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From 'The Anglicans' pamphlet printed by Northamptonshire Leisure and Libraries
John Thomas Barker - 1826-1890

Rector of St. Mary's Church 1868-1890

Young John Barker?
Photo at St Mary's Church believed to be John Barker in his younger days.
John Thomas Barker, a native of Whitby, attended Trinity College, Cambridge and was ordained in 1849. He served in various parishes before becoming Rector of St. Mary's, Rushden in 1868.

During his twenty-two years at Rushden he restored the church at a cost of £6000; provided, at his own expense, an infant school in Coffee Tavern Lane and a mission room and school near the foot of Rushden Hill. He was also largely responsible for the new National School (Church of England) which opened in 1870. His original idea was to have it built on the site of the old Workhouse but this did not come to fruition. Instead it was constructed in High Street South on land given by the Sartoris family. He also built a new Rectory, replacing an older one in Little Street.

Barker was the first to plan and support any cultural activities in the town. He saw the opening of a large reading room, the building of a Temperance Hotel and the formation of musical and other societies.

Unlike many in his position, he was on very good terms with the Non-conformists in the area sometimes using these friendships to help his parishioners. In 1880 he was made an Hon. Canon of Peterborough.

Barker was greatly respected by the people of the town and as the guide book of St. Mary's Church says, his epitaph could well be 'He made Rushden'. When his funeral was held, all shops and factories closed and large crowds thronged the area around the church.

Postcard message The church from the rectory
Postcard of himself posted 1904 to Miss Dickens at
Earls Barton: "You see I have arrived back to my country residence. Went to Henley last night. Did enjoy myself. Will write after Wednesday".
Postcard photograph
Canon Barker pictured on the postcard
The Church from the Rectory in Canon Barker's time

Wellingborough News, 8th June 1878, transcribed by Kay Collins

RUSHDEN - TEMPERANCEOn Monday evening the Rushden Church of England Temperance Association held a meeting in the New Infant Schoolroom, under the presidency of the Rector, the Rev. J. T. Barker, to arrange a programme for the coming season. It was resolved that the society have a tea at Whitsuntide, and a trip further on in the summer.

Wellingborough News, 23rd November 1878, transcribed by Kay Collins

LECTUREOn Thursday evening the Rev. J. T. Barker gave his excellent lecture on Shakespeare's "Macbeth," its genius and lessons.

Wellingborough News, November 23rd 1878, transcribed by Kay Collins

SIR,—In your report of the School Board meeting at Rushden, on the 11th inst., the Chairman is said to have made the following statements:—"Previous to the year 1869 this parish was, practically speaking, without any educational means. The fact was admitted and deplored, but no tangible steps were taken until the present Rector came to the village, when a vestry was called to consider the question. The ratepayers attending were in favour of providing school buildings which should be purely parochial. It was also fully expected that the promised Education Act would contain provisions which would enable the parish to satisfactorily and justly provide the requisite means to efficiently satisfy the growing wants of the place. Notwithstanding this expression of opinion a proposition was submitted to the meeting that it was desirable that steps be taken to erect National Schools which was rejected by an overwhelming majority, and an amendment in favour of forming Parish Schools was carried, with but few dissentients. The advocates of Church of England Schools were disappointed, and expressed their disgust at being dictated to by a set, of shoemakers,"&c. Upon these statements I desire, as Chairman of the vestry meeting referred to, to make the following remarks. The proposition submitted by Mr. G. Walker, and seconded by Mr. Sartoris to that meeting, was to erect efficient National Schools, in the management of which due regard should be had to the religious opinions of the parents of the children attending the same. To this proposition no amendment "in favour of forming Parish Schools" was ever moved. No word was uttered respecting the provision of "school buildings purely parochial," or upon any other plan than the proposition suggested. A direct negative was moved and carried in this form:— "That the question of a school be deferred to this day twelve months." About 25 persons attended this meeting, and about two-thirds voted in the negative. A reference to the minute book will confirm what I say. This vestry meeting was held early in January, 1869, when the provisions of the Education Act of 1870 were necessarily no more than vague rumours. II. If the Chairman of the School Board means that at this vestry meeting "disappointment" and "disgust" were expressed in the unmannerly language he quotes, or in any language at all, I must tell him that he is utterly mistaken—that no vituperative language would be permitted, even in quotation, without rebuke, in any meeting of which I was Chairman; and I may add that, never from any supporters of the schools, before or since that meeting, have I ever heard such language, or anything like it.—I am, yours obediently,

Rushden Rectory JOHN T. BARKER,

Nov. 19, 1878. Rector of Rushden.

Wellingborough News, 7th December 1878, transcribed by Kay Collins


SIR,—As I am anxious that the Church of England should not, from any action of mine (assumed or real), appear sectarian or obstructive in the matter of education, permit me some brief remarks upon the courteous letter of Mr. Denton in your last issue. I am glad Mr. Denton admits that no alternative proposition was submitted to the vestry which I called when first coming into this parish, for the purpose of inviting co-operation in building of schools, wherein the rights of conscience should be strictly guarded. Had any such proposal been made or promised, I for one would carefully have considered it. That, vestry meeting simply neglected all co-operation with the promoters of the proposed schools. The parish was then asked for money and land. Both were supplied mainly by the parish, and the existing schools were built. I contend that in the management of these schools sectarian interests have never been considered. The principle that religious teaching is an essential part of education has been maintained. Such teaching has always been given; no child has ever been withdrawn from it. I am glad that Mr. Denton admits the "offensive terms" he quoted were not, as his first letter implied, used in the vestry, and that, indeed, they are but unauthentic current gossip. Let me say a word respecting the School Board controversy. I objected to a School Board, not per se, but as a needless expensive educational machinery, for a parish in which good schools already existed; a machinery calculated, moreover, to foster uncharitableness and ill-will, and giving no guarantee for the selection of the best materials for school management. I am of opinion that a contribution of little more than £220 a year from the parish ought to supply an excellent education for every child in it, or that is likely to be in it, for some years to come. Having regard to the rates already levied by the School Board, to its proposal to saddle the parish with a debt of £2,500 for a school accommodating only 180 children, to the possible contingency of the existing schools being thrown upon the rates, I greatly fear that the Burden upon the ratepayers will be much in excess of what it need have been. Let me in conclusion assure Mr. Denton that I entirely share his "concern" that the question of education should supply fuel for feeding our unhappy divisions.—Yours obediently, JOHN T. BARKER.

Rushden Rectory, December 3rd.

Wellingborough News, 22nd July 1882, transcribed by Kay Collins

RENT AUDIT—On the 11th inst. an excellent spread was provided in the New Hall (served by the Coffee Tavern Company), for each man who rents an allotment of the land of the Rev. Canon Barker. It is the custom for the rector to provide an annual supper, and to give prizes to six of the best husbandmen. The following obtained the prizes: first field, 1 Mr. G. Garley, 2 Mr. W. Burge, 3 Mr. J. Denton; second field, 1 Mr. J. Warren, 2 Mr. W. Watts, 3, Mr. C. Bollard. About 70 sat down and spent a very pleasant evening.

Wellingborough News, 11th October 1884, transcribed by Kay Collins

REV. CANON BARKER is now on a visit to Germany, and is expected to be absent for two months.

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