Try me, O God, and know my heart. Look well if there be any way of wickedness in me, and lead me in the way of peace. (Psalm 139: 23, 24)

Happy is the man who finds wisdom. She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her. (Proverbs 3.13, 15)

Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. (Hebrews 12. 1-2)

Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4.32)


This is my resting place forever; Here I will dwell, for I have desired it; I will abundantly bless her provision; I will satisfy her poor with bread. I will also clothe her priests with salvation, and her saints shall shout for joy.”                                               

Psalm 132:13-16

St. James Church can claim these words of the Psalmist for herself. Ever since it was consecrated in 1884, its presence as a parish church has stood the test of time. Being high Anglo Catholic in tradition, all who have found this place of worship for themselves and their families have never experienced the desire to move because of the warmth this church generates. Both clergy and laypersons over the years have played great roles to ensure it remains this way. As I pen these words, I can go back at least three generations to testify to this truth in our family. Being a young person who was offered to the diocese as a prospective ordinand from this very parish only males it extra special for me to come back as it’s Vicar with the passage of time. Even my wife, Deepa, shares her roots in this parish and this makes the parish and it’s concern very special to us. We’re comforted to be are surrounded by people who share the same love and zest for the church. We’d love to see this parish church grow and flourish providing its people succor for their lives in God. The challenges are in plentitude but I’m confident that as a parish we can be over comers standing on the promises on God. On the occasion of this Patronal Festival there couldn’t have been an opportune time to revive this platform to serve the church and the community around it. May every member be marked by devotion, sacrifice and jubilation as we remember our Patron, Saint James!

With Love,

Revd. James Gomez 

Presbyter-in-Charge – St. James’ Church



Saturday 03-AUG-2019 SJC Patronal Festival Pensioners’ Lunch – 11:30 AM in the St. James’ Church Meeting Room.

The Beginnings of the Parish Church of “St. James”

It may interest readers to know that the present large and dignified church was built to replace an older one of the same name which was situated in Nebutolla Lane, near Amherst Street. This Church, built very much after the style and plan of “St. Thomas’” Church, Free School Street, appears to have got into a state of disrepair, due chiefly to white ants having eaten into the beams, and was declared unsafe for divine worship. An attempt was, however, made to repair the building, but while the work was in progress, the roof fell in with a crash during the early hours of the morning of the 23rd August, 1858, and the Church, laid a desolate pile of ruins. It was than decided to abandon any further attempts to repair the Church as it was found to be very much out of the way and in many ways inconvenient for those attending it. The Church authorities, therefore, resolved to build a new Church in a more convenient locality and with it to build a School for the children in the neighborhood.

Site of the New Church

The project for building the new Church and school had the full support and backing of Archdeacon Pratt, a keen educationist, who, with his influence, was able to acquire the garden house of Mr. Coates together with its spacious grounds for the purpose. At the same time, a smaller house in the grounds was also acquired for the residence of the Chaplain. This property was situated opposite the Female European Orphan Asylum, across the road, which had been founded during July 1815 by Mrs. Thompson, the wife of the Rev. T Thompson.

Foundation Stone

The foundation stones of the Church and School were laid on 7th June, 1862, by the Hon’ble John Peter Grant, acting Lt. Governor of Bengal. It is not known exactly where the chief corner stone of the Church lies, but if it was lad without Masonic Honors, which is probable, than it should be somewhere at the south-east corner of the foundations.

  A marble tablet placed on the eastern wall of the south transept reads –

  “The first stone of this Church dedicated to

  St. James, was laid June 7th, 1862.

  Consecrated by Bishop Cotton 25th July, 1864.

  The Revd. Dr. Jarbo, Chaplain”.

  It is not known if both the foundation stones of the Church and School, names after Archdeacon Pratt, were laid at the same time.


The Church was consecrated by Bishop Cotton on “St. James” day, 25th July 1864. Although no details are available of this eventful ceremony, one can well imagine the animated scene outside the building as conveyances of all descriptions clustered together in the open countryside and churchyard, long before the hour of service. Inside the Church, it can be presumed, without doubt, that the edifice was packed to capacity with many standing about wherever possible.

On the arrival of the Bishop with his Chaplain, at the western doorway, the Bishop must have been received by the Archdeacon, the Senior and Junior Chaplains of the Church and several of the principal gentlemen of the city, the members of the Building Committee and the members of the Vestry Committee.

As the bell struck the appointed  hour, the choir procession, which must have included a large number of a clergy of the diocese, moved slowly up the central aisle to their seats in the Chanel, the Bishop, preceded by his Chaplain, bearing the Pastoral staff, taking his place before the Altar.

The Petition of Consecration having been read aloud was duly signed and made over to the Registrar of the Diocese. Other formalities having been completed, the Bishop proceeded with the Act of Consecration of the Church with great solemnity.

It is not known whether the Bishop consecrated any portion of the Churchyard.

Architectural Features of St. James’ Church

The style of architecture adopted is early English Gothic in character with traces of Norman details and a few variations to suit the Indian climate. A unique feature of the construction is that the roofs of the Chancel and Sanctuary are if a lesser height than that of the nave. The general view of the building, outwardly, resembles a structure with a succession of pointed arches resting as if it were, on the floor.

The ground plan is in the shape of a Cross, the top of which is the “Sanctuary”; the arms being the “Transepts”, and the foot, being the “Nave”. This simple form, called the ‘Cruciform’, was introduced by early Norman builders and first brought to England about the year 1041 A.D. by Edward the Confessor, when it gave a great impulse to Church building in England, and gradually became much more elaborate in design.

The Norman builders later added to their east end-after a French style- a semi circular structure commonly known as the “Aspe”, but the 13th Century Churches in building of St. Paul’s Cathedral in Kolkata.


The outer walls of the Church are firmly supported on all sides by well-proportioned buttresses. At the west-end is a spacious Carriage Drive Porch with two pointed arches on the eastern and western sides. Above the Porch, but not directly over it, is an ornamented gabled frontage surmounted by a Cross and flanked on both sides with two double-tier turret towers (from whence comes the local name (“Jora Girja”) over which rise the lofty spires, each 128 feet high, which are also surmounted with large metal Crosses made of special wood.

The transepts, of equal height as the Nave, are also provided with similar Carriage-Drive Porches. The northern Porch has now been closed in without disturbing the Architectural Features and is now being used as the Church Office.

The edifice, which is one of the largest in the city, measures externally 244 feet from East to West and 194 feet North to South, exclusive of the porches and is 65 feet in height.

Clock & Bells

On the upper portion of the lower Southern tower is a double-dialed clock facing West and South, with its winding weights descending into the lower portion of the tower. The clock, has a black dial with gilded figures, used to chime the quarters and strike the hours but has been silent for over a decade due to breakage of some vital parts. It is hoped that enough funds will be raised through this effort to repair the chiming apparatus. On the tower above the clock is placed a peal of eight bells fitted on to a square frame and worked by Warner’s Chiming Apparatus. The chimes are melodious and delightful to the ear. Both the clock and the bells were paid for by public subscriptions and are over a hundred years old.

It may interest the reader to know that Church Bells were first used in places of worship around 604 A.D. when they were much smaller in size and probably not cast, but made of metal plates riveted together.


Entering the Church from the west-end which is not provided with a vestibule, one comes into full view of the large and lofty Nave, with its lengthy marbled aisle stretching to the great arches of the Cross. On both sides of the Nave are five pointed arches opening to the Ambulatories, situated on the outer sides. The pews, which run from north to south, are approached from the central aisle and each contains six large and roomy chairs. Above the Nave, as well as the Galleries and Transepts, are gabled roofs in stained teakwood supported on ornamented arches, the trusses being coupled and elaborately carved in the geometric decorative style. The roofs although massive in appearance, are handsome in structure. It may interest readers that no nails have been used in the teakwood beams only wooden plugs.

Fonts, Lectern and Pulpit

At the south-west end of the Nave is a white marble Font, 3’ 9” in height, raised on a white platform, superimposed by a red granite slab. The basin of the font, 36 inches in diameter, rests on a solid central column in grey marble, flanked by four similar minor columns. On the south-east side of the Nave stands a brass Lectern, in the form if an eagle with expanded wings, after the model of that in English Cathedral.

On the opposite side is a fine marble and stone Pulpit. The Pulpit, which is approached by three white marble steps, has five open mid-Gothic marble arches, interlaced with two smaller pointed arches, flanked by delicate little columns in red marble. Over the Pulpit, and surmounting it, is a six-sided wooden canopy.

Ambulatories and Galleries

The Ambulatories on either side of the Nave have groined roofs and tiled floors, the flooring being 12” lower than the floor level of the Nave. They each have large pointed arches fitted with wooden doors fro access and for the free admission of fresh air into the Church. The northern Ambulatory has in recent times been re-laid with a marble flooring and converted into aside chapel.

Above the Ambulatories and at the west-end of the Church are Galleries. Those on the north and south sides have each a series of five pointed arches to illuminate them. Each arch has a pair of tall lancet headed windows filled with various coloured glasses of an appropriate geometrical design and over each pair is circular plain glass ventilator. At the east-end of the north Gallery stand the Great and Swell Organs.

The Gallery at the west-end of the Church is ornamented with a large and beautiful window filled with brightly colored glasses and designed in the shape of a rose.

Below the window is place the Choir Organ fitted with a sounding board and the console as well as the choir stalls.

Transepts and Cross

The Transepts are each provided with two pointed arches fitted with wooden doors opening on to the north and south Carriage-Drive Porches. The eastern walls of each are fitted with two similar arches, the inner ones of which have open-work carved doors. The western walls have likewise arches, the inner ones opening on to the Ambulatories. In recent times the north-east arch has been bricked in.

Above the frieze of the Transepts are similar arches, two each of the east, north and south sides, with one only on the north-west and south-west walls. All these arches are fitted with tall, lancet headed windows, filled with colored glasses similar to those on the Galleries. On the north and south walls, surmounting the colored window, is a plain glass window in the shape of a rose.

In the north Transept was the original side Chapel with a beautiful carved wooden Altar, complete with Altar-Piece.

The Cross, which is a part of the Church where the Nave and the Transepts intersect, has an imposing groined roof elaborately decorated in light ochre colorings with four lofty arches confronting the Chancel, Nave and Transepts. Originally the Organ was placed under the north arch.

In recent times the Choir Stalls have been removed from the Chancel and placed under the north and south arches.

Chancel and Sanctuary

The Chancel, reduced in size from the original Chancel, is a very small one. It is approached by two white marble steps and is provided with only two seats for the Clergy, placed on the north and south side, below the great east Archway. There are no other appointments in the Chancel.

The Sanctuary, now remodeled, appears to be far too large for the use of the Parish Church. It is raised on a single white marble step from the Chancel, and has on its north and south sides, two open-work carved doors which lead to the Vestries.

The High Altar which is approached by three white marble steps, confronts the Aspe. At both ends of the lowest step stand two tall candle-lighted standards. The Altar, a beautiful piece of work, executed in white marble, is ornamented with an elaborately carved from panel depicting ‘The Last Supper’ which is flanked by two small panels in grey marble intersected with six slender columns in red and grey. On both sides of the Altar are two larger panels also in grey marble. The top of the altar is laid in one large piece of solid white marble from the center of which rises a high Tabernacle also of white marble. On both sided of the Tabernacle are three shelves in white marble rising one above the other. These are ornamented with colored front bases. The two topmost shelves are engraved in front with ‘Sheaves of Wheat’ and ‘Clusters of Grapes’.               

The Chancel and Sanctuary have a common groined roof in pale blue, ornamented with two large pointed arches on the north and south sides and one the eastern face. Each of these arches is interlaced with two smaller arches. Those on the north and south sides are illuminated with a central lancet headed window filled with various colored glasses similar to those in the Transepts. The Arch on the east has similar colored glass windows on the outer arches, and was originally ornamented with an oil painting in the central arch, which is now there and has probably been destroyed with age.

The Pipe Organ at St. James’ Church

The grand pipe organ which gives unique back-up music to all main worship services and programmes at St. James’ Church is a rare kind of musical instrument.

The organ needs no introduction to those who have heard it and have sung to its accompaniment. But there is more to it than meets the eye, or for that matter the ear also, as its history and its structure are not known to many. At first the organ was compact one, situated where the pipes can be seen at present, above the pulpit. When exactly it was installed no one can inform us. Round about the year 1920 the console (the box-like part where the organist sits and plays the organ) was moved downstairs, opposite to the stalls now used by the choir. In 1926, the console was taken to the back of the Church into the present organ-loft and an additional part of the Choir Organ – was built above the loft. The old pipes, however, were left in their original place, in the gallery above the pulpit.

A small ivory plaque on the console informs us that the organ was “Built by – WILLIAM HILL & SONS and NORMAN & BEARD & Co. 1926”. Actually this was the year it was re-built at the back of the Church. It was installed long before that probably the 1870’s, during the tenure of the First Chaplain, REVD. JARBO.

This organ has three keyboards or manuals called the Swell Organ, the Great Organ and the Choir Organ. Then there is the Pedal Organ, played with the feet, which produces the deep bass notes. There are altogether twenty-six sets of pipes, each set producing a different kind of sound. Some of pipes are metal ones and some are made of wood. They range from about four inches to sixteen feet. The total number of pipes is about 1500. It is the only pipe-organ in Kolkata which has three manuals and one of the few in India.

This organ depends on wind for its action, being of the pneumatic variety. The wind required is generated by a ‘blower’ attached to a 7.5 horse-power electric motor.

The Choir Organ is being presently repaired along with Bass Pedals. Repairs to the Swell Organ will be carried out later subject to funds.

Before it was rebuilt in 1926, there was a hand operated ‘blower’. Whoever did the ‘blowing’ could have taught Hercules a thing or two! In the region of pipes there are about a dozen a large, earthenware bowls which always have to be kept filled with water, to keep the atmosphere moist, or else some leather devices called ‘puffers’ become dry and stiff and notes begin to go ‘dumb’.

At the console, in front of the organist, are two mirrors arranged as in a simple periscope through which he can see the altar and the front of the Church up to the pulpit. Thus the organist can follow the Service.

*** The great peculiarity of this organ is that the console is at the back of the Church with most of the pipes widely separated from it being above the pulpit. The result is that when the keys are pressed the sound comes from the pipes after a moment’s delay. Therefore when playing a tune it is difficult to keep time and the organist has to time his finger and his feet without reference to the sound which come after some time. In practice this makes it very difficult to play this particular instrument.

Every week a mechanic attends to the organ and tunes it. Without this regular maintenance the organ would cease to function properly Sunday after Sunday. One cannot end a description of the organ without saying a few words about the organists who have officiated us far back as we can account for. The name that stands out most prominently is that of Mr. L.G. constable. M.A., Cantab., composer of a Mass in D. Major. One time a master of St. James’ School, it was he who was responsible for shifting the console of the organ to the back of the church. It is said that he bore the expenses himself and directed this stupendous work, for he himself knew much about organ building. We gather that Mr. Constable’s reasons were that he believed that a choir is not meant to lead but to support the singing of the congregation and therefore the choir should not be at the back of the Church with the Organist and Choirmaster. That is why there were choir stalls in the organ-loft where the choir used to sit in the past. And great choirs they were too! They would give recitals of Handel’s ‘Messiah’, Stainer’s ‘Crucifixion’ and other Oratorios, and they used to sing over all India Radio, Kolkata. Apart from the senior choir, choristers were drawn from St. James’ School and Pratt Memorial School (both being residential schools at the time) and also from the European Asylum across the road.

Going as far back as we can, we recall Mr. Kiernander, another accomplished organist. He was followed by Mr. Chatteau from whom Mr. Constable took over. Others in more recent years were Mr. D.K. Rotchell, Mrs. Lowe, Mr. T.P. Joseph and Mr. A.V. Ambett, all of whom have gone away to their eternal abode. For some time the Revd. C Hargreaves of Bishop’s College, Kolkata, helped at the organ. We remember them today and all the others who served before them with admiration, thankfulness and reverence. The organ which they have hallowed by their virtuosity continues to serve faithfully the people of God. Mr. S.I. Banerjee, the organist at present, apart from playing the organ on Sundays and for special programmes, pays attention to its maintenance by personally supervising the weekly maintenance and repairs.

We hope and pray that this organ will one day be restored to its former glory and continue to serve us faithfully and inspire future generations of worshipers.             

© St. James' Church ● 167, A.J.C. Bose Road, Kolkata - 700 014

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