Not many years ago, the area where St Barnabas, Southfields now stands was open fields, containing watercress beds and a farm. The first houses to be built were those in the Longfield Street and Burr Road areas, and it was in the latter that the first St Barnabas’ church stood. This was a temporary ‘tin tabernacle’ that served as the church’s base while the houses in the Grid were being built up, following the opening of the District Line in 1889.
The foundation stone of the present church was laid in 1906 by Canon Scott Holland of St Paul’s Cathedral. It was opened and dedicated on May 9th 1908 by the Bishop of Southwark. The design was by C Ford Whitcombe, following the perpendicular style like many churches in East Anglia. In the early days St Barnabas needed as many as 800 seats for the regular worshippers, and 2,000 copies of the parish magazine were distributed.
Once the houses on the grid, and the streets either side of Penwith Road had been built, the area of St Barnabas’ church was ready to become a parish on its own. The parish boundary was finally agreed as the River Wandle, the borough boundary along Ravensbury and Revelstoke Roads, the District railway line and finally a line from Wimbledon Park Road back to the Wandle via Smeaton and Kimber Roads. It remains so to this day.
St Barnabas’ district finally became a parish in 1922, and the priest in charge (The Revd J W Warren) became the first Vicar. The parish has changed a great deal since those days, when people often stayed here all their lives.