Michael Peel describes the work of St. Barnabas’ College, Lingfield

HIDDEN BEHIND TREES, not far from Lingfield Racecourse, you discover the College of St. Barnabas. As you turn the corner of the drive, you see what looks like a traditional college – a quadrangle with rectangular croquet lawns and rose trees, and with buildings on three sides. Facing you is the Chapel, with the Library and Refectory on either side, handsome buildings which join two cloisters that lead to the flats in which the residents live.

The buildings date from 1899 to 1910. Originally called the Homes of St. Barnabas, the title “College” was assumed in 1977 so as to reflect the corporate or “collegiate” nature of the place, whose purpose is to provide homes for retired Anglican priests. The origins of the Homes go back to the 1890s, when, through poverty and inability to find work, many clergymen were forced to resort to the workhouse. One priest appalled by this was William Cooper, an Irishman who had spent his ministry abroad as a travelling missionary.

In 1890, he and a Brighton incumbent found twenty seven priests in three workhouses that they visited. Spurred into action, Cooper raised money to found St. Luke’s Hostel for the Clergy in 1891 (later to become the Hospital for the Clergy in Fitzroy Square). This was followed in 1895 by the founding of the Homes of St. Barnabas. Two houses were rented in Dormans Park and, in 1899, work began on building permanent Homes on the site of the present College.

As Cooper, the first Warden, stated, his objects were to provide permanent Homes to aged Clergymen and Homes of Rest to others (including missionaries) who had broken down in their work. At the time, the Homes were unique in the national Church. Since its founding, the College has been home to over a thousand priests, although in recent decades it has also provided flats for married couples. Today we have some forty Residents. When they are unable to live on their own, they enter our nine-bed Nursing Home. Residents are free to come and go as they choose.

There is a daily Eucharist, celebrated in turn by the Residents. The more active ones take occasional duty in parishes. Recent visitors to the College have included the Bishop of Southwark (our Diocesan and official Visitor) and the former Bishop of Buckingham (Simon Burrows) who preached at our Patronal Festival. In October, the Bishop of Richborough will spend a day with us. His visit will be a particular encouragement to the many Residents who are members of Forward in Faith and who, incidentally, had the pleasure of meeting Francis Gardom earlier this year when he was a guest of the College.

Although the clerical destitution that prompted the founding of the College has long since gone, and although Residents are now asked to pay towards their board, lodging and nursing care, the College refuses no applicant on financial grounds. The College remains a charity, relying largely on the generosity of individuals.

With the passing of the years, the College buildings have now reached the stage when they must be modernised and refurbished. Most of the flats have to be altered so that we can provide en suite facilities, in place of the present shared facilities. Edwardian baths and basins, plumbing and heating must be replaced and a new mains electricity supply is needed. We need new furnishings as well as a new lift and staircase. Moreover, our Nursing Home needs extensive alteration and the number of registered beds has to be increased.

As the cost of these works could reach one million pounds, a sum beyond the scope of our endowment, we are launching a Centenary Appeal for this amount at Lambeth Palace on 26 September this year. We hope that individuals and parishes will support the Appeal. If parishes would like to arrange a visit, I should be pleased to hear from them. If you would like to support us, please ask for a Brochure or more information. We shall be glad to hear from you.

Above all, do pray for us and ask God’s blessing on the College, the Residents and the Staff.

The Revd Dr. Michael Peel, Warden, Tel. 01342 870260 / 870366 Fax. 01342 870193