Barrie Sydney Huntbach

April 1935 - November 2006

Barrie Sydney Huntbach was born in Nottingham on 26th April 1935, the second of four children born to Francis Huntbach (an engineer at a fabric factory) and Elsie Huntbach (formerly Watkins). Barrie was premature, his parents were told he would die and to wrap him in cotton wool until he did so. However his mother fed him drops of milk from the inner tube of a fountain-pen and kept him alive. 

Note on Barrie’s middle name: Barries middle name is variously spelt as Sidney and Sydney on documents (Sydney; birth certificate, Sidney; baptismal certificate)

The Huntbach family moved from Nottingham to Brighton then to Portslade in 1935 where they settled living at 50 St. Andrews Road. The family moved to seek a better life in the south. 

Accidents & illnesses: Barrie lost the sight of his left eye aged 10 (by having an arrowshot in his eye, a bicycle spoke fired from a bow & arrow). His cornea was damaged. He did not lose the eye. Barrie was badly burned on the leg by falling into the fire at home resulting in a heavily scarred leg. He had diphtheria as a young child and was hospitalised at the Foredown Isolation Hospital in Portslade. Treatment included a tracheotomy which showed in adult life as a scar on the throat. 

When Barrie was called up for National Service in April 1953; the medical board assessed him as Grade IV (unfit for military service)

Education: Barries education was effected in a negative way by his illness and by the Second World Wars effect on schools (1939-1945 when Barrie was aged between about 5 and 10 years old). His secondary school education took place at Portslade School for Boys (1946-1950). He left school aged 15 with no qualifications.

Barrie said that he did not learn to read until he was 12 years old. He said he learned from reading comics. In later life Barrie had idiosyncratic writing skills (no problems with reading). It is possible he had some form of dyslexia. 

Employment: On leaving school Barrie worked at a silver-plating company & a company that made lamp-shades. He then worked for Perrys of Portslade(which became Brewers) a painting & decorating shop in Boundary Road, Portslade (until the early 1970s). In the mid-late 1970s he worked at St Marys Convent (now Emmaus) in Portslade Village, as a laundry operative. He left this job reluctantly as wages did not keep pace with the high inflation of the time. Barrie worked at Le Carbone Ltd in Portslade Village (in the old brewery building). His job was deleted in the late 1980s. Barrie was unemployed for a while. His final job was as a cleaner at the University of Brighton, Faculty of Arts, Grand Parade. He retired aged 64 due to the generosity of his artist friend Romola Jane who financed his last year before he reached the age of state retirement at 65. He spent his time continually producing artwork.

Family: Barrie married Sheila Brooks in 1960. The couple had four children. Though divorced in the early 1990s, Barrie remains on amicable terms with Sheila.

Barrie spent a lifetime in low-paid, unsatisfactory jobs, all of which he loathed (apart from working at the convent, which he looked back on as his most-contented employment).

Barrie died in his sleep, aged 71 at home in Portslade, his dog Biro by his side.


The world that existed in his head and flowed through his pen and paintbrushes was perhaps more colourful and certainly more incredible that the one in which he lived. With no formal training he created a vibrant and thought-provoking body of work. A member of The Society of Catholic Artists he regularly exhibited at local venues. A kind and thoughtful man, he lived with few possessions, seeking only to commit to paint the endless ideas in his head. He was loved by all who knew him.

Art: Barrie defined his life by his art “art is my life”. 

His works are narrative-symbolic- surrealist in style: quote “my paintings are stories to be read and interpreted”

Themes: Mystery plays, Theatre, Spirituality, Fantasy, Dreams, Visions, Biblical, Good against evil

Medium: oil, acrylic, pen & ink, pencil, 3-D material


You can see the photographic work of B S Huntbach's younger daughter by following the link in the navigation.