St James Church – History

Construction began on St James Church in February 1866 with an article appearing in the Derby Mercury 14th February. On 6th June 1866 the Derby Mercury reported, that the Hamlet of Litchurch had expanded due to the population increase. Because of this the Church Commissioners had decided, back in December 1865, to create St James under Reverend Alfred Oliver.

The Church was built from donations from 271 people. The Duke of Devonshire and Sir Oswald Mosley-Bart gave £50 each. The land which the Church sits on had been donated by Mr Douglas Fox esquire. A further £600 was raised from art exhibitions.

Joseph Peacock was the architect, and William Huddleston, from Lincoln, was the main contractor. Around 1820 George Jackson married a Catherine Huddleston (both from Lincoln) and it is believed, but not proven, that Catherine was Williams Auntie. George Jackson is the 4th Great Grandfather of Garry the Director of Alter Rock.

The Arch Deacon laid the corner stone on 18th June 1866. Below the corner stone a bottle containing a parchment and coins is buried in the cavity. The Church walls are made from Cosbench and Eaton stone with the nave columns made from Blue Beckington Stone.

The Church was consecrated 27th December 1866. A tower, spire and north isle were to be added later. The north Isle was added in 1875 to original design. The tower and spire were never added.

Around 1992 when Pride Park was under development, money was given to St James to change the now redundant and deconsecrated Church into a community centre. Work began, but English Heritage suddenly made it a Grade 2 listed building. Derby Listed Buildings Committee would not allow the alterations to take place. Therefore the Vicarage and Church Hall were demolished, and the present St James Community Centre and car park built in their places. Over the past 15 years, whilst St James Church has stood empty, its artefacts have gone missing and the leaded windows had to be removed because of vandalism. The removal of the windows created damage to the stone mullions. The climbing centre was the last option for the derelict Church before an application was to be submitted for its demolition. Over the years every attempt had been made to find a community based project but nothing could cover the cost of repairs and continuous maintenance. Property developers who were prepared to pay over the market value for the church but were turned away.

Derby Climbing Centre (Alter Rock)

In May 2007 an application went into the Planning Department for change of use from D1 (Church) to D2 (Leisure) this was granted in July. Then an application was submitted to Listed Buildings, who granted permission in December. The alterations has seen 132 holes being drilled into the Church walls covering an area of 0.027 sqm which is less than half the size of an A4 sheet of paper. This is the only damage this project has caused to St James Church.

The Church Committee and local residents are pleased that St James is getting a new lease of life.