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Life & History of George Barber, 1886-1972

George Barber

Cottage Kennett,

George Barber was born on the 12 June 1886 in the small rural village of Wickhambrook, Suffolk.
When George was about 12 years old, the family moved to the village of Kennett, about six miles from Wickhambrook.
Around 1920 after most of the family had married and left home, george's parents moved to a cottage in the village of Barrow Suffolk, where they lived till their death.
GEORGE b1886 was the eldist of of six children,
ARTHUR b1889,
ELIZA b1891,
HARRY b1898
ALICE b1899.

On the 3 January 1906 at the age of 19, George Barber joined the Royal Field Artillery,
for a short time George was stationed at Woolwich Barracks, Suffolk. Not long after joining he was posted to the, Great Brook St Barracks, Birmingham.
Whilst stationed in Birmingham, George meet Edith Louisa Nicholls, from what my mother and aunts have told me George meet Edith at a dance club somewhere in Birmingham,
It must have been love at first sight because on the 23 December 1907 they were married at, St Saviours Church, Hockley, Birmingham. George took Edith back to the village of Kennett, Suffolk. But Edith was a city girl, and soon became bored with country life, it was not long before Edith persuaded George to move back to Birmingham.

They moved around Birmingham for a number of years living at various addresses eventually finding a place they were both happy with 1/16 Heaton Street Hockley Birmingham,
This is where most of the children were born including my mom Violet Louisa Barber.
Life in the early years of their marriage must have been hard losing three of their young children between 1912 and 1914 to Measles & Bronchial pneumonia and a further child in 1920 to Whooping Cough.

GEORGE THOMAS, born 18 Jan 1909, died 9 Nov 1912
EDITH, ELIZABETH, born 8 April 1910, died 27 Aug 2009
ALICE LILIAN, born 3 Oct 1911, died 13 Nov 1912
WILLIAM, born 13 Sep 1913, died 20 Jan 1914
IRENE, born 24 March 1915, died 8 September 1997
CONSTANCE ROSE, born 5 Jan1920, died 24 Mar 1920
FREDERICK, born 24 March 1922, died 8 September 1993
VIOLET LOUISA, (mom) born 24 Jan 1925, died 25 Apr 2009
JOHN, born 1927, still living.

Around 1930 the family moved to 78 Alexandra Rd Handsworth, Birmingham.
George and Edith lived there till the day they died.

My granddad George Barber was a proper country boy, and his heart was always in the countryside, but George’s heart was taken by my Nan, Edith Louisa Barber (nee Nicholls) and she was a city girl.
She obviously won the battle of where they would eventually live their lives and that was Birmingham.
if my Nan hadn’t of got her way, my mom would never of meet my dad and that means I would not be writing this, or would I ??

The depression of 1920s must have been a very hard time for the family but granddad Barber was a very able and resourceful man and could turn his hand to almost anything.
George was never happy sitting around so he built a large shed at the bottom of the garden where he spent most of the day making furniture and metal work, he became very popular with the neighbours doing furniture repairs and sharpening the odd bread knife or repairing someone’s old pram.
In 1925 he was offered a job with Joseph Lucas Ltd of Birmingham, which he gladly accepted.
George was a very likeable man and fitted in well at the factory, this much needed income prompted the move in 1930 to 78 Alexandra Road, Handsworth, Birmingham.
George spent the next 26 years of his working life at the factory and received a long service award for 25 years of unbroken service, George retired in 1951.

At the outbreak of the 2nd World War the family consisted of my Mom Violet 14, Fred 17, and John 12
George came into his own at this time having seen the devastation of the 1st World War and knowing what bombs could do to people and buildings he set about building an air raid shelter, mom said “it was like going down a mine it was so deep” and too all accounts it was built like a 1st World War bunker, well who better than someone who spent nearly five years in the trenches.
Needless to say the family got through the war without any loss and the remaining children eventually married and left home.
With the arrival of grandchildren George found a new roll in life and although George had come to the end of his working life he was still very active and spent hours working in his shed making things for his grandchildren in fact he spent more time down his shed than he did the house, whenever you walked through the back door and asked Nan where’s granddad she would reply “now where do you think” and added “tell him his dinners on the table going cold”
one of the things he built for us kids was a Rolls Royce of a go-cart, most of the go-carts we kids built were simple affairs consisting of a plank of wood with four pram wheels attached and big u-nails securing the axle, these were hard to steer and did not last long but the one granddad built for us kids had a steering wheel that operated the front axle by steel rods, a foot brake, plus a padded seat, and a coat of black paint, it was the envy of all the other kids in the street and there were many attempts to replicate it by the older boys but nothing came close to the one granddad Barber built for us.
As I got older granddad Barber would allow me and the other grandchildren to use the shed and his tools, must be in the blood because I spent hours making things and found I was pretty good at it, I guess that’s why when I eventually left school I became a toolmaker (engineer).

My Nan and Granddad’s backdoor was never locked and as a child I would just walk in and treat it like my second home, I can remember the stories my granddad used to tell me about his life in Suffolk, and the things he got up to as a young boy.
One Sunday on a cold winters evening I remember going around to their house in Alexandra Rd, Handsworth, which was just across the road,
They had a big open coal fire with the settee just feet away, the heat from the fire would turn your face red in minutes, or give you corned-beef legs as my Nan used to say.
Nan made me and granddad a cup of tea and we sat down, we started talking about my new job as a apprentice toolmaker, I was fifteen and had just left school (1965), after about ten minutes granddad said, “I started work on the land at thirteen, you know” He went on, “me and my pals would go poaching pheasants in the local woods, we were sometimes chased across the fields by the local gamekeeper, of course he said, the gamekeeper knew who we were, and he would come around to the cottage and tell my dad, and I ended up with a clip around the ear for my troubles.
Another story he told me was when they were poaching rabbits on the land of this very bad tempered farmer, and they knew if they were caught he would put a stick across their back sides, but they took the risk anyway, well you guessed it, they were caught and the farmer gave them all a good canning with a willow stick he had cut from the local marsh,
I can tell you he said, "we had wheel marks on our bums for over a week".
But they had a plan to reap revenge on this farmer, so one weekend they all meet and made their plans, each one bringing some shotgun cartridges plus a large mechanical hand brace, and a one inch drill bit, after opening and emptying the cartridges they had a substantial amount of gunpowder, in those days shotgun cartridges were filled with black gunpowder which was very explosive.
my granddad and his pals set off to the farm and promptly drilled a deep, one inch hole into the large gatepost that lead to farm,
After filling the hole with the gunpowder they plugged it with a piece of wood they had prepared earlier and a piece of straw filled with gunpowder for the fuse.
On the opposite side of the lane was a drainage ditch which they intended to use as a hideaway so they could watch the reactions of the farmer.
After making sure the coast was clear granddad lit the fuse and they all jumped into to the ditch, well he said the explosion shock the ground, and it turned the gatepost into matchwood, so we didn’t stop around for long and run off across the fields for home,
The next day the story was all around the village and the local bobby took notes from a number of people, my granddad said they were peeing their pants With the thought of being found out and what they would get from their parents and the farmer, he said they never did find out who did it, but a few fingers were pointed.

When my granddad used to tell me these stories there was always a little smile on his face and a twinkle in his eyes, as his childhood memories came flooding back.
I think I could write a book on the life and stories of my granddad Barber, but not just yet.
David Pike.

Linked toFamily: Barber/Nicholls (F3)

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