St Barnabas’ Church
Clarksfield, Oldham

The history of St Barnabas’ Church

The beginning

Read more


The first church

Read more


The Vicars of St Barnabas’ Church

Read more






Today’s Church

Read more


The first wedding at St Barnabas

Description: Description: wedding_certificate



Read more


The beginning

 St Barnabas’ Church was founded by the Revd John Gouldie French, whose image appears above.

Gouldie French was born in Liver­pool and educated at Manchester Grammar School and Durham University, where he took his BA in 1869 and an MA in 1876. He taught for a year in Halifax Grammar School before ordination as a deacon in 1870.

French’s first curacy was at St James’ Church on Barry Street, near today’s ‘Tesco Extra’. He was 27 years of age. His first task was to establish Christian classes for the poor of the Church’s neigh­­bour­ing district of Clarksfield.

He started preaching in 1870. The Lees Road side of the Parish gave occasional hospitality but it was not always easy to get a room, so after a conference with the Vicar of Saint James’ he was authorised to rent a room in Marsh Street, outside our current parish, and nearer to St James’. The area was full of mill cottages, explaining why his meetings became known as ‘Cottage Meetings’. 

There he began regular Wednesday evening services, a harmonium was obtained and singers enlisted, after a few weeks it became evident that there was scope for a Sunday School, with Mr Joseph Holt as its first Superintendent.

The meetings were sufficiently successful to permit the creation of a self-supporting ‘mission’ (or ‘daughter’) Church to St James’. He named it after Saint Barnabas. A regular Sunday Evening Service was inaugurated somewhat later, and good congregations were the rule.

The strength of Gouldie French’s achievements earned him the Incumbency of Waterhead, then outside Oldham. He was licensed in 1878 at the young age of 35 and remained its Vicar for 48½ years. In many respects the founder of St Barnabas’ Church was also Waterhead’s greatest Vicar.

Left: The house on Back Marsh Street (date unknown)



The first Church

After its first foundation, work continued for 28 years until 1909. St James’ Parish had grown to such large proportions that the then Vicar of Saint James’ (The Revd H F Walker) inaugurated a scheme to form a new Parish. He wanted it include the rapidly growing district of Clarksfield. The boundaries of the new Parish would be: Lees Road, Cow Lane, Dunkerley Street, Huddersfield Road, Spring Street, The Cemetery and Clarksfield Road.

The site of the present Church, Parish Hall and Vicarage was given by the Lees family of Clarksfield House on Kelverlow Street. In 1910, a sum of £1,500 was assigned for the building of a new Church School, which was the foundation of the present Parish. The foundation stone was laid on 25 November 1911 and on 20 July 1912; the new Church Hall was dedicated by the Archdeacon of Rochdale. A fund to build a separate Church was interrupted by the First World War, so St Barnabas remained a Mission Church of Saint James’, served by Lay Readers and Curates from that Church.

The Revd G K Knowlson was the first superintendent of St Barnabas Mission Church after gaining independence from St James'.

In 1924, Saint Barnabas became a Conventional District, meaning the Parish was separated distinct from Saint James’. The Revd G K Knowlson (left) became the first Priest-in-Charge of the parish.

The Church commissioned Robert Martin of Manchester to convert the old St Barnabas Hall into a Church complex.

This plan was adapted several times. The final version (right) was completed in 1932.

Thereafter, a building that had served as a combined Church and Parish Hall now became the Church proper; and a new Parish Hall was built.

The Rt Revd Guy Warman at about the same time as the consecration of St Barnabas’

The present Church was dedicated by the Lord Bishop of Manchester, the Rt Revd Dr Guy Warman on the 27 February 1932.

The first Vicar was the Revd Sydney Cook, whose image appears below.



The new Parish quickly found its feet and took its place in the life and work of the Deanery and Diocese. The pews, font, altar table and choir stalls all came from the defunct Church of Saint Michael, Angel Meadow, Manchester; and other items of furniture came as gifts from friends. Indeed, throughout its life the Church has always been fortunate in its benefactors.

On 29 May 1958, the Parish Hall was completely gutted by fire. Within a year, the Church had received £7,217 (then a vast fortune) to build a new Parish Hall. It re-opened on St Barnabas Day, Sunday 11 June 1961, and was officially opened on 20 January 1962 when the Lord Bishop of Hulme, the Rt Revd Kenneth Ramsey, laid the foundation stone.


The Vicars of St Barnabas’ Church


Sydney Cook

Henry Park

Joseph Hamer

Philip Leigh







Arthur Newall

Frank Baldwick

(George) Herman Nuttall

Donald Gilbert







Edwin Bennett

Jim McManus

Stephen Harrop

Frederick Corbin







Douglas Oates

St Barnabas became part of the Medlock Head Team Ministry in 2006, when it joined with St John the Baptist, Hey or Lees. Thereafter, Doug was licensed as the Team Vicar.




Team Vicars in the Medlock Head Team Ministry (and Vicars of St Barnabas’ Church)


Douglas Oates

Paul Monk

Paul Monk




Today’s Church

In 2008, we joined together the Hall and Church with a purpose built ‘link’. The link also comprises excellent disability access and toilets. We have adventurous plans for improving this area even further.

Most recently, the Church was painted throughout (2012 and 2013) and the internal flooring stripped and resealed. We brought forward the altar from the sanctuary to the edge of the chancel, and reordered the remainder of the chancel to a high standard, with new altar rails of modern-looking American white oak.



Back to St Barnabas’ main page

Back to the Medlock Head main page

Page posted 24 May 2017