The church was first proposed in the early 1860s, as there was not one nearby to serve the many new houses being built at that time in the area. The foundation stone was laid in 1868.
The main force behind this new church was John Venn, Vicar of St Peter's and St Owen from 1833 to 1870. He was one of Hereford's greatest benefactors, founding the Society for Aiding the Industrious in 1941, to work towards better conditions for the (industrious) poor.
In between his parish duties he found time to establish many charitable projects, including soup kitchens (one of which survives in a tattoo parlour!); a flour mill and public baths; reading rooms and a library; public allotments and some "model cottages" complete with one privy each on Kyrle Street.
St James Church, also known as the Venn Memorial Church in tribute to the man, was almost destroyed by fire in 1901. Unfortunately, the insurance had just run out and the renewal forms 'in the post', but luckily the insurance company agreed to pay the £5,000 needed to rebuild.
The church re-opened in 1903, although William Collins noted in 1915 that a tower and a spire were still to be added. He also recorded that the charities of the parish amounted to £40 per annum, while those of St Peter and St Owen combined only came to £27 pa. St James Road was named in about 1882 as one of the main access roads to the church.