A History of St. James' Church
There has been a church in Alveston for over a thousand years; the boundary of the parish was set in the year 983AD.
The Saxon community of the overlord 'Aenwulf' was situated close to the river where there was a ford across the Avon, the chancel of the Old Church still remains down Mill Lane and is surrounded by old graves. It is still used on Thursday mornings from Easter until the end of British Summer Time.
In 1837 a new young Queen came to the throne inaugurating a new era, the well to do residents of the ‘Alveston Villas’ looked at their little old Church and decided they needed something more fitting in which to worship. They consulted Leamington architect William Walker who felt that a new Church on a new site would be best. Land was obtained and a simple Church with Tower and apsaidal East End was designed and built. On 16th May, 1839, the Lord Bishop of Worcester came to consecrate the new Church. In 1876 new Vicar, William Barnard, added the chancel, Lady Chapel and Vestry to the East End, no doubt to accommodate a ‘robed’ choir, as was then the fashion. This work, the East window and some of the other stained glass, were all designed by local stained glass artist turned Architect, Frederick Preedy. Barnards’ successor, Peter Llewellyn, added further to the Church in the early years of the 20th Century with the impressive Choir Screen with Crucifix and Rood figures of Mary and John the Divine, and the elaborately stencilled paintwork of the chancel roof which used also to cover the walls of the chancel.
Later in the 20th Century, as the result of a bequest, modern facilities were provided in the base of the tower, a new main entrance created at the west end of the south aisle, and a useful upstairs meeting room and ground floor narthex installed. These changes have enabled us to accommodate much of our children’s’ work.
The village was a largely rural, agricultural settlement, the river valley land being very fertile, and the only large house was Alveston House on the site of the original Saxon Lord’s ‘Hall’. It wasn’t until the early years of the 19th Century that the larger houses began to appear in the village. Baraset was the first, just at the end of the 18th Century, the land was a gift from the Crown to William Judd Harding, who had been a Judge working for the East India Company, in gratitude for the work he had done establishing British justice in India. The others followed, ‘Alveston Leys’; ‘Avonmore House’, now known as ‘Kissing Tree House’; ‘Hemingford House’, now the youth hostel; and others along the road towards Tiddington, ‘The Red House’, which was built by Barnard to be his Vicarage; ‘Avoncliffe’; ‘Tiddington House’; and in Tiddington itself ‘Avonhurst’.
The Old Church in Alveston, Mill Lane (below):