The historic ruins of the 12th century Parish Church of St James the Apostle in Dover are to be removed from Historic England’s Heritage at Risk Register following a conservation programme by Dover District Council.

Extensively bomb damaged in World War II, the ruins of the church were kept as a commemorative monument to the wartime experience of the people of Dover as a so-called “tidy ruin.” The iconic Norman façade is the most prominent part of the church still standing.

The site is Grade II Listed and a Scheduled Monument and was added to the Heritage at Risk Register in 2016.

Following a programme of approved works to stabilise and conserve the ruins, Historic England inspected the site on 30 September 2022 and recommended that it should be removed from the register following the improvements in the site’s condition. The inspection came too late for the site to be removed from the register this year but will be updated in November 2023.

Much of the church was built of Jurassic limestone from Caen in France and along with works to stabilise the ruins, expert stonemasons repaired and replaced areas of stonework using traditional techniques and hand-carving.

St James’ Church was also used for the ancient courts of the Cinque Ports. The last court session was held at St James’s in 1851 with the Duke of Wellington presiding in his capacity as Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports.

David John, Historic England Architect, said: “Thanks to the recent repair work by Dover District Council the picturesque ruins with its distinctive round Norman arch and zigzag detailing are secure. They are a reminder of Dover’s past from the medieval era right through to the second world war, and beyond. We hope the ruins remain a prominent feature for many more years to come, helping bring history to life.”

Cllr Oliver Richardson, Portfolio Holder for Corporate Property at Dover District Council, said: “We are delighted to see the ruins of St James Church removed from the Heritage At Risk Register. We are committed to protecting important heritage assets in the district for future generations and making them more accessible to both local people and visitors.”

By Ed

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