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Parish of St James

Notes on the history of the parish of St James Cambridge

The following notes are taken from “The First Fifty Years 1955-2005 – a brief history of the Church of St James’, Wulfstan Way, Cambridge” which was published by the church in May


The parish of St James, Cambridge, like that of St John’s, Hills Road, fifty years previously, was initially a mission outgrowth from St Andrew’s, Cherry Hinton. The first moves were not quite as promising as later developments. Peterhouse, the patrons of St Andrew’s, originally offered a site on Queen Edith’s Way that is now occupied by Netherhall School. This proposal was rejected by the City Council and a different site suggested.

The first service for the new community was held at Queen Edith’s school on 4th October 1953. Attendance rapidly increase and plans were approved for a new dual-purpose church/hall and in December 1954 building began. When it came, the new church was to be the first built in the diocese during the episcopate of Bishop H E Wyn (1941-1957). The choice of patron saint was decided on because Bishop Wynn had been consecrated on St James’ Day 1941.

When the Bishop came in April 1955, however, he was , according to the church records, ‘appalled at the smallness of the building [seating for about 50 people] and more or less instructed it should be double in length. In the meantime, it was decided to complete the first phase of the original scheme – the church hall – and use it as a place of provisional worship. The building was dedicated on Saturday 18th June 1955. Work on the extension was soon begun and it was dedicated by the Archdeacon of Ely just over a year later on St James’ Day 1956.


1956-1960 Rev. Norman Cotgrove

1960-1965 Rev. Thomas Christie

1966-1979 Rev. David Ford

1980-1987 Rev. Ian Woodroffe

1987-2000 Rev. Hugh Dawes

2000-              Rev. David Deboys

Further information on the parish of St James can be found on their web site:

The architects for the church were Robert Maguire and Keith Murray. Their design showed the first decisive impact on Cambridge of the Liturgical Movement (see Cambridge New Architecture 1965 page 52).

The Cambridge Weekly news in March 1982 included a ‘Down Your Street’ article about Wulfstan Way and St James. The journalist Sarah Payne wrote, “When St James Church was built in 1954 the local children were very annoyed because it destroyed their cowboy land. The original church was a small building but extensive additions were completed a few years ago…”

Sources: Cambridge News (Cambridgeshire Collection)

Pat Chapman was married at St James when she was 21 and sang in the church choir. In 2016 she recalled the parish’s early days:

She has been a member of various social groups at both St James and at the Chapel across the road over the years, such as the Forum Club:


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