NEWS: St Barnabas Church to close Harbour Café to public from 10 June

Words by Liam Smith / Pics by Ed King

St Barnabas Church are set to close their Harbour Café to members of the public from 10 June, refocusing their energies into operating the space as a community hub for local groups.

All existing community activities at the Harbour Café will continue – including the weekly Barny Babies (Mon, 11am-12:30pm), Youth Café (Tues, 3.15-4.15pm), and Dance to Health (Weds, 1-3pm).

There will also be extra Welcome Space sessions hosted, where members of the public can meet and socialise in the café space with free snacks and refreshments (Tues & Thurs, 10:30am – 12:30pm and Fri, 2 – 5pm).

But following a consultation by the Parochial Church Council (PCC), the church’s governing body, it was concluded the ‘increasingly large amounts’ being lost each week ‘was not sustainable’ and the only option was to close the café to the paying public.

Several members of staff would also be made redundant through the closure, with some having worked in the café for nearly 10 years.

Reverend Emma Sykes told Erdington Local: “Ever since Covid, like everyone else, we’ve been having to look carefully at our finances. We hoped when we reopened, we would be able to increase footfall to a level similar to pre-Covid times.

“When we were looking at the budget for this year, we knew we needed to review the café and barring a dramatic change it wasn’t something that could remain financially viable. We struggled to find ways to increase footfall; it wasn’t the fault of anyone, it’s just unfortunate that this is the situation we find ourselves in financially.

“We do have investment money coming in from the church, but a lot of what we rely on from the church and parishioners giving has to stretch across multiple avenues.”

Promoting itself as ‘a beacon of hope on the High Street’, St Barnabas and it’s public accessible Harbour Café has been a loved meeting place for many local residents – alongside offering a good café menu in a safe space overlooking Erdington’s shopping district.

But with high ceiling and a large glass frontage, the running costs – such as heating the space and operating a commercial kitchen – can soon mount up, especially during the recent spikes in energy prices.

One Church Road resident explained: “I love the Harbour Café, and the food there – especially the breakfasts – is some of the best on the High Street. But I appreciate there are rolling costs in running a cafe.

“I’ve worked in commercial catering, and I feel there might have been more done to promote the café before deciding to close it – some more signage, marketing, or extending the oening hours which were always a little limiting.

“Closing it must have been a tough decision, but was it really the only option? Especially as people will lose their jobs too – after all, money is tight for everyone, not just businesses or churches.”

Staff at the Harbour Café have been vocal about the closure, with some feeling more options could have been explored to keep the community café open to the paying public.

Carolyn, one of the staff members who will lose her job because of the closure, told: “I feel dreadful for our customers with the café closing. These are loyal customers who come here week after week, day after day.

“There is nowhere else this nice for them to go in Erdington or along the high street… none as safe as here.

“In all honesty, I don’t think they tried hard enough to keep this place going.”

For more on St Barnabas visit

FEATURE: Remembering Erdington’s fallen, lest we forget

Words by Estelle Murphy (LOCAL AMBASSADORS) / Pics by Ed King

On Remembrance Day, held every year on 11 November, people across the country and Commonwealth remember the fallen service men and women who died in the line of duty. LOCAL AMBASSADORS explores the war graves at St Barnabas, Erdington’s parish church and oldest building of worship.

The parish church of St Barnabas Erdington was first consecrated on 23 July 1823 and has proudly stood watch over the constituency’s comings and goings for nearly 200 years. Badly damaged in a fire on 4 October 2007, St Barnabas was repaired and reopened in 2012 – with further renovations currently being planned for the churchyard.

A key part of the Erdington community, St Barnabas has been the final resting place for countless local loved ones and family members. Amidst its sprawling churchyard, with some areas significantly overgrown and dilapidated, St Barnabas has 66 War graves – maintained by The Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Honouring those fallen in combat, there are 29 graves from the Great War (WWI) and 37 from the Second World War (WWII), including a memorial for eight service men ‘who lie buried in this churchyard in unmarked graves.’ There are a further 20 war graves with private headstones erected by loved ones.

The Erdington Historical Society produced a book on the Great War graves at St Barnabas, assisted by the Heritage Fund and National Lottery.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission also maintain war graves in two other Erdington churchyards – St Thomas and Edmund of Canterbury Roman Catholic Church, and the Erdington Greek Orthodox churchyard (formerly Erdington Congregational Church).

There is also a memorial to the postmen who fell during war time inside the Post Office on Sutton New Road, detailing nine postal workers killed in action during WWI and WWII.

At the outbreak of war in 1914, the regular British Army was made up of skilled soldiers. However, between 14 October and 30 November that year, Britian’s forces lost over 53,000 men with an additional 4,500 Indian casualties. So, ‘Kitchener’s New Army’ was recruited – with 90 different posters and leaflets made, the most commonly remembered motif being ‘Your Country Needs You’.

Over two and a half million recruitment posters were put up around the UK, and within two months of war being declared over three quarters of a million volunteers had been signed up. Many of Erdington’s young men became part of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment which saw action at Ypres in 1914 and the Somme in 1916.

The first bomb of WWI to fall on Birmingham landed on Enstone Road, Erdington, on the night of 8-9 August, which was later confirmed to be a mistake. At that time the German air force, who would be coined the Luftwaffe in 1935, were only bombing factories and industrial sites

The first two Erdington ‘serving deaths’ of WWI were Able Seaman Arthur Hands, of Slade Road, and Royal Navy Colour Serjeant Royal Marine Light Infantry John Mason, of Clarence Road. Both of whom were lost on the sinking of HMS Cressey on 22 September 1914.

Between 1914 and 1922 Erdington families lost a further 373 servicemen, after Arthur and John, many of whom were buried where they fell by their comrades and fellow servicemen – left in no man’s land or buried at sea, making the graves at St Barnabas more poignant.

One of the biggest losses in one day came on 1 July 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme, when Erdington reportedly lost 41 servicemen.

After WWI, the people of Erdington funded a memorial to their fallen at a cost of £1000 – nearly £50,000 in today’s money. The memorial was registered in the Imperial War Museum (© WMR-38612) and placed in a dedicated chapel within St Barnabas Church. Sadly, the WWI memorial bought by the people of Erdington was lost to the 2007 fire and has never been replaced – making Erdington one of the few places without a permanent memorial to its lost WWI servicemen and women.

Of the 37 WWII graves maintained by The Commonwealth War Graves Commission in St Barnabas’ churchyard, only one belongs to a woman – Aircraft Woman 1st Class Patricia Marie Parry, who died 8 October 1947. Although sadly, very little else is known about her story.

Of the remaining WWII graves, 14 are from the Royal Air Force, seven from the Royal Navy, and 16 from the British Army. One of the youngest servicemen buried at St Barnabas is 18 year old Ordinary Seaman Henry George Gallett, from Pype Hayes, who was one of 15 men killed aboard HMS Mohawk when the Luftwaffe made its first attack on British territory on 16 October 1939.

The oldest is 54 year old Stoker Petty Officer Herbert Ernest Hughes, also from Pype Hayes, who also served in WWI – surviving the sinking of HMS Queen Mary in 1916 at the Battle of Jutland, to end up serving in WWII in Greenock Scotland with HMS Orlando.

After major restoration work following the fire in 2007, the church building at St Barnabas is now a vibrant community hub – with a well used café and meeting area. There are also plans, currently being discussed, for significant renovation to the existing churchyard, to further extend the church as a community asset.

LOCAL AMBASSADORS asked St Barnabas what would be done during any developments to protect the war graves.

St Barnabas vicar, Emma Sykes, told: “We will make every effort to make sure the war graves are protected during the renovation as they will continue to be an important feature in the newly designed churchyard.”

LOCAL AMBASSADORS would like to extend a special thanks to Robert Brown of Erdington Historical Society, for access to their book detailing WWI war graves at St Barnabas’ Church.

For more on The Commonwealth War Graves Commission visit:

For more on St Barnabas Church visit:

The Erdington Historical Society meet on the second Tuesday of each month, 7pm, at St Barnabas Church. For more information please email:

BACK TO SCHOOL: St Barnabas Primary School receives Bishop of Birmingham Award

Words by Ed King / Pics by Ed King and St Barnabas Primary School

Erdington’s St Barnabas Church of England Primary recently received a Bishop of Birmingham Award, one of only three schools across the diocese to achieve the accolade.

Bishop David Urquhart, the longest serving bishop in the Church of England, presented the award during a special visit to the Spring Lane school last month.

Having been notified about winning the award in March 2022, the school staff and children had waited months to welcome the bishop – who brought a special trophy to recognise the school’s commitment to Christian values.

In an official citation sent to St Barnabas, Bishop Urquhart commended how Christian ‘values are illustrated and lived out by all in the school’ and how the children there can ‘use them to reflect upon their lives.’

Arriving in time for morning assembly, the bishop was met by St Barnabas’s Values and Ethos Committee, made up of children from across the school year groups.

Visibly excited and curious to meet the bishop, the children engaged with the senior clergyman and talked about the school theme of the week, ‘honesty’ – and how Fridays were ‘peace and quiet’ days at St Barnabas.

Bishop Urquart was patient and unpatronising with all the children, looking through the book pf reflections and talking to them about their individual beliefs, faiths, and the school’s core principles and values, before heading into the main school hall for a special assembly.

Hosted by Reverend Emma Sykes from St Barnabas Church, the assembly began with singing ‘Oh Happy Day’ before members of the Values and Ethos Committee told Bishop Urquhart the lessons they learned from the Christian parable of the Good Samaritan.

Harvey, Year 5, explained: “Out of all our key Bible stories which help us understand our footprint values, our favourite is the Good Samaritan. I think it teaches a lot about helping people and that everyone can make a difference through their actions.”

Safiyah, Year 3, added: “I think the Good Smartian teaches us to be respectful of others no matter your colour or religion.”

Leo, Year 4, said: “I think the Good Smartian is a good story because it helps people to help other people no matter who they are they don’t have to be our friend.”

Umaiza, Year 6, told Bishop David: “It helps us to understand that no matter who you are you can help people and other people can help you.”

Jeevan, Year 4, believed the parable “is important because it teaches us kindness and all faiths can be united and work together.”

Whilst Molly, Year 4, agreed “because of this story, we include everyone no matter who they are because we want to be like the good Smartian

Bishop Urquhart then told how the Good Samaritan was one of his first and favourite Christian stories, but how similar lessons of bravery and fortitude could be found from in David and Goliath.

The assembly then concluded by singing ‘Lord I Lift You Name On High’, and series Christian, Sikh, and Muslim prayers, alongside a special private prayer delivered by Bishop Urquhart.

After saying goodbye to the school and posing for a group photo with children and staff, Bishop Urquhart was keen to praise the good work and commitment to Christian values from everyone at St Barnabas.

He told Erdington Local: “The Bishop of Birmingham Award is for particular focus on Christian values and ethos in a school, and St Barnabas has integrated their values into the ordinary life of the school.

“They’re not just a ‘tick box’ – they’re really being lived and discussed and practiced by the children and staff, both at school and at home.

“And the welcome I’ve had this morning from the Values and Ethos Committee, which is made up of the children, has been really remarkable. They’re able to talk about the difficulties and realities of being honest as one of the important bits of our relationship together.

“Faith is caught rather than taught, and children have a rather wonderful way of inquiring into the really big questions: why are we here, who is God, how do we pray, does it matter…? They also look at adults to see if the things that adults say are being put into practice, so in that sense they bring an openness and honesty.

“And the idea that faith is just an idea is not good enough, it’s actually lived and so that’s what’s happening here – they are practicing, living, and building trust in God and each other and trying to live in a complicated and uncertain world.”

For more on St Barnabas Primary Church of England School visit