St. James’ (also known as Skinner’s Church) is an Anglican church in Delhi, India, built in 1836 by Colonel James Skinner. It is one of the oldest churches in the city, and part of the Church of North India Diocese of Delhi.
The church was commissioned by the British Colonel James Skinner, after he had vowed to build a church, while lying wounded in a battle field, if he survived.
Subsequently, he built the edifice at his own expense of 95,000 Rupees, under the design of Major Robert Smith. The construction started in 1826, and was completed in 1836. The basic design of Renaissance Revival style church is on a cruciform plan (Greek Cross), with three porticoed porches, elaborate stained glass windows and a central octagonal dome, similar to that of the Florence Cathedral in Italy. It was consecrated on 21 November 1836 by the bishop of Calcutta Daniel Wilson. John Mitchley Jennings took over the edifice after Skinner.
The copper ball and cross on the top, which are said to be replica of a church in Venice, were damaged during the 1857 revolt, and were later replaced. A special service was held in 2003, to commemorate 200 years of Skinner’s Horse, the cavalry regiment raised by Skinner in 1803. Amongst those present were Margaret Skinner, great great grand-daughter-in-law of Skinner, Admiral Sushil Kumar, retired Chief of Naval Staff, Col. Douglas Gray who commanded Skinner’s Horse from 1935 to 1947, and several former British officers.
Graves in St. James’ Church
The church houses several tombs. One houses the remains of the British Commissioners of Delhi, William Fraser, near the large Memorial Cross erected in memory of the victims of 1857 revolt. At the rear is the tomb of Thomas Metcalfe, who lived in Delhi from 1813 to 1853, serving as Agent to Governor General of India and a Commissioner.
Skinner died at Hansi on 4 December 1841 at the age of 64, and was first buried there. Later he was disinterred, and buried in Skinner’s Church on 19 January 1842 in a vault of white marble immediately below the Communion Table. North of the church lies the family plot, Skinner family, where many of his fourteen wives and many children, are buried, the burial in this place was that of a lady who died in England, but wished that her ashes be interred here.