Foundations for the church were laid around 1360 by the Barmby family, the Lords of the Manor of Midhope (1352 - 1622).
They used it as a private chapel until, impoverished by their adherence to the Catholic faith after Reformation, they had to sell the whole manor.
Some of the old benches in the gallery may have come from this time when there would have been no other seating.
During the time of the new owner, a Puritan merchant, a Jacobean pulpit was installed. It was high enough for the preacher to see out of the window. When Godrey Boswell of Gunthwaite Hall bought the manor for £2256 in 1690 the chapel was falling into disrepair. He restored it in 1705.
Until 1847, services were taken by clergy from Bolsterstone, where records were kept. Since then, services have been taken by clergy from Penistone and the church was transferred from Sheffield Diocese to Wakefield Diocese in 1914.
St. James' is a Grade II listed building and became part of the parish of Penistone in 1978.