A Brief History of St. James' Church

St James’ Church Lathom was consecrated by the Bishop of Chester (Rev. John Graham) on 19th August 1851. It was, and still is, the only church in Lathom.

The funds for the church were provided by local landowners. Land for the church was given by Lord Skelmersdale. This family lived at Lathom House and became the Earls of Lathom. The Earl of Derby paid for the church building, its furniture and fittings whilst Edward Stanley Esq, of Cross Hall, who owned the local quarry in Ruff Wood, provided the sandstone for the church.

Sydney Smirke, a renowned and famous architect, was chosen to design the church. He was instructed that the building should have a steeple and a side aisle and the windows were to be in the early 14th century style.

The exterior of the church in 1851 looked much the same as today except that the vestry was much smaller and was accessed from the chancel.

Two other interesting external features are the wrought iron Victorian gentleman’s toilet on the north side of the church and the lych gate built in the 1890’s. This is now a listed building as the coffin rest is very rare.

The church was lit by oil lamps either suspended on chains from the roof or on fixed wall brackets. Originally heating was provided by coal and coke fires, possibly in the form of stoves. Later central heating was provided by an external solid fuel boiler and recently (2011) an Air Source Heat Pump system which provides warm air flow has been installed.

At the request of Lord Derby, the first curate-in-charge was the Rev. E. C. L. Blenkinsop. He was the chaplain of the workhouse in Ormskirk and had founded two schools in this area. In 1860 the new parish was created and the Rev. John Atherton Kershaw became the first vicar.

In 1868 a wonderful pipe organ, built by Robert Postill of York, was erected at the west end of the nave. It had manually operated bellows but in 1966 it was converted to electricity. This replaced the small organ in the chancel.

In 1886 payments were made for a holy table, a reredos and a stained glass window. Towards the end of the 19th century a further stained glass memorial window was placed in the north side of the nave.

In 1895 the church was restored throughout and we are told it “now affords 420 sittings of which 210 are free”. In 1903 the oak lectern was given by the parishioners as a memorial to the first vicar.

The aftermath of World War One brought great changes. The beautiful east window is a war memorial as is the oak panelling in the chancel.

1939 saw the demolition of the old vestry and the building of a new one in memory of the Rev. E. D. Jordan. At the same time new choir stalls and a clergy chair were installed in the chancel.

After World War Two, additions were made to the war memorials.

The church was completely re-roofed in 1986, re-wired in 1989, re-decorated in 1991 and totally re-ordered in 1997 when the choir stalls and some pews at the back of the church were removed to make space for the fellowship area.  The organ was also removed and replaced by an electronic organ placed in the chancel.  The choir pews were also moved to the chancel.