The story of the Chapel of St James the Apostle begins with a mention from a charter of the early 14th century. Nowadays, this scheduled monument sits in the centre of the village and is made up of the remains of a medieval chapel dedicated to St James.
The Chapel of St James, North Queensferry, was probably established in connection with the Queensferry Passage by Queen Margaret crossing the Firth of Forth in the 11th century, during the time she made frequent pilgrimages to Dunfermline and St Andrews.
Later, around 1320, Robert the Bruce awarded the chapel to Dunfermline Abbey with instructions that it should be served by two chaplains.
By 1479, Abbot Henry Creighton of Dunfermline established a new chaplaincy and made provision for a residence to the north of the chapel and two acres of ground with livestock.
The chapel was destroyed by Cromwell's troops after the battle of Inverkeithing in 1651. The chapel interior and adjacent plot became the village graveyard. You can walk around the outside of the chapel grounds and catch a view of many of the gravestones through the iron gates in the high wall.
After the 16th century Reformation (the start of Protestantism and the split of the Western Church into Protestantism and what is now the Roman Catholic Church), chaplaincy seems to have been treated as a gratuity that could be handed out. A vicarage was established in 1582 and the chaplaincy seems to have been something of a plum job.
In the 18th century, the remains of the chapel and the burial ground passed to the North Queensferry Sailors' Society – a type of friendly society which provided for the decent burial of villagers. They built a wall around the site and this work is commemorated in a tablet inscribed THIS IS DONE BY / THE SAILERS IN / NORTH FERRIE / 1752.
Nowadays, the west wall of the chapel nave survives completely and contains a two-light mullioned window. Sadly, the site is very overgrown, and access to the chapel is restricted for public safety.
If you are interested in the inscriptions on the gravestones, North Queensferry Heritage Trust hold photographic records. If you’d like to see inside the chapel, volunteers from the Trust can normally arrange this for you. Simply drop them an email at firstname.lastname@example.org giving plenty of notice.