The school's history goes back over 165 years to 1849 when the Trust Deeds were drawn up and the renowned Victorian architect, Anthony Salvin, designed an Infants schoolroom and mistress’ house in Fortis Green, Muswell Hill, on land given by the Earl of Mansfield who lived at Kenwood. The building was used for St James Church Sunday School as well. For over 60 years it was the only primary school in Muswell Hill.
The school in Fortis Green opened for Infants on 25th July 1850, on the feast of St James. Children attended from a wide area, as they still do today. Starting with 52 children, the numbers rose to 82 in 1860. An extra classroom was needed and this was completed in 1862, giving the frontage of the school a very similar appearance to when the building was vacated in 1968.
In 1903 the school became the responsibility of the new Borough of Hornsey Education Committee with the Vicar, four Foundation Managers and two Local Authority Managers in charge governing the school. The first Headmaster, Walter Penn, joined the school in 1912.
In the 1930s, St James School was re-organised into Junior Mixed and Infants. On 1st September 1939, the school was evacuated to Trumpington near Cambridge. Mr. Ivor Plant, the Headmaster, wrote a very interesting account of the first few weeks in the new environment and a description of Christmas celebrations when 100 parents joined their children for the day.
The school returned to Muswell Hill in August 1940. From then on its reputation for excellence grew and the Local Authority and the Managers started looking for a new site in 1958. Eventually the old Cranley Gardens Railway Station was purchased and excited children and teachers moved into the brand new building in Woodside Avenue on 11th June 1968, backing on to Highgate Woods, where St James Primary School has continued to flourish to this day.
Since then the building has been updated, playgrounds improved and classrooms refurbished so that the crucial work of educating our children to the highest standards can continue in the tradition established when the school first opened its doors in 1850.
The close link to St James Church continues today with the church well represented on the current Governing Body.