Linthorpe is mentioned in church records from Guisborough and Whitby, dating back around 900 years. Local historians believe it could have originated in the days of the Saxons or Danes. A rural, mostly farming community survived, within the parish of Acklam, until the mid-19th century when the village, as it is known today, began to develop.
St. Barnabas owes its origins to Rev. George Austen, an energetic young vicar of St.Paul’s Church in Newport Road, Middlesbrough. He instigated the Conventional District of Linthorpe, which was created by the Archbishop of York, Dr. William Thomson, from the parishes of Acklam, Marton and St.John’s, Middlesbrough. In March 1872, a public meeting was held in Mr. Oliver’s gymnasium at the Albert Park Hotel, Linthorpe Road. The aim was to try and establish a new mission church in the area. George Austen recognized that the greater part of Linthorpe at that time lay within the parish of St.John’s. However, this was some distance away from the new housing being developed there so he felt that the spiritual needs of the people of Linthorpe needed to be provided for. The clergy at St. John’s gave permission to George Austen to do what he could and his senior assistant curate, the Rev. Thomas Robinson agreed to conduct services. A committee was subsequently to raise funds for the project.
Mr Oliver, proprietor of the Albert Park Hotel, agree to the use of his newly-built gymnasium for three months free of charge and the first Anglican church service in Linthorpe took place at 6pm on Sunday, 24th March 1872. 60 children attended the Sunday School and ‘the large room was fairly filled at the evening service’. People came in through an archway that still stands today and by a staircase in the backyard.
The three months in the gym lasted a lot longer than anticipated and Mr Oliver eventually said that that the arrangement had to stop. As no other venue could be found, the church obtained permission from Middlesbrough Borough Council to use the new Linthorpe cemetery chapel on a temporary basis. The first service took place there on the last Sunday in June 1873. The total for the offertory for the first full year came to £18.9s.6d. This consisted of 1,895 coins that included 1,003 pennies and 533 half-pennies. Clearly, there was not much money to spare. This predated the arrival of businessmen and trades people who moved into the fashionable new villa residences along the Avenue and Crescent from 1875 onwards. Only the ‘working class’ terraced streets had been built at this point in time.
The foundation stone of a brick-built church was laid by Mrs Carl Bolckow, using a silver presentation trowel, at 3pm on Tusday 9th September 1875, when the vicar of St. John’s, the Rev. A.C.Smith preached at he morning service and the Ven. William Hey, Archdeacon of Cleveland, in the evening. March, 1875. Located on New Cemetery Road, now St. Barnabas Road, it stood as part of the former Doughty’s brickyard, where Megarth Road now stands.
The curate-in-charge of St.Barnabas, the Rev. Arthur F.Clarke, – St. Barnabas’ first full-time minister – had just arrived earler in 1875 from St. Mary’s Church in Beverley. He came with the blessing of Mr Austen who, in December 1874, wrote in his final letter before leaving for Whitby, “I have felt that Linthorpe could not be effectually shepherded until it had the services of a separate pastor.” Mr Bolckow guaranteed half of the curate’s stipend, the other half to be provided by the Additional Curate’s Society. The project was now nearly complete as a church in its own right.
A few years later, another curate arrived. He had a dynamic ministry and his powerful impact on the church is still being seen today. He was the Rev. John William Dales, who came from South Bank where for four years he had been pioneering an Anglican mission that was later to become St. John’s in Normanby Road. Born in Arthington, near Leeds, he studied at St. Aidan’s College, Birkenhead and at Durham University. Mr Dales began his ministry at St. Barnabas on 1st April 1881 and soon started a fund for a permanent church building. Fully aware that the district was rapidly developing into a substantial residential area, he chose as his motto, “Go forward” and started to plan on a large scale.
A whole new era for the parish began with the laying of the foundation stones of the new church on Tuesday, 22nd September 1891, by the Mayor of Middlesbrough, Col. Charles Lothian Bell and Sir Raylton Dixon. Taking a leading part in the event were the band of the Tees Submarine Miners, the Archbishop of York, local clergy and the combined choirs of St. Barnabas and St. Paul’s.
The long-awaited moment of the official opening arrived at noon on Saturday, 19th November, 1892, when the Archbishop of York, Dr. William Dalrymple Maclagan performed the ceremony and consecrated the building, even though it was still incomplete. Only the nave had been erected – the chancel followed in 1897, the year Linthorpe was defined and designated a parish in its own right. Designed in the Early English style of architecture by C.Hudson Fowler of Durham, it is a grade 11 listed building built with brick and sandstone dressings.
Several commemorative windows and features include a memorial tablet and east window to those men of the parish who died in the two world wars, paneling in memory of Alderman J.W.Bruce OBE, JP, churchwarden and three times mayor of Middlesbrough and a rood screen presented by Mrs Lavinia Dent in memory of her husband, Thomas Rodham Dent (1858-1924), churchwarden and former mayor. Dedicated by the Bishop of Whitby on Sunday, 17th June 1928, it also marked the 50th anniversary of the ordination of the Rev. J.W.Dales as vicar.
Continuing as a church hall, the old mission building was replaced by the present day church hall, built by Doughty & Sons, on the opposite side of the road which was officially opened and dedicated by the Archbishop of York on 14th July 1911.
The population of Linthorpe grew from around 5000 in 1901 to almost 29000 in 1931. To keep with this, Rev. Dales established further mission churches in the parish – specifically St. James in 1904 (a new church opened in 1937); St. Mark’s in 1922 (a new church, St. Oswalds’s opened in 1934); and St Martin’s in 1928 (a new church opened in 1940).
Mr Dales was greatly respected by all who knew him. He was known as ‘Daddy’ and the ‘sky-pilot’ and who humorously referred to himself as ‘Linthorpe’s Champion Beggar’, in view of his tireless raising efforts. He died on 14th November, 1931, aged 80.
He was succeeded by the Rev. George Frederick Townley in 1932. He stayed till 1944 when he left to become Vicar and Rural Dean of Scarborough. He went on to become Suffragan Bishop of Hull, serving from 1957 to 1965. The third vicar, Canon Hartley Anthony Wareham, served from 1944 until his retirement at Easter, 1972. He was followed by Rev. Frank Geoffrey Hunter in 1972 who stayed for four years. Canon Ian Davison Reid followed him in 1976 who sadly died in office in 1997. Our present vicar, Canon Erik Wilson, followed in 1998.
In 1941, due to enemy action, the chancel windows, as well as the curate’s house in 388 Linthorpe Road, were damaged.
In 1992 there was a substantial re-ordering and renovation programme to mark the church’s centenary. The screen was transferred from the chancel steps to its present position directly in front of the east window. During the centenary celebrations, there was a week of prayer, a day of fasting on the centenary day (19th November), and a Festival of Praise on 28th November. The celebrations were concluded the following day with a Service of Thanksgiving with the Archbishop of York, Dr. John Habgood, as the preacher.
In 2009 Erik Wilson wanted to safeguard long-term future of the building and create a building that could be used by the wider community, and enable the church to worship in different ways. From 26th April 2009 until Tuesday 8th September 2009, the congregation met for worship in the church hall whilst the church nave was re-ordered. This re-ordering involved the removal of the Victorian pews and replacing them with comfortable chairs, replacing the original floor that was in need of serious repair with a new oak floor, repairs to the stone pillars, and the installation of a new sound/multimedia system.
St. Barnabas himself, when he visited Antioch, said that he ‘was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts’. If he lived today and saw our church, we hope that he would be inspired to offer the same encouragement.
by Paul Stevenson