The present St James Church building is the fourth Hutt Valley church to hold that name. It was constructed in 1953, to replace the previous wooden building destroyed by fire in 1946. The design of the building by Ron Muston of the Structon Group was awarded a New Zealand Institute of Architects Gold Medal in 1954. It has recently been listed as a heritage building.
At the time of the mid-twentieth century Modern Movement, the Gothic style still held sway in New Zealand for church design, as with the remainder of the Western world. The design of this modern church is a break with the traditional forms, yet it retains a spiritual quality that is both inspirational and stimulating. Since its construction the church has been recognised as a distinctive and important example of modern New Zealand church architecture.
The building is dominated by the tower standing out “stark and uncompromisingly”. Surmounting the tower is a Cross. The Vicar at the time, Canon Bretton, stated that the bell tower is there to remind us, even to startle us into a realisation of what the Christian faith is. We are not dealing with any soft religion… Christ stands amidst a work-a-day world, in work-a-day clothes, to challenge it in every part to take His Way”.
Some changes have been made to the building since 1953, including the raising of the choir stalls area, the removal of much of the original Formica and the construction of the David Wylie foyer in the entrance area to provide a more welcoming and functional approach to the Church.