Charles Herbert Reilly, 1910
St Barnabas' Church, Shackewell Row, E8 2EA
Early 20th C Grade II* listed church designed by CH Reilly. Byzantine in structure but prefiguring Modernism in its aesthetic, Nairn judged it “the best church of its date in London”, Reilly “the building I should like to be remembered by”.
Dalston Junction, Rectory Road, Hackney Downs
488, 236, 276, 67, 76, 149, 243
Please note that the church itself is not visible from Shacklewell Row, as it is tucked behind the hall. The site is accessible by a gate to the right of the hall (if standing on Shacklewell Row facing the hall). The gable of the hall is painted with the words "Saint Barnabas Church".
This Grade II* listed church building, described as Dalston’s hidden gem, was designed by architect Charles Herbert Reilly. Reilly, who subsequently became Professor of Architecture at Liverpool University, considered it “the building I should like to be remembered by”.
The church building both looks both backwards to Byzantine church architecture, with its barrel vault and saucer-shaped dome, and anticipates Modernist structures, with a tough, functional-looking aesthetic of plain stock brick and exposed concrete.
This aesthetic, the pure proportion of the building, and its contrasts of dark and light have made the church popular with the critics, who regard it as prefiguring inter-war buildings like Battersea Power Station or the Underground Stations of Charles Holden. Critic Ian Nairn called it “the best church of its date in London”.
Reilly came to design the church because he was a former pupil of the Merchant Taylors’ School, which established a mission on the site of the church in 1890. The church was preceded by a two-storey hall, built as part of this mission and used to provide education and support for local children and parents. Students from Merchant Taylors’ School spent time based at St Barnabas’, assisting the priest who served there.
Both the church and the hall stood empty for almost three decades before becoming home to a new Church of England congregation in 2010. This congregation refurbished the hall in 2013, with designs prepared by two architects who are part of the church, Peter Jennings and Dave Cawston. The hall is now well-used, both by the church and by arts and community groups.
The congregation now plans to restore the church building, so that they and the community can make the most of this remarkable space.
All are welcome to weekly services at 10:30am on Sundays. The buildings are also available for hire. For more information on these things and St Barnabas’s restoration project see www.saintbarnabasdalston.org.uk
Over the weekend of 16-17th September, visitors are welcome to look around both the church and the hall with guided tours at specified times.
Children's activities are provided to help the whole family enjoy our site, with refreshments available too.
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