St James’ ChurchPoole
Church Street
Dorset BH15 1LP
 

 

St James’ church in the historic Old Quay quarter of Poole is a hidden gem.

From the outside you might think this is just another old stone church, nothing remarkable here. Go inside and you will be astonished by the colour and elegance of its Georgian interior.

Ever since 1142 there has been a church here serving the local fishing community. It probably started life as a wooden one but was substantially rebuilt in stone during the 16th century to cater for the ever increasing population.

Georgian Architecture
In 1819 it was deemed structurally unsafe and demolished and rebuilt in 1821. It is a superb example of Georgian Architecture. Built in Purbeck stone with an upper gallery, the roof is supported by magnificent slender columns of timber. These pillars are made from giant Newfoundland fir trees which were transported to Poole aboard sailing ships.
 
Borough of Poole Shield
Colourful shields and flags adorn the gallery. One shield carries the coat of arms of the Borough of Poole. A close inspection of the shield shows the heraldic devices of three scallop shells and a dolphin.
 
The scallop shells are the emblem of St James and are associated with his shrine at Santiago de Compostela in north-west Spain – a popular destination for Christian pilgrims departing from Poole Harbour in the late 1300s.
 
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Mahogany Reredos
Facing the visitor as they enter the church is a magnificent mahogany screen behind the altar. This reredos was a gift from a wealthy merchant in 1736. The panels contain the texts of the Lord's Prayer, the Ten Commandments and the Creed. St James’ is the only church outside of two Sir Christopher Wren churches in London to have such panels.
 
Around the church walls are a number of fine 14th century memorials.
 
About the Flags
The flags have been presented to the church for very special reasons:
 
• The Union Jack displayed was the first flag to be flown over Paris when it was freed from the Germans after the Second World War;
• The Stars and Stripes was presented by the United States Navy who were stationed in Poole during the Second World War;
• The Royal British Legion Flag was presented at the time of the Second World War;
• The National Fire Service flag also dates from the Second World War;
• The Royal National Lifeboat Institution flag was presented as they have their Headquarters in Poole; and
• The Newfoundland & Labrador flag recalls the centuries old close links Poole has had with Canada.
 
The Bells
St James’ has always had a fine peal of bells and you may be lucky enough to hear them rung. There are ten bells but in the 16th century, the Duke of Somerset (leader of King Edward V1's Regency Council) sold 8 of the bells to raise funds for fortifying the town of Poole. Unfortunately they sank without trace before reaching their destination in Holland.
 
The Weathervane
Finally, when leaving the church, look up at the weather vane on the tower – it is a fish, symbolising the church’s connection with the fishing trade and its place as ‘the fishermen’s church’.
 
Plan Your Visit 
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Open
All Year
 
Facilities
Tea and coffee is available.
 
Services
Sunday Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. All are welcome.
Check Church website for times.
 
Contact & Further Information
Website   St James Church Poole     External Link
 

Google Map - St James' Church