Biography of John Barber, author of Hertford

Biography of John Barber, author of Hertford

Education and early employment

John Barber
John Barber

I was born in London in 1947 and attended Holloway School, North London where I was Head Boy. I left with two GCE A Levels in English (A) and History (A) (gave up Art after a brave attempt in the Lower Sixth). I began my professional career as a Media Buyer with a leading London Advertising Agency working on client campaigns such as Nescafe, Weetabix and the Government’s Don’t Drink and Drive Campaign.


I left advertising for National Westminster Bank where he spent most of the following 17 years in International Banking liaising with corporate customers.

Although not a supporter his final assignment was to arrange a tour of the Far East by Manchester United FC. He was a member of the National Westminster Theatre Club for ten years; first as stage hand, then Stage Manager and finally as producer.


In 1986 I decided to leave the corporate world and having married, moved to Buntingford where we managed an Off Licence in the High Street. On the birth of our daughter Anne-Marie we moved again in 1996 to live in Hertford and have lived on Folly Island ever since.

Hertford Town Centre Manager

In 2001 I became Chairman of the Folly Island Residents Association and helped to oversee the first Residents Parking Zone in Hertford. I became a member the then Hertford Town Centre Management Board (later the Hertford Town Partnership) and was appointed Town Centre Manager.

I was the lead organiser for Hertford Fun Day from 2001 until 2005 and in the final year ran the Hertford Music Festival presenting Battle of the Bands as part of the Fun Day events.

The first successful project was Hertford Town Watch which at its height in 2006 had fifty members connected by radio to the town’s CCTV network controlled in Stevenage. Hertford Pubwatch followed along with the Taxi Marshalling Scheme and the introduction of the now monthly Farmers Market in 2004.

I was also responsible for the infrastructure of the town’s Christmas lights and the ‘switching-on’ ceremonies. I am particularly sad that the Continental Market remains a one-off despite the efforts of a few people to bring it back as a regular four day event in town.

Owing to Government cutbacks my role as Town Centre Manager was withdrawn in 2010 but secured funding to launch Hidden Hertford which ran for two years and presented events along with audio/visual tours of the town recorded on to iPods and MP3 players and river trips along the River Lea.

I also edited Ward Times, a non-political on-line newspaper reporting on news and information relevant to market towns for the East Herts district.

I have since retired from this and other roles in the town.


The Camden Town Murder
The Camden Town Murder

I have been writing professionally since 1996 for local and national magazines on social and local history. A non-fiction title was published in 2002 on the then unsolved Camden Town Murder of 1907.

This led to a series of presentations at Scotland Yard and the Ripper Society and a contribution to a documentary on Walter Sickert and John Whistler on BBC2.

I now publish crime novels on line through Smashwords and Amazon and other non fiction titles of anthologies and modern myths.

I maintain an interest in Hertford and published regular blogs on events in the town; most concentrated on the plans to redevelop Bircherley Green Shopping Centre – see right.

Personal Life

This feature was published by the Hertfordshire Mercury on December 7 2007.

Name: John Barber
Age: Just collected my bus pass
Where are you from:  Folly Island, Hertford
Job: Hertford Town Centre Manager
Hobbies: Writing


Film Film Book Book TV Song

Favourite Food

Any curry, stronger the better

Claim to Fame

Bob Monkhouse rang me from his holiday home in Barbados to offer me his memories of Leslie Welch, the Memory Man who was a famous variety act in the 1950/60’s. He talked for about half an hour and I always thought that a wonderful and kind gesture from such a celebrated stand-up comedian and TV host to a little known writer (and who remains so to this day!).

What famous person would you like to be stuck on a desert island with

Becky MantinBecky Mantin, the ITV weather girl. This kind of interview was a regular feature in the Mercury who asked various politicians and traders their likes and views. When asked who they would like to be stuck on a desert island with most replied with: William Shakespeare, the Pope, George Bernard Shaw, Henry the Eighth and various reality TV stars such as Bear Grylls.


I took the view that if I had to be marooned on a desert island then I would prefer my companion to be an attractive female. At the time of this interview I always knew that it was going to rain because Becky would do the whole of the weather forecast with a smile. So much better than discussing the end of the world with Wittgenstein.

Views on Hertford

What does it need:  A cinema
What would you change:  I like it as it is
Favourite pub/restaurant: Old Barge, White Horse, Salisbury Arms
Favourite place:  The Old Barge pub on Folly Island
Where do you like to shop:  Waitrose
Best thing about Hertford:  The traders and the people.

When Zach my grandson passed away in 2015 there was little left in Hertford for me.

I had hoped that the Hertford Town Centre Urban Design Strategy would breathe some life into the town. All it produced was another list of everything that has been discussed, argued over and beaten into pulp by every possible combination of town centre committees and seminars. If I have copies of all these then someone else must have too at Council level and saved us all £100,000 to hire a team of consultants to regurgitate it.

As we near the end of 2015 the position regarding Waitrose in town is as unclear as when negotiations started in 2013.

The ex-Mayor Colin Harris once told me that I had been punching above my weight for far too long. Trying to form an opposition to the established pattern of things in this town has become more like punching my fist into thin air.

However I can look back over the past fifteen years and know that some good things were achieved; not always by myself but with the help of so many good friends and colleagues. In some chronological order:

Chairman of the Folly Island Residents Association
5 Fun Days
1 Hertford Music Festival
1 Continental Market
Hertford Town Watch
Hertford Pubwatch incl Behave or be Banned
Farmers Markets
New Christmas Lights and much needed infrastructure
Christmas Fayres
Taxi Marshal Scheme
Hidden Hertford – AV Tours
Training Courses
Attracting new businesses to town
Business database
Editor of Ward Times

I have missed a few but it is exhausting just listing that lot and remembering the time and effort spent by all those who were also responsible.

Thank you for those 15 years.

Contact John Barber here: