The land was once part of Bartesham manor’s holding. It belonged to the cathedral around 1020 when it was known as the Bartesham prebend, which also helped several mills and a hospital.
The hospital continued to serve the community after the Reformation around 1534 and at the end of the 1700s or early 1800s became a lunatic asylum. After becoming the General Hospital, the site was sold and turned into flats.
St. James parish was created on December 7 1869 from half of the former St Owens parish and the building of the church of St James between in 1868. It was consecrated on May 20 1869. Partly destroyed by fire in 1902, it was rebuilt in 1902.
The first vicar of St James, Rev. Joseph Sutcliffe Partridge, oversaw the building of the vicarage in 1870 while he stayed at 1, Burghill Villas in St Owens Street.
Funds were raised by mortgaging church-owned land. On Rev. Partridge’s death in 1871 his successor Rev. Richard Powell saw the building completed with a loan of £210 from Queen Anne’s Bounty in 1872.
In October 1929 the vicarage was extended with a loan of £22 from the same fund taken out by the then vicar, Rev. Frederick John Landsell. (The extension was located where the current lift stands).
Among the duties of the vicars of St. James was as chaplain for the General Hospital. He also performed services at St. Giles Chapel on St. Owens Street. The chapel once stood at the junction of St. Owens Street and Ledbury Road, but was moved because of fears that it might be damaged by traffic. During the move the foundations of a Knights Templar round chapel were discovered: some of the stones from the chapel are still to be seen on the corner of Ledbury Road and St Owens Street.
St James School
This was founded on June 11 1896 by Rev Henry Askwith along with vicars from six other parishes including St Peters and St Martins. The current incumbent at St James still sits on the school board of governors.
The Women’s Royal Voluntary Service
The vicarage was sold at auction in October 1963 by auctioneers Sidney Phillips and Son and C. L. Marriott to the then Women’s Voluntary Service for £5,100. The WVS used it as a base for a Meals-on-Wheels service, a residential club, clothing store and for the local scout troop.
Today the centre, now modernised, is a flagship learning centre (one of the first of its kind in the country) with its day centre, community café and fully equipped computer rooms. The Fourways Nursery is housed in the same building.
Thanks to the Royal Voluntary Service (renamed recently) for this article.