St. James Church is the oldest church in Delhi. It is a major landmark in the Kashmiri Gate area of old Delhi. It was commissioned by Col. James Skinner around 1823 and it was consecrated by Bishop Daniel Wilson in 1836. It is one of the early examples of Delhi’s colonial architecture with original European stained glass windows. This building is a subtle synthesis of classical and late Mughal styles.
In 1996 the Church Committee became alarmed at the obvious state of deterioration and so approached INTACH for remedial action. Low level of maintenance coupled with inappropriate repairs and additions had led to a situation wherein the Church was considered structurally unsafe for use, some key building elements such as the stained glass windows were covered with inches of dust and grime. Besides the many signs of decay in the built fabric, the main problems facing the building were its leaking roof and large horizontal cracks in the outer dome.
Conservation work commenced in 1996 and culminated in early 2001. In a bid to raise money for this conservation project, Delhi Chapter of INTACH approached the Delhi government and was successful in raising Rs. 15 lacs, the first ever grant that was given for conservation work. Subsequently, the project received the support of HM Queen Elizabeth, Indian Army Regiment of Skinners Horse, INTACH UK Trust, British Council and personalities like Mrs. Sumitra Charatram, Mrs. Roula Shriram, Lt. Col. CRD Gray and Sir Bernard Feilden.
The restoration of the stained glass, is the first such endeavour in India; this opportunity was also used to train eight Indian students in the art of stained glass restoration over a month long workshop. The conservation work was also marked by extremely innovative remedial works on the dome.
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