For more than four decades Anthony Barnes masterminded the conservation of hundreds of the country’s historic churches. 

He played a pivotal role in the growth of the Norfolk Churches Trust and later, Norwich Historic Churches Trust. 

He also headed a national church conservation charity. 

His knowledge of churches, especially those in his adopted county of Norfolk, was encyclopaedic.  

After going to a prep school in Dorset, and then Eton, he went to Cambridge where he read English at King’s.  

He did his National Service in the Royal Navy and then embarked on a career in industry, working for Schweppes, the Royal Opera House and later the Imperial Chemical Industries. 

After moving to Norfolk about 30 years ago, he had the knowledge and experience of churches to make a significant contribution to Norfolk and Norwich

Norwich Evening News: Anthony Barnes

Mr Barnes became the first salaried secretary to the Norfolk Churches Trust in October 1992.  

When he handed over the reins in 1995 to Malcolm Fisher, who remained in post for 19 years, he continued as a director on the trust’s management board until 2002. 

Over the following years, he continued to advise the Norfolk Churches Trust until 2019. In addition, he managed to write dozens of church guides for visitors. 

A fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, he was always willing to share his detailed knowledge having had a love of church architecture and buildings since childhood. 

The Norfolk Churches Trust, which had been established in 1975 under Lady Billa Harrod OBE, had expanded membership rapidly and had taken on responsibility for more than a dozen ‘leased’ churches.  

Working with national heritage bodies, he fostered a more collaborative approach which included advising parochial church councils on conservation strategies. One tool in the armoury was developing the “anxiety list” to identify churches in need of urgent conservation. 

As the director of the Redundant Churches Fund between 1984 and October 1992, he was a driving force in securing increased funding from official bodies to safeguard the country’s heritage places of worship.  

The charity had been formed in 1969 before becoming the Churches Conservation Trust from 1994 and had taken over responsibility for almost 340 churches – including 28 in Norfolk. 

One of the most notable additions was St Michael’s in Booton, near Reepham, in 1987. Others included St Andrew’s in Frenze, near Diss, and St Michael’s in Coston, near Wymondham

He wrote dozens of church guides for visitors including for St Faith’s in Little Witchingham, near Reepham, St Mary’s in East Bradenham, near Dereham, and several in Norwich including for St Laurence and St Gregory’s. 

For seven years until May 2008, he was secretary to the Norwich Historic Churches Trust, which cares for about 18 mainly medieval churches in the city. 

He led the campaign to convert St Peter’s in Hungate to its current use and campaigned to stop the building being turned into a wine bar. 

A lifelong socialist, he was recruited into Mancroft Ward soon after arriving in Norwich and was briefly vice chair of the city’s Labour Party. He resigned from the party over the war in Iraq. 

Music was another passion and he rallied for Norwich to have its own concert hall.  

He was a regular visitor to Snape and supporter of the Academy of St Thomas and the Britten Sinfonia. 

Mr Barnes died aged 92. He leaves a son, Brendan, and daughter, Sophie. 

A funeral will be held at St John, Timberhill, on February 28 at noon.

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