About St James'
Saint James' Church, Stanstead Abbotts, stands on the edge of a ridge overlooking the rivers Lea and Stort and forms part of an ancient landscape known to travellers for over a thousand years...
Saint James' Church, once the parish church of Stanstead Abbotts until the building and consecration of the newer church of Saint Andrews' in 1881, has its origins in the twelfth century and possibly as far back as the Saxon period.
The church, and its neighbouring "bury", or great house, highlight a relationship typical in the mediaeval period where the manor and the church were closely linked.
The somewhat isolated location of the church today reveals that the village at Stanstead Abbotts has migrated since mediaeval times. It is likely the original location of church and village were around the valley sides and on higher ground due to extensive flooding in the Lea and Stort valleys, which reduced significantly with river works in the 18th century.
Role as church
When the church of Saint Andrew was consecrated, the role of St James' as parish church ceased in 1882. It then became a chapel of ease until 1975 when it was declared pastorally redundant and passed from parochial into diocesan hands.
In 1977 it was taken over by the Redundant Churches Fund (now the Churches Conservation Trust) which subsequently embarked upon a major conservation programme.
While there is no longer any regular pattern to the services which are held at Saint James', it is not unusual for a Rogation Sunday service to be held in the spring, for a harvest thanksgiving service to be held in early autumn and for the Patronal Festival to be held in July. An advent carol service is usually held in the late afternoon when the church is lit by candles. Christenings, burials and funerals are occasionally conducted,
Musical and other events
Although the church no longer holds weekly services, it is important to remember that it has not become a museum. Being consecrated, use of the surrounding graveyard ensures the church's continued relevance to the village community.
But Saint James' is concerned to remain relevant not just to the village but to the wider community in surrounding towns and villages. With this in mind, the church aims to offer a range of events to ensure that it remains a central part of the community and to raise money for the essential maintenance and upkeep of this wonderful building.
These events may include poetry readings, historic presentations and talks, art exhibitions and events aimed at children.