A new plaque celebrating the life of Francis Barber has been presented in Lichfield. The memorial was unveiled by Cedric and Sandra Barber, direct descendants of Francis, in an event organised by Lichfield City Council at Cruck House on Wednesday 29 March. Cedric Barber gave a moving speech, reflecting on the roles which Francis Barber, and later his son Samuel Barber, played in supporting their communities in Staffordshire.
Planning permission has been granted for the plaque to be installed on Cruck House, Stowe Street. Now a community hall, the site was chosen as one of the only surviving buildings which Barber would have known when the street was his home from 1786 to1793, during which time he was elected as Dozener (a local official) by his neighbours in 1788.
Francis Barber was enslaved from birth in Jamaica. He arrived in England in 1752 aged approximately ten years old and was granted freedom in 1754. He lived for many years in London as the servant, friend and ultimately the heir of Samuel Johnson, who had no children of his own. Barber moved to Lichfield in 1786, and lived in the city until the mid-1790s before relocating to Burntwood, where he became one of Britain's first Black schoolmasters. He died in Stafford in 1801, and his family members are still based in Staffordshire.
A spokesperson for Lichfield City Council said ‘our thanks go to all of the local organisations who were involved in the project, particularly the Johnson Society, Lichfield City of Sanctuary and One Lichfield, who worked with City Council staff at the Samuel Johnson Birthplace Museum to organise this plaque.’
The plaque will be mounted on the exterior of Cruck House during April.