Chris Barber (philanthropist)

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Christopher Bayldon "Chris" Barber (19 March 1921 – 8 July 2012) was a British Quaker businessman and was the Chairman of Oxfam from 1983 to 1989.[1][2] He was educated at Bootham School, York.[3]


As a Quaker, 18-year-old Chris Barber, was opposed to war and chose to join the Friends Ambulance Unit before he was called up. He faced a Conscientious Objector Tribunal, refusing to seek favourable treatment by declaring himself a Quaker. He was, however, permitted to join the FAU, with whom he worked until 1947. His service included a period of war relief work in China.[4]

The Biscuits business

When he returned, he trained as an accountant and joined the family firm, Jacob's Biscuits, in 1949. By innovations, mergers and acquisitions, the firm grew to become Huntley & Palmer then Associated Biscuits and he rose to be Finance Director.[5] He retired in 1980.

Famine relief

In 1980, he had joined the Board of Trustees of Oxfam. In 1983, he became its Chair, in which role, he served until 1989. "Oxfam grew dramatically[6] and, in his role as chairman, Chris was keen to ensure that the extra donations were used well, not just to tackle famine but to ensure sustainable development thereafter. His was a wise and compassionate hand on the tiller.[7]"

He was a "hands-on" Chair and was deeply concerned with Oxfam's decision, in November 1985, to close its bank account at Barclays Bank because of Barclays involvement with the South African Apartheid regime. He travelled to South America, India and Sudan and sorted out a diplomatic disaster in Cambodia.[8] Long after his retirement, he could be found, helping out, at the Oxfam bookshop in Henley.[7]

Quaker activities

Chris Barber and his wife, Anne[9] had met at their Quaker schools in York.[10] They married in January 1952. Both were active in local, regional and national Quaker activities. Chris, among other roles, was Chairman of the Social Responsibility Council, 1970 – 1972; Clerk of Quaker Social Responsibility and education, 1979 – 1981.[11] He served on Quaker Peace and Service Central Committee from 1993 to 1998[12]

Other activities

The obituary in The Henley Standard said:

". . . he was known for organising treasure hunts on and around Peppard Common and many other activities involving local families. For several years he organised a hockey match at New Year on a field near the Dog in Peppard with 20 or 30 people, from small children to ageing grandparents, on each side and no referee! Fortunately, the games were all played in good spirit and there were no injuries. On one occasion, the match was played in deep snow.".[7][13]


These items are listed on the catalogue of Friends House Library, London. This list is in date order:

  • The sharing of resources : problems of aid and development / [prepared by Christopher B. Barber and Olive Prescott for the Committee on Sharing World Resources]. – London : Society of Friends. London Yearly Meeting. Home Service Committee, 1970. – 32 p. ; 19 cm.. – (Study in fellowship series ; 31)
  • FAU postscript : some reflections of former Friends Ambulance Unit members, on what their Unit experience of 40 years earlier has meant to them / collated by Chris Barber. – Oxford : Oxfam, 1984. – 48 p. ; 21 cm.
  • 'My! How you've grown!'" a contribution to a Festschrift: A Quaker miscellany for Edward H. Milligan (1985).[14]
  • "Friends to China : the Davidson brothers and the Friends' Mission to China 1886–1939, by Charles Tyzack / [review by Chris Barber]. – In: The Journal of the Friends Historical Society; Vol.55; no.8 (1989), p. 291.
  • China letters : letters written home by Chris Barber during his F.A.U. service abroad 1942–46, 1993. – 259 p. : ill. ; 30 cm. – unpublished typescript, held at Friends house Library.
  • China letters : letters written home by Chris Barber during his F.A.U. service abroad 1942–46, 1993. – 259 p. : ill. ; 30 cm. – unpublished typescript, held at Friends house Library.
  • Reflections on a China tour : revisiting the roads of West China, May 1996 : members of the Friends Ambulance Unit China Convoy go back after fifty years / by Christopher B. Barber [et al.] ; edited by Christopher B. Barber and Theodore M. Mills : Friends Ambulance Unit China Convoy, 1997. – [vi], 125 p. ; 30 cm.
  • "Our sense of common humanity" / Chris Barber. – In: The Friends' Quarterly; Vol.31; no.2 (April 1998), p. 57–68


  1. The Times Obituary 20 August 2012 Cited above – Sources.
  2. Full name given in an announcement of a memorial meeting 13 October 2012, in The Friend 24 August 2012 p.17
  3. Woodland, Jenny (2011). Bootham School Register. York, England: BOSA. 
  4. China: See items in list of Chris Barber's writings concerning China. See also FAU China Convoy Reunion Group website
  5. Chris Barber's employer, Associated Biscuits, is now called United Biscuits
  6. Oxfam History timeline for the decade 1980 – 1989
    • 1982. Bitter Pills published: We publish a new report on the relationship between pharmaceutical companies and poverty. It’s the latest in a series of books that helps bolster Oxfam’s reputation as a wide-ranging expert on development issues. (by Dianna Melrose)
    • 1984. Famine in Ethiopia: Harrowing TV footage prompts unprecedented public support and a surge of interest in the crisis in Africa. Initiatives like Band Aid contribute to Oxfam's response, and our income doubles in a single year – to £51 million.
    • 1984. 'Hungry for Change': Jonathan Dimbleby, Roy Hattersley, Ted Heath and Joanna Lumley help launch an initiative to raise funds and awareness for Oxfam's food work. Within a year, Oxfam has a network of more than 300 groups nationwide
    • 1985. Giant march on House of Commons: 20,000 supporters of Oxfam and other charities join the biggest ever lobby (at the time) on parliament to call for more aid, especially to Africa. One million people sign a petition in support. (For a contemporary account, see “Lobbyists attack aid record” by Seumas Milne in The Guardian (1959–2003); 23 October 1985; pg. 2.)
    • 1986. GADU gets going: It might not have the most glamorous name, but the launch of the Gender and Development Unit (or GADU) is definitely a landmark moment. GADU focuses money and attention on women’s development – a key element of Oxfam’s work to this day.
    • 1988. First Red Nose Day: Oxfam sells the plastic noses that quickly become synonymous with the biannual festival of life-changing comedy. We've been closely linked with Comic Relief since it was born in 1985 – and we still proudly stock their superlative scarlet snouts.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 "Henley on Thames – Quaker company director who became Oxfam chairman". 23 July 2012. Retrieved 23 August 2012. 
  8. The Times Obituary- Cited above – Sources
  9. Anne Satterthwaite Barber: testimony, Cited above – Sources. Anne lived 1 January 1923 to 12 August 2005
  10. "Quaker schools in York" : presumably The Mount School, York (girls) and Bootham School (boys).
  11. Description of contributors to A Quaker miscellany for Edward H. Milligan, edited by David Blamires, Jeremy Greenwood and Alex Kerr, published by David Blamires (1985) ISBN 0-9510152-1-4 p. 175.
  12. QPS CC period of service – source – email from Friends House Library 30 August 2012.
  13. The Dog, mentioned in relation to the hockey game, is a public house.
  14. A Quaker miscellany for Edward H. Milligan, edited by David Blamires, Jeremy Greenwood and Alex Kerr, published by David Blamires (1985) ISBN 0-9510152-1-4 pp1 – 5. Chris Barber's article recalls his Quaker childhood, in Sheffield, amongst a large extended family, his childhood experience of Hartshead Quaker Meeting, changes in the Religious Society of Friends from his childhood to now, when he concludes that the RSoF probably has grown, spiritually.