St James’ the Great has received a National Lottery Heritage Fund grant of £205,100 for urgent repairs and exciting heritage projects in Norton Juxta Kempsey, Worcester. Made possible by money raised by National Lottery players, the project focuses on essential conservation work to the Church tower and improvements to the interior of the building in support of community and heritage projects .

Supported through The National Lottery Heritage Fund, the project will enable the repair of the ancient church tower and the establishment of a number of heritage projects highlighting the history of the Church and its role as Garrison Church for Norton Barracks.

Veterans from all over the world have memories of Norton Barracks and of St James as their garrison church.The project will build on the Church’s heritage and relationships to create a place and space for the whole community. Audio visual displays and digital media will be used to create an interactive educational experience highlighting the Church’s army connection, the lives and service of local soldiers and of those from across the world who came to Norton.

The Churchyard at St James’ contains a number of military and other graves and already serves as a place of quiet contemplation for members of the local community and for visitors.Heritage Lottery funding will help to revealing its hidden heritage and wildlife with the establishment of a conservation and education area.The Church yard will become a focus for community involvement, a tranquil place for quiet reflection and resource for inspiration and community learning.

Bishop Wulfstan d.1095 was the last surviving Saxon Bishop. He was a frequent visitor to Kempsey. The Domesday Book of 1086 records that Kempsey with its outlier communities including Stoulton, Mucknell and Wolverton as well as Hatfield, Littleworth and Norton was still in the hands of the bishop who was recognised as the Lord of the Manor of Kempsey.

Around this time a small stone church, dedicated to St. James the Great was built where it stands today, in an area of the estate called Norton. In the early part of the 14th century the people of the area built a new tower on their church, an expensive sign of strength and confidence in the community.

In 1565 the people of Norton petitioned the Bishop for their own graveyard and the Churchyard at St James has been the place of rest for parishioners ever since. In 1788 the independent Parish of Norton was created out of the old Parish of Kempsey. The church was a proper Parish Church and no longer a Chapel of Ease.

The Church of St James the Great has stood at the heart of the local community for over 900 years and many have a deep connection and affection for the building and all that it stands for.That affection, is not limited to those who those who live locally but is also shared by many from much further afield, across the nation and indeed the world, by many ex -servicemen and women who served at Norton Barracks from 1881-1962 and knew as St James served as their Garrison Church

St James and the village of Norton Juxta Kempsey has enjoyed close ties with the military since the occupation of the barracks in 1877. Unusually, no church was built within the barracks as it has previously been decided that the soldiers should use the village church. Following the building of the barracks, Norton became a garrison village and St James the Great, a garrison church.

On Sundays depot staff and the recruits would muster for church parade and march to Norton Church for the morning service, often accompanied by the Regimental Band.

Because of the close connection between the regiment and the church St James is home to a number of Battalion Colours of the Worcestershire Regiment and the Churchyard contains the graves of several old ‘Worcesters’ who died while serving at the depot or who settled in the area on completion of their service and lived out the rest of their lives close by, some of them in the village itself.

Commenting on the award, Reverend Mark Badger said: “We’re delighted that we’ve received this support thanks to National Lottery players. St James has been at the centre of the Community in Norton since medieval times and it’s great to know that we are a step closer to preserving it for future generations.

"St James has a rich history which spans nearly 10 centuries and in a rapidly expanding and changing community it is an important reminder of our shared history and heritage. However, the church and its surrounds are not just a monument to the past, but part of a living, developing community.

"This funding affords us a wonderful opportunity not only to honour and celebrate our history and heritage but, perhaps more importantly, to add new chapters to it! We are committed to making St James fit for purpose as a spiritual and community resource, to making St James not only a sacred place but also a shared space, where community can be celebrated and strengthened.

"We are delighted that the National Lottery Heritage Fund shared the belief of this community that greater community involvement in church and local heritage projects is a valuable education tool which will not only help us welcome visitors, but also help foster a stronger sense of community too!"