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THE BARNES FAMILY OF HEAVITREE

 

1. FRANCES MARY EMILY NATION AND HER FAMILY

 

WILLIAM NATION'S THEATRICAL CAREER

 

Frances Nation was the half-sister of William Hamilton Codrington Nation (see above). When his first wife died, William's father ( a wealthy barrister) married Mary Jane Collyns - the first of their children being born in Exeter in 1848 and named Frances Mary Emily Nation. In 1866, the year in which William Nation married in London, his half sister Frances, aged just 18,  married a local clergyman whose family had been in Exeter for some generations - the Reverend Reginald Henry Barnes*, Vicar of Heavitree, who was then aged 35.

 

Before coming to his parish at Heavitree, the Rev. Barnes had been Vicar of St. Mary Church in Torquay but he also held an official post connected with the financial running of Exeter Cathedral where he was a Prebendary. By the standards of the day, he was not a wealthy man and, according to the autobiography of one of his children,  always made it clear that his sons and daughters would have to make their own way in the world. Frances joined him at Heavitree Vicarage and by the time she was 22, had had the first three of her children - daughters Violet, Edith and Angela. Three more children - Reginald, Irene and Kenneth - arrived to complete their family by 1878.

 

And these children did make their own way in the world with considerable success. Edith made a distinguished marriage to a distant cousin, Angela became a professional violinist before her equally distinguished marriage,  Reginald became a professional soldier, was awarded the DSO for services in South Africa in 1900 and ultimately received a knighthood; the other three - Violet, Irene and Kenneth - all had amazing careers in the world of theatre. It is impossible not to ask how this could happen to the daughters and son of a distinguished Victorian cleric and it is equally impossible not to ask whether their eccentric uncle, William Nation, influenced their futures in any way. However, one glance at a very rare photograph of Frances serves to give you an insight into the nature of the mother at the Vicarage. Go to

 

www.jamd.com/image/g/3292257

 

and as you look at the image, bear in mind that when the photo was taken in 1900, Frances** - the woman in the centre - was over 50 years old. What you see in the mother is a woman of great beauty who was dark, tall, elegant and intelligent and who looks as though she could be the sister of the equally beautiful,  dark, tall and elegant women standing either side of her - her daughters Violet and Irene whose acting careers were already established. Her son Kenneth was working in London at this time as a civil servant and had not yet begun his own distinguished career in the theatre.

 

*The Rev. Reginald Henry Barnes died in Kensington, London in the September Quarter of 1889 aged 58.

** Frances Mary Emily Barnes remarried in 1895 and became Mrs. George David Young.

 

CONTINUED

 

 

 
 
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