St James

A fine example of a Georgian church, which has been sympathetically modernised.

About this church

The church was built 1752-1753 to a design by Carlisle Spedding, Lord Lowther’s Colliery Agent (who later died from burns in a mine accident).

The altar picture was one of a set of 13 by Procaccini, and depicts The Transfiguration. The set were originally delivered to a Spanish family, and were stolen by Napoleonic troops. The stucco ceiling roundels were original, but were given the present colour scheme in thorough cleaning in 1970.

The pulpit was originally 3 decker and stood where the altar is now, reaching balcony height. One deck was removed in 1865, and it was moved to its current location in 1886, then lowered in 1979. The other deck and the rest of the staircase are on the south gallery. The original galleries remain, which contain examples of the original box pews. 

The font of Florentine marble dates from 1650 and was presented to the church in 1876.

The Memorial Chapel was created as the Parish War Memorial in 1921 but is now also a memorial to the 1947 William Pit Disaster, and the glass above the altar is a memorial to the 9/11 terrorist acts in New York.

The High Altar is a symbol of the unification of the 4 former Parishes of Central Whitehaven having previously been in the other 3 churches. The previous ornate 1872 St James Altar is on the south gallery, the original altar vanished after 1872.

Our first, 1818, organ was in the west gallery. The current Fr Willis/Norman & Beard organ was installed in 1909. Until 1978 we had but a single bell this was recast in 1978 when another seven bells were installed from the redundant St Alkmund’s Church, Derby, with a further two added in 1998 to complete our fine peal of twelve bells.

Our fine collection of stained glass includes examples by William Wailes, Abbot’s and Shrigley & Hunt (see the information cards on each windowsill) and don’t miss our fine Millennium window at the back on the left hand side of church. As you leave don’t miss the main glass entrance doors which are full of Sri Lankan symbolism in memory of a former priest of this parish from that country.

Key Features

  • Captivating architecture
  • Spectacular stained glass
  • Magnificent memorials
  • Glorious furnishings
  • Enchanting atmosphere
  • Fascinating churchyard

Visitors information

  • Bus stop within 100m
  • Level access to the main areas
  • On street parking at church
  • Parking within 250m
  • Accessible toilets nearby
  • Dog friendly
  • Walkers & cyclists welcome
  • Space to secure your bike

Other nearby churches

St Nicholas

Known affectionately as 'The Old Church' St Nicholas was built in 1693, the first place of worship what was then the fishing village of St Bees.

St Bees Priory

The church was founded in 1120, is one of the architectural jewels in Cumbria and well worth a visit.

St Mary

Located within the Lake District National Park, first stop on the popular Coast to Coast walk, St Mary’s is beside the River Ehen, close to the two pubs and a tearoom and shop; the old churchyard has associations with William Wordsworth.

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