The origins of our present church take us back to 1847. The original building was built as a result ofthe generosity of the local coal mine owner (Mr Edward Waud) and the Vicar of Barwick (The Rev’dW. H. Bathhurst) who between them provided the required land and finances. In November of 1847this first church, built to accommodate a total of 180 people, was consecrated and the worship and the mission of St James, Manston begun.
However, the church in which we now worship is sited just a little to the north-east of that original church building. The building scheme, launched in 1904, was a response to the needs of a significantly increased population, which by the late 19th century was in the region of 3,000. The church was designed to a modern interpretation of the Decorated Gothic style by the well-known Leeds architect H.S. Chorley (1869–1939), of Messrs, Chorley, Gribbon and Foggitt, and was built by W.G. Asquith, another Leeds company. Construction work took just over two years to complete.
The new Church of St James the Great was Consecrated on St James’s Day 1913 and Dedicated on 15th November of the same year. At this stage the west end was left ‘unfinished’, with temporary brick walls. Finally the work to extend and complete the west end of the church was taken up in the late 1950’s, again in response to the need for further seating, and matching gritstone for the extension work was happily discovered and made available from a cemetery chapel being demolished in Burmantofts.
The completion of this new extension was celebrated at a dedication ceremony in 1962.A year later the striking East Window was installed in memory of Frederick and Martha Ellen Bateson, a work of art designed by Harry J. Stammers. The richly coloured window does the amazing job of teaching and expressing the Christian faith and story in its entirety, incorporating, as it does, imagery which speaks of God our Creator, of the creation and disobedience of humanity, of the Passion, Crucifixion, Resurrection and Ascension of Christ, of the outpouring of the Spirit, of the work of thefour evangelists and Gospel writers, and of the worship of God’s faithful people down the ages.
In each new generation the Church of St James the Great, has continued to evolve to reflect the needs of worshipping congregations with a desire to gather and to serve the local community, as well as to respond to other significant changes in wider society. In 1986 women choristers were admitted to the choir for the first time and five years later the congregation voted in favour of the ordination of women, leading to the arrival of their first female Deacon at Petertide 1991.
The present boundaries of the church and churchyard were established back in 1935. The Lych Gate was erected and dedicated to the memory of Minnie Greenwood in 1950, and whilst the graveyard was necessarily closed to new burials in 1978, it remained open for the interment of ashes until 1990, after which further legal permission was granted for the designation of an area within which ashes could be interred in unmarked plots, and names be recorded in a Book of Remembrance within the Church.
November 1913 marked 100 years since the St James the Great, Parish Church which we see today was first dedicated for the purpose of being a place which could serve God and this community – a gathering place into which people could bring their thanksgivings and sorrows,find healing or solace, and encounter Christ in word and sacrament; their hopes and fears, their families and themselves; a holy place within which people could offer worship, a place of blessing from which people could go out renewed, and return to their daily working, living and relating, better equipped to love and serve their neighbour.
Over one hundred later, that remains our purpose and our mission, and our building stands as a sign of God’s presence and welcome within this community.