Colonel Thomas Foster Barham

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Thomas Foster Barham

Birthdate: (75)
Birthplace: Clifton, Gloucestershire
Death: October 5, 1927 (75)
Elmwood Bridgwater
Immediate Family:

Son of Eustace Foster Barham and Ellen Barham
Husband of Sarah Marion Prince
Brother of Emily Long; Dame Mary Garratt BARHAM and Ellen Garrett Barham

Managed by: Susan Mary Rayner (Green) ( Ryan)
Last Updated:

About Colonel Thomas Foster Barham

Thomas Foster Barham


Thomas Foster Barham was born in Bristol on 21 February 1852. He was the son of solicitor, a Cornishman, Eustace Foster Barham and Ellen Hore. He was named after his grandfather, the famous musician. 

By 1861 his parents had moved to Wembdon, Eustace having gone into legal partnership to form Barham and Carslake, establishing Thomas' connection with Bridgwater. That year Thomas was attending boarding school, one of ten pupils of the school at 3 Albert Villas, in Clifton, Bristol. He attended Winchester School afterwards and took up the legal profession like his father. By 1871, aged 19 Thomas was living in Wembdon, in a house between Down Cottage and Down Hall and had found employment as an Architect's clerk. On 17 July 1879 in St Petersburg, Russia, Thomas married Sarah Marian Prince, who had been born in Scarborough, the daughter to the American Ambassador to Russia, who was four years his junior. In around 1875 he joined the Bridgwater Company of the 2nd Admin Battalion of the Somerset Royal Volunteer Corps.

By 1881 Thomas and Sarah had set up home on the Wembdon Road. They employed a cook and a housemaid. He was working as a solicitor in his father's firm and was serving as a Captain in the Bridgwater Company of the Somerset Volunteers. The 2nd Admin Battalion became the 2nd Volunteer Battalion of the Somerset Light Infantry in 1882. This was when he became the commanding officer of the 'I' (Bridgwater Company), also referred to as the Bridgwater Rifle Corps. When the new town bridge was opened on 5 November 1883, the Mayoress unlocked a chained padlock with a silver key and Captain Barham called the Rifles to present arms, before the national anthem was sung. The band of the rifles then led the procession to the Town Hall for a banquet. Barham would again lead the rifles in 1887 during the Jubilee of Queen Victoria, when they fired a feu de joie at the Cornhill. In 1889 Sydney Gardnor Jarman commented in his History of Bridgwater 'The numbers of [Prince Albert's Somerset Light Infantry for Bridgwater] 'I' company, Major T.F. Barham, Sergt-Instructor J. Turner, 146 rank and file; K company, Captain W.H. Robinson, Lieutenant E.Trevor, Dr. H.M. Kemmis, 141 rank and file'.

By 1891 they had moved to Holly Well (the house by the medieval holy well on Wembdon Hill) and they still employed two servants. Sometime around 1895 he was awarded the Volunteer Decoration (VD) for twenty years' service. By 1901 they had moved across the road to Elmsgrove house. It is likely that he retired from the Volunteer Force on the conversion of that body to the Territorial Force in 1908, at which time he was probably a Major. There is no indication that he was a Lieutenant Colonel or Colonel with the 2nd Volunteer Battalion, however he may have been granted the honorary rank on retirement. It is possible that he then joined the National Reserve as pool of experienced former servicemen. In 1911 they had moved to Elmwood House.

Barham would have a second military career, despite his aging years. In 1914 local defence forces were raised under private initiatives by former servicemen as an auxiliary force in case of German invasion. This was consolidated in November 1914 as the Volunteer Training Corps. The Government of the day was reluctant to give the VTC full official recognition and as a result they were barred from wearing official army uniform and badges, wearing in lieu a distinctive Lovat green uniform with their own system of rank badges. All personnel wore a red arm band, bearing 'GR' in black. The Somerset element was titled the Somerset Volunteer Regiment and was formed in to two battalions initially and the Commanding Officer of the 1st Battalion was Lt.Col T.Foster-Barham VD. On the first of September 1916 he became the 'County Commandant' of all of the VTC in Somerset, whilst still being the CO of the 1st Bn. On the first of November that year the strength of the 1st Battalion stood at 19 Officers and 1,210 other ranks. On 17 August 1917 he handed over command of the 1st Battalion, remaining as County Commandant, and in that year a third Battalion was raised. At this time the headquarters of the 1st Battalion was in 60 Clare Street, Bridgwater, with D Company being based in Bridgwater with outlying platoons at Highbridge, Burnham-on-Sea, and Wedmore. In 1917 the VTC was allowed to use normal army Service Dress uniforms, with the Royal Arms cap badge. In 1918 the Somerset Volunteer Regiment of the VTC was incorporated in to the county regiment as Volunteer Battalions meaning that the 1st Battalion Somerset Volunteer Regiment became the 1st Volunteer Battalion Somerset Light Infantry. In 1920 the VTC was disbanded. In reward for his services he was granted an OBE in July 1919 and presented to the King and Queen at Bath in 1924.

Thomas seems to have entered the public life of the borough and he served as Town Clerk of Bridgwater from 1910 to 1921. A full list of his public duties are outlined in his obituary, which can be found below.

Thomas died on 5 October 1927. Thomas and Marion had no children and she would die in 1946 at the age of 90, at the time living in Broughton Lodge on the Wembdon Road. His probate will recorded his worth as a handsome 28680 pounds 11s 6d. In respect of his father's Cornish roots his memorial took the form of a Cornish Cross. The inscription reads In Loving Memory of Colonel Thomas Foster Barham died at Elmwood Bridgwater Oct 5th 1927 aged 75 years. Love is stronger than death. Also of Sarah Marion Foster Barham widow of the above died Sept. 13th 1946 aged 90 years.

Details of Barham's military service has been very kindly provided by a trustee of the Rifles, the Somerset Military Museum, Taunton.

Thomas Foster Barham

From the Bridgwater Mercury 




Bridgwater and the district has suffered another severe loss by the death, which took place on Wednesday evening at his residence, 'Elmwood,' of Colonel Thomas Foster Barham, V.D., O.B.E., for over 30 years Coroner for West Somerset and a well-known and highly esteemed figure throughout the county. The deceased gentleman had been in ill-health for about six months past, suffering from heart trouble, and for several weeks his condition had given great anxiety to his relatives and immediate friends, although, owing to his retirement from public life, his serious illness was not generally known. He was 75 years of age, and leaves a widow, but no family.

Colonel Thomas Foster Barham was born on the 21st February 1852, and was educated at Winchester. He married in July, 1879, Marian, daughter of Mr. George H. Prince, who was the head of the American Colony in St. Petersburg, and who, with his son and grandson, was connected with the American Embassy till the revolution. Colonel Foster Barham was presented to King George V. and Queen Mary at Bath, 1924, and on June 3rd. 1919, granted the dignity of Officer of the British Empire, the investiture taking place at Buckingham Palace in 1920.

The deceased gentleman was a great grandson of Thomas Foster Barham, youngest son of Joseph Foster Barham, who took the name of Barham in addition to Foster by a special Act of Parliament in 1750 (22 George II.) and was the head of the Foster Barham family. He claimed descent from Edward I., King of England, who married Eleanor, daughter of Ferdinand III. King of Castile. The Foster family for twelve generations possessed large estates in Northumberland, and Sir John Foster was Warden in the Marches in the time of Queen Elizabeth, and was owner of Bamborough Castle. The estate passed out of the hands of the family owing to the Derwent Water Rising in 1715, in which the owner, known as General Foster, took part, losing thereby his estates, which were forfeited, and very nearly his life. This story is told in Sir Walter Besant's novel, 'Dorothy Foster'.


Mr. T Foster Barham was the son of the late Mr. Eustace Barham, of the firm of Barham and Carslake, solicitors, of Bridgwater, and upon completing his education he decided to take up the law as his profession. He commenced to practice in 1876 and for a time was in London, but afterwards came back to Bridgwater and succeeded to the business of his father, which was carried on under the style of Barham and Son in Castle Street. He frequently practiced in the courts, in addition to which he had a condsiderable private practice and held several legal appointments. In 1905 he entered into partnership with Mr. Douglas S. Watson, of Burnham-on-Sea, and the title of the firm was altered to that of Messrs. Barham and Watson. While Nr. Watson was away on active service during the war Mr. Barham threw himself with renewed energy into the business, which he managed single-handed. As Coroner for West Somerset he was, of course, well known throughout the western end of the shire. He was appointed to this office by the County Council in 1893, the vacancy being caused by the death of Mr. W. W. Munekton. There was keen competition for the post, which Mr. Barham secured by a narrow majority over the late Dr. Farrant, of Taunton. Mr. Barham discharged the important duties of this ancient and honourable office with dignity and distinction, and during the thirty odd years he held the position must have conducted at least a thousand inquests in the widely scattered district. He sat as Coroner for the last time about six months ago, and since then the duties have been carried out by Mr. D. S. Watson, his deputy. Mr Barham was also for many years Clerk of the Peace for the borough, an office to which he succeeded the late Mr. John Trevor in 1883, and to which he was followed on his retirement by Mr. Watson. Mr. Barham held the office of clerk to the Bridgwater Union Rural Sanitary Authority until that body was merged into the Bridgwater Rural District Council. He was also clerk to the Conservators of the Avon, Brue, and Parrett Fishery Board. He was also up tot he time of his death a director of the Bridgwater Gas Light Company.


The late Colonel Foster Barham had nearl all his life been keenly interested in the Volunteer movement, in which for many years he was a prominent figure. He joined the old 5th Somerset Rifle Volunteers about the year 1875. In those days there were no battalions of Volunteers, but corps, and in Bridgwater there were two of the latter, the 5th and the 26th. Colonel Barham rose to the command of the old 'Fifths' and thanks largely to his energy and enthusiasm the movement grew very rapidly in the town. He afterwards served as an officer in the 2nd Volunteer Battalion of the Somerset Light Infantry when the county battalions came into being. He was extremely popular with all ranks, and of fine, commanding appearance he always made and imposing figure on parade. Intensely keen on rifle shooting, he was an exceedingly good shot, and often went to the N.R.A. meetings at Wimbledon int he days when the great annual contests were held there. He generally succeeded in winning a number of prizes there, but was never, we believe, in the last hundred for the coveted 'Queen's Prize' as it was in those days. He was mainly instrumental in forming the Somerset County Rifle Association and often captained the Somerset team in the inter county competition on the old range at Dunball, where he also won many prizes at the annual 'shoots' of the association. Contemporary with him were many fine marksmen from Bridgwater, including the late Sergt. Jas. Barnes, Sergt. Frank Peach, Sergt. Hook, and Sergt C. Symons. On the outbreak of the Great War Colonel Barham, although too old for active service, did much valuable work for his country, and was largely responsible for the formation of the Volunteer Training Corps in Somerset. This was mainly composed of men who had not yet been called to the colours, or through age were unable to joun the Regular Army, but enrolled themselves for any home service they might be called upon to undertake. Colonel Barham raised a very strong company of the V.T.C. in Bridgwater and placed his grounds at 'Elmwood' at its disposal for the weekly drills on Sunday afternoons. For his services in the county in this respect he was awarded the O.B.E. at the end of the war. he took the greatest interest in the welfare of ex-Servicemen, and was a past-president of the Bridgwater Brance of the British Legion.


The Bridgwater Hospital has lost another valued friend and generous supporter by Colonel Foster Barham's death. In 1921 he was selected president of the institution, and the following year had the unusual honour conferred upon him of being reelected. He was the founder and first president of the Bridgwater and District Hospital League, which he formed to inaugurate and maintain a system of collections from workers and others throughout the district served by the hospital, those who joined the league receiving for a small weekly contribution, the benefit of free treatment in the institution for themselves, their wives and children. The league became a great success and has done much to put the hospital in a better financial position than it has been for many years past. Colonel Barham was also a keen supporter of the annual Hosptial ball, which has become such a popular social event in the town, so that in many ways he has rendered exceptional services to the institution, of which he was a member of the committee of management to the time of his death.

Intensely fond of music, the deceased gentleman was, in his younger days, a popular altigur at concerts in the town and district, and was ever ready to give his services as a vocalist to assist any deserving cause. He possessed a tenor voice of much quality, and was for some years a member of the Wembdon church choir during the time he lived in that parish. He was a former president of the Bridgwater Choral Society. After his marriage, which took place at St. Petersburg (now Petrograd), Colonel Barham went to reside at 'Halesleigh,' (now the residence of Colonel Edward Trevor), but later removed to residences ont he Wembdon Hill prior to going to live at 'Elmwood'. Colonel Foster Barham, who was brother in law of the late Sir Walter Bevant, the famous novelist and author, came from a very old family, which for generations had been associated with the Liberal party, but he became a Unionist when the Home Rule controversy was raging, and of late years had been a keen supporter of the Conservative cause. On several occasions the beautiful grounds and gardens at 'Elmwood', in which he took the greatest pride, have been thrown open for political fetes. By his charm of manner and kindly disposition the deceased gentleman was held in the highest esteem by all who knew him, and by his death will be greatly deplored by a very wide circle of friends.


The esteem in which the late Colonel Foster Barham was held was evidenced by the large and representative attendance at the funeral, which took place on Monday, leaving 'Elmwood', the coffin, on which resided a beautiful wreath of red flowers, was conveyed in a motor hearse to the St. Mary's parish church, where the first part of the service was held. The family mourners were as follow; Major P. E. Besant, late the Royal Warwickshire Regiment (nephew); Mrs. Carnegie Long (sister), Miss Carnegie Long (neice), Mrs. Barnes (neice), Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Scott and Miss Stella Scott (nieces), and Mr. John Nicholls, Kidderminster (representing Sir William Edgar Nicholls).

As the coffin was borne into the church it was met at the south door by the Vicar (Rev. Seymour Berry, M. A., O.B.E.) and the surplice choir. The service was fully choral, the Rev. S. Lano Coward (curate of St. Mary's officiating at the organ in the absence through illness of the organist (Mr. F. Docksey). The hymn, 'O God, our help in ages past,' was sung, followed by the Lord Psalm. The Vicar conducted the service throughout, and it concluded int the church with the hymn, 'Now the labourer's task is o'er,' and the playing on the organ of the Dead March in 'Saul.'

Among those present in the church or at the graveside were the Mayor and Mayoress (Alderman and Mrs. W. Deacon), the Recorder of Bridgwater (Mr. Wyndham Slade) and Mrs. Wyndham Slade, Colonel Edward Trevor (president of the Bridgwater Hospital and an old comrade of the deceased), Colonel Temple Cole, Colonel D. S. Watson (deceased's late partner), Major J. A. C. Hamilton, J. P. (Broomfield), Mr. H. T. Daniel, J. P. (Stockland Manor), Major E. F. Browning, J. P. (Woolavington), Mr. W. H. Palmer, J.P. (North Petherton), the Town Clerk (Mr. C.C. Byers), the Borough Treasurer (Mr. P. H. Beckett), the Chief Constable (Mr. F. W. Pearce), Mr. F. C. Foster, J. P. Mr. T. Eveleigh, Mr. A. E. Manchip, and Mr. J. H. Cornish (representing the Bridgwater Gas Light Company), Alderman H. M. B. Ker, J. P. (Deputy Mayor), Mr. E. Q. Louch (coroner for East Somerset), Mr. F. E. Foster Barham, Alderman S. Berry, J. P. (Chairman of the Committee of management of the Bridgwater Hospital), Messrs. T. Perrens, F. Parr, M. E. Page, and C. Hoyal (church wardens for St. Mary's), Mr. T. W. Manchip, Mr. F. H. Allen, J. P.., Mr. E. L. H. Reed (Messrs. Reed and Reed), Mr. Arthur King, Mr. F. P. Tyrrell (borough magistrates clerk), Mr. Louis Lovibond, Mr. T. H. Barrington, and Mr. W. H .C Stiling (representing the legal profession), Dr. G. W. Harvey Bird. Dr. and Mrs. R. H. F. Routh, Dr. Wilberforce Thomson, Dr. Campbell (Chilton Polden), Councillor A. Biddiscombe, Councillor R. Ashton, Councillor W. J. King, Rev. Canon Archdall (Stockland Bristol), Mr. F. J. Sully (Weston super Mare), Mr. and Mrs. . J. Sully, Messrs. H. J. Symes and Mr. F. J. Hole (of the staff of Messrs Barham and Watson), Mr, and Mrs Standon Paine, Mr. and Mrs. C. G. Smith-Spark (Wembdon), Dr. Dorothea Symons, Dr. W. B. Winckworth (Taunton), Mr. Cecil Babage (representing the Bridgwater Branch of the British Legion), Mr. A. J. Whitby, Mr. Metford Rowe, mr. E. H. Hooper, Mr. H. Hickman, Mr. W. G. Jones, Mr. A. E. Moulton, ex-Bugle-Major Geo. Lockyer (who wore the old grey uniform of the Somerset Volunteers, with who he served under Colonel Foster Barham for many years), Mr. W. S. Way (representing the Somerset Trading Co.), Mr. C. Chilcott, Mr. W. Smith, Mr. W. Fry, Mr. Prew, Mr. W. Woolaway, Mr. Gratten, and many others.

The cortege re-formed and proceeded to the Wembdon Road Cemetery, where the last sad rites were performed by the Vicar.


Floral tributes were from the following: Mrs. Barnes; Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Scott; Miss Scott and Miss Stella Scott; Mr. Wyndham Slade; Mr. H. H. Broadmead; Ailie Reed and Nina Ropes; Mr. and Mrs. Sydney Jenkyns; Mr. and Mrs. Perreus; Mr. and Mrs. Akerman; Mr. and Mrs. Douglas Watoon; Colonel Temple- Cole; Elsie, Ellen Evelyn; Commander and Mrs. Graham; Lucy; Bridgwater Ball Committee; Mr. and Mrs. Norman; Mrs. and Miss Long; Bridgwater Gas Company; Mr. and Mrs. Ker; Dr. and Mrs. Thompson; Mr. and Mrs. Park; Mr. Carslake; Dr. and Mrs. Routh; Dr. and Mrs Bird; Mrs. Foley; Mr. and Mrs. Paine; E. M. Parsons; Comrades' Club; Gratten; The Castle Club. Sarah Marion Foster Barham

From the Bridgwater Mercury 


The funeral of Mrs. Foster Barham of Broughton Lodge, Wembdon Road, Bridgwater, whose death at the age of 90 years was reported in last week's issue, took place at Wembdon Road Cemetery on Tuesday last week. The service was conducted by Preb. E. H. Hughes David, and the internment was in the family grave.

The immediate mourners were: Miss M. M. Scott (niece), Major and Mrs. P.E. Besant, Mr. G. Besant, Mrs. A. Thompson, Miss E. J. Smith, Miss E. Smith, and Mr. and Mrs. H. Norman. Among others present were Mrs. Hughes Davis, Mrs. Sloane, Mrs. Gumbleton (Enmore), Mr. H. J. Symes (representing Messrs. Barham and Watson), Mrs. H. Bird, Mrs. E. H. Bond, Mrs. W.E. Berry, Miss Mahor, and Mrs. Sully, Miss Soper, Mrs. Cottam, and Mr. J. R. Kibby.

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Colonel Thomas Foster Barham's Timeline

February 21, 1852
Clifton, Gloucestershire
October 5, 1927
Age 75
Elmwood Bridgwater