Originally a Saxon church it is assumed that St James' is one of the three, unnamed, Dover churches listed in the Domesday Book. The present structure dates from about the 12th century.As well as being a place of worship the church was also the meeting place of the official courts of the Barons of the Cinque Ports. Their last meeting was in 1851 and was presided over by the Duke of Wellington as Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports.By the 19th century the old church was in need of enlargement and restoration. It was decided that it was not possible to build a sufficiently large church on the old site at the top of St James' Street, and a new site further north on Maison Dieu Road was selected.The new church was built between 1860-2 and when it opened became the main parish church. The old church was used by a group of French protestants for a few years and was eventually restored in 1869. The old St James' was severely damaged by enemy shell fire during the Second World War. It was hit several times by shells, the tower eventually collapsing. In 1948 it was decided to leave it as a ruin to commemorate the people of Dover who, like the church, suffered much during the war.The new St James' Church survived the war relatively unscathed but much of the parish it served lay in ruins and it was declared redundant and demolished.