St James’ Parish Church

The Parish Church of Saint James, Little Clacton

This lovely old church is an almost completely unspoilt example of early Norman architecture. The Chancel was built in the early 1100s and the Nave lengthened and probably rebuilt in the early 15th century. In the early 14th century the first recorded priest was John Russell in 1321.

You enter the church through the ancient porch, which is probably 14th century, one source says 1381. During the last decade it has had it’s lean stabilized by lifting the roof and fitting new oak beams. The originals could have been rescued from ships or cut from oak woods then surrounding the village. In the millennium year the present decorative metal out porch and side bars were finally put in place. The decorated Norman Font is of Purbeck marble and dated around 1190. A new stand was made in 1954. There is a legend that it was rescued long ago from someone’s garden.

In the 1930s a minstrel’s gallery was demolished to make way for a huge organ, now replaced by the present two-manual Walker one.

The tower has three bells, the oldest dates from 1437 cast by one Robert Crouch. Only thirteen of these exist and only one in Essex. On it is inscribed ” St. Margaret pray for us”. The bells are rung on a regular basis. Beside the altar is an unusual ancient double piscina.

The original and probably mediaeval pews were taken out and replaced in 1847 with high pine pews, for a century a haven for bored children. They were replaced in 1963 by the present limed oak pews, still with doors. The pulpit, choir stalls and altar rail date from the same period.

The oldest window is a narrow Norman window to the North of the altar and then the 14th century West window. The magnificent glass in the 14th century East window was put in as a memorial in 1945.

The new Parish Room was completed in 1993 after years of strenuous fund raising and is now an essential part of church and community life. Inside the church are memorials to the dead of two world wars; many of the names can be traced far back in village history. High above them hangs the Royal Coat of Arms. An award winning altar kneeler was designed and made by ladies of the congregation for a millennium project and also a new altar frontal.

The churchyard has some interesting tombs and besides having a number of ancient yews it was replanted with some forty forest trees by volunteers from the congregation. The latest tiny yew, which was planted at the millennium, was a cutting from a 2000 year old tree.The ancient bells have been cleaned and renovated and from 2006 the Victorian cement which encased the outside walls of the church has been progressively removed. On the South side this revealed a lovely honey coloured septaria stone, one of very few in Essex. This has now been painstakingly repaired and pointed.

The North side we were told to render with a permeable lime plaster but there was a surprise when the cement was taken off the chancel wall. Part of the wall was revealed as Tudor brickwork instead of stone and behind it we found traces of a mysterious wide Norman archway. Its purpose is unknown.

Putting in the new vestry window caused a cascade of rubble among which was a 12th century priest’s tomb lid. This is now displayed in the church.

Another find was a tiny mediaeval scratch dial. The next, and most delicate stage, is to repair the inside of the church, when we can find the money. St. James remains a very active parish church playing a part in village life.

For details of anything appertaining to St James Church please contact :-. 01255 860241