By Paul Young

The early history of St Barnabas, Mossley Hill is really also that of St Matthew and St James, Mossley Hill, Liverpool which was consecrated on the 23rd June 1875. The church was actually located within the parish of St Anne Aigburth, a district of Garston township, but drew its congregation from the whole area around Mossley Hill including the adjoining townships of Allerton, Wavertree and Toxteth Park

However, with the population growth around the Smithdown Road, Penny Lane and Allerton Road areas, it was realised that a new church was needed. In 1900 arrangements were made by the church council of St Matthew and St James to purchase for £3030, from the executors of Mr Bramley-Moore, the non denominational Calvary church on Blenheim Road off Smithdown Road.

Generous benefactors included The Misses Ashton (£1100), Robert Singlehurst of Aigburth Hall Rd (£1000) and James Harrison (£500).  This became the first St Barnabas church and was affectionately known as the “Tin Cathedral”. (It may have been supplied by Francis Morton & Co, of Garston who specialised in building prefabricated church structures.)

An additional £310 was spent installing a Norman and Beard, hand blown, organ. The church, under the title St Barnabas Mossley Hill, was dedicated on St Peter’s Day (29th June 1900) as the chapel of ease to St Matthew and St James, Mossley Hill. The church could seat 600 people.


The “Tin Cathedral”.

The first curate in charge, Rev. Robert de Wolf, was succeeded by Rev. James Kirk Pike who took up his post in June 1904.

A scheme for the building of the new St Barnabas church on its current site on the corners of Smithdown Place, Elm Hall Drive and Penny Lane was launched in late April 1911. This was under the sponsorship of the Lord Bishop of Liverpool, Rt. Rev. Dr F. Chavasse and the Lord Bishop of Carlisle, Rt.  Rev  J W Diggle. (Rev. Diggle had been the first vicar of St Matthew and St James church, Mossley Hill before leaving to take up other posts in 1897.)

In April 1912, the plans and designs of the well known Liverpool architect James Francis Doyle were accepted and construction work begun. Originally sanction was only given to construct the nave, aisles and transept.  Following J F Doyle’s untimely death in 1912, the construction of St Barnabas new church continued under the control of his brother and fellow architect, Sidney Doyle. (Other well known local churches designed by Mr J F Doyle include St Nicholas, Wallasey, Cheshire and St Mary and St Helen, Neston, Cheshire.)

The foundation stone laying ceremony took place on the 11th June 1912 (St Barnabas day). In the absence of Miss Singlehurst due to the ill health of her father Robert Singlehurst, the stone was laid by Mrs Harford, wife of the Vicar of SS Matthew and James, Mossley Hill in the presence of Rt. Rev Dr Chavasse, Bishop of Liverpool.

The Singlehurst family, up to this point, were the principal benefactors (£3,700) to the new Church. Mr Robert Singlehurst, a widower, died on 17th June 1912 and as a memorial, his daughters offered the further sum of £11,300 in December 1912 to complete the building work.  Thus in many ways, St Barnabas new church may be regarded as the Singlehurst memorial church.

Robert Singlehurst was a Brazil Merchant and ship-owner born 1821 in Liverpool and lived for many years at Endfield, Aigburth Hall Rd, Garston. The new St Barnabas was consecrated by the Lord Bishop of Liverpool, Rt. Rev. Dr Chavasse, on the 21st Feb 1914.   On St Barnabas day in1914 a dedication service of the vicarage and completed tower was held.

The total cost for building the new church was some £24,224 of which the Singlehurst family contributed £15,000.  The only cost falling on the parishioners was the funding of the purchase of land for the new church and vicarage, some £1660.


St Barnabas Church just after completion.

The church is built in specially moulded bricks of various sizes, with red sandstone dressings, and the roof is of slate. The architectural style is Perpendicular. Inside, the columns are in Storeton stone. The plan of the church consists of a four-bay nave with a clerestory, north and south aisles under lean-to roofs, two south porches, north and south transepts, a chancel with a south chapel and a northeast vestry, and a west tower. The tower has a west entrance, above which is a three-light window. The bell openings are paired with louvres, and above them is a cornice and an arcaded embattled parapet. The porches also have embattled parapets. The windows along the sides of the aisles and the clerestory have three lights, and those in the transepts and the chancel have five lights. The chapel windows have three lights, and those in the vestry have two and three lights.

Inside the church are five-bay arcades between the nave and aisles, and a three-bay arcade between the chancel and the chapel, the latter being more ornate than the former. In the east window is a war memorial in stained glass by H. G. Hiller.

The two-manual pipe organ was built by Henry Willis & Sons, and there have been alterations and repairs since. The organ case was designed by Sydney W. Doyle.

There is a ring of eight bells installed in 2010: the six largest bells were transferred from St James, Waterfoot, Lancashire, and the two smallest bells from elsewhere.

The section “Tour Guide of the church” provides more information about the interior of St Barnabas.


The original plans for St Barnabas Church (c 1912)



(Photo: Paul Young)

St Barnabas Church today.