James Henry Barnett was the eldest son of Alfred and Harriet (née Patchett). His birth was registered in Tunstall in 1888 and on the census returns his place of birth was recorded as Kidsgrove. His father was an iron moulderer who had married Harriet Patchett in 1885 at St. Thomas, Kidsgrove. It was likely that Alfred’s job in the iron industry led to the family moving to Biddulph and to Heath’s iron works. The family were living at Childerplay in 1891 and had moved to Newpool Terrace by 1901.
Advertisement from the parish
magazine dated 1910.
The 1911 census records the family resident at 45, High Street, Biddulph, where James Henry had started a business and was a pork butcher. It would seem that by now James was the only son as his younger brother, Alfred, had died in November 1891 aged 11 months. Two of his sisters, Florence and Elizabeth helped in the shop. Later that year James married Mary E. Hughes at a civil ceremony at Leek.
James was called to the colours on February 7th 1917 and went to Lancashire to commence training. Exactly one month after enlisting, James died at the Military Hospital in Preston. The Chronicle, on March 24th, reported on his “Impressive Funeral Service” and stated that: “He had been stricken with a serious illness due to an abscess on the jaw which kept him in bed for several weeks. He had not thoroughly recovered his normal health when he was called up on February 7th. While training he contracted a severe cold and fever supervened. Although his family were sent for as soon as the symptoms became dangerous, he was not conscious when they arrived and he died without recognising any of them.”
James was aged 28 and left three young children under the age of five.
Sadly the story does not end with his death. In November 1917 the Chronicle reported on “Sequel to a Biddulph Tradesman’s death”. A court case which revolved round a financial dispute with the shop and between James’s parents and his widow was sadly aired in the papers. No doubt the war caused much family turmoil and disharmony when a business was involved – another local impact of the war.
His widow continued to run the business with the help of her brother who was according to the Chronicle, a “rejected man”. Directories record that the business was still in the name of Mrs. Elizabeth Barnett, pork butcher, in 1921 but by 1928 the business was in the hands of Frederick Russell.
James Henry Barnett is buried at St. Lawrence and is remembered on the Biddulph war memorials.
Elaine Heathcote & Michael Turnock.