There has been a place of worship on the cathedral site since at least the 8th century, although no part of any building earlier than the 11th century bishop’s chapel survives.
The church was first built in 1867 and is a typical of the geometric Gothic Revival style of the late Victorian period. It was largely demolished by a fire in 1901 but was rebuilt by the same architect, Thomas Nicholson, to the original designs. The concept of the building was to provide a spacious, well proportioned church. The city of Hereford was expanding quickly at this time with the coming of the railway and there was a need to expand the city into the St Owen and Bartonsham area with new housing and a strong local desire for a new parish church.
The church was built with contributions from the local community some of whom were the poorest in the city. The vicar of St Peter's, John Venn, who tirelessly campaigned for bettering the lives of the poor in the city ,was the instigator in the establishment of the church of St James and the church design and minimal decoration suggest that the style of services would have been relatively informal. Also at this time a vicarage and Church of England school were built alongside, in this way the church building represents contemporary Church of England politics and doctrine as well as the particular needs of a poor but expanding Victorian suburb, and the church of St James continues to support this local community.
The church is built of Three Elms quarry sandstone with Bath stone internally. The church is cruciform but unusually orientated north/south in order to fit on the site. There are 4 stained glass windows, the one in the side chapel known as the Landsdale chapel charmingly depicts the parable of the sower. The choir and the sanctuary is floored with gothic revival style encaustic tiles from Godwin of Lugwardine. The location of the church of St James make it an integral part of the streetscape of this area and gives evidence of the evolution of Hereford’s expansion as a city, it has recently been given Grade II listing for architectural and historic interest.