Tribute paid after well-respected fourth generation member of Mitchell's Brewery family passes away

Tribute has been paid to a much-respected and forward-thinking Lancaster businessman who continued his family name in the city's famous Mitchell's Brewery.

Tuesday, 4th May 2021, 3:43 pm
Bill Barker.

William Mitchell Barker - known as Bill - passed away peacefully at his Caton home on April 18 at the age of 83.

Bill was born in June 1937 in Forton, the eldest son of Mitchell and Bess Barker.

He was educated in Broadstairs, Kent, followed by Canford in Dorset. His school days were happy, and he excelled in rowing, hockey and rugby.

At university in Edinburgh at Heriot-Watt he became a practical brewer, very much enjoying the life.

However, his time there was cut short by compulsory National Service and he was sadly never able to go back and finish the course.

Bill then hassled Whitbread in London to let him gain experience in all their departments - licensed, managed, brewing, architecture, office planning etc, where he was inspired and became very independent.

Returning home, Bill joined the family firm full of enthusiasm and ideas. He once heard one of the men say to his father "do you know, he wants to buy a [wind-up] printer, will you OK it?"

Bill married Gillian almost 60 years ago in October 1961, and they went on to have three daughters, Vikki, Anna and Fiona, of whom Bill was very proud, and he was even more proud when they became the fifth generation in the family firm.

Bill went on to become the managing director and chairman at Mitchell's, and was well-respected within the business, becoming known as Mr Bill and once overhearing them say "no messing with him, he knows how to do all your jobs!"

The spending didn't stop with the printer...Bill bought, built and renovated almost 80 pubs and hotels with some very forward ideas.

His real 'baby' was the Wine Bin, where he built up the largest selection of wine in the north west, and had a great time travelling and sampling, and although he was never a wine master he was very well respected in the industry.

Bill, who was also a Rotarian and a Freeman of the City of Lancaster, left Mitchell's in 2008.

In his spare time, Bill spent many hours sailing a variety of boats, and was the founder member and instigator of Glasson Sailing Club.

Bill also had a life-long obsession with cars. In very early married life his mother rang and said "please remove the thing in the garage" and along came a part-built car to his married home.

He went on to renovate four and build three vintage cars, learning a great deal, and leaving a garage full!

As well as his wife and daughters, Bill also leaves two son-in-laws David and Alex, and four grandchildren.

"He had an amazingly varied life and was very well liked and respected," Gillian said. "He was quiet and unassuming but a man of strength."

Bill's funeral service was held at Beetham Hall Crematorium on April 27.

Charitable donations in his memory are to CancerCare via J Mason & Son funeral directors of Lancaster.