The History of St James’s Audlem
St James Church, Audlem is set on a hill overlooking the centre of the village. The site is thought to have been a Celtic burial ground, and there may also have been a Saxon church here. This would have been a simple structure primarily built of wood.
The present church was, founded by Thomas de Aldelime in the middle of the 13th century in the reign of Edward 1st, under the jurisdiction of St. Thomas’s Priory, Stafford.
At the dissolution of the monasteries in the 16th century, it passed into private custodianship (or patronage). In 1896 Lord Combermere was patron and his right to select a vicar, was purchased from him by the then Vicar, Canon Atkinson, who then gave it to the Bishop of Chester.
The numerous memorials erected over the centuries by various local landowners and gentry in memory of family members, perhaps indicates why the church is so richly furnished. Likewise most of the windows were donated as a form of memorial. The different styles of window indicate quality, period made, fashion at the time and the benefactors’ likes. The choice of subject is also fascinating, revealing personal links to the deceased person and theological enthusiasm of the donor. The window recognised as the finest is by Charles Kempe, whose “trademark” was a wheat sheaf; whilst a window at the rear of the church is by one of Kempe’s students, James Hall and includes the letters of the name AUDLEM.
Brief History of Architectural Changes
1360-1400 A chancel was added to the simple nave, the lower walls date from this period.
1500-1540 A period of great change. The north aisle was moved and the lofty clerestory windows erected with its panelled Tudor ceiling. Note hundreds of small white marks on the chancel walls where soldiers sharpened arrows on the stone before it was used in the building.
1590 The porch was altered, with a panelled ceiling added. On the stone seats of the original porch, are grooves where spears and swords were sharpened. Note the Green Man to the left of the church door, a common folk remnant of our pre-Christian past.
1609 The Jacobean pulpit, which is still in use, was added.
1895 Major restoration took place. Sixteen coats of whitewash and plaster were removed from the walls revealing, an old fresco and a niche. The box pews were removed, with some carvings retained in the chancel furniture.
1960-1975 The nave roof was restored after the ravages of the death-watch beetles. The nave aisle floor was repaired after the collapse of coffins below.
1983-1990 Urgent restoration costing almost £200,000 was put in hand – it included renewing all roof timbers and re-leading the whole roof, with the exception of the nave.
1991-1994 The Lady Chapel was restored, Pews were removed from the north aisle, a new floor was laid and the organ was relocated; a new nave floor was laid. The chancel floor was extended, communion rails were added and a moveable nave altar was introduced.
2000-2009 A kitchen & toilet under the tower, and a new screen to Lady Chapel and West Door Porch were all added. The building continues to be developed to meet the needs of the worshipping community. It seeks to hold together continuity and development, which is the nature of our Christian faith.