The origins and site of The Church of the Good Shepherd, 1835-1885

By Ollie Taylor

Photo:Map of the Lower Barton House Estate

Map of the Lower Barton House Estate

Gloucestershire Archives

Towards the end of the nineteenth-century there was a large population increase in Gloucester, especially in the Barton District.  In 1875, the Church of All Saints was built to meet the spiritual needs of this growing population.  The Ecclesiastical District of All Saints that was formed at the same time then had a population of 4,500.

The Lower Barton Estate

The parish of All Saints sat within the Lower Barton Estate, then owned by Mr. Isaac Slater, the first General Manager of the Gloucester Wagon Company. Mr Slater lived at Lower Barton House, a large and interesting old house on the north side of what was then called Lower Barton Street.  Standing in its own 22-acre grounds, the choirboys of All Saints were allowed to play cricket in its large fields.

Photo:Map of the Lower Barton House Estate, showing Lower Barton House marked "Lot 1" in blue

Map of the Lower Barton House Estate, showing Lower Barton House marked "Lot 1" in blue

Gloucestershire Archives

Mr Slater was obviously fond of his gardens too.  The map (in which Lower Barton House is indicated by the blue shaded area marked Lot 1) shows a greenhouse, hot house, vinery, and cucumber frame, as well as a workshop, fitting for a man in his line of work.

No wonder that one parishioner described the area in which The Church of the Good Shepherd was finally built as “God’s Vineyard”.

Old Barton Street

These two paintings of Old Barton Street, dated to around 1835, show the country atmosphere of the estate at this time.

Photo:Two watercolours of Old Barton Street, dated c.1835

Two watercolours of Old Barton Street, dated c.1835

Gloucestershire Archives

The first (on the top) shows the Gloucester to Cheltenham tramway and a house standing on the site of what was All Saints’ Church, now the Anglo-Asian Cultural Centre.

The second painting of Old Barton Street (bottom) shows Hopewell House (the taller of the houses on the right), which stood at the entrance of Hopewell Street.  The most distant house (behind the trees) was the original India House and the house on the left with the smoke rising from its chimney was the vicarage of All Saints.

The donkey with panniers and the maids carrying buckets and baskets illustrate the rural feel of the Lower Barton Estate.  If you look closely, you will see that the gentleman (front right) is carrying a little dog in his arms.

The sale of the Lower Barton Estate

However, the reality of life was sometimes far from the easy pastoral scenes portrayed in the paintings.  One parishioner of All Saints, Miss Foster, remembered that the isolation of the district made it difficult to work in, and also that it “had a bad effect on its inhabitants”.  She also recalled that in 1876 some streets were still unpaved and the dangers she encountered “from pitfalls and holes in the road” as she went up to the “Services and Meetings on dark winter nights at the Alington School”.

Before The Church of the Good Shepherd was built, this “comfortless schoolroom” that accommodated 120 was the only place that ministered to the spiritual needs of the ward.

In March 1885, Isaac Slater died and the land of the Lower Barton Estate was divided up and sold at auction by Bruton, Knowles, and Co on 22 July 1885.  The land and properties were convenient for railway employees and, in consequence, streets and houses began to cover what had previously been open meadow.   By 1892, the population of the parish had increased by about 1,600, mainly due to the opening out of the Lower Barton Estate for such building purposes.

Before 1885, most of the streets we now take for granted in the area, including Derby Road itself, did not exist.  After the division of the estate, many new streets were added, including Herbert Street, Alfred Street, and Sidney Street.  All the new streets were given names which had some connection with the Slater family (Herbert, Alfred, and Sidney were the names of Isaac’s sons).

Photo:Pamphlet written by Rev. H. C. Foster proposing the building of The Church of the Good Shepherd and asking for donations

Pamphlet written by Rev. H. C. Foster proposing the building of The Church of the Good Shepherd and asking for donations

Gloucestershire Archives

The district’s expanding population and lack of good facilities to minister to it led to the decision by the Reverend Herbert Foster (then the vicar of All Saints) to propose that a Mission Church of sufficient size should be built.  This was The Church of the Good Shepherd.

If you would like to see any of the documents pictured then please visit Gloucestershire Archives.

This page was added by Ollie Taylor on 06/03/2012.