St Barnabas’ Church
Clarksfield, Oldham

The history of St Barnabas’ Church

The beginning

St Barnabas Church has many beginnings. The first can be dated to 1870 when, on 1 May of that year, the Revd John Gouldie French was ordained a Curate to help the Vicar of St James’ Church, the Revd Septimus Gooday.  

Gouldie French was given a series of projects to show his mettle. One was to conduct Cottage Meetings in different parts of the parish. Soon, he was renting room in Back Marsh Street just off Lees Road. This location was demolished some years after the War but was then near the present-day Lees Road.

The Vicar soon started a Sunday School then, later, regular Sunday Evening Services.

St Barnabas Mission Church

The first Sunday school on Back Marsh Street started in January 1883. Tenders for building were accepted in April of that year. The corner stone was laid in July; and, as far as can be discerned, the name of St Barnabas was first used soon afterward in the September. The building formally opened on 11 June 1884.

After its first foundation, work continued for 28 years until 1909. St James’ Parish had grown to such large proportions that the Saint James’ new Vicar, the Revd Henry F Walker, inaugurated a scheme to form a new Parish. In particular, he wanted it to 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 family of the late Colonel Edward Brown Lees (of the extensive local Lees family of Clarksfield House on Kelverlow Street) donated a site on which to build the new Church. It provided room for Church, Sunday School and Vicarage. The Diocese approved the scheme shortly afterwards, in 1907.

Much of the money for the new Church came from those worshipping in Back Marsh 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 opened on 20 July 1912.  A fund to build a separate Church was interrupted by the First World War, so St Barnabas remained a Mission Church of Saint James’.

The original Church was intended as a multi-purpose building. It was a Church on Sundays for Christian worship. It would also have housed worship on special days, particularly Christmas and Whit. But during the majority of the week, it was a Hall for a working-men’s club, temperance meetings and a wide array of small projects, all aimed at self-improvement.

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


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

St Barnabas became a Conventional District in 1924, 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 (below) 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 present Church was dedicated by the Lord Bishop of Manchester, the Rt Revd Dr Guy Warman on the 27 February 1932.


The first wedding at St Barnabas


The first Parish Church

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.

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.


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Page posted 1 March 2018