Local History Society

 Families: Ruby Barker

Death of Joan Barker

Barker family, who had already lost their 10-year-old daughter Joan in 1938 after a short illness, suffered another tragedy in 1941 when toddler Ruby died in a fire at their house.

The 'Times and Weekly News' reported on March 7th:

Death by Misadventure at Arborfield

At the inquest held on Tuesday at Wokingham on Ruby Kathleen Barker (17 months), infant daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Frank Maxwell Barker of 28, Council Cottages, Arborfield, the Coroner for the Reading Division of Berkshire (Mr. R. S. Payne) recorded a verdict of ‘Death from Misadventure’. Mr. Frank Moles, Waterloo Road, Wokingham, identified the body as that of his niece.

Leslie Maxwell Barker (14), brother of the child, said that on Saturday morning last his mother called him at 7.30. She lit a candle and placed it on a chest of drawers in the back room. The candle was not in a candle stick. He got up and went downstairs leaving the candle alight. He did not go upstairs again.

Charles L. Rawlings, R.M., said that whilst working at the camp, he heard screams about 10.30 a.m. coming from No. 28. The top part of the house was on fire; on going to the front bedroom he found it full of smoke. He lifted the child out of its cot and took it downstairs. Captain A. McGill, R.A.M.C, said that in his opinion death was due to shock and asphyxia. The baby was brought to the 1st Aid Post and artificial respiration was carried out, but to no avail.

The mother of the child Mrs. Emily Barker, who was too ill to attend the inquest, made a statement to P.S. F. Jones, in which she said she became aware of the fire at 10 o’clock. She tried to get to the bedroom where the child was sleeping, but was driven back by the heat and smoke. She did not hear the child cry.

Police evidence was to the effect that the chest of drawers was burnt out, the floorboards damaged, the wall which divided the two bedrooms was also damaged, and the furniture in the front room was blistered by the heat. The head of the child’s cot was only about 3 feet from the wall. There was considerable heat in the room in addition to the dense volume of smoke.

The funeral took place on Wednesday at Arborfield Church, and was conducted by Canon Anderson. The mourners were:

Father and Brother,
Nell and Lill,
Alice and Jessie (Aunties),
Jack and Frank (Uncles).

There were many beautiful floral tributes from:

Mother and Father,
Brother Leslie and from her other Brothers,
and Aunts and Uncles;
Warrant Officers and Sergeants of 206 Coy;
Medical Staff attached to 206 Coy;
also from neighbours.

The Funeral arrangements were carried out by Mr. Charles Walker, Finchampstead Road, Wokingham.

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