The Fall of the House of Barber & Genn

Discussion in 'Forum: Saw Identification and Discussion' started by shoarthing, Sep 9, 2021.

  1. shoarthing

    shoarthing Member

    Francis (Frank) Barber (born 1751) & John Genn (1753) were co-partners in Sheffield, trading as Barber & Genn from 1787, with a street address - according to the 1811/12 edition of Holden’s Directory, then Pigot’s 1818/1819/1820 All Counties Directory - of Bower-spring; housing a steel-refinery & manufactury with a focus on producing high-margin goods, for example: steel fireplace fenders & saws.

    Frank married John’s younger sister Lydia Genn in late 1780, with three of their children living to adulthood: Thomas (bap. 23rd Dec. 1781), Ann (bap. 27th Dec. 1785), & Samuel (bap. 22nd June 1792).

    In the Summer of 1808 a Mr Barber acted as supercargo; accompanying a shipment of goods from Barber & Genn destined for Bahia & Pernambuco (both on the Atlantic coast of Brazil). The Portuguese brig bearing this cargo: Nossa Senhora da Conceiçāo y Meio Mundo departed Bristol to be wrecked adjacent Falmouth, with its (insured) cargo subsequently salvaged. During & after these adventures Mr Barber pursued romance with a local hotelier’s visiting kinswoman, before voyaging to the Dutch Caribbean island colony of Curaçao (then under British occupation: 1807-1816); presumably accompanying his salvaged cargo of fashionable Sheffield-steel goods. Mr Barber wrote in Autumn 1809 that his agent at Curaçao had defaulted, which in combination with the costs of being wrecked in Falmouth made for an unprofitable venture, & his unpreparedness for marriage.

    In August 1810 a London-published newspaper - “The Pilot” - reported as above from a Breach of Promise case: Cummins v Barber, with a Mr Barber, son & nephew to the principals of Messrs. Barber & Genn, of Sheffield; found liable to pay £500 damages to a Miss Cummins, of Falmouth, upon her disappointment.

    In September 1810 it was publicly announced in The London Gazette that Thomas Barber had been removed from the Barber & Genn co-partnership by his father & uncle in July 1810. Neither of his siblings were listed then or subsequently as a partner.

    Frank Barber’s final will, of 26th December 1811, nominated three executors: Thomas Smith Hodgson, John Hoult, & Jonathan Woollin; & left his estate to his wife Lydia, son Samuel, & daughter Ann.

    Ann Barber, born in 1785, married Joseph Binney in 1806. He died on 28th December 1812, she at a date in 1820 likely between August & that year’s-end, with issue: Joseph (14th July 1807-?), Frank (15th Jan 1809-1810), Henry (19th Feb. 1810-1844), & Charles (1813-1813).

    In August 1813 a Samuel Barber - born in 1792; by trade a fender maker, of Sheffield - enlisted for an unlimited duration in the Royal Marines at the age of 21. Over the following decades he rose to, then was demoted from the rank of corporal.

    Frank Barber died “sometime in the month of September” 1819; John Genn “sometime in the month of September” 1820; each leaving their estate to Lydia Barber, Samuel Barber, & Ann Binney.

    Thomas Smith Hodgson died on the 12th November 1819 without taking any actions as executor to Frank Barber, and John Hoult & Jonathan Woollin “renounced probate” ie formally refused their duty to the deceased as executors of their estate. Lydia Barber - who would have been put to unusual trouble, delay, & expense by this absence of all three of her husband’s nominated executors - was subsequently granted administration of Frank Barber’s estate by “the proper Ecclesiastical court”

    John Genn’s final will of 31st July 1820 named his three heirs: Lydia Barber, Ann Binney, & Samuel Barber as joint executors. Ann Binney predeceased him; Samuel Barber was then likely serving overseas as a Royal Marine corporal. Notwithstanding this, Lydia Barber & Samuel Barber subsequently proved probate of John Genn’s estate in “the proper Ecclesiastical court”

    Thomas Barber was described in pleadings to a Court of Equity in 1822 as being: “in parts beyond the seas and beyond the jurisdiction of this honourable court”

    Breach-of-promise Barber had confided to Miss Cummins, in writing, that his expectations from his father & uncle amounted to £8,000 - a considerable sum at a time when a house could be new-built in Sheffield for £100. His failings while supercargo likely brought significant financial injury to Barber & Genn at a time its co-partners were each nearing the age of 60.

    It is tempting to speculate that - faced with a notable degree of mortality, estrangement, & dispersal overseas of her family - newly-widowed Lydia Barber might have wished to establish one or more trusts to benefit her absent sons, & as an encouragement to their return; & to support any surviving children of her late daughter Ann.

    Royal Marine Samuel Barber died (was “Discharged Dead”) on 5th April 1838, on Ascension Island; then a provisioning station for vessels preventing the Atlantic slave trade - 1838 was one of several years with a serious outbreak of Yellow Fever on this station.

    Thomas Barber’s whereabouts were or continued to be unknown in 1841, after the death of his mother, Lydia, aged 81; when advertisements were published by a solicitor in local & National newspapers inviting him to claim - within six years - “the residue of a small trust estate” - which trust had been under the assignment of the late William Middleton, co-partner for a decade or more with Jonathan Woollin & Thomas Smith Hodgson until: Woollin, Hodgson, & Middleton was dissolved on 26th December 1821.

    Earlier in 1821 a new co-partnership: Ibbotsons & Roebuck had begun steel-refining & manufacture of a noticeably similar range of steel goods to those once produced by Barber & Genn, from the same short street in Sheffield: Bower-spring.

    NB: an early date for Barber & Genn at Bower-spring is a rate demand of August 1801; Sheffield Archive ref. “FrC/12/2”

    Sources & acknowledgements:

    Ray Gardiner first discovered & quoted Cummins v Barber from “The Pilot” alongside its inference of co-partnership discord. A key insight.

    Hoddinott v Barber National Archives ref. no. “C 13/23/60/26” 1822
    Tho’ an extremely repetitive pleading, this claim relating to £90 15s 2d owed to Birmingham brass-suppliers contains sufficient facts & dates to unscramble the dying years of Barber & Genn

    “The Tradesman” vol. 1, July-December 1808; confirms the wreck & salvage of: Nossa Senhora da Conceiçāo y Meio Mundo on p.360 of The Marine List

    “The Salisbury & Winchester General Advertiser” of 18th April 1808 confirms the destinations, lading, & intended departure from Bristol of: Nossa Senhora da Conceiçāo y Meio Mundo

    “Royal Marines Description Book, Woolwich Division - B” 1787-1838 on p.4 & six subsequent pages to p47 contains one-line entries outlining the career of Samuel Barber, of Sheffield. National Archives, ref. no. “ADM 158/36/4”

    (I am awaiting a copy of this Samuel Barber’s “attestation” on enlistment to confirm his identity)

    “The Gazette” & its superb search-function. Records the ins & outs of numerous Sheffield co-partnerships, together with the National “Notice to Thomas Barber” of 9th November 1841

    “Sheffield Iris” 16th Nov. 1841 p1 - repeats the above notice. - good source for Trade Directories; functional for BMDs.
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2021 at 8:00 AM
  2. David

    David Most Valued Member

    Thanks! A great tale that adds human frailty and family disturbances back into the often fairly dry history of early sawmakers. I read this with much enjoyment and doubt I'll ever see a Barber & Genn saw the same way again.
    shoarthing likes this.
  3. Gareth

    Gareth Member

    Thanks for this I recently got a Barber & Genn its very cool to have such a detailed, and frankly crazy, history of the men who made it cheers!