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BARNARD, William (1803-1892) - Tailor, Parish Clerk and Postman

Badsey Schoolmaster, Tailor, Parish Clerk and Postman

An article written by Don Barnard

Don Barnard 2005 (born 1940), son of Edwin (1901 – 1970), son of George (1857 – 1916), son of Henry (1828 – 1860), son of William (1803 – 1892).

William Barnard, from whom many Barnards in Badsey were descended, was born in 1803 in Cirencester, Glos. His father Joseph died three months after his birth and his mother Elizabeth was left to raise him and his older brother John. 

She seems to have done so very successfully. John became a carpenter living in Gloucester and at the age of 14 William was indentured for six and a half years as an apprentice to Thomas Richardson, Tailor, in Cirencester. The tailor was paid £20 by a charity established by Mrs Rebecca Powell. The terms of the indenture included: 

“… the Goods of his said Master he shall not waste or lend to any Person; as Cards, Dice or other unlawful Games he shall not play…..Taverns, Inns or Alehouses he shall not frequent…” [Original indenture in Diocesan Records, Worcester] 

The tailor agreed to find “sufficient Meat, Drink, Board and Lodging” while his mother agreed to find “Clothes and Washing”. 

He will have finished his apprenticeship in March 1824 and in July he married Mary Ann Hayward, 8 years his senior. The couple must have moved to Cheltenham, for Mary died there in December of the same year, possibly in childbirth. There were at least 14 tailors recorded in Cirencester at the time and the move to Cheltenham may have been to find better employment. 

In November 1826, still in Cheltenham, he married Nancy White. (Other research has said she was an Evesham girl and she may have been in service in Cheltenham.) The couple moved back to Cirencester, where their first two sons were born, Henry in 1828 and Joseph in 1831. They then moved to Trumpet Yard, Evesham and William was still tailoring. Their next three children were born here, Ann (or Mary-Ann) (1834), John (1837) and Edwin (1840). 

In August 1842, William was appointed Parish Clerk and Sexton in Badsey, which at that time had 99 dwellings and a population of 395. The terms of his appointment suggest he was already schoolmaster: 

“Copy of the notice given in the Church of the appointment of W. Barnard, schoolmaster, to be Clerk and Sexton of the Parishes of Badsey and Wickhamford. I, C Phillott, Perpetual Curate of B and W, hereby give note….and that he is hereby entitled to the ancient wages without fraud or diminution at the hands of the Churchwardens…” [Badsey Parish Register in Diocesan Records, Worcester] 

This predates the founding of the National Schools in 1854 and William’s only qualifications will have been his ability to read and to write in the fine round copperplate hand seen to full advantage in the 1851 Census, when he signed himself Parish Clerk and Schoolmaster. 

The 1850’s must have been a terrible time for William. In 1853 his daughter Ann died of consumption, in 1857 his wife Nancy died of cancer, in 1858 his son, Joseph, was charged with killing a man and in 1860 his eldest son, Henry, died of dropsy. 

The episode with Joseph is well-documented. He stabbed a drunken soldier in the Hope and Anchor pub in Worcester. The man attacked him as he was eating his supper with a knife. There were several witnesses to the provocation and his previous good character. Public subscriptions were organised in Badsey and Worcester to raise money to pay a counsel and a total of over £13 was collected. 

All of these efforts were successful and the verdict was manslaughter with a recommendation for mercy and the sentence one month imprisonment without hard labour. [Original documents held with parish chest papers in Diocesan Records]. 

William seems to have felt Joseph brought it on himself and his letter to him while he was awaiting trial is full of appeals to repent: 

“My Poor Unhappy Child 

It is with feelings most painful and deep regret to think of the Awful situation that you are placed (deleted) in and it is my duty to give you the Best advice I can and may God of his infinite Mercy grant that it may reach your guilty heart... how many times your Poor Mother and me beg (deleted) wished you to live a different kind of life and you turned a Deaf Ear…I am partly guilty with you…” [Letter held with parish chest papers in Diocesan Records] 

Joseph subsequently married and raised a family in Bretforton or Badsey, where he was employed as an agricultural labourer and shepherd. 

The Rev Hunt was a great friend of William’s and corresponded with him after his retirement to Ruyton Park, Shrewsbury. One source of this friendship may have been William’s conscious and unconscious humour. Another of William’s admirers wrote in his book about Aldington and Badsey: 

“(at a wedding feast) The parish clerk, considerably over eighty at the time, was one of the most sprightly members of the company; he kept us interested with historical recollections going back to the Battle of Waterloo, and spoke of Wellington and Napoleon almost as familiarly as we now speak of Earl Haig and the Kaiser. He has a strong sense of humour, and, after a hearty meal, announced that he didn’t know how it was, but he’d “sort of lost his appetite”, pretending to regard the fact as an injury, premeditated by the hospitality of our host and hostess.” [Arthur H Savory ‘Grain and Chaff from an English Manor’, Blackwell, Oxford 1920, p 65] 

“The old clerk was prominently devout in the church responses, and had some original pronunciations of unusual words; in the Nicene Creed he generally followed a few bars, so to speak, behind the Vicar, but one never failed to catch the words “apost’lick church” towards the end. He was very scornful of ghosts, and told me that he had often been about the churchyard at night for fifty years without seeing anything like an apparition.” [Ibid pp 92-3] 

“There are, or were, two lovely old Chippendale chairs with characteristic backs and legs inside the altar-rails of Badsey Church; they are valuable and no doubt duly appreciated, not only for their own sake, but because they were the gift of dear old Barnard, the clerk, who spent fifty years of his life in the service of the church.” [Ibid p 95] 

Miss Sladden told me that her father had said that William once announced in the church that “last Wednesday was Ash Wednesday but we forgot so next Wednesday is Ash Wednesday”.

He seems to have enjoyed the office more than its lesser duties. Although he relished giving the responses from the clerk’s seat in the double-decker pulpit in Wickhamford Church, he was several times taken to task for failing to clean the church and its paths. The vestry minutes record the running battle, with threats of fines, of employing someone else to do the job and comments from the Rev Hunt’s successor, Rev Gepp, such as: 

“I may add that this sum of 30/- (for winding up the chimes, cleaning the paths and scrubbing the Church throughly thrice a year) does not appear to have been fairly earned…The Clerk never did an hour’s work on the walks and the graves were disgracefully made” [Vestry Minutes, Diocesan Records] 

This may have been a little unfair, coming 6 months before William’s death at the age of 89, and Julius Sladden added a note to this effect in 1903: 

“…the weight of over fourscore years may well account for duties feebly performed during his closing years…” [Ibid] 

Nonetheless, the complaints had started over 30 years earlier and the old man was quite fit in other respects, as we will see later ! 

After his wife’s death, William lived with his youngest child, Elizabeth, and her husband Charles Warner. He was certainly with them at the time of the 1871 Census, but from 1884-6 was paying the rent of a cottage in Badsey Street. It is likely that they all lived here, as a letter home from William’s grandson, Henry, is addressed to Uncle, Aunt and Grandfather. The cottage cost £7-10-0 per annum to rent, which is almost exactly what William earned as Parish Clerk towards the end. 

Elizabeth and William seem to have been responsible for the village post as well. In 1890, the Evesham postmaster, Mr Crisp, wrote to William: 

“I am getting complaints of the late delivery of the letters delivered by your daughter, said to be caused by her stopping to gossip so much. 

This is a serious charge and if correct, it must be discontinued forthwith. 

Letters must be delivered at the earliest possible minute and I trust this will be sufficient to ensure the same in future.” [Letter held with parish chest papers in Diocesan Records] 

William’s obituary says he was: 

“for a long series of years village postman and his duties in this respect brought him continually into Evesham, where he made many friends and where he was a very familiar figure. He was of small stature (N.B. at his trial, his son, Joseph, had been 5 foot 1 inch tall) and very spare, but a man of wonderful vitality and at the advanced age of four score years could walk as briskly as many a man not half his age…”. [Evesham Journal 29.10.1892] 

The obituary goes on with a slightly garbled account of an exploit better described by Savory, talking of a concert in Malvern to raise funds for a restoration of Badsey Church. Savory reports: 

“Our old parish clerk, too, at the time over eighty years of age, who walked three miles to Evesham station in the morning, ascended the Worcestershire Beacon – nearly 1500 feet – and finally walked back from Evesham to Badsey at night, was much struck by the recitations of Miss Isabel Bateman at the concert. The dear old man was somewhat deaf, and told me that, sitting towards the back of the room, “I couldn’t hear nothing, but I could see as the gesters (gestures) was all right”.” [Opus cit. p 92] 

William died of chronic bronchitis and general debility in 1892, five months short of his ninetieth birthday. His memorial in the churchyard reads: 

“Thou shalt come to thy grave in a full age, like as a shock of corn cometh in his season 

This stone is erected by his many friends as a mark of their appreciation and esteem.” 

The man responsible for the wording was the Rev Gepp, who seems in the end to have forgiven William his eccentricities.