St James the Great,
Welcome to Waresley Church!
Waresley is proud to have the beautiful 19th-century church of St James the Great right at its centre. The church is home to several Sunday services each month, as well as Morning Prayer each Wednesday. For a full timetable, see our services page.
St James' Church is open daily from 10am until 4pm. The church – originally dedicated to St Andrew – was situated on the eastern side of the village. It suffered depredation over the years and finally blew down in 1724. Four years later it was rebuilt “in humble imitation of the chapel at Pembroke College, Cambridge”, in honour of the college who have been patrons of the church since their foundation in 1347. In 1855 the church was again rebuilt, this time in its present central position by Octavius Duncombe; the designer was the celebrated Victorian architect William Butterfield. The quiet and atmospheric old churchyard is still open on Vicarage Road, lined with the gravestones of centuries past.
The Duncombe Mausoleum is attached to the southern side of the church. Seven members of the Duncombe family are interred beneath the floor but the mausoleum is also used as a museum with information about the Duncombe family, the ten young men from the village whose names appear on the war memorial, and other information about the church itself. For such a small village Waresley is fortunate to have a cosy, independent public house, a family-owned and run garden centre, a village hall, an active cricket club with a strong emphasis on youth development and of course, a beautiful church.
In March 1987 the weather had yet another go at destroying the church blowing the spire clean off the tower. The debris landed on the road and in the pub forecourt burying the cockerel weathervane in the pub garden. Luckily, nobody was hurt. The suggestion that a new spire was too costly to replace was found to be unacceptable by the people of Waresley and within the year, £20,000 was raised by the village which, added to a grant, enabled the spire to be replaced.
Waresley is the smallest of our four parishes with a population of fewer than 250 persons. The origins of Waresley stretch back before Saxon times. The first written reference to “Waresle” was in a charter, which can be dated between 975 and 984 when the land from Waresley was used to re-found the monastery at St Neots. Later, the village is listed (as Wedreslei) in the Domesday Book of 1086.
From the middle ages up to 1930, one major landowner owned almost the entire parish. First three generations of Hewetts, then the Nedham family and ultimately, the Duncombes. It was William Nedham, who in 1792, engaged the noted landscape gardener Humphry Repton to do a survey with a view to possible “improvements”. Repton’s famous Red Book survives and gives a snapshot, in beautiful watercolours, of Waresley Park as it was then and as it might become.
In 1834 the estate was bought by Charles Duncombe, Lord Feversham, passing to his youngest son Octavius in 1842. It is to Octavius that we owe most of the features which define the character of Waresley today. Following Octavius, the estate passed to his children. Firstly to Walter H. O. Duncombe who died without issue and then to Emily. On her death in 1930 the estate, following the male line, reverted to the Earl of Feversham, a distant relative and was split up and auctioned off.