About this church
Travellers through Bermondsey all know St James as a landmark.
In 1724 at the Bishop's Visitation, it was recorded 'in Bermondsey there are 9,000 people. The only houses were along Bermondsey Wall, predominantly wealthy merchants magnificent houses. However, by 1710 there were enough poor people living here for it to be necessary to provide a workhouse for 50 people.
In the 18th century ropemakers settled here and in Bevington Street, Farncombe Street and New Church Street (later called Llewelyn Street) ropewalks were established and houses sprang up. As late as 1870/80 there was a local farm.
After Waterloo in 1818 an Act of Parliament was passed to raise a million pounds as a national thank offering for peace, and as a memorial to the soldiers who had fallen. South London secured seven of the Waterloo Churches and, through the persistence of a group of Bermondsey churchmen, the needs of our area were pressed. In 1821 they bought the land which forms our churchyard and secured a generous grant from the Commissioners of the Fund.
James Savage, the architect, modelled the church on that of Greek Temples with galleries round three sides and the organ in the west. Sir John Betjeman declared that St James is the finest church built by the Waterloo Churches Commissioners.
The lectern and pulpit were built very high to keep the minister in touch with the galleries. A glorious peal of 10 bells was cast by the famous foundry of Mears of Whitechapel, from cannon left behind by Napoleon at Waterloo.