Anthony Barnes 1931-2024

Members will be sad to learn of the death of Anthony Barnes. Anthony was Secretary of the Norfolk Churches Trust from 1992-1995. He came to us from the Churches Conservation Trust and rapidly accumulated an encyclopaedic knowledge of Norfolk’s churches and of the people who looked after them, aided by a formidable memory. He instituted, with the cooperation of the Diocese of Norwich, our practice of reading every newly issued quinquennial inspection allowing the Trust to identify those parishes most in need of financial help and advice. He retained a keen interest in our work and in the future of Norfolk’s churches. A fuller account of his life and achievements will appear in the Annual Report. He will be much missed. John Maddison, Chairman

Anthony’s son Brendan has sent us the following obituary:

For more than four decades Anthony Barnes, who has died aged 92, was involved with the conservation of hundreds of the country’s historic churches.

His passion started early, beginning in his teens when he would accompany his father and mother visiting churches throughout the UK and France, often with Sir John Betjeman, a close family friend in tow. This interest stemmed from his own faith and sense of history, as well as from a desire to support committed individuals and networks in preserving this unique architectural legacy.

A Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, he was fascinated by the social and economic forces that have shaped our landscape, and particularly the role of the unknown patrons, artisans and civic leaders.

As the director of the Redundant Churches Fund between 1984 and October 1992, he was responsible for securing funding from official bodies to safeguard the country’s churches. This charity, founded in 1969 and which became the Churches Conservation Trust in 1994, now cares for more than 350 churches including 28 in Norfolk. One of the most notable additions to the fold was St Michael’s Church, Booton, near Reepham, in 1987. Others included St Andrew, Frenze, near Diss (leased to the Norfolk Churches Trust in 1981) and St Michael, Coston, in 1979.

After moving to live in Norwich about 30 years ago, his experience and enthusiasm enabled him to make a significant contribution to Norfolk and Norwich. His knowledge of churches and especially those in his adopted county of Norfolk was encyclopaedic.

He became the first salaried, part-time, secretary to the Norfolk Churches Trust in October 1992, which had been established in 1975 under Lady Billa Harrod. It had expanded membership rapidly and had also taken on responsibility for more than a dozen “leased” churches.

He was succeeded by Malcolm Fisher in 1995 but remained on the trust’s management board until 2002. He had written dozens of church guides for visitors, including ones for St Faith’s, Little Witchingham; St Mary, East Bradenham and several in Norwich including St Laurence.

Working with national heritage bodies, he fostered a more collaborative approach which included advising parochial

church councils on conservation strategies. Friends and supporters would be mobilised for churchyard clearance days. One tool in his armoury was developing the “anxiety list” to identify churches in need of urgent conservation. He also led efforts to safeguard churches at Tunstall on the Broads and Santon All Saints, near Thetford.

For seven years until May 2008, he was secretary to the Norwich Historic Churches Trust, which cares for about 18 mainly medieval churches in the city. He led the campaign to convert St Peter, Hungate to its current use and save the building from being turned into a wine bar.

A lifelong socialist, he was recruited into Mancroft Ward soon after arriving in Norwich and was briefly vice-chair of the city’s Labour Party. He resigned from the party over the war in Iraq.

Music was another passion. He was a regular visitor to Snape and supporter of the Academy of St Thomas and the Britten Sinfonia. He campaigned for Norwich to have its own concert hall.

After going to a prep school in Dorset, he went to Eton and then up to Cambridge where he read English at King’s. He did his National Service in the Royal Navy, during which he trained as a photographer. Later, he exhibited in Norwich to celebrate the diamond jubilee of the Leica he bought while in the Navy, and also to raise funds for church restoration. He then embarked on a career in industry, working for Schweppes, the Royal Opera House and later ICI (Imperial Chemical Industries).

He was married twice. He leaves a son, Brendan and daughter, Sophie, both his wives and a son having pre-deceased.

A funeral will be held at St John, Timberhill, Norwich on Wednesday, February 28 at noon.

Anthony Barnes – June 16, 1931 – February 2, 2024.

Brendan Barnes

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