Church of St. James Southbroom, Devizes, Wiltshire
The church is first mentioned in 1461 as being on the Green and was sometimes called the Green Church. Originally the church was a chapel in Bishop's Cannings parish.The Tower is the only part of the original Church to have survived.
The dedication to St. James is known by 1505. The church may occupy the site of the hospital chapel of St. James and St. Denis, which had gone by 1338. By 1505 it had its own graveyard for burials and christenings and marriages were taking place by 1572. The church seems to have been built in the early 15th century with a chancel, nave with continuous aisles, a south porch and a west tower. There were some lancet windows of the 13th century that possibly came from the original chapel.
Action during the Civil War resulted in cannonballs and shot hitting the church, the marks of which can still be seen on the tower below. The canon ball holes are on the east side od the tower, bottom left and top right. The Parliamentary army's guns, Falcon field guns, were situtaed in Coatefield somewhere near the old Jump Farm. This was part of the Siege of Devizes on Wednesday 12th July 1643., the day before the Battle of Roundway Down.
Above right are the 2 cannon balls from 1643.Reproduced with permission from Wiltshire Heritage Museum, Devizes.
The Reverend Alfred Smith drew up an alternative scheme to alter and provide accommodation for the growing congregation in this part of Devizes. The the church was rebuilt in 1831-2 to the design of John Peniston and the builder was a Mr Plank. Some of the original stone was reused. The church now consists
of a chancel of one bay, an aisled nave of three bays with a west gallery and the 15th century tower, part of which serves as a porch. The Church was re-opened for Divine
Service on the 10th August 1832. The Vicar of Bishops Cannings, Archdeacon Macdonald, preached and a deputation from the choir of Salisbury Cathedral attended.
The Southbroom National School was founded in 1833 by St. James Church. This school was situated across the Estcourt Road from the Church. Both Southbroom Juniors and Southbroom Infant's' Schols owe their beginnings to this pioneering effort.
The Reverend Alfred Smith resigned the living in 1838 and retired to Old Park, He died in 1877. His successor, the Reverend. Benjamin Dowding, was 26 when he came to Southbroom. He was the first Vicar to live in Southbroom House, the present home of the Bishop of Ramsbury which was built in 1845 on the other side of the road. He is remembered for fostering the building of St. Peter’s Church on the Bath Road on the other side of town. He held the living for 32 years until his death in 1870. He was the longest serving incumbent of St James’ and the only one to die in office. He has a memorial plaque, with Latin inscription, in the sanctuary. .
Memorial tablets were taken from the old church and repositioned. The most distinguished is the Nicholas tablet in the north wall, of veined white marble flanked by Ionic pillars. The Nicholas family of Roundway has a memorial window at the east end, north side, this was restored in 1990. Indeed the parish of Roundway has played a significant role in the history of St James’. The Colston family of Roundway House are commemorated in memorials carved in relief on the north wall of the sanctuary - a deathbed scene. The Colston family is remembered too in the fine window at the east end of the north wall and in the two prayer seats at the west end of the church. Colston was the family name of the 1st and 2nd Barons Roundway.
Left is the view to the new (2009) childrens' playground and across the Crammer Pond is St James Church.
The churchyard was enlarged in about.1844 and closed for burials in 1876. The registers dating from 1572, other than those in current use, are held in the Wiltshire and Swindon Record Office.
In 1878 Le Marchant Barracks on the London Road was completed and St. James’ became the garrison church of the Wiltshire Regiment. The recruits were accommodated in the side-galleries that ran north and south. An association with the regiment continued actively until the amalgamation of the Wiltshires with The Royal Berkshire Regiment in 1959 and the closing down of the Depot. The army days are remembered at the south east of the church, with the Wiltshire Regiment’s laid-up Colours, its shrine and its memorial windows to the Zululand campaign of 1879 and the 1914 - 18 war.
In 2008 the interior of the Church was refurbished thanks to a major fund raising appeal. Left is a photo on an open day in 2008 during the refurbishment. The old pews were removed and modern seats were placed in a semi-circle, a kitchen and servery were installed and the old organ was removed creating a larger balcony area and allowing greater access to the Church’s heritage.
A more detailed Church history is available on the St. James Church website. St. James History