Devoted to Wisbech

Richard Barnwell receiving a scroll from Wisbech Mayor Vivien MacRae
Richard Barnwell receiving a scroll from Wisbech Mayor Vivien MacRae

The Honorary Freedom of Wisbech was bestowed on Monday on a man praised for his ‘extraordinary devotion’ to the town.

The scroll was presented at a special meeting of Wisbech Town Council to Richard Barnwell by Mayor Viv MacRae.

Mr Barnwell, a former town mayor, councillor and benefactor, is one of only a handful of people to receive this honour.

Father Paul West, vicar of St Peter’s Church, where Mr Barnwell married his wife Beverly during his term as mayor in 2000-2001, said in his opening prayer the celebration was to recognise Mr Barnwell’s unique contribution and extraordinary devotion to Wisbech.

Cllr MacRae spoke of Mr Barnwell’s deep interest in history and how he came to the town through his boss of old, James Crowden when he secured a job as assistant to the senior partners of Grounds and Co.

Cllr MacRae listed the many organisations of which Mr Barnwell has been and still is involved, many of which he has chaired.

These include Wisbech Society, the Tourism group, In Bloom, Wisbech Against Crime, the Fens Pageant Youth Trust, Wisbech Area Regeneration and Development Trust. As mayor he presented the town with a Millennium link for the mayoral chain, Mr Barnwell is a former Cambs County councillor, member of Octavia Hill Society, Lillian Ream and Cambs Community Foundation - to name just a few.

He is also a former High Sheriff of Cambridgeshire and is currently a Deputy Lord Lieutenant of the county. His other roles are also numerous including former president of Wisbech Rotary and chairman of the trustees of Wisbech and Fenland Museum.

“His enthusiasm and love of Wisbech is demonstrated by his involvement, contribution and support,” said Cllr MacRae.

Mr Barnwell, who has farms in Northampton and a Wisbech home, thanked everyone for their support and said it was an “enormous honour”. He said he had “thoroughly enjoyed every minute” of being mayor and attended over 400 functions. He spoke fondly of his days as a councillor and said he had gained “enormous pleasure” from his involvement in many groups and committees during 36 years in Wisbech.

As a lasting gift, Mr Barnwell presented the Town Council with a bound copy of Frederic John Gardiner’s History of Wisbech from 1848 to 1900.

He also told the council that Dann’s clock had been saved for the town. There was shock after the clock was removed from former shop premises in Bridge Street and sold at auction but Mr Barnwell said the new buyer had got in touch with him after discovering the controversy.

Mr Barnwell has bought the clock from him and he explained a committee will be formed to include the Town Council, Rotary and Wisbech Society to pay for the clock and its restoration back to its rightful place.