Dover, St James the Apostle (Old Church)

Photo: David L Cawley collection

  • Church ruined, formerly ring of 6, tenor 17½ cwt approx
  • Formerly ring of 6, tenor 17½ cwt approx. Sold to buy bells for New Church.
  • Grid Ref: TR322415
  • Rung from: Don't know / not applicable
  • Denomination: Church of England
    Diocese (Anglican): Canterbury
    Archdeaconry (Anglican): Ashford
  • Building Listed Grade: II Click for Heritage details.

Prior to 1951

Bell Weight
(most recent)
Single bell3-4 cwt approx.1872John Warner & SonsNeverTo St Mary's in 1951 then All Saints, Shirley

Prior to 1861

Bell Weight
(most recent)
Treble5 cwt approx.30½"1748UnknownNeverRobert Catlin or Thomas Lester.Scrapped in c.1861.
2nd6½ cwt approx.33½"1637John WilnarNeverScrapped in c.1861
3rd8 cwt approx.37"1637John WilnarNeverScrapped in c.1861
4th9 cwt approx.38"1637John WilnarNeverScrapped in c.1861
5th12½ cwt approx.43"1637John WilnarNeverScrapped in c.1861
Tenor17½ cwt approx.47"1637John WilnarNeverScrapped in c.1861


1637 A ring of 5 bells was cast by John Wilnar.
1724 The church was visited by the College Youths prior to a peal at St Mary the Virgin.
1748 A treble was given to augment the ring to 6. It is not known who cast it, but it was probably Robert Catlin or Thomas Lester.
1861 The 6 bells were traded away to pay for a ring of 6 steel bells for St James the Apostle New Church.
1862 The church was sold and the bells sold to Naylor Vickers to pay for steel bells in the New Church. The building was closed.
1869 The church was restored.
1872 A bell was cast by John Warner & Sons (about 3-4 cwt) and hung in one of the vacant pits of the 6-bell frame.
1944 Dover was severely damaged by shelling during the War, and the church was hit on 11 Sept. The south east corner of the central tower fell during the shelling. This was the only church tower in England to be destroyed by direct hit from the shells of the cross-Channel guns on the French coast. [1] [2]
1950 The entire tower, except for the north side, which stood to its full height, collapsed on 2 May. The north side was subsequently levelled to the nave level, leaving the newell staircase in position. The bell was removed to St Mary's. Some years later it was moved to All Saints, Spring Park, Shirley, Croydon, which was built in 1955. It was hung dead from a concrete beam for chiming. [3]
[1] About 3 a.m. on the following day, September 11th, twenty shells were sent over, shells fell in Dodd's Lane, Common Lane, River, St. John's Place, Trevanion St. and Old St. James Church tower. (Dover Express, Fri 29 Dec 1944)
[2] ST. JAMES' OLD CHURCH. To the Editor of the Dover Express. Sir, - The photo of the ruins of old St. James' Church which appeared in a recent issue of the "Dover Express" must have reminded many of the valuable services rendered. Its connection with the Cinque Ports goes back many years, and the memorials to be found within the ruins show the fine ideal of Dovorians of the past. At one time the tower possessed a peal of six bells. The inscriptions were: -No. 1, L. G. Sackwell Trevel gave me; No. 2, No. 3, No. 4, No. 5 and No. 6, John Wilnar made me, 1637. I. Godwin-Thoms Kid, Churchwardens. These bells were taken down when the new Church was completed, and a bell cast by John Warner, London, in 1872 was placed in the tower. This battered bell of St James' is now among the debris, and if possible to be reclaimed, would become very valuable in the town's history as the years roll on. Dover is a warriors' town, and the old Church tower of St James' was the only Church tower in England to be destroyed by direct hit from the shells of the cross-Channel guns on the French coast. This is fortunate considering the number of Church towers that were in the range. The old Church of St James' will always be held rich in memory, and its ruins will be a reminder that its service went down to its close in the Battle for Freedom of the world. CHARLES TURNER, Captain, St. Mary's Ringers, Dover. (Dover Express - Fri 25 Mar 1949)
[3] MASONRY SEARCH AFTER CHURCH STEEPLE CRASHED. Part of the 60ft. tower and belfry of Dover's oldest Church, St James's, near the Marine Parade, crashed today. After it was reported that screams had been heard firemen searched a 12ft. high heap of tons of masonry and timber for two hours, but found no one trapped. It is believed that the "screams" were made by seagulls. The church bells crashed with the stonework and were found in the rubble. The area has been cordoned off in case of further falls, and it is expected that the remaining side of the tower will be demolished to make the building safe. The church was badly damaged by German shellfire during the war. The Town Council has been considering a proposal to leave the building as a memorial to the townspeople who were killed by enemy action. (Halifax Evening Courier, Tues 2 May 1950)


An astonishing view of Old St James'. The old 6-bell frame (containing one 3½ cwt bell) is seen in the process of gradual collapse. A week after Mr Austin of Dover took the photograph, the tower crashed (2nd May, 1951). The rubble was cleared and the surviving walls made safe as today's "tidy ruin".
Photo: David Cawley collection

Photo: David Cawley collection

Love's Guide to the Church Bells of Kent Page updated: 7 April 2022