History of St James’ Church

St James’ has a long and interesting part to play in the history of Portsmouth. Find out more about the site below.

Parish Records

The parish maintains all registers that are currently being used. If you wish to examine Baptism records, Marriage Registers or Burial Registers earlier than the dates below then you will need to contact the Portsmouth History Centre

Baptism – 2004

Marriage – 1999

Burial – 1845-1936

(graveyard closed)

History of the buildings

The first St James Church building (now demolished) was consecrated on Sunday 3 October 1841 and at that time was a chapelry district of St Mary’s , Portsea. The independent parish of Milton was created by an Order in Council on 8 November 1844. The parish boundaries then stretched from Southsea Castle in the west to Wymering in the north. The vast building that ensued in Portsmouth over the coming decades meant that further parishes were created leaving St James the church for the areas known as Milton and Eastney. A parish in area now half the size of its original creation.

The initial parish had 1,173 inhabitants whereas current estimates are of 26,000.


By the start of the 1900’s it became apparent that the original building which fronted onto Milton Road and had a capacity of 200 (approximately) was no longer large enough to accommodate everyone and a resolution was required to ‘relieve constant overcrowding of the church’.

A new building

So in 1911 an appeal was launched for the building of a new church, the Bernard Wilson Memorial Church (St James Church, Milton). The new building cost £13,769 and was consecrated with great ceremony on 25 July 1913 by the Bishop of Winchester (Portsmouth then being part of the diocese of Winchester).

The original church was then demolished and all that remains is part of the south wall which acts as the wall between the Vicarage and the churchyard.

Reduction of parish size

The parish was reduced in size by the creation of the parishes of St Bartholmew, Southsea; St Margaret’s, Southsea; and St Cuthbert’s, Copnor. There were additional churches within the parish which have been closed and these were St Patrick’s, Eastfield Road; St Cross Mission of Eastney Road and St Andrew’s, Henderson Road, which was also the Royal Marines Garrison Church where a centre for civilian worship was created in its Church Hall.

The Great War Roll of Honour and Sacrifice

The Great War Roll of Honour and Sacrifice for Milton is kept in the church records and records the names of those who served and of those who did not return from the parish. The names were submitted by local residents at the time.

Additions to the church

After the completion of the church there have been various additions and alterations to its fabric. On 17 December 1920 the new organ built by J Walker and Sons was dedicated (and still gives excellent service today). A new pulpit, designed by Sir Charles Nicholson, was introduced in 1932.

Stained Glass

Lacking the basic ingredient of colour, the church sought an infusion of mystic grandeur. In January 1934 a fund was launched to replace the plain glass of the window above the high altar with some striking new stained glass. As a thank offering for the privilege of worship in this church for 21 years since its consecration a window designed by Sir Ninian Comper, the Jesse Tree window. Part of the design was the carved and gilded wooden oval encompassing a beardless Risen Christ which hangs on the wall beneath the window.

Major alteration

Major alteration to the church building took place in 1978 when the back third of the church was separated and two halls were created at a cost of £60,000. These halls replaced the separate buildings that stood at the north-west corner of the churchyard where the flats known as Anvil Court stand.

‘The Creation’

In 2002 twelve clear glass panes, engraved with scenes entitled ‘The Creation’ were placed above the screen of the St Cross Chapel and were crafted by Tony Gilliam of Ropley.

A gift to the church

As a gift to the church to mark the centenary of the building, a nave altar, lectern, presidential chair and altar crafted in oak were introduced following fundraising at the time of the Centenary. The work was completed by Penny’s Mill Design of Great Bedwyn.

‘The First 100 Years’

The church has recently published a book of history of the building ‘The First 100 Years’ written by Peter Hart, a member of the congregation and is available priced £12.

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