St. James Parish Church, is located in Holetown, St. James, Barbados. It stands on one of the oldest parcels of consecrated land on the island, often known in Barbados as "God's acre".
The first settlers landed on the island on February 17, 1627 at Holetown not far from the site where the church was eventually built. The settlement there expanded rapidly and it became necessary to erect a place of worship. In 1628 the settlers constructed a wooden building on this site. St. James Parish Church was one of the original six parishes later created under the administration of Sir William Tufton, the sixth Governor of Barbados.
Points of Interest:
Many of the original settlers and various noted Barbadians were laid to rest in the Church and its yard. The dates on the grave stones, vaults and memorial plaques reflect this history. The church's first organ was ordered and built by the English firm, Hill & Son, at a cost of 320 pounds. After it arrived in January 1876 and was assembled, the first organist was Charles A. Greenidge and the bellows blower, Reynold W. Gillman. Over time this organ was replaced, with various upgrades performed over the years until the existing instrument was completely rebuilt from 2006-2007 and rededicated in 2008. Some of the pipes and structure still date back about one hundred years.
The present organist is Philip Forde FRCO. The original bell, the oldest in Barbados, carries the inscription "God Bless King William 1696". It was manufactured by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry that also produced the American "Liberty Bell" and "Big Ben". It fell from the belfry in 1881 and was badly cracked but a benefactor donated a new bell. However, considering its historic value the old one was sent to England for repairs and returned to Barbados to be retained as a monument, which predates the American "Liberty Bell" by 56 years. The Baptistery, on the ground floor of the belfry, contains the original font which is over 300 years old and bears the inscription "Debit Richardus Walter to the Church of St. James Anno 1684."
There is a popular legend attached to St. James' Church, that a gate in the north wall surrounding the churchyard, referred to as 'The Devil's Gate' is opened about one hour before service. When the bell is rung the Devil leaves the church by this gate, and it is closed as the service is about to begin, so that the Devil is excluded from the area. This is presumably derived from the old belief that church bells were rung to drive the devil out of the building.