From the Thorley Archives
In the beginning ...The St Barnabas Centre

 Many new members of our church family, as well as visitors to the church and barn, marvel at our beautiful medieval barn, set in the countryside on the outskirts of the town of Bishop’s Stortford. Why did we need such a large building, how did we raise the 1 million, when was it built? These are the most frequently asked questions.

 Date – 30th September 1989
Imagine the scene - The Rector (Clive Slaughter), both Churchwardens (Daphne Ruddock & Norman Rider), our Lay Reader (Herbie Martin) and myself on our knees, on the nave floor beside the font, sketching possible extensions to our church of St. James the Great, on sheets of A2 squared paper. We agonised over adding on an aisle or two, linking a new hall to the west by a cloister corridor or even adding a gallery! We needn’t have bothered as the next month Clive was informed that, as our church was a historically Grade 1 listed building, it was untouchable.

The reason for our accommodation concern was the rapid rise in the numbers coming to our church services and the increasing intimacy of the seating arrangements. The church was seating 120 and, when the children joined their parents, then worship became uncomfortable. The May 1989 confirmation service had to be held at Holy Trinity church, as there were so many candidates with their supporters.

Temporary accommodation was found by the addition of two portakabins in 1989/1990. These were used for children’s groups and meeting rooms. Architect’s plans for the provision of a church hall, to be built behind the present church room, were commissioned and submitted to the relevant authorities. East Herts District Council didn’t look favourably on these proposals, as new buildings would not fit in with the rural environment! The Lord then intervened. A planning application had been submitted by the owner of the large ‘pig barn’ to convert it into light industrial units. This too was refused but a suggestion was made that if the barn was sold to St. James‘ church for a reasonable price, then the remaining stable blocks might be suitable for conversion into light workshop units!

Date - 21st May 1995
Under the energetic leadership of Alan Brown and Paul Martin and their team of imaginative fundraisers, a multitude of events was undertaken – sponsored walks, sponsored bungee jumps, sponsored sleepouts by the teenagers, sponsored bike rides, barn dances, whist drives, Barnaboxes, St James Day barbecues, garden parties, coffee mornings, evening talks, sales of jam, photographic prints, plants, honey – these were some of the highlights that brought fellowship, fun and funds.

Underpinning these events were pledges that, with the advantage of Giftaid and Covenants, raised in the first two months over 80,000! A second St. Barnabas then arose from our congregation. This member, like the first St Barnabas, had sold her wheat fields and she chose to give a sizeable donation to the church to enable it to advance its work amongst the people of the parish. With these acts of faith and commitment the contracts were signed and the restoration of the 16th century barn could proceed.

Date – June 1995
With the massive framework of the building suspended and supported, foundation walls and floors were inserted. The oak timbers were renovated, braced and replaced where necessary. Steel reinforcements were incorporated to preserve the integrity of the aging structure. New buildings in the shape of the kitchen, toilets, offices and boiler room were added and the cowshed rooms were refurbished as meeting halls.

Bill Hardy 

The Opening of the St Barnabas Centre

The St Barnabas Centre
was dedicated on
April 28th 1996
by the
Bishop of St Albans,
pictured here with
Daphne Ruddock,
Revd Jean Burrows,
Clive and Graeme Winton.

From the Archives