St James's Church, Cooling Church

Image Source: John Vigar


The churchyard at Cooling is famous to readers of Dickens as the setting for the opening scenes of Great Expectations. By the tower are 'Pip's Graves', a group of thirteen eighteenth-century bodystones that Dickens described so well. The church is thirteenth century in date and is surprisingly large for so small a village. Since 1978 it has been owned by The Churches Conservation Trust, and cared for by local residents. At the back of the church is a set of three fourteenth-century benches - some of the earliest seats in existence. The chancel is particularly lavish and is arcaded with Purbeck marble shafts of thirteenth-century date. The arcading on the south side incorporates three sedilia and a fine double piscina, although the nineteenth-century raising of the floor level has made a nonsense of the composition. The tiny vestry gives the impression of a grotto, its walls being lined with hundreds of cockle shells. The fine east window depicting the Ascension dates from 1897 and is a good example of the work of Clayton and Bell.



Church Data


1851 Census Details


Seating Capacity: 200

Morning Attendance: No service

Afternoon Attendance: 80

Evening Attendance: No service


Architecture Details


Original Build Date/Architect: Medieval

Restoration: 1869

Second Restoration: 1870




The Churches Conservation Trust




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Whilst I am happy to answer any historical or architectural questions for all churches on this site, I cannot answer day-to-day queries relating to Family History, services, burials etc. Please see the Contact page, for details of other organisations that may be able to assist with those sort of enquiries.


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