Frances Christina Barnato, known as Fannie or Fanny, was born on 30th March 1859 in Simonstown, South Africa. She had a difficult childhood in there as she had at least six other siblings and her mother died in 1885. Fanny worked as a barmaid and actress in South Africa.
Her father then moved the family to Kimberley. This is where she met her future husband and industrialist Barney Barnato.
The couple married in Johannesburg in 1889. The couple subsequently emigrated to England. In November 1892 their Civil Marriage took place at Chelsea Registry Office in London, England.
Fanny and Barney had three children. Leah Primrose was born in 1893. Isaac ‘Jack’ Henry Woolf was born in 1894 and Joel ‘Babe’ Woolf Barnato was born in 1895.
Barney died in 1897, aged forty six. He died at sea, on route to the United Kingdom. It is suspected he committed suicide. His family reject the suicide theory, citing it as against his character.
Following the sudden death of her husband, Fanny and her children moved to Brighton to 4 Adelaide Mansions in 1899. She never re-married.
During the First World War, Fanny established a hospital at 38 Adelaide Crescent in Hove. This hospital was named the Hove Military Hospital and could care for twenty wounded soldiers at a time.
Later, Fanny moved from Brighton in 1918. It is unclear where she moved to as a final location, although in the 1911 census she was visiting Matlock in Derbyshire and later dates show her in London. Other dates from various censuses show her in a variety of places:
1901 census – Bournemouth
1911 census – Matlock Derbyshire
1914 war pension – Hove
1935, 38 & 39 electoral registers – Marylebone London
The Jewish Chronicle mentioned Fanny in their paper published on 7 July 1919. It writes;
‘Mrs. Barney Barnato is the eighty-year-old widow of the South African pioneer of last century, Mr. Barney Barnato, about whom a witty schoolfellow of his early days observed that he began and ended his days in [unclear], for he was born in what was then Petticoat Lane and was building his house in Park Lane when he died. Mrs. Barnato recently gave a cocktail party to celebrate her birthday. She is a South African by birth, and knew Rhodes and Kruger personally. Her photograph as a young woman is cemented beneath a corner-stone at the top of the late Sir Philip Sassoon’s house in Park Lane, which was built by the late Mr. Barnato, and it was placed there by him and Mrs. Barnato for which purpose they were hoisted aloft by crane!’
Fanny died on 21 December 1943, aged 84. She is buried at Willesden United Synagogue Cemetery, the same cemetery as her late husband.
Upon her death, Fanny left £94,447 in her will. Today, that amount would be worth around £4.2million when accounting for inflation.
Michael Crook, Chair of the Jewish Historical Society (South East) is distantly related to the family.