St James 
West Tilbury, Essex    
© Nigel Anderson - St James Trust

The 18th Century

Church Restoration (c. 1711)

On the 9 February 1711 the nave of the medieval church collapsed with the majority of the damage being to the pillarwork supporting a north aisle. The steeple and chancel were also severely damaged, with the dangerously weakened tower finally collapsing on 16 June.  Preliminary estimates put a cost of £1,117 for an entire rebuild. Parson William Philps confirmed that such resources were not available within the local parish. A number of benefactors from far and wide did, however, raise funds towards a reconstruction and in 1712 a flimsy “Carpenters Gothic” replacement was erected, with what remained of the north aisle being demolished (except “so much as makes the porch”). The tower with a new west doorway was completely reconstructed in timber frame (lathed and plastered over) with the five seventeenth century bells being replaced in the bell tower and a single wooden spire topping the newly formed campanile. New round headed windows of white glass (similar to those found in Tilbury Fort Chapel) were installed in both chancel and nave. The lightly damaged chancel still contained a number of medieval features; such as the simple thirteenth century piscine and sedile together with a small rectangular stone aumbry alongside. A series of Romanesque window arches also remained
The C13 Piscine
Little is known regarding the look of the church prior to 1700, but essentially St James seems to be of Norman design with a nave and chancel, made up of Grey Kentish Rag and dressed with local gravel flints. The original church certainly had a stone tower and spire on the west end (Ref 16 & 17).
Water Colour of the interior of St James prior to the 1879 reconstruction
Architect William Bentonís plans of the interior of the church prior to the 1879 restoration
The plans above show the position of the gallery at the West End, together with the original Jacobean pulpit and heating system with its external heating chamber to the southside of the chancel arch. Stairs lead up in two flights from the base of the tower into the gallery.
Plan of St James by the Architect William Benton - 1879
Plan views of St James from the East & West  (1879) Line Draw ing of church pre 1883