John E. Vigars Kent Church Photographs
Image Source: Rob Baker
The Medway dockyard town of New Brompton (renamed as Gillingham in 2003) experienced phenomenal growth in the later half of the 19th century, necessitating the need for new churches of various denominations. St. Barnabas was the second of New Brompton's large scale Victorian-era Anglican churches, after St. Mark's in 1864-6. It was built between 1889-90 and succeeded a Mission Church built in 1886. This Mission Church building exists today as the Church Hall, and is also used by the Ladybirds children's nursery. The architects for St. Barnabas were the Cutts brothers, J.E.K. and J.P. (John Edward Knight and John Priston). They designed a large red bricked church with a long clerestoried nave and small north and south aisles with lancet windows running the length of the church and along the rear wall. Due to space constraints on the plot of land, between the Nelson and Stopford Roads, St. Barnabas could not be built to the traditional liturgical alignment. Instead it has been built to a north-south pattern with the five lancet window above the High Altar facing southwards. The chancel and (liturgical) north chapel, built to house a large pipe organ (now removed) were added in 1899. In 1914 a Lady Chapel vestry were added to the (liturgical) south side of the chancel. The Cutts brothers were active in Medway in the early years of the 20th century. They had provided the plans for a second large red bricked church in Gillingham, dedicated to St. Luke's, which was built between 1907-09. The High Altar was carved by five shipwrights from Chatham Dockyard and was installed in 1890, but perhaps the most impressive feature in the church is the massive stone reredos, which is a magnificent piece of stonework dedicated to the Rev. Cyrus Steel. It cost £500 and was fitted to the (liturgical) east wall in 1905. The sculpturers carved their names and initials on the back and then secured it to the wall. A loss of church records means that we will never know who designed it. The stained-glass windows in the north and south aisles and along the rear wall have all been donated to the church either by various organisations or in memory of a prominent minister or churchwarden. These were installed between the 1890s and 1950s. In 2015 a small kitchenette and toilet facilities were built in the (liturgical) south aisle, enabling the church to meet the demands of a 21st century congregation. The bench seating is portable and can be moved around when the occasion demands ensuring that the church can host community events instead of merely religious services. In recent years St. Barnabas was threatened with closure due to declining attendances, but the congregation rallied around the church and the Diocese of Rochester backed down. Today it shares a Vicar with Gillingham's historic medieval church of St. Mary Magdelene on Gillingham Green, and maintains a traditional and slightly High Church style of worship. Text by Rob Baker
1851 Census Details
Seating Capacity: Not built
Morning Attendance: Not built
Afternoon Attendance: Not built
Evening Attendance: Not built
Original Build Date/Architect: Cutts 1889
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