DAVID BARBY TRIBUTE: treasure of the antiques world

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Antiques expert David Barby was a hugely popular personality - not only in Rugby but all over the world.

Since he died last Wednesday, aged 69, his wife, Janet, has been inundated with cards and messages and is touched to know how much he meant to so many people.

Over the last ten years David had become a television celebrity, appearing on BBC series including Bargain Hunt, Flog It! and Antiques Road Trip.

The programmes have been shown world wide and David was recognised wherever he went.

His television career began by chance when Bargain Hunt visited the Leamington auction rooms where he worked. Producers soon recognised that his incredible knowledge and engaging personality made him ideal for daytime audiences and he was invited to join the team.

“It gave him the most wonderful years of his life and he loved it all,” said Janet. “He had a complete passion for antiques and he loved being able to share that on television and meet so many different people.

Bargain Hunt, with Tim Wonnacott, took him to America and Australia. On Flog It! he worked with Paul Martin all over the country and he very much enjoyed filming Antiques Road Trip and the Celebrity version, which was for Scottish Television.

On the Saturday after he collapsed he should have been filming with Olympic javelin gold medallist Tessa Sanderson.

Janet added: “The BBC have been in constant communication and have sent floral arrangements. They are planning a tribute programme and I’ve asked that everything he recorded will still continue to be shown.”

As his television career snowballed David embraced every opportunity, not only with numerous local appearances, helping to raise thousands for charity, including the NSPCC and more recently Barby and Clifton churches, but taking up all kinds of invitations.

For a while he had a popular regional radio slot on presenter Bob Brolly’s show and wrote a monthly column called Antiques Antics for the Advertiser.

David had lectured on 16 cruises and even addressed the House of Lords Westminster Forum as guest speaker in 2005.

“Everywhere we went David was recognised and he enjoyed it. He loved people and was quite natural with them. He never thought of himself as a celebrity and was always firmly grounded. When we were in Norway a church minister recognised him and whisked him away to look at the treasures in his church!”, said Janet.

“The cruise ship lectures took him all over the world, from the Egypt to Bombay, Brazil and the Caribbean. We were so lucky. He should have been going on two more to Norway and the Mediterranean.

“Since David died I have had so many calls and messages from people all over the country - and the world. I’m told Twitter just exploded with the news and when I rang to tell a friend in Spain she had to admit she already knew.

“Many of the people David worked with have been in touch and one of his close friends was another of the experts, Philip Serrell.

“David had enjoyed the very best years of his life and he had done so much. His life really was filled to the brim.”

David and Janet married 39 years ago, in an ecumenical service at St Andrew’s Parish Church.

“I fell in love with him when we were both acting at Rugby Theatre in 1970,” said Janet. “It was a Victorian melodrama called East Lynne. I remember he asked if I would hear him practise his words - and he didn’t know the next line!

“His mother used to say he lit up the room whenever he walked in and that was so true.”

Both families already knew each other and Janet’s mother even used to weigh David as a baby as she worked in Cook’s Chemist in Clifton Road.

As a child David had also attended Janet’s family church, Rugby Baptist Church, but left to join the choir at St Andrews, where he became head choirboy.

When they were first married David and Janet lived in Cromwell Road, Rugby, but then embarked on a project to restore a cottage in West Haddon where they lived for ten years from 1977, enjoying village life.

In 1987 they moved to Hillmorton Road and then five years ago settled in Hillmorton.

Janet added: “David was so proud of his British heritage, what British expertise has produced in art and he just loved people for what they were.

“It was very fitting that at the Queen’s jubilee celebrations at St Mary’s Church in Barby he read ‘This England’ speech from Shakespeare’s King Richard II.

“And at the Mayor’s civic service in June he read from Ecclesiastes - a time to be born, a time to die - which was just so appropriate.”