The Town Churchyard at St James is divided into three areas. Since the church was first constructed the oldest area that had been used for burials up to around 1800 is on the south side of the building adjoining Warwick Street and Kirkwall.
The next area that was used is known as the Upper Churchyard from behind the Market Hill shops on the north side of the building down to the iron railings running from the War Memorial to Park Lane. Burials in most of this area generally ceased about 100 years ago but the last one or two took place in family graves in the 1950’s. It now contains a dedicated area for the interment of ashes and in addition an area adjacent to Park Lane was granted permission by the Diocese in September 2004 for reuse for burials but with stringent conditions. This area was completely filled with burials by 2014 and no new grave spaces are now available in the churchyard.
The third area is all the remainder to the west from the War Memorial down to the Recreation Ground which started to be used in the late 1800’s and became filled with graves during 2004. However, where space exists, second burials of family members can still take place in existing family graves. Even if two burials have taken place cremated ashes of other family members may still be interred in such graves. Additional inscriptions, subject to the approval of the Priest in Charge, can be added to the front or back of any existing headstone.
All people of any denomination who reside within the parish boundaries of Southam have a right, when they die, to be buried or after cremation to have their ashes interred in the Town Churchyard at St James so long as space is still available.
Items of interest in the churchyard are the Lych Gate built in 1938 and the avenue of red twigged limes trees leading from it down to the north porch of the church. The present trees were planted in 2002 replacing the original ones that were planted to celebrate the victory of Waterloo in 1815. The new trees were given in memory of Louisa Smith, a teenager who died in a car accident near Marton in 1999.
The Bier House with its tile roof, adjacent to Park Lane opposite the telephone exchange (the Bier is no longer stored there), is constructed of concrete blocks that were made at the local cement works and is believed to be the first building in the country made with such blocks.
Not far from the War Memorial, down the south side of the path to the recreation ground, is the grave and carved cross of one Seth Bond who survived the Charge of the Light Brigade. The inscription reads ‘Trooper Seth Bond, 11th Hussars, one of the six hundred served at Alma, Balaclava, Inkerman and Sebastopol; erected by public subscription in recognition of nearly 25 years faithful service to his country’. A booklet is available in the town library detailing his life. There is another Crimean memorial just east of the south porch – ‘Thomas Abbotts killed at Alma and Thomas Pratt, both of the 68th Regiment; and James Baldwin, Royal Marines. These men died serving their Queen and country when in defence of the Right, England and France waged war with Russia, 1854/5.’
There are a number of War Graves Commission headstones in the churchyard marking the graves of forces personnel who died in action in the Second World War and one, more recently, in Afghanistan.
Family history is fashionable nowadays and many people both from this country and from all over the world visit the churchyard to see if headstones still exist with old relatives names thereon.
All surviving parish records of births, marriages and deaths held by St James have been transferred to the internet on freereg and findmypast.
St James Parochial Church Council