Obituary: Former mayor and councillor known as 'Mrs Dereham' dies aged 94

The refurbished Nelson precinct in Dereham, officially opened by the mayor June Barnes in 2004

The refurbished Nelson precinct in Dereham, officially opened by the mayor June Barnes in 2004 - Credit: Archant © 2004

Although not a native of Norfolk, June Barnes would go on to become a prominent figure within her adopted hometown of more than 50 years.  

Dubbed “Mrs Dereham” by the vast number of people who knew her, the former shop owner was well-known within the market town.  

From councillor to the mayor, it is no surprise that Mrs Barnes will be missed by many for both her dedication and forthright manner.

June Barnes at the Meeting Point in Dereham in 2003

June Barnes at the Meeting Point in Dereham in 2003 - Credit: Archant

The second youngest of her family, June Deacon was born on June 20, 1928, at St John’s Wood in London's City of Westminster district. Here she spent her childhood with her parents, Sidney and Rose, and her nine other siblings.  

As a result of being part of such a large family, it meant she had nieces and nephews much older than her.  

Shortly after the start of the Second World War, the family did a “moonlight flit” after being unable to pay their rent in 1939, and they moved to Ealing in West London.

Pictures of the Dereham Citizen Awards at the Memorial Hall, Dereham. L-R Mayor June Barnes, winner

Dereham Citizen Awards at the Memorial Hall, Dereham. L-R Mayor June Barnes, winner Craig Hall and former DFT reporter James Goffin - Credit: Archant © 2004

Before the move, Mrs Barnes had passed the first part of her eleven-plus examination but due to “the disruption of moving” she failed the second part. Although a blow for her at the time, she would go on to achieve numerous successes.  

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After leaving school aged 14, she went to work at her local WHSmith retailer in Ealing. 

At the time, Ealing Studios was a thriving television and film production company and many of its top stars would visit the shop, including famous actor, Alec Guinness. She enjoyed being able to meet and serve different actors of the time who would come in to purchase magazines.

June Barnes taste tests the pork and leek sausages at Dereham's farmer's market

June Barnes taste tests the pork and leek sausages at Dereham's farmer's market - Credit: Archant

Another highlight for her was meeting her husband-to-be, Douglas Barnes, who also worked at WHSmith.  He was demobilised in 1946 and went back to work at the shop where they met. 

The couple later married in 1952 in Ealing and went on to have two children; Neil (1954) and Anne (1957).  

It was always Mr Barnes' dream to open his own shop. Mrs Barnes became instrumental in making it a reality, and together in 1963 they opened a toy shop – also selling cigarettes and greeting cards – in Ruislip, Middlesex.

The refurbished Nelson precinct in Dereham, officially opened by the mayor June Barnes in 2004

The refurbished Nelson precinct in Dereham, officially opened by the mayor June Barnes in 2004 - Credit: Archant © 2004

Their daughter Anne said she found living in a toy shop “idyllic”, while son Neil said: “It was great fun. What more could a child want?”

He added: “With the end of the leasehold looming, dad said he had always wanted to live in the countryside. He enjoyed walking.  

“They bought a cottage near Swanton Morley, outside of Dereham, in 1971. It cost just £2,500 for the new-renovated, three-bedroom property.

(11/11 EDI) Dereham town councillor June Barnes.

Dereham town councillor, June Barnes - Credit: Archant

“When the lease ran out in around 1975, they made the move to Norfolk and bought the newsagents in Boyd Avenue in Toftwood.  

“By then, my dad was not too well so mum mainly ran the shop.  

“She was really proud that one of her paperboys – Dereham local Ian Clarke – had become the editor of her local newspaper, the then-named Dereham and Fakenham Times.”

Peter Rowley, left, joins Dereham Town Councillors in clearing up the Neatherd pond. From left, Jun

Peter Rowley, left, joins Dereham Town Councillors in clearing up the Neatherd pond. From left, June Barnes, Ed Blane, and Julian Crutch - Credit: Archant

A previous supporter of the Labour Party, she became disillusioned with its politics and joined the Social Democratic Party (SDP) before becoming a Breckland and Dereham Town councillor. When the SDP folded, she continued as an Independent.  

She would also go on to become the town’s mayor for a year, the chair of the governors of Toftwood Infant School, and the chair of Dereham’s Meeting Point group during its founding days. She was also instrumental in replacing the town sign when it became rotten.

The new town sign, spanning the high street, is in place in Dereham much to the delight of Mayor Jun

The new town sign, spanning the high street, is in place in Dereham much to the delight of mayor June Barnes, back in 2004 - Credit: Archant © 2004

Neil added: “She was proud of all of her achievements – especially as she had left school at 14.  

“She was good with people, good at talking with them, and she loved children.  

“She was also a very good singer and had professional lessons during her time as WHSmith, when the employed used to fund their employees' hobbies or sporting endeavours outside of work.

Picture of town councillor and former mayor June Barnes with the old Dereham sign which hung over th

Picture of town councillor and former mayor June Barnes with the old Dereham sign which hangs over the town - Credit: Archant © 2006

“She continued singing for charity and again in hospitals or village hall concerts. She also performed with Dereham Town Band. And when she was young, she sang at the Royal Albert Hall. 

“She was also always very smartly dressed and loved wearing the colour red. She would also bake lovely party cakes and enjoyed family occasions.”  

Mrs Barnes lived on her own with help from carers until December 2021. She then moved into a care home in Watton, before relocating to Essex to be nearer family. She died at hospital in Essex aged 94 years and two days.

Peter Rowley, left, joins Dereham Town Councillors in clearing up the Neatherd pond. From left, Jun

Peter Rowley, left, joins Dereham Town Councillors in clearing up the Neatherd pond. From left, June Barnes, Ed Blane, and Julian Crutch - Credit: Archant

A memorial service is due to take place at St Nicholas Church, Dereham on Saturday, July 30 at 12.30pm with a reception at the Kings Head, North Elmham.

Making plans....June Barnes, Peter Crate and Bernard Copsey at the Meeting Point in Dereham.Photo:

June Barnes, Peter Crate and Bernard Copsey at the Meeting Point in Dereham in 2003 - Credit: Archant

Dereham Meeting PointSt' Withburga laneDerehamOAP's use the new centre for the first timeJune Ba

Dereham Meeting Point St Withburga Lane being used for the first time June Barnes (chair management committee) and Peter Crate (sec management committee) in 2004 - Credit: Archant