Select Barnes Miscellany

Here are some Barnes stories and accounts over the years:

The Barnes of Writtle

The Barnes of Writtle near Chelmsford in Essex were originally Berners and were said to have been descended from Hugh de Berners whose name had appeared in the 1086 Domesday Book.  

The first of these Berners was probably Thomas Berners, born in Writtle around the year 1360.  The family held the manor of Turges or Sturgeons.  John Berners or Barnes of Turges died in Writtle in 1525.  

His son John Barnes sold the estate soon afterwards and moved to Hertfordshire.  Johnís brother William prospered at the time of the dissolution of the monasteries and was able to acquire for himself lands in Essex and elsewhere.

Barnes in Haslingden

Haslingden is a town in what was once the forest of Rossendale some twenty miles north of Manchester.  The Barnes name first appeared there in 1557 when Ralph, Isabel and William Barnes were recorded as letting 21 acres to farm.  Barnes were yeoman farmers in the 17th and 18th centuries.  Joseph Barnes is thought to have left Haslingden for New England around the year 1694. 

By the late 18th century, handloom weaving had become an important occupation in that area and for Barnes.  For example:  

  • Richard Barnes of Haslingden specified in his will of 1788 that ďI do hereby order my executors that they give and deliver to Henry Barnes, son of John Barnes, one pair of woollen looms with the implements thereof belonging and to remain his and his heirs forever.Ē
  • while James Barnes in the 1798 rate survey at Haslingden Grane was recorded as a weaver at his cottage there.
The 19th century found a Barnes family as inn-keepers in Haslingden, first in 1809 and later, at the New Black Dog Inn, in 1868.  By the time of the 1881 census the town of Haslingden had the highest concentration of the Barnes name in England.

The Barnes Memorial in Farnworth

James Rothwell Barnes from Bolton had established one of the first cotton mills in the nearby village of Farnworth in 1828 and it was his son, Thomas, who took over and further expanded the business after his father's death in 1849.

In 1860 Thomas announced his intention of providing a park for the community.  The park was built and handed over in 1864 in a ceremony that would have been a red-letter day in a town the size of Liverpool or Manchester, let alone a small village with a population of just 8,000.  The platform contained some of Lancashire's most powerful and influential figures who had all come to see Gladstone open the park and, of course, speak. 

In 1895 Thomas Barnes was still alive and the local authorities decided to honor him with a bronze statue depicting him at the time of the parkís opening

Barnes in Long Island

William Barnes of East Winch in Norfolk was reported to have had eighteen children by two wives. A tradition handed down by Barnes descendants is that three of the sons and two of the daughters by his second wife came to New England sometime in the 1630ís.  The sons were said to have been Joshua, Charles and William.  The daughters have not been traced.

The three Barnes brothers eventually made their way to Long Island.  Joshua was first recorded there in 1649, arriving in Southampton from Cape Cod by boat.  He made his home in Southampton and died there sometime in the 1690ís.

Charles and William were clearly brothers (although some have disputed whether Joshua was in fact their brother).  Charles was the first school teacher in East Hampton.  William had a less happy time.  He and his wife were divorced in 1648 (an almost unheard-of matter in those days) and he also fell out with Charles.  He returned to England in 1658 and died three years later.  Charles and his family later settled in Middletown, Connecticut.

Colonel Barnes at Leonardtown

The Georgian-style Tudor Hall mansion overlooks Breton Bay in Maryland.  It was built by Colonel Abraham Barnes on a 1,100 acre Tidewater plantation that shared boundaries with the port and county seat of Leonardtown.  

The house, started sometime before 1744, was small with a central hall and a room on either side.  The second floor had dormered bedrooms and there were outhouses, typical of plantation homes at that time, containing a kitchen, laundry unit, a garden house, and slave quarters.  

Colonel Barnes was active in defending the port of Leonardtown against English attacks in 1775 but died later on in the Revolutionary War.  His estate was bequeathed to his youngest son Richard.  Tudor Hall was sold to the Key family in 1817.  It now houses the St. Mary's Historical Society.

Captain William Morris Barnes

Captain William Morris Barnes was born in 1850 into a shipowning family in St Johns, Newfoundland.  He first went to sea when he was only eleven.  His career seemed predestined and by the age of 14 he was apprenticed to a Liverpool company, serving in their sailing ships working a triangular passage to St Johns, the Brazils and back to Liverpool. 

He tried to 'swallow the anchor' when he married.  But running a grocery store was too mundane and he soon went back to sea, transferring his skills to the now dominant steamships. 

At the outbreak of the First World War, even though he was 64, he promptly volunteered for service.  The authorities told him to go home as he was too old.   But he kept pestering them until they eventually gave in.   During his war he was mined or torpedoed three times.  On the last occasion he was badly injured and spent three days adrift in an open boat.  

His various adventures were the subject of an autobiography When Ships Were Ships, written by Hilda Renbold Wortman from Barnesís own stories and recollections when he was 79.  The book came out in 1930. Their collaboration became the inspiration for Denys Wortmanís popular cartoon character of the Depression era, Mopey Dick.   Barnes himself died four years later in 1934 in New York.  

Misfortune followed the Barnes family after his death.  Everything was lost during the Depression and the Barnes boys were sent away to an orphanage.  One Barnes ran away at 14 and joined the US Merchant Marine as a cabin boy.   History obviously repeating itself!

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