Francis Barber

Francis Barber

(1735 1801)

Francis Barber was born in Jamaica and was brought to England in 1750 by a Captain Bathurst. Francis was sent to school at Barton in Yorkshire. Captain Bathurst died in 1752 and gave Francis his freedom.

Francis then became a servant to Dr. Samuel Johnson, a friend of the Bathurst family.  Dr. Johnson is most famous as the man who compiled the first English dictionary. 

Dr. Johnson sent Francis for further schooling in Bishops Stortford in Hertfordshire.  Francis lived with him at his house off Fleet Street, and also at Streatham Place in South London, for many years. A visitor to the house in 1760 noted that: ‘when Johnson’s Black servant opened the door, a group of his African countrymen were sitting around a fire in the gloomy ante-room’. 

When Dr. Johnson died in 1782 Francis was left his property, an income of £70 a year and all his books and personal possessions.  Francis then moved near to Lichfield with his wife, Elizabeth, whom he had married in 1776.  They ran a school at Burntwood, near Lichfield, until Francis became ill.  He died in January in 1801 at Stafford Infirmary after undergoing ‘a painful operation’.  His remains are interred at St Mary’s Church also in Stafford.  Both the Infirmary and St Mary’s Church are still standing today, though the Infirmary building is used for other purposes.  Elizabeth Barber carried on teaching for another fifteen years.

Elizabeth and Francis had four children.  One of them, Samuel, was a Methodist minister and one grandson went off to the United States.  Another continued to live in the Staffordshire area; some of their descendants still live in the area today.

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