Lady Barnard in the grounds of Raby Castle
Lady Barnard in the grounds of Raby Castle

TRIBUTES have been paid to Lady Davina Mary Barnard who died earlier this month aged 87.

Lady Barnard, the former wife of the late 11th Lord Barnard, died peacefully at home in Barningham on September 6, having lived with Alzheimer’s for many years.

Born in London on June 29 in 1931, Lady Davina Cecil was the eldest daughter of the 6th Marquess of Exeter and Lady Mary Burghley. As Lord Burghley he was a gold medallist in the 400m hurdles at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics.

Although Teesdale came to be the area she called home, Lady Barnard lived in many different places during her childhood, including Canada, Florida, Long Island and Bermuda. She was aged just nine when, at the height of the Second World War in June 1940, she along with her sisters Gillian and Angela and a nanny sailed from Liverpool to Canada to stay with an uncle on his remote ranch in British Columbia.

Winter at the ranch was harsh with temperatures dipping to -30C so the following year, they moved to the US where she lived with family friends before returning to England for a short spell in 1943. That same year, she returned to Canada with her mother. The pair flew on a US cargo plane and were given airmen’s flying jackets to keep warm for the 26-hour journey.

Later that year, the whole family made the move to Bermuda where her father was appointed governor of the island. Lady Barnard attended Bermuda High School before returning to England in 1946.

She lived in Berkshire with her family until she married the 11th Baron Barnard, Harry John Neville Vane. The marriage took place at St Margaret’s Church at Westminster on October 8, 1952, when she was 21. For most of their married life the couple lived at Selaby Hall, near Gainford. Together they had five children – Carolyn, Elizabeth, Harry, Sophia and Louise. She was also a grandmother to 11 grandchildren and great-grandmother to three.

She officially became Lady Barnard in 1964 when her husband succeeded to the title of Lord Barnard on his father’s death. The couple divorced in 1992. Lady Barnard then moved to Barningham where she lived for the past 25 years.

Eldest daughter Carolyn Vane said: “My mother talked about Bermuda and her school friends there. I know they were happy times for her.”

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“She loved the countryside and especially Teesdale. Some of our happiest memories are going for picnics in upper Teesdale in the summer holidays. She always enjoyed photography and filming family life with a cine camera in the early days, later progressing to a camcorder.”

Lady Barnard enjoyed classical music, walking and gardening. In the 1980s, she and Lord Barnard featured on BBC Gardeners’ World showcasing the renovated gardens in the grounds of Raby Castle.

She was interested in nature, and the company of dogs was a constant throughout her life. Lady Barnard was heavily involved in the community, in particular with the church.

She was known for arranging church flowers in Gainford, Staindrop and finally Barningham.

She enjoyed village life and joined Barningham’s Knit and Natter group as well as the local art group where she practised her watercolour skills. She also held prayer meetings at her home.

Lady Barnard in her younger days
Lady Barnard in her younger days

Lady Barnard also did a vast amount of charitable work, taking up roles with various organisations.

She was appointed county vice president of St John Ambulance Association in 1962 and in the 1970s became county president until retirement in 2000. She was made Commander (sister) of the Order of St John in 1978 and in 1984 was invested as a Dame of Grace, Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem. She was also involved with the NSPCC, St Teresa’s Hospice and Phab Club, a charity which supports children, young people and adults with and without disabilities.

Ms Vane added: “She was a very kind, caring and gentle person. She would never say a bad word about anyone. She was also very thoughtful and did the best for everyone. She will be missed greatly by the whole family.”

A funeral service is being held this Friday, September 21, at St Michael and All Angels Church in Barningham at 2pm. Family flowers only. Donations are being collected for the Alzheimer’s Society and St Michael and All Angels Church.