The history of St Barnabas

The history of
St Barnabas

They say that good things take time to flourish. The idea of St Barnabas first came to mind in 1927 by Reverend V B King, City Missioner for Synod to explore the possibilities of a “Home for the Aged Poor”. Canon Arthur Pywell was nominated to join the group and become the mainstay over many years. Due to the Depression and the Second World War, the project did not take off until 1944, when the Mothers Union was asked and readily agreed to go to Synod and urge action. After fundraising, and a legacy of 3,000 pounds was received, the committee began looking for a suitable property. It was at this time that the government encouraged religious and welfare organisations to establish homes for the elderly, and provided subsides for capital projects and buildings.

A visit to Mr Justice Adam’s home at Ings Avenue, and a favourable report from Mr Hugh Naylor (builder) and Mr Fraser (architect) that alterations were possible, ensured the standing committee consent for the purpose of the property for 7,500 pounds. The local vicar of Caversham, the Reverend Roger Taylor, offered the suggestion of St Barnabas who was as he quoted “a good man full of the holy ghost and of faith”.


St Barnabas opened its doors on 5 May 1956 with 14 women as residents joining our first Matron, Miss Joan Chetwin.

In 1960 the two storied brick structure at the back of the home, which had two units for married couples, was demolished to make way for a new wing. There were still demands for better accommodation, particularly for those the in five cubicles in the old Billiard Room, so six new rooms were built into the first extension in 1965 and the Billiard Room become our chapel.

The Pywell wing, named after Canon Pywell, was designed by architects McAllum & Black in 1971, built by Stewart Construction Ltd and dedicated by Bishop Robinson of Dunedin on 10 March 1973 . This gave the home an additional 23 bedrooms.

In 1991, with the demand for better accommodation, the Teal wing, named after The Reverend John Teal, was designed by architects Mason and Wales. This gave the home a nurse’s station/medical room, activities and hairdressing areas, along with 14 upgraded bedrooms with en suites, making the home a 37 bed rest home. A further upgrade in 1997 provided an additional 4 beds, bringing us up to our current 41 beds.

Following the appointment of our current Manager, Mrs Shirley Hennessy, in 1998, St Barnabas the Home extended its reach into the community by establishing a Meals on Wheels service. What began as delivering meals to parish members who were sick soon increased into what the meal services are today – now delivering over 4,000 meals a month. These home-style meals come hot on a plate ready to eat and are prepared each day on site in our commercial kitchen. The Meals on Wheels service assists people to remain independent living in their own home.

In 2004, the chapel was refurbished and 2005 saw the redevelopment of the ground floor original homestead.

In 2008, a launch function was held at St Peters Church Hall where a presentation showing the upgrading of a new kitchen took place. We worked once again with Mason and Wales and Stewart Construction Ltd, MacLeod & Associates and Hadley & Robinson. The kitchen was officially opened and dedicated by Bishop Kelvin Wright on 11 June 2010.

Through all this, the Home and its residents were supported by a group of volunteers, “The Friends of St Barnabas”; women and men from parishes across Dunedin. This was a devoted, consistent, enthusiastic band of workers with a member roll of around 200 when first approved and supported by the Bishop.

The Home of St Barnabas has grown over 60 years into what it is today. Set in established, vibrant gardens with its own private chapel, it offers homely surrounding and peaceful settings for its 41 residents.