A C20 Austin & Paley church hidden in the fields and woods
The Lancaster architectural dynasty of Sharpe, Paley and Austin modified its name over the years to reflect the changing partners. From 1836-45 Edmund Sharpe practised alone. In 1845 Edward Graham Paley – Sharpe’s student – became his partner, and they worked together for six years. From 1851, following Sharpe’s retirement, Paley worked alone until 1868, when was joined by Hubert James Austin. The fertile partnership of Paley & Austin flourished until 1886 when they were joined by Paley’s son, Henry (Harry) Anderson Paley. On E.G. Paley’s death in 1895 the firm became Austin & Paley, and continued as such until 1914 when Austin’s son Geoffrey joined them. H.J Austin’s death in 1915, and the departure of Geoffrey from the practice the same year, left Harry Paley to carry on alone until his retirement in 1936. The name Austin & Paley was used throughout this time, and continued until the firm’s closure in c.1944.
Barnacre church was built in 1905 during the tenure of Austin & Paley. It sits by a small wood and open fields next to a road leading up into the Forest of Bowland. The church is built of stone, and has red tiled roofs. The family of Thomas Henry Rushton bought if for £2000. Until 1911 it was a chapel of ease to St Thomas’s, Garstang, but in that year it became a parish church in its own right. The building is one of a number of Austin & Paley churches of that time with low, broad, heavy towers that appear to hug the earth – nearby Dolphinholme, and Flookburgh across the sands, though differing in detail, share these defining characteristics. The tower itself, as Pevsner notes, is very broad but nicely grouped. It has a low pyramidal roof and very large stepped buttresses.
Entrance to the church is through a north door in the tower – there is no porch. A west window of three lights depicting St Chad, St Oswald and St Cuthbert illuminates the space below the tower. Here is a tapering “architectural” stone font with stepped buttresses. The aisless nave is reached through a plain dressed stone tower arch. The chancel is raised, with a stone pulpit. The vestry is on the north side of the church. On the south side of the chancel is the Memorial Chapel. It was built by Austin & Paley in 1937 in memory of James Lever Rushton, the founder of the church. At its west end is a narrow passage with an arched opening to the Chapel. Two simple arches lead into the chancel. The oak altar with fretwork bands stands in front of a wooden reredos. The high east window of the Chapel is circular with a central quatrefoil and web-like tracery. The stained glass here, as elsewhere, is by Shrigley & Hunt of Lancaster. The addition of the Memorial Chapel adds immeasurably to the interior space of the church, and its plain south facing windows introduce light and interest into what is quite a dark building.
The best window at Barnacre is the WW2 Memorial Window to Flying Officer Thomas James Lever Rushton DFC, who died on active service in Alexandria in 1943. It has a traditional theme and composition – an angel with a crown of glory above a kneeling knight. The image is well drawn, and uses colours that are both rich and subtle. It is salutary to compare this window with the St Augustine window (1998) on the north side of the nave, which, unfortunately, has none of these qualities.