Before the church of St. Barnabas was built, services were held in the Old Schoolroom at Wapping by Dr. Norman who held the position of curate at Houghton-le-Spring from 1864 to 1866 before becoming the first incumbant of St. Barnabas church. The location of the school can be seen on the 1855 OS map on the "Schools" page of this site.
The first vestry meeting was held in the schoolroom at Wapping on Monday 10th February 1868 when Mr. Thomas Gilchrist was appointed churchwarden by Dr. Norman. Mr. Henry Thomas Morton was elected as people's warden. Mr. George Gray was nominated as sexton. As first encumbant, Dr. Norman's name later (1872) appeared on the front of the burial register, along with the names of his two churchwardens, Thomas Gilchrist and William Steward. My thanks to Mr. Harry Willis for allowing access to one of the registers.
The first parish registers date from 1868.
The first baptism took place on March 1st 1868 and was that of Mary Leighton, daughter of Henry and Elizabeth Leighton of Lambton Park.
The first marriage registered was that of Robert Wintrip and Mary Little on April 13th, 1868.
The first burial registered was that of William Wood of Bournmoor on March 5th, 1868
Incumbents of St. Barnabas Church:
Alfred Merle Norman 1866-1895
Thomas Frederick Patterson 1896-1903
Sydney Montgomery Reynolds 1903-1922
Arthur John Gadd 1922-1950
John Richardson 1951-1954
Eric Stanistreet Barnett 1955-1961
John Sell 1962-1967
Joseph Clayton Hancock 1968-1973
Robin Walter 1974-1979
Beverley Johnson 1980-1984
Malcolm Geoffrey Bishop 1985-1997
Nicholas Alan Chamberlain 1998-2006
Alfred Merle Norman - the Clergyman Naturalist of Bournmoor!
The first encumbant was Mr. Alfred Merle Norman. He was born in Exeter in 1831, his father John Norman, was a landowner, surgeon and Deputy Lieutenant of Somerset. Alfred attended Winchester College from 1844-1848, from where he progressed to Christ Church Oxford, obtaining his BA in 1852 and MA in 1859.
With regards to his progress through the church, he was ordained a deacon in 1856 at Wells Theological College, became curate of Kibworth Beauchamp in Leicestershire in the same year and in 1857 was ordained as a priest. In 1866, he held the position of curate of Houghton-le-Spring and was also made Rector of Bournmoor in the same year. In 1867, he became Chaplain to the second Earl of Durham. In 1885, he was appointed a Canon of Durham Cathedral. As a clergyman, Alfred was fully committed to the work in his parish and found recreation in natural history studies, similar to to other "clergymen-naturalists" of the mid and late Victorian era. During his 29 years at Bournmoor, he was considerably involved with church matters and also, by contrast, with many scientific including the British Association for the Advancement of Science, the Conchological and Malacological Societies and the Museums Association. He also continued his long association with the Tyneside Naturalist's Field Club and was a member of the Natural History Society of Northumberland and Durham. Alfred became known as a great "Clergyman-naturalist", as he amassed a huge collection of over 11,000 invertebrates, probably the largest such collection in Europe. His vast collection was purchased in four instalments between 1898 and 1911 by the Natural History Museum in London - formerly The British Museum (Natural History). The collection at the museum became known as "The Norman Collection" and for the museum and other researchers, was an invaluable reference source. Alfred's contribution to the natural history of that time was impressive. He published in excess of 200 papers, the early ones were on the subjects of birds, insects, amphibians and fishes. Later publications were chiefly studies of marine and freshwater invertebrates. Alfred was a devoted collector and his numerous field trips included almost every region in the British Isles. The majority of these were made during his summer vacations. His interest was primarily the north Atlantic region, north of 35 degress north, including Greenland, the Atlantic coast of North America and the Mediterranean. He also made exchanges and purchases of specimens with other collectors and this enabled him to amass an imposing private collection of invertebrates. As his collections increased, he had an iron-framed outbuilding erected in the garden of Bournmoor Rectory to accommodate the collection's larger items. Small specimens were kept in the Rectory in corked glass vessels or small boxes and trays in specially constructed cabinets. He was a conscientious curator and gave much thought to storing and arranging his collections, making frequent re-arrangements as it increased in size through additions and exchanges. To facilitate his exchanges, he published lists of his collection, the first being produced in 1886 under the title "Museum Normanianum" and supplements were added as the collection expanded. The last part of the catalogue was publised in 1910 and listed 11,086 species, the majority of which were molluscs. Alfred was elected as a Fellow to the Linnean Society in 1880. The Linnean Society of London was founded in 1788 and is based at Burlington House, Picadilly. It is described as the world's premier society for the study and dissemination of taxonomy and natural history and in 1906, the Society awarded Alfred the Linnean Medal (made of gold and established in 1888).
The Times newspaper of June 6th, 1890 reported that "Alfred was appointed into the Royal Society yesterday". The Times newspaper of November 6th, 1912 documents an announcement by the Vice Chancellor of Cambridge University of a donation by Alfred Merle of a 700 volume "zoological library".
Alfred's time at Bournmoor ended in 1895 when he returned to Houghton-le-Spring as Rector and Rural Dean. Here he remained until 1898 when illness forced his retirement. He then moved to Berkhampsted, Hertfordshire, where he still maintained an active life of collecting, research and publishing, even to the age of 80, before being completely disabled by illness.
Alfred died on October 26th, 1918 at the age of 87. His death announcement appeared in The Times on 29th October.
Alfred was burried in St. Barnabas churchyard, Bournmoor. The inscription on the grave reads as follows (thanks to Mr. Brian Chater for the transcription):
"Here rests the body of / The Reverend Alfred Merle NORMAN / M.A. D.C.L. L.L.D. F.R.S. / Hon. Canon of Durham / First Priest of this Parish / 1866 to 1895 / Born 29 August 1831 / Died 25 October 1918 / Sarah Elizabeth NORMAN / Widow of John NORMAN D.L. / of Iwood House / Mother of the first Incumbent / of this Parish born Nov 27 / 1789 died Sep 8 1879"
** The burial register and gravedigger registers for St. Barnabas church have been transcribed by Mr Brian Chater and a look-up of an entry is available free of charge by contacting the Webmaster via the email address on the homepage