The church of St James, Whitechapel, is set just below Beacon Fell an area of outstanding natural beauty and is probably built on the site of the private chapel of the Threlfall family of The Ashes farm at Goosnargh where services were recorded in 1581. The small settlement of Whitechapel found in the Lancashire county has existed for centuries, known in the Domesday Book as Threlfall, after the Threlfall family that inhabited the hamlet. The Forest of Bowland borders it where it meets Beacon Fell.
The church of St James is known to have existed in 1650, and it was extensively rebuilt in 1738, 1818, and 1891. Further major work in the form of extensions was carried out in 1930, 1957 and 1994. It became an independent parish in 1846. In the same year Alexander Hoghton removed the bell from the building, promising to replace it when needed. It was not until 1728 that his descendant, Sir Henry de Hoghton (of Hoghton Tower) was asked for its return but he argued that, having no tenants in the Goosnargh area, he had no obligation to do so. He did, however, give the sum of 10 shillings for a new bell.
The church is a Grade II listed building.