St James’ Church, Ryde, Isle of Wight, was opened in 1827, its building having been commissioned by W. Hughes , a Barrister at Law, and City Alderman. At that time Ryde was growing in popularity as a fashionable seaside resort and until the building of St James’ the only Anglican place of worship was St Thomas’s Church, which had been built in 1719 as a Chapel of Ease to Newchurch. St James’ was built as a Proprietary Episcopal Chapel, it not being unusual at the time for wealthy individuals to build private chapels in the spa towns and resorts etc in order to hear their favourite preachers. The Rev Augustus Hewitt, brother to Mr Hughes (who appears to have changed his name) was appointed the first Chaplain (or Minister) of the Chapel.
In 1830 Mr Hughes became MP for Oxford and in the same year the Rev Hewitt left Ryde.
On his departure the Rev Richard Waldo Sibthorp, a fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford, and member of a well known Lincolnshire family, acquired the Church. Under Mr Sibthorp, St James became well known, if not even notorious. Richard Sibthorp had been one of the leading evangelicals of the 1820s, but during the next decade, after close study of the Old Testament, he became a High Churchman, transforming the Chapel into a pioneering centre of ritualism. He was to be a minor figure in the Oxford Movement and in 1841, four years before John Henry Newman, he converted to Roman Catholicism, hurriedly departing from Ryde. (He subsequently converted five times between Catholicism and Anglicanism, before dying a Roman Catholic in 1879, but was buried with the full ceremonial of the Established Church).
When the furore caused by Mr Sibthorp’s hasty departure had died down, he was succeeded by his predecessor the Rev Augustus Hewitt, who purchased back the Chapel from Mr Sibthorp, for his second incumbency. Under Mr Hewitt, St James reverted to the Evangelical Churchmanship, which has been characteristic of it ever since.
Having passed through a number of hands, an Indenture of 11 March 1903, conveyed the land and premises of St James Church, together with vestry house and dwelling house, to a group of five trustees, for the purposes of more effectively promoting Protestant and Evangelical doctrines. The trustees were to visit the church at least once a year and report thereon and the management thereof, to the Council of the Church Association. The Council were also given the right to appoint a trustee, in the event of a trustee desiring to be discharged, remaining outside the UK for a year or being incapable or unfit. There had to be two local trustees – persons interested in but not necessarily resident in Ryde or the Isle of Wight – appointed by surviving trustees or nominated by the Council. The trustees were to appoint a fit and proper person to be minister provided the person made a declaration avowing his firm attachment to the Protestant and Evangelical Principles of the Church of England as set forth in a schedule. That schedule required unqualified adhesion and firm attachment to the Protestant and Evangelical principles as set forth in the Church Association Declaration of Principles from 1867.
In the following year, by an Indenture dated 19 May 1904, Church Association Trust was appointed trustee in place of three of the trustees, who desired to be discharged. In 1950 Church Association Trust changed to the Church Society Trust, acting as continuing trustees, together with two local trustees.
On 16th December 1996 the Charity Commissioners approved a scheme, which made Church Society the trustees of ‘The Charity in connection with the Chapel of St James, Ryde’ and transferred the property to it. However as this had the effect of removing local trustees, a revised draft scheme is presently under consideration to return to a position closer to the 1903/04 indentures, whereby five individuals would be appointed as administering trustees, three nominated by Church Society and two by the Council of St James, Ryde.
St James continues to operate as an independent, protestant chapel in the evangelical tradition, having undergone considerable restoration in 1976.
Indenture (Conveyance) of 11 March 1903
Appointment of Church Association Trust, 19 May 1904