Father Sir Hugh Dacre Barrett-Lennard, Bart.

by Susan Yates

The following are extracts from an interview with Father Sir Hugh Dacre Barrett-Lennard, Bart on Tuesday 17th May 2005. The full interview is published in the society’s journal, Panorama No. 44.

Father Hugh succeeded to the baronetcy on the death of the 5th baronet, Sir Richard Fiennes Barrett-Lennard, at Swallowfield Park, Reading on 28th December 1977. The Barrett-Lennards having sold up Belhus, the ancestral home, in 1923 moved to Horsford Manor, Norwich. This house was sold by Sir Richard, prior to his demise, to Anglian Windows, who currently use it as their Head Office and Sports Club. On inheriting the baronetcy Father Hugh merely became the holder of the title no money or land came with it. I asked Sir Hugh did he know who the 7th baronet would be and he was a little uncertain on this point as the person whom he had expected to succeed him had already passed on. He did say, however, that he had been to visit the branch of the Barrett-Lennard family that was now resident in Australia and showed me a photograph of a young man who I believe was also Hugh Barrett-Lennard.

Father Hugh went to school at Radley and at the age of 19 was intent on becoming a priest having converted to Catholicism at an early age. Indeed Father Hugh is the only member of the family who is Catholic. Just a few short weeks before he was due to join the London Oratory, World War II broke out and he joined up as a private in the London & Scottish Regiment. He was eventually transferred to the Essex Regiment where he finished his army career as a Captain and had been mentioned in dispatches. Two weeks prior to his demobilisation he was in Berlin. He came back to Colchester to be released from the army and so keen was he for his chosen profession that he went straight to the London Oratory to begin his training as a priest. His ordination took place in Rome in 1950. He returned to the London Oratory where he fulfilled his vocation as a parish priest with no ambition for preferment.

Father Hugh related the story of his visit to Belhus Manor when he was about 13 years old which would be about 1930. The occupant of Belhus at this time was his mother’s sister Mrs J. D. Fitzgerald. He and his mother climbed the tower, had a good look round from the rooftop and, with his mother in front, descended via the narrow steps. They heard footsteps behind them and as they knew there had been nobody on the roof, they quickened their pace but the footsteps came faster and faster. On reaching the exit they slammed the door and turned the key and then there was banging on the door. He confessed that he was frightened; they were both too afraid to open the door and have a look.

He also confirmed that the stories about his eccentric great grandfather Sir Thomas Barrett-Lennard were quite true. He was a great animal lover and he did order his servants to put out dishes of water for the rats in the house and those in the hayricks. Although he was the master of the local hunt, he laid false trails for the hounds to prevent cruelty to the fox. He wore very old and shabby clothing and had been mistakenly apprehended by the police as a miscreant and also assumed to be a servant when he opened the park gates to a carriage for which he received a tip.

Father Hugh mentioned that all the family portraits are now with Ann, the daughter of the 5th baronet. She married the Reverend John Pollock, son of the Headmaster of Winchester School.

Note: Father Hugh died in June 2007. The society was represented at his funeral by the Chairman.