St. James’ Church is a historic monument. It belongs as much to the future as to the past with the present generation of worshippers here having the responsibility and the burden to preserve the structure for the generations to come. The monument is part of the history of Delhi and utmost care and precaution needs to be taken to protect it. St. James’ Church has been notified by the Government of Delhi as GRADE I heritage structure, (serial number 22), as per the Gazette notification number 7(367)/227/2002/UD/841 issued by Urban Development department, Government of NCT of Delhi on 25th February 2010.
The management of the Church allocates a portion of its annual budget to the repair and maintenance of the church building and other structures within the complex. The annual works are essentially whitewashing and painting of the building and minor repairs that may be necessary from time to time. The last major job was done in 1995 that is about 20 years ago.
St. James’ Church due to its proximity to the Yamuna River, which now flows at a distance of about a kilometre from the East wing of the Church, is saddled with a high level of the underground water table. This high water level slowly but consistently causes damage to the walls and pillars of the structure and the decay is evidenced over a period of time.
Another development (this one is manmade), has taken place within the church compound last year, was the construction of two tunnels by Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) for the running of the metro trains on their Heritage line. One tunnel is about 5 metres from the Western entrance of the church (which is the front of the building) and the other runs another 10 metres away. While utmost precaution has been taken by DMRC, while constructing these underground tunnels, however the worry for the Church is, that once the metro trains start running in these tunnels, their vibrations will cause long term damage to the stability of the building’s foundation and structure.
With these issues before the management and the congregation it was decided in the Church Annual General meeting in August 2015, to embark on a long term comprehensive conservation project for the Church. It was very well understood by the members that this will be a huge project, but at the same time absolutely necessary to undertake at this juncture, to ensure the long term life of the Church for which we were responsible to both God and man.
After inviting quotations from a few interested conservation organizations, the work for preparing the detailed project report (DPR) was given in February’2016, to Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) Delhi Chapter, a well known organisation in the field of heritage and conservation of historic monuments. INTACH incidentally had also undertaken a similar project at the St. James’ Church (though of limited scope) in 1995.
After doing the necessary studies and site surveys, INTACH submitted the detailed project report (DPR) in April 2016.