It was founded in 1876. One of four new Barrow parish churches to be named after the four evangelists, whose areas were designated in 1877. Four temporary church buildings of brick and timber were built to similar designs, provided by Lancaster architects Paley & Austin. They were simultaneously dedicated on 26 September 1878. St John's opened for worship on 25 Nov. 1877; the first built of the four churches named after the evangelists. Dedicated by Archbishop of York on 26 Sept 1878 and consecrated 22 Nov. 1879. Replaced in 1935 by the present distinctive concrete structure.
The rapid growth of the town soon rendered more church accommodation necessary than could be given by the three then in existence, and the Dukes of Devonshire and Buccleuch, Sir James Ramsden, and other magnates of the district, realising the want, subscribed £24,000 towards the erection of four new churches. Of this sum the Duke of Devonshire furnished £12,000, the Duke of Buccleuch £6,000, and the remaining £6,000 by other gentlemen. Four brick structures, all after the same model, were erected, and all opened on the same day (September 26, 1878), when the Archbishop of York, and the Bishops of Carlisle, Hereford, and Seder and Man officiated. The buildings are only of a temporary character, and will be replaced by more fitting edifices when the fund left out of the £24,000 has accumulated to a sufficient amount. The churches are appropriately named after the four Evangelists. An event so unique as the consecration of four churches will mark September 26, 1878, as a red letter .lay in the history of Barrow. The records of past ages and the annals of older towns will be searched in vain for a similar occurrence.
St. John's Church, Old Barrow, has sitting accommodation for 520. The parish covers 248 acres, and contains a population of 5,247. The interior has just been very effectively and even richly decorated. The roof of both nave and chancel has been ornamented with appropriate devices, but the latter more elaborately than the former. The west wall bears the text " The Lord God Omnipotent Reigneth" in large and well executed lettering, and over the east window are the words "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty." The benefice is valued at £200, and is now in the possession of the Rev. G. T. Dunne, M.A., Cantab.
from Mannex's directory of Furness and Cartmel, 1882.