerkenwell has had a long and sometimes lively history. About the year 1100 a Norman baron named Jordan Briset founded a Benedictine nunnery dedicated to St Mary, which became wealthy and influential. It had a place of pilgrimage at Muswell Hill, and the parish kept an outlying tract of territory there until the nineteenth century. This photo shows the cloisters as they would have been at the nunnery.
At the Dissolution of the nunnery under Henry VIII, the nunnery church was named St. James and was taken into use by the local parishioners who unusually, obtained the right to appoint the vicar by hustings on Clerkenwell Green.
The new church was built in 1792 by architect, James Carr, in a preaching-house, style. The upper galleries were added in 1822 for the children of the Sunday-School, founded in 1807; the back parts of the upper galleries were for the use of the poor.
The crypt was used for burials until 1912 when 300 coffins were moved and stored under the main West entrance and the crypt was then excavated and equipped to form a large hall. The new hall was opened by the Princess Maria Louise of Schleswig-Holstein in 1912. It was later remodelled in 1994 with further improvements made in 1999.
Schoolboys pictured right play games on the steps of St. James during a practice air raid alert. During WW11, 70 high explosive bombs were dropped from 7th October 1940 to 6th June 1941 in the Clerkenwell area.