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Re-visiting St. Barnabas

Updated: May 1

Lucy Webb wrote in 1942:

"Barnaby bright, Barnaby bright, the longest day and the shortest night"; otherwise St. Barnabas' Day (June 11) is the Patronal Festival of St. Barnabas' Church, Clare.

  • St. Barnabas' was a favourite dedication in the Diocese of Adelaide because it was Bishop Shorts birthday.

  • There are (also) St. Barnabas' Churches at Solomontown, Bordertown and Croydon, besides St. Barnabas' Theological College, North Adelaide, the foundation stone of which was laid by Bishop Short on June 11th."

Saint Barnabas the Apostle The "Peacemaker"
Patron of consolation, encouragement, neurological and nerve diseases, and Parkinson's disease Feast Day: June 11 He was born “Joseph” but changed his name to Barnabas when he converted to Christianity and though he was not one of the 12 Apostles, he is still frequently regarded as one. He was originally from Cyprus and he studied with Paul the Apostle and they converted many to Christianity together during their numerous journeys. His Feast Day is June 11th, which was believed to be the longest day of the year. Perhaps because Barnabas was known and a reconciler and a “Peacemaker” who was quick to offer encouragement and consolation, June 11 is also often referred to as “Barnaby Bright.”
Most of Barnabas’ story is told in the Book of Acts. Many regarded him as a Prophet.

St Barnabas with original porch to the south of the church.

The Anglican St. Barnabas church at the top of Clare was opened in 1851. Previously, services were held in the courthouse, down the hill.

St. Barnabas' Church, rectory. and schoolroom stand on a well-wooded hill north of Clare township.

In simple Gothic Revival design, St Barnabas was the outcome of much active lobbying by the founder of Clare, E. B. Gleeson, and other local people of influence.

  • It is one of the earliest surviving rural Anglican churches of its type and reflects the religious aspirations of settlers at the time.

  • It is claimed to be the oldest church north of Adelaide.

  • The Rev. Bagshawe, the incumbent, was the architect of both Clare and Penwortham Churches and of the parsonage. 

"Clare has an Episcopal Church, on the hill, near the entrance of the village from the Burra, in course of erection; the design is Gothic, and the edifice will perhaps contain 200 persons ; but it is not far advanced, and there seemed a want of funds, or energy, or something to complete it."

Mrs. Gleeson laid the foundation stone of the church in 1850.

She now lies in the family vault, and she outlived her husband, and all males of the direct line of Gleeson.

At first the church had an earthen floor, and just a few benches to sit upon. The wall fabric fell into sad disrepair in the time of the Rev. William Wood. [1] [Register: 21 Mar 1864]

The church was unfinished when the Gold Rush in Victoria began. Its remaining builders were unskilled.

Bishop Short noted its crumbling walls, its gables falling out, and the sheep feeding in its churchyard. Matters brightened with the arrival of the Rev. S. Button Green in 1862. St. Barnabas had then remained in an unfinished and dilapidated state.

From 1862 St Barnabas recently underwent considerable repairs and improvements.

The whole of the western end of the church was rebuilt, and likewise a portion of the eastern.

 Saturday 4 July 1863, page 2
The bazaar was again opened on Saturday afternoon for a final clearing off, which was expeditiously effected by means of raffle. 
The building was again crowded with purchasers, and I believe it was realized. The bazaar throughout has proved a complete success. 
Steps are being taken to unroof St. Barnabas at once to effect the necessary repairs, which are much wanted.

 Saturday 12 September 1863, page 3
The money collected some time ago in aid of St. Barnabas-Church is now being applied to it. The mason's work is nearly completed. The alteration will tend greatly to strengthen and beautify the sacred edifice.

The porch has been removed from the north side to the west end and enlarged. The edifice has been reroofed with metal, floored, ceiled, and plastered.

These substantial improvements, together with various embellishments, render the building fitted for the sacred purposes to which it is now duly consecrated; and the Protestant Episcopalians of Clare may at length be congratulated upon possessing one of the neatest and best-finished churches in the North. "A CHURCHMAN. March 11, 1864." [3]

The exterior was repaired, the interior plastered, and in 1864 the church was reopened and consecrated.

The font was placed in position in 1871. This was carved out of white freestone, from Mr. John Hope's Wolta Wolta quarries, nearby to (south-western) Clare. The chancel was added in 1872.

Lucy Webb wrote—Bishop Short speaks thus of the Clare Church:—"In 1857 the Church at Clare, desolate enough, even the gables falling out, and sheep feeding in the church yard. Forty-five in all at church, including the Bungaree party. After service, baptized a child and spoke to the Church Wardens about saving the building by tie rods, and fencing the churchyard." [5]

Augustus Short, D. D. Bishop of Adelaide

Bishop Short wrote in his diary:

“Enlarging the building by throwing down a portion of the eastern wall, and building thereto a chancel, with vestry adjoining. . . the neat and substantial appearance of the new portion of the structure, the walls being strongly built, and the corners faced with quoins of beautiful white freestone.

The end window, which has three lights, is very handsome, and contains a good deal of dressed work. . . Separating the chancel from the body of the church is a handsome arch of elegant proportions.” [Northern Argus 1 Jun 1875]

The chancel, 14 x 14 and 20 ft. high was added in 1875, chiefly through the liberality of Dr. Bain. He also presented nine windows of stained glass from London. These windows have of late years been replaced by more durable glass. The only one of Dr. Bain's windows remaining is in the vestry.

In 1877 Mr. Boake resigned and the Rev. R. B. Webb accepted the incumbency on condition that a rectory should be built at Clare.

Mr. Webb read himself in on April 1, and on October 1 Bishop Short laid the first stone of the rectory which cost £1,600.

A schoolroom, which has since been enlarged, was built close to the church in 1883, and was opened by Bishop Kennion on his first visit to Clare. [4]

Every institution connected with St. Barnabas' is free of debt. Both church and schoolroom are lit by acetylene gas. Half the cost of this was borne by Baron von Sanden, in memory of his daughter's confirmation.

Baron Bernhardt Traugott Leberecht VON SANDEN was born on the 11th November 1850 at Tussainen (Lithuanian: Tusainiai/ Russian: Čiapajevo) East Prussia. Von Sanden emigrated out of the Deutsch Reich on the vessel "LADY PAIRNS" to arrive in Australian at the Port of Melbourne on the 4th April 1874. On disembarking in Melbourne, Von Sanden went up to the Riverina district. [2]

A disused churchyard lies between church and rectory, and possesses many graves of interest. Nine of-the  Gleeson family are interred in the Gleeson vault. Mr. E. B. Gleeson lived at Inchiquin. about a couple of miles out of Clare.

Members of Gleeson family interred at St Barnabas cemetery

Clare parish was at first an appendage parish of Penwortham, which owned both parsonage and parson. The parson drove over to Clare once a fortnight for service. On the alternate Sundays he went to Auburn. This was then a mission district of Penwortham.

He shared this charge with the Rev. Mr. Titherington, incumbent of Riverton. Mr. Titherington was drowned while crossing the River Light, when in flood.

In 1862 Auburn became a separate charge, and Bungaree church was added to Clare. A change was made in 1877, when Canon Webb took charge.

A rectory (parsonage) was built at Clare which now became the working centre, instead of Penwortham.

Canon Webb was essentially a missionary pioneer. He established church services at Watervale. The pretty little church of St. Mary's is the outcome. After Watervale was handed oyer to Auburn, church services were started at Blyth.

John Bristow Hughes

Clare was the post town for Bundaleer and other stations.. That fine old Churchman, John Bristow Hughes, owned Bundaleer at the time. When his eldest daughter was born, he gave a bell to the Clare church in memory of the event.

He caused the name and date of her birth to be engraved on its rim.

In later life, Miss Hughes wished to verify her age. She therefore referred the authorities to the bell.

On behalf of Mr. R. D. Davies, then manager of the English and Scottish Bank at Clare, Mr. Naudebaom ascended the bell turret, and examined the inscription. The heroine of the bell was then still living.

St Barnabas Church and School Room (Hall)

Bishop Short laid the foundation stone-of the Clare rectory in 1877. This is one of the

William Loose Beare, former manager of Bungaree

most comfortable clerical dwellings north of Gawler. Canon Webb entertained the four bishops of Adelaide within its walls.

Mr. W. L. Beare took great 'interest in its erection, and-superintended every detail of its building. The total cost was £1.600. Clare rectory was always a refuge for the poor and oppressed.

The schoolroom was built in 1881, at cost of £290. This had 40 members on its roll. Mrs. Harmer inaugurated the union when she visited Clare in 1898. [1]

Mr. J. W. Gleeson succeeded his father at Inchiquin. With his fine presence, and his snow-white beard he made a most imposing figure in the family pew.

Dr. Thomas Hawker and his wife are buried in the churchyard. He was the brother of Robert Stephen Hawker, the Cornish poet. Mrs. Hawker was in Brussels at the time of the Battle of Waterloo.

In 1911 Canon Webb passed away. The Rev. E. A. Radcliff, from Mount Barker, was his successor. During his time the children's window was placed in the church by many of the 600 children baptised by Canon Webb during his 34 years' incumbency. It was unveiled by Mary Ada Tilbrook, the last child baptised by him.

The congregation also placed a tablet in the sanctuary in memory of their late pastor, bearing the Pembroke College arms. A brass tablet was also placed in the church in memory of the late Fred Auburn Bleechmore, a worshipper of 21 years. Rev. S. J. Bloyd succeeded Mr. Radcliff.

During his incumbency a cross was placed on the porch gable in memory of Sarah Ann Lee, a communicant and constant attendant of the church for over 40 years. It was given by her children.

A pulpit has been placed in the church in memory of the church's 75th birthday.

The church contains a fine roll of Honor, and the Hope and Christison windows are

very handsome.

Barnabas' Centenary Fair takes £235. - OPENED BY LADY NORRIE.

Rector John L. Bond welcomed the Vice-Regal visitor in these words:

"A hundred years in the life of a Church is a notable milestone and as we consider the past it is fitting that we should pay tribute to the witness and work of former generations of worshippers who loved God and showed .their love in devoted service to St. Barnabas Church."

"We of the present generation plan to mark the occasion in a tangible way by paving the East End of the Church and doing as much panelling as funds will allow. The final result is expected to make the Church more beautiful and so prove an inspiration to present and future generations of worshippers."

"Together with this laudable project the necessity of maintaining the fabric of the building has not been forgotten, and forms a part of the plan for which the effort is being made."


Lucy Webb was daughter of the late Canon Webb, who was well known as the Rector of St. Barnabas in the early days of Clare. Lucy Webb was a very interesting personality and for a great many years she has contributed Victor Harbour News to this journal and had a very wide and interested circle of readers.

Her very interesting articles will be greatly missed and the firm of Tilbrook Brothers express their deep regret at her death and in losing such a valued and interesting correspondent.

She knew and corresponded with a great many people abroad and throughout Australia and in her breezy and refreshing style wrote entertaining and descriptive stories of the past history of the people living in Clare, Yankalilla and Victor Harbor and other parts of South Australia.

Miss Webb's sister Lady Barwell and Mr. Bay Webb, of Melbourne are the only two surviving members of Canon Webb's family.

Her Articles are found at Search for Lucy Webb's Diary.

The following letter has been received from Lady Barwell, sister of Miss Lucy Webb, who died on Sept. 11th: — 3 Ashleigh Grove Unley Park.

To Tilbrook Brothers, Dear Sirs —

As my late sister Lucy Webb was associated with the Tilbrook family and the Northern Argus for so many years, I thought you and your readers might like to know something about her death on Sept. 11th. She had not been well for six weeks, Bronchitis was the first trouble, then another complication arose.

... The first part of the Burial Service was taken by Rev. John Bond (ex Rector of St. Barnabas, Clare) in St. Augustine's Victor Harbour. He had been so good to her in her illness.

Before she was ill she was always at the 7 a.m. service on a Sunday and once during the week.

Some time ago she wrote instructions about her burial. She wished 'to 'be cremated and Rev. Cecil Swan was to officiate if possible. He kindly took his part of the service. Her ashes are to be buried in our mother's grave in the Church yard of Christ Church, Yankalilla.

Yours sincerely, (Lady) Nancy Barwell.

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