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Latest News

21/03/14 08:23pm
In April and May a series of exciting events will be taking place celebrating the industrial and cultural heritage of the Oxford Canal. Organised by the Heritage Lottery funded Oxford Canal Heritage...
28/03/13 09:58am
The Jericho Living Heritage Trust is seeking a part-time manager to lead a project which is ‘Celebrating the heritage of Oxford’s canal’. The post-holder will oversee implementation of a grant...
28/03/13 09:45am
Today, the Jericho Living Heritage Trust, working on behalf of the Oxford City Canal Partnership has received a £65,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for an exciting project in Oxford....
30/03/12 10:34am
We have reached another key point in the campaign to acquire and develop the boatyard site for the community, and would like to bring everyone up to date. In the first stage of this project you...

St Barnabas Church

St Barnabas ChurchThe old Jericho Boatyard is adjoined by Jericho's architectural high spot and its most important building: Sir Arthur Blomfield's church of St. Barnabas, whose basilica was modeled on the style of the cathedral of Torcello, near Venice. The church was chosen by Thomas Hardy, who had worked on it as an assistant to Blomfield, for a scene in Jude the Obscure where he describes the church's levitating cross – seemingly suspended in mid-air by barely visible wires and swaying gently – beneath which lay the crumpled, prostrate figure of Sue Bridehead, forlornly covered in a pile of black clothes.

St Barnabas' lofty Byzantine tower was described by A. N. Wilson in his book The Healing Art as "the most impressive architectural monument in sight". Robert Martin (biographer of the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins) records a University friend of Hopkins as saying "When I want a spiritual fling I go to St Barnabas".

The church was mournfully acclaimed by John Betjeman in his poem 'St Barnabas, Oxford', and with the subtly complex earth-tones of its tracery (what Betjeman described as the polychromatical lacing of bricks) and its Romanesque style the church is a paragon of Pre-Raphaelite taste - not unsurprisingly since it was Thomas and Martha Combe who enabled it to be built and were its principal benefactors. They were given the land on which it now stands by William Ward, a fellow of Balliol and the son of the Jericho Boatyard's founder.

One of the most devastating effects of the proposed boatyard development would be the loss of St Barnabas Church’s unencumbered visual impact across Jericho and beyond. A spokesman for the developers was rash enough to let slip that he regarded St Barnabas' Church as "an anomaly." This is a strikingly unsympathetic way of describing one of the most significant buildings in the Jericho quarter; surely Oxford deserves a development which shows greater cultural and environmental awareness than this?

St Barnabas, Oxford

How long was the peril, how breathless the day,
In topaz and beryl, the sun dies away,
His rays lying static at quarter to six
On polychromatical lacing of bricks.
Good Lord, as the angelus floats down the road
Byzantine St Barnabas, be Thine Abode.

Where once the fritillaries hung in the grass
A baldachin pillar is guarding the Mass.
Farewell to blue meadows we loved not enough,
And elms in whose shadows were Glanville and Clough
Not poets but clergymen hastened to meet
Thy redden’d remorselessness, Cardigan Street.

John Betjeman

Last modified: 3 November, 2009