Who was St. James?
The ‘James’ that the church in Rowledge was named after was a First Century fisherman (this is why you will see the scallop shell image around the church building). James’ encounter with Jesus is first mentioned in the Bible in Mark’s Gospel 1: 19-20. Along with his brother, he was one of the first people to become a follower of Jesus Christ and as he left his fishing nets and chose to journey with Jesus, his life was utterly transformed.
History of the Parish and its Church Building
The Revd. Henry Julius, Vicar of Wrecclesham, wanted to see people’s lives transformed in the same way that James’ had been. In 1869 Julius suggested that it would bring stability to the newly formed village of Rowledge if the community had its own church and vicar. The Bishop agreed and a new parish was formed. The church and original vicarage were built in 1869/70 and the church was consecrated by the Bishop of Winchester, Dr Samuel Wilberforce, in January 1871. Rowledge CofE School was built in 1872.
The church was built in the Gothic style with an impressive “hammer beam” roof. An organ was installed in 1883 and was hand pumped until 1937 when an electric blower was added. The single bell in the bell tower was installed in 1951 and is inscribed “Good people all, come when I call”.
The Octagon meeting room was added in 1985, the roof being kept low so as not to obstruct the light passing through the beautiful stained glass windows behind the altar. In 1995 a further extension was added behind the Octagon, together with a kitchen, thereby creating the Church Centre. This enabled extra space for Sunday School, larger meetings and also a weekday nursery school. In 2015 a covered outside play area was completed to enable the nursery school children to enjoy outside play all year round.
Inside the church to the left of the entrance is a charming picturesque record of “Milestones on the Way of St James”. It is a summary of the church’s history and was made for an exhibition in Guildford Cathedral in 1971 where it won first prize. The font is made in the simple Norman style and the pulpit was a 1930’s addition incorporating 3 panels from a much older pulpit said to have been used by John Wesley.
The Communion table was a gift from Mrs Bird, wife of a former vicar, in 1933. It was made by William Parratt of local oak; he also made the choir stalls but this time from imported Austrian oak which was softer and easier to carve. The altar rails date from 1690 but they are not the oldest part of the church.
The chair on the north side of the altar is probably older still. The stained glass windows behind the altar were given in 1894 by the Rev and Mrs Arthur Parker. The theme is resurrection and each window tells a biblical story.