Our History

h-St-Barnabas-1870s-1000.jpg
 

consecrated in 1869

St Barnabas Church Oxford was opened for worship on 19 October 1869. It is the daughter church of St Paul’s Walton Street and St. Paul’s was in turn the daughter of St. Thomas the Martyr. The parish of St Paul was carved out of the parishes of St Thomas and St Giles, and the parish church in Walton Street, the finest Grecian church in Oxford, was consecrated in 1836. By the 1850s it had become renowned for its elaborate ritual and processions, and drew so many worshippers that another church was needed for Jericho.

The land for St Barnabas was given by George Ward who was an Oxford ironmonger, and the benefactor for the Church building was the generous Thomas Combe, Printer to the University, along his wife Martha. They were firm supporters of the Tractarian tradition (The Oxford Movement) and were good friends of John Henry Newman who began the movement. The new Church very much reflected Tractarian ideologies both in liturgy (by promoting ritual and the high doctrine of the Sacraments) and mission (by promoting education, health reform and social justice). The Church was essentially built to serve the spiritual needs of the workforce of the nearby Clarendon Press (subsequently the Oxford University Press) on Great Clarendon Street, as well as the residents of the growing west Oxford suburb of Jericho. Deprivation and poverty were never far away in the early days and the original vision of the Church to be a place of refuge, refreshment and solace continues to be at the centre of our vocation as a Church community. The architect Arthur Blomfield decided on an Italian Romanesque basilica-style design but, in accordance with Thomas Combe’s wishes, built the walls out of cement-rendered builders’ rubble.

The famous and striking bell tower or campanile was completed in 1872 but its current appearance with a slightly flatter roof is the result of a slight structural alteration of 1965. The distinctive tubular bells and clock were installed in 1890 and are a remarkable example of Victorian engineering.

As one enters St Barnabas Church, one is struck at the breadth, and height of the interior space, with its majestic mosaic of Christ the King resting above a dramatic gilded canopy or baldacchino over the High Altar and the great openwork iron cross suspended above the nave (based on Fr Montague Noel’s SSC cross and memorably borrowed by Thomas Hardy in Jude the Obscure).

The beautiful cut-glass mural on the left (north) side of the nave was installed in stages between 1905 and 1911 but lack of funds made it impossible to complete the project, and so this fine work only exists on one side of the church. It depicts many important saints, martyrs and angels of the Christian tradition, with the words of the Te Deum Laudamus underneath.

In 2015, St Thomas the Martyr became the Chapel of Ease to St Barnabas Jericho and the parish was united with that of St Barnabas and St Paul.

In 2019/2020 the Church and Parish is celebrating its 150th anniversary with a series of celebratory events, services and concerts to mark the life of a significant Church community and to look forward to the future of our mission and ministry in Jericho and beyond. Further details of the anniversary celebrations are available here