London Unveiled

great places to visit off the beaten path.

St. James’s, Piccadilly (a Christopher Wren church) & site of a daily market.

St James's Church Piccadilly exteriorJust a short stroll from the chaos of Piccadilly Circus is an oft overlooked church built by Christopher Wren as well as a simple, but pleasant, daily outdoor market.  It is unique as Wren only built a few “new” churches and it is one of only 3 churches he built outside the City of London (the others are St. Anne’s in Soho, and St. Clement Danes in Westminster).

The Church:  As the western edge of London grew, citizens started petitions for a new church to divide the parish of St. Martin’s in the Field.  Land was sought, and in 1662 the 1st Earl of St Albans (Henry Jermyn) offered land he had the leasehold for as a site for a church, vicarage and graveyard.  The Crownst james church picadilly interior Estate was slow to grant freehold status for this land, which was needed before a church could be consecrated on it.  But ultimately it did.  The land Jermyn set aside was bordered by Piccadilly to the north and Jermyn Street to the south.  Christopher Wren was selected as the architect in 1672.  This was a busy period for Wren as his firm was actively involved in rebuilding many churches destroyed in the Great Fire.  However, unlike those churches St. James’s was a new build – with no specific footprint to rebuild upon.  Consequently it is fairly unique within Wren’s oeuvre of churches.  Construction began in 1676 and while the church was consecrated into service in

Credit: Westminster City Archives

Credit: Westminster City Archives

1684 construction of its steeple continued after this.  The inside of the church is certainly elegant with its raised galleries on three sides and its barrel vaulted nave.  The architectural style is similar to only a few other churches Wren designed.  In various letters and documents attributed to Wren he states his affection for this particular church and his satisfaction with the architectural and design elements which were new for him at the time.  Today it is a Grade One listed building.  Of note: William Blake, poet and artist, was baptised here in 1757.  Also, the church was damaged in WW II but has been sympathetically restored.  Services are held daily (except Saturday).

The Market:  In the forecourt of the church on the south side of Piccadilly, there is aSt James's Market market from 11-5 on Monday, and from 10-6 Tues-Sat.  From small beginnings in 1981 it has grown significantly and provides a source of income to support the church’s maintenance.  On Monday it is a food market; on Tuesday the focus is on antiques and collectibles; on Wed-Sat the focus is arts and crafts.  Many of the traders, about 40 in all, sell items from emerging economic regions, like Tibet, Africa and India.  There is also an on-site cafe.  For more information or for a list of traders see their website at:

Located at: 197 Piccadilly London W1J 9LL

Closest Tube:  Piccadilly Circus

12 comments on “St. James’s, Piccadilly (a Christopher Wren church) & site of a daily market.

    January 22, 2013

    Just worked at the Cafe Nero next to that church last week. Such a cute little market and hidden part of London 🙂

      January 22, 2013

      Thanks for leaving a comment… I know that Cafe Nero, I occaisionally find myself there! Ian

    • The Rambling Man (aka The Night Hawk Photographer)
      January 26, 2013

      I’ve been to that Café Nero, and I stumbled on the market on one of my wanders down from Tottenham Court Road to Victoria one December evening last year. I had no clue it was a Wren church! Thanks for this!

  2. A Londoner from Afar
    January 23, 2013

    This is a beautiful church with loads of history. Together with the market, makes a nice contrast in busy Piccadilly. Thanks for posting this!

  3. ExplatLondon
    January 23, 2013

    I walk by this area at least twice a week but I’ve never been in (to the church) ! I’ll have to stop by this week! Thanks for posting 🙂

  4. silverboy67Brian Wright
    January 24, 2013

    Nice piece, thank you. Is it an urban myth, I heard that the steeple was damaged during the Blitz and was replaced by a fibre glass reproduction?

      January 24, 2013 does state that while the tower is original, the steeple is rebuilt with “glass fibre” but is not specific as to in what capacity it is used: whether structurally or as a covering / coating… so something I’ll look into as I don’t know a full answer. Ian

  5. Beachbums1
    January 27, 2013

    I’ve been to the little market a couple times (like it a lot) but had never been inside the church. Thanks for sharing its history ~ I’m going to make a point of visiting it soon.

  6. anthonyturi
    January 27, 2013

    A great London location. Thank you for writing about it. 🙂

  7. blue starr
    February 14, 2013

    Lovely church building, very warm and cosy on a freezing day! Nice little market, visited on Tuesday would like to go on other days in future to see the different stalls. I particularly like the kaleidoscopes, will be putting one of those on my birthday present list, definitely not a child’s toy at £20 plus, but a lovely gift for me who remembers them from childhood.

  8. Pingback: Jermyn Street ~ The Best Shopping Street for Men in London. | London Unveiled

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This entry was posted on January 22, 2013 by in Churches, Famous People, Street Markets, Westminster and tagged , , , , , .
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