Thursday, 12 January 2017

Visiting England: Locating the Burial Sites for John Mathias Barnard and Florence Hacon

Despite his well-documented life, it proved quite difficult to locate records surrounding the death and burial of my husband Graham's paternal grandfather John Mathias Barnard. Nothing could be located online. No one in the family seemed to possess a copy of his obituary, death certificate or photographs of his tombstone, or any of those for his wife Florence Hacon Barnard.

Contacting local societies and records offices in Suffolk before our visit last summer had not produced any leads. An in-person visit to the Suffolk Record Office in Lowestoft brought results when we visited there with Graham's niece Kate and her husband Mark last August. We knew that John Mathias Barnard had died sometime in January of 1945, but didn't have the specific date. Because he had been Mayor of Lowestoft in the 1920's, we surmised that his death would almost certainly have warranted an obituary, or perhaps even a news item, notwithstanding that the Second World War was still in progress. The local paper in Lowestoft in 1945 was a weekly paper called the "Lowestoft Journal". It was fairly easy to find what we were looking for in the microfilmed edition for Saturday 20 January, 1945: "Death of Former Lowestoft Mayor: Mr. J. M. Barnard". The condition of the record was quite bad with folds or lines throughout, making it very difficult to read. Nevertheless, it was clear that he had died the previous Saturday 13 January 1945 at the home of his daughter Mrs. (Winnie) Smith at Pond Farm, Worlingworth, Suffolk. He was 69.

His business and political life in the town and surrounding area were outlined in his obituary. He had been well known in Lowestoft fishing circles through his ownership of fishing smacks in the firm of Slater & Barnard. He was a representative on the Lowestoft Town Council for several years and served as alderman and then as mayor in 1923-24 and 1924-25. He was appointed a J.P. in 1927. He had moved away from Lowestoft for a number of years by the time of his death, living for some time at Wissett Lodge. His membership in the Halesworth and District Branch of the National Farmers' Union reflected his interest in farming; he was vice-chairman of this organization at the time of his death.

The list of mourners included his widow, son A. J. Barnard and three daughters: Miss F. E. Barnard, Mrs. W. A. Smith and Mrs. B. E. Gethings. His sister Mrs. F. Muir, daughter-in-law (Graham's mother Margaret), two nieces (Mrs. D Bryant and Miss F. Yeoman), a nephew (A. Barnard) and some cousins named Mohan were listed, as was his son-in-law J. Smith. The names of others present at the funeral were also listed. Then came a very lengthy list of all the wreaths given in his memory.

The funeral had been held at St. Margaret's Church, Lowestoft, on Thursday (18 December 1945). Hymns were "Lead Kindly Light" and "Rock of Ages".

St. Margaret's Church, Lowestoft

A visit to St. Margaret's was definitely next on our agenda. After being pointed in the general direction of burial locations from the 1940's, Graham quite quickly spotted the stone for his grandparents.

Kate, Graham and Mark at the grave site

Photo by Mark Churchman

Photo by Graham Barnard

St.Margaret's Church has been the Parish Church in Lowestoft,Suffolk, for over five centuries. The exterior walls are constructed of flint and mortar. The copper spire was new in 1954 so would not have been there at the time of John's or Florence's funerals there. It replaced the original lead on timber spire. The gilded weathercock is the tallest point on any building in the area and is thus a significant landmark. During the Second World War, incendiary bombs fell all around this area. One hit the roof and set fire to the roof timbers, but prompt action saved the church.

The north aisle contains a "Fishermen's Memorial" with the names of local fishermen lost at sea between 1865 and 1923. No doubt many of these men would have been well known to John.

Fishermen's Memorial on wall to right
Photo by Graham Barnard

The brass lecturn is one of very few remaining from pre-Reformation days. It was buried for safety during Puritan times. It was again removed to a place of safety in the crypt during the Second World War, restored to its former position on 19 May 1945, four months after John Barnard's funeral here.


  • Pye, Robert, "A Walk Around St. Margaret's", St. Margaret's Parochial Church Council, Hollingsworth Road, Lowestoft, Tyndale Press (Lowestoft)
  • "Death of Former Lowestoft Mayor: Mr. J. M. Barnard" from the "Lowestoft Journal" 20 January 1945 edition accessed on microfilm at the Suffolk Record Office, Lowestoft,Suffolk