~ Gallery - Churches and Chapels ~
St. James the Great
Church Street, Lower Gornal.
Ben Boucher [1769-1851], The Dudley Poet (who's statue now graces Dudley High Street) - written on the pulling down of the old St. Thomas's Parish Church (Top Church, Dudley) c1815:—

The seats and the windows, ah, and the clock too,
Were sent on to Gornal, to their Gornal crew;
For the sand men and asses, for to go to church,
And the people of Dudley were left in the lurch.

Founded by Reverend Theodosius Theodosius, building work started in 1815.
The church was completed and consecrated in 1823.
The church was further enlarged in 1837.
St. James's was entirely refitted in 1849, when stained glass windows and chancel were added.
1843: A report by Rev. William Lewis, Vicar of Sedgley (House of Lords - Reports from Commissioners).
The chapel at Lower Gornal was consecrated in 1823; it holds 800. It is endowed with 104/- in the funds, seat rents 24/-, seven acres of land given by the late Earl of Dudley, worth about 21/- per annum, and a house.
In November 1856 a new church organ was installed, built by Bishops in London, at the cost of 200 guineas.
On Sunday 2nd September, 1883 a strong gale was responsible for large pieces of plaster being dislodged from the tower and falling into the gallery, causing great concern to the congregation who were at service at the time.
From Kelly's 1896 directory.....
"The church of St. James, Lower Gornal, is a plain building of stone, in the Early English style, consisting of chancel, nave, aisles, north porch and a tower containing one bell: there are 700 sittings, 500 being free. The register dates from the year 1823. The living is a vicarage, gross yearly value £300, net £280, with 9 acres of plebe and residence, in the gift of the Bishop of Lichfield, and held since 1897 by the Rev. Arthur William Tudball B.A. of Emmanuel College, Cambridge."
More restoration and a new Chancel was added in 1888.
1888: The Mercury, 7 September.
RESTORATION OF ST. JAMES'S CHURCH LOWER GORNAL
--For some years St. James's Church, Lower Gornal, Sedgley, has been in a dirty and dilapidated state, and upon the present vicar (the Rev. C. E. McCreery (formerly of St. Mary's Church, Lichfield), being appointed to the living, it was decided to make special efforts to obtain funds to defray the cost of painting and cleansing the church, and of erecting a chancel. The Countess of Dudley was consulted upon the matter, and her ladyship intimated her willingness to contribute £100. The Restoration Committee afterwards succeeded in obtaining funds amounting altogether to about £500, and decided that the scheme of restoration should comprise the building of a new chancel, vestry and organ chamber, and also reseating for the church throughout. The chancel will be about 20ft. wide by 30ft. long, and be elevated much above the church floor. It will also be built of stone which has been kindly presented by the Earl of Dudley, and the interior will be fenced with red stone from the Straits quarry, which will also be used for the chancel arch, the windows, and dressings. The floor will be laid with a handsome tile pavement and the windows glazed with cathedral-tinted glass. The whole estimated cost of the proposed improvements are estimated to cost £1,000 and as difficulty is experienced in getting the required funds, it has been decided to defer the renovation of the church for a time. The plans of Mr T.H. Flemming, church architect, Wolverhampton were adopted; and the tender of Messrs Holland, of Dudley, to execute the work was accepted. The Countess of Dudley consented to lay the foundation stone of the chancel which event took place on Monday. Fortunately the weather was fine, the result being that the that the village was crowded with visitors, there being in the vicinity of the church several thousand.
A modern view of St James's showing shortened bell tower.
Compare with earlier picture below.
Photo CDM 2017
Old Postcard published by J.W.Thomas c1905
CDM Collection
This is an old postcard view of St. James's looking from the south-west around 1905, the churchyard was overgrown and looking rather neglected compared to nowadays.
Note that the spire was still intact in this picture.
This Edwardian postcard was published by Joseph William Thomas, who was sub-Postmaster at Lower Gornal Post Office which was located in his shop in Ruiton Street at that time, the picture postcard was no.3 in the series of local views, no.2 in the series was another view of the Church looking from the North, two other known views (no.4) shows the Vicarage in Church Street and another (No.1) of the Five Ways (Ruiton Street) and Methodist Church.
The single bell weighed 12.5 cwt, it was manufacturered by the John Taylor Bellfoundry, at Loughborough.
In 1930, the tower was rebuilt, with part of the middle section removed, reducing the overall height.
1925. Dudley Chronical, 18 June.
CHURCHYARD TRESPASSERS. - In the June issue of the Lower Gornal Parish Magazine, the Vicar (the Rev. F.W. Job) complains of trespassers in the churchyard. There is no desire on the part of the Parochial Church Council, he says, to forbid the entrance into the churchyard of any whose love for the departed draws them to visit their graves, but the churchyard cannot be made a public resort in the ordinary sense nor a playground. Anyone from this time going into the churchyard through Summer Lane will be prosecuted.
1909.
The Wycliffe Preachers are visiting Lower Gornal, where there have been complaints of Ritualistic practices at St. James's Church.
Early Vicars of St. James.
Rev. Theodosius Theodosius, 1815 - 1848
Rev. James Yates Rooker, 1848-1887
Rev. Charles Edward McCreery, 1887-1891
Rev. Arthur William Tudball, 1891-1897 (died 1932 Essex)
Rev. Frederick Job, 1897-1928
Rev. G. R. Cook, 1928-1931
Rev. Harold Shallcross, 1931-1942
Rev. Robert Newell Timms, 1942-1946
The tomb of James Yates Rooker and other family members in the graveyard, vicar of Lower Gornal for 39 years who died in 1887.
Rev. Rooker was infamously shot and maimed by his once friend Charles Hartland on Friday 8th August 1879.
See: The Attempted Murder of the Vicar of Lower Gornal
The family tomb of James Yates Rooker.
Photo CDM 2017
Part of the inscription reads....
TILL HE COME
REST IN THIS VAULT ALL THAT MORTAL OF THE
REVD JAMES YATES ROOKER BA JP
BORN FEBY 29TH 1812
FOR THIRTY NINE YEARS VICAR OF THIS PARISH
HE WAS ALSO JP OF THE COUNTY OF STAFFORD
DURING THE LAST TWENTY FIVE YEARS OF HIS LIFE
HE ENTERED HIS ETERNAL HOME MARCH 15 1887
Two more postcard views of the Church
St James c1905 [John Price postcard]. A William Davies picture postcard c1925.
Images courtesy of Mr Ian Beach, sedgleymanor.com
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