St. Barnabas Church, Parramatta Street, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia 1870By Remembering the Past Australia / April 8, 2022 / Australia / 0 Comments
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
This image is part of the Colonial Office photographic collection held at The National Archives UK.
The original St Barnabas’ Church was established on the north side of ‘Parramatta Street’ in the mid-nineteenth century. The area was then one of the most undesirable parts of the city, subject to the periodic flooding of Blackwattle Creek and dominated by industries including slaughterhouses, boiling down works, soap works and breweries. In December 1857 the Anglican Bishop of Sydney, Frederic Barker, licensed Thomas Smith to work as a catechist among its working-class population. Smith, a former tradesman and reformed drunkard, was well suited to the role. Within a year, his congregation had outgrown its meeting place in a rented shack ‘in a most uninviting lane out of Parramatta Street’, known popularly as ‘Parson Smith’s barn.’ Accordingly, Barker laid the foundation stone for a church and schoolhouse.
St Barnabas’ was a stark contrast to the impressive Gothic revival buildings of the newly established University of Sydney, then under construction a few hundred metres away. It was ‘not on a hill, to be viewed merely as a picturesque feature in the landscape.’ Rather, as Barker explained, it was placed
“…in the neighbourhood of squalor and where offensive sights and sounds continually arrested the senses of passers-by…where it would be useful, and where the influences emanating from it were needed, and would be likely to be felt.“
Parson Smith had uncommon success with the neighbourhood’s working poor so extensions were soon required. During the summer of 1863-64, St Barnabas’ was enlarged to accommodate a further 250 people, and extra land was acquired to provide a direct entrance from the main street. In 1869 Smith claimed a congregation of 1200 and a Sunday school of 1000 pupils. By the time of his departure from the parish in 1873, St Barnabas’ was well established as a focal point for the local Glebe community. [Dictionary of Sydney]
Showing St. Barnabas Church, Parramatta Street, Sydney, New South Wales. Original photo published 1870.
From the collection of: