St. James Old School Project


The building next to St. James Church, which used to accommodate St. James Church of England school, is not legally part of the parish and is administered by an independent trust, the St James Cowley Old School Trust.   The three trustees - the Rector  and two church wardens - are currently considering how the partially derelict site can be best used to serve the needs of our community, with the support of a steering group of interested people from the parish and locality and, as from June 2015, the Friends of St James Old School. 

The building as it appeared in summer 2014 with three trust members

The trustees and steering group have discussed and investigated several options over the last three years : an early years centre, a primary free school, a family life skills centre, a social enterprise start up hub – but are excited that, as at September 2015, we are back to the building’s prime purpose and our first proposal, with the hope that provision for Church Cowley St James School’s 2 and 3 year olds can be based  here : we await confirmation of the necessary capital grant for refurbishment and acceptance of the business plan by Oxfordshire County Council. We are sure that extra fundraising will be necessary to demonstrate local support for the project.



This is a constituted membership organisation with its aim : to support the redevelopment of the St James Old School, Beauchamp Lane, Cowley, Oxford  for community use and ensure its future and purposes :  to consult members of the community  about the use of the building   

                       :  to raise funds through grants and donations for its refurbishment and development

The officers are :
Chair :                             Lesley Williams
Vice Chair :                     Eva Sommer
Treasurer :                      Richard Mohun
Membership Secretary : Rosanne Butler

contact  : [email protected]          facebook : Friends of St. James Old School, Cowley

The membership form, with subscription details, can be downloaded here.   

Donations are welcome  : cheques to Friends of St James Old School, posted/delivered to the St James Centre, Beauchamp Lane, Oxford OX4 3LF  

On line  : sort code : 30-98-97     a/c number : 33416268  

You can also download an information leaflet here.


Church Cowley St James School now has an exciting  gardening project in the playground  of the St James Old School.  There are 20 free standing planters, full of flowers, fruit and vegetables, sewn, planted and tended by the children on a regular basis, as part of their outdoor curriculum.   There is also a wooden shelter and water butts, although filling  them using a hose from the kitchen tap inside the church has been problematic!   


 Thelma Telling says farewell to pupils in 1975


It was the Reverend Georgie Moore who first saw the need to establish a school for the children of the parish of Church Cowley. The original Cowley St James School sat beside the Norman church of St James (believed to date back to the 1120s), in what is now Beauchamp Lane, in the centre of the medieval settlement. It was opened in 1834, pre-dating the reign of Queen Victoria by 3 years.

The school was attended by industrialist and philanthropist William Morris (later Lord Nuffield) throughout much of the 1880s, when children would have remained at the school until the age of 14. At this time the parishes of Church Cowley and Temple Cowley were still villages distinct from the City of Oxford. Ironically, it was in no small part due to Morris that the area experienced such rapid growth in the 1940s and 50s and that there was a need for a larger school.

It was the success of the Morris Motor Company that drove the demand for homes for the workers in his factories to be built in the wider Cowley area and it was on what became known as the Airfield Estate that the new Church Cowley School (the Airfield School) was built less than half a mile from the original school. Demand for school places meant that both schools remained in use until 1975 when the original school finally closed its doors to pupils who were all to attend the renamed Church Cowley St James C of E Primary School from that point onwards.