St. James' Church was described by Adam in 1840 as " an ancient structure
with a square tower, terminated by a spire, and stands on shelving above the
Dale,-viewed from which it has a striking effect, and is a fit subject for
"The Rev. C. Greville is the present Rector of Bonsall".
Almost a hundred years later the village and its church were
mentioned in a local guide:
is an interesting old village, prettily situated in a limestone
valley. The Church, built on a rock overlooking the
village, was restored and enlarged in 1863, as much as possible
of the ancient structure being retained".
It may have been desirable for artists to sketch the church
in 1840 but it was lucky the church didn't collapse. The 1863
restoration was vital.
In 1877 Charles Cox wrote about the 1863 restoration:
"The church, which is dedicated to St. James, consists
of a chancel, nave with north and south aisles, south porch,
and tower surmounted by a spire at the west end. The building
is now in good repair and admirable condition throughout, having
been restored about thirteen years ago from a grievous state
of decay. ... It appears that every care has been taken during
this restoration to preserve as much as possible of the old
fabric, and the general features of the church are the same
as they have been for upwards of five centuries. The enlargement
was made by lengthening the aisles at the west end, so that
they are now continued almost square with the west wall of
14 April 1862 the minister addressed the builders, their workmen
and many villagers to marked the beginning of the restoration.
The contractors and builders were Messrs. Frances & Fox
Once the restoration work was completed the church was re-opened
for divine service on 4th August 1863. A newspaper report of
the service makes it painfully clear how bad things had been. "This
old building had been suffered to fall into a most unparalleled
state of dilapidation through long continued neglect. The possibility
of the parishioners assembling in it for the observances of
public worship, with any degree of comfort, was entirely out
of the question".
Not only had the building been damp, with water standing under
the floor of the nave and aisles, but also the galleries above
the aisles were rotten and only supported by wooden props. "In
fact a most beautiful and interesting church had been completely
disfigured as was possible without entire destruction ".
The 1863 repairs and alterations were largely due to the efforts
of John Broxup Coates, who had been appointed as a church warden.
It wasn't all plain sailing and the scheme met with some opposition
but money was raised by public subscription.
"The registers, now extant, only commence in the year