Arthur Barker

Rev Arthur Barker
Rev Arthur Barker
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ARTHUR John Willoughby Barker, the first Warden of Scargill who was noted as a preacher and a pastor with a good listening ear, has died aged 101.

He was always interested in people, and during his years as a minister in the Church of England, many looked to him for wise advice, including at least two Archbishop’s wives.

It was in 1958 that he became Warden of Scargill, the Church of England retreat and conference centre, near Kettlewell. It had been bought by a syndicate, one of whose members was Donald Coggan, then Bishop of Bradford, later Archbishop of York, then of Canterbury, to set up a Christian community.

There he saw the community build and the work develop until, in 1961, he became vicar of Dent, which was then in the West Riding of Yorkshire but is now in Cumbria. The family moved just before Christmas, across the hills in the snow, with their beehives tied to the back of the lorry.

But his strong links with Scargill continued, including taking on the Warden’s duties again for a time, and for many years he served on the Scargill Council.

He was born in London, in West Ham, and lived in Barking, the only son of William Frederick Barker, who was a bank manager in East London, and his wife Ethel who was one of 11 children who survived. He also had a sister, Grace.

During the First World War, his father served on anti aircraft guns on Tower Bridge and took young Arthur to see downed Zeppelins. He was unfit for war service abroad having broken his leg when stopping a runaway horse.

Many of the shipping lines were bank clients of his father so they frequently visited the docks. As the Second World War approached, his father became part of a pipeline removing Jews from Germany and a number passed through their home.

Arthur Barker was educated at Mercers School, in London, where he gained his love of reading and poetry, leaving at the height of the great depression. In 1927 he worked at Barclays Bank in the City, and used to have lunch on Tower Hill while listening to Donald Soper preaching.

He counted his conversion from the time of his confirmation in 1925, although full realisation took about a year. He had a mysterious illness which required rest and he vividly remembered reading the Bible right through.

In 1927 when the family moved to Woodford Green, he helped lead a group known as Crusaders with one of his lifelong friends.

In 1936, he was best man at the wedding of his great friend, John Baker, and when he saw his sister Peggy immediately fell in love. He wrote daily to her and they were married in 1939.

At the outbreak of the Second World War, he served in the Royal Army Pay Corps and was posted to Clifton, near York. In 1942, he was transferred to Canada.

It was there that he was used as a lay reader in a church depleted of clergy who were serving in Europe as Army chaplains. He also met Donald Coggan, later to become Archbishop of York, then Canterbury. After the War, he spent three years training for the priesthood at the London College of Divinity. Although his wife was an excellent vicar’s wife she never really forgave the Church of England for taking him away as soon as he returned from the war.

Following ordination in 1949, he was Curate at St Mary’s Church, Addiscombe, in Croydon, followed by five years as Vicar of St James, Westgate, Kent, before going to Scargill, and then to Dent with Cowgill from 1968.

When he retired in 1976, he and his wife lived in the area for more than 30 years until failing powers forced them to move, latterly to a nursing home in Surrey.

In his early years he was a great runner and a keen cricketer.

He was a great reader, especially of history and biographies, loved photography, and gardening, always done in his trousers tied up with string whatever the weather.

Holidays in Scotland or abroad were also a great joy to him, and he would pore over maps planning the route and identifying places of interest.

He is survived by his three children, Bridget, Nicholas and Kenneth, 11 grandchildren and six great grandchildren. His wife predeceased him in 2007.