Jean Hanmer, who led the fight 50 years ago to save Lincombe Barn, dies on her 100th birthday

March 29 2018
Jean Hanmer, who led the fight 50 years ago to save Lincombe Barn, dies on her 100th birthday

TRIBUTES have been paid to Downend community stalwart Jean Hanmer MBE who died on her 100th birthday on March 5.

Jean's achievements were many and included being awarded an MBE in recognition of setting up Downend Folk House Association in 1970, two years after she fought to save Lincombe Barn from demolition.

Jean also became the first female chairman of the former Mangotsfield Urban District Council. 

She was also chairman of governors at both Kingsfield School, now King's Oak Academy, and the now defunct Grange School in Warmley.

Jean lived in the same house in Downend for 66 years and has been described by her family as "pro-active, positive, bright and enthusiastic" in contribuing to the community locally. 

As a child, Jean was brought up in Dulwich, London, and having led a fairly charmed life as a teenager, didn’t want to join the family commercial laundry business.

Instead, Jean went into education, going to Bedford College in the mid-1930s, then Oxford University.

At the time, it was the exception for females to go into tertiary education, but like her peers at the all-female Bedford College, she was a determined leader and opinion-maker throughout her entire life.

After Oxford, Jean taught geography in Ludlow during the war, then moved to Derby where she met husband James. After the war James taught near Doncaster, Yorkshire before the family moved to Grace Road, Downend in 1952 when he got a teaching job at Chipping Sodbury Grammar School.

Jean is reputed to have told James that she was determined to have four children - and the result was Owen, a retired paediatrician; Ruth, a retired teacher; Frances; a retired social worker and Patrick, a tropical forester.

In 1962, at the age of 44, Jean joined Downend Residents' Association and stood for Mangotsfield Urban District Council, becoming its first female chairman, another huge  achievement given the era.

In the same decade Jean saw off plans to demolish Lincombe Barn as part of a road-widening scheme and then set about establishing Downend Folk House Association at the Barn, which offered classes, clubs and activities for people in the area. Her legacy stands to this day, with the Barn continuing to be a popular social hub for hundreds of people.

The MBE in recognition of her work took Jean by surprise; she remained humble - it wasn't important to her but helping other people was because she wanted to 'do something' as she used to say.

Jean was also a Methodist preacher, gardener and keen traveller, particularly after James retired in 1973.

Following his death in 2002, Jean continued to travel, visiting most of the world including South Africa, Malawi, Botswana, Sri Lanka and Australia.