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Bill Barry

Some time ago I had a call from a pleasant young man by the name of Hugh Farey. From his accent it was apparent that this was no prairie boy I was talking to. Indeed, Mr. Farey is an English teacher -- not of the language, but from the place.

He explained that he was holidaying in Canada, and while he was here he was looking into the origin of the name of the town of Bredenbury southeast of Yorkton. Why became apparent when he told me that his school is called St. Richard's and is housed partly in a building that is still called Bredenbury Court near the town of Bromyard in northeastern Herefordshire, England.

Bill Barry
-- all photos courtesy Hugh Farey
One of the few surviving photographs of W. Henry Barneby, surrounded by his extended family in the 1890s.

Well, he certainly had my immediate and full attention! People Places: The Dictionary of Saskatchewan Place Names attributes the name of Bredenbury to A. E. Bredin, a land agent for the Manitoba and North Western Railway, because that is the citation that appears in CPR's files, as well as in most other sources on Saskatchewan names. However, I had had my doubts ever since learning of the existence of the English village a couple of years ago, and my computer data base contained this note: "…there is a village called Bredenbury east of Leominster in Herefordshire, England. Given the pattern of railway names in Saskatchewan, it is far more likely to be the source of the name."

So, with Hugh Farey's help, here's the story. William Henry Barneby was the "lord of the manor" at Bredenbury, Herefordshire. He first visited western Canada in 1881 and returned two years later to visit several friends in Manitoba.Towards the end of July 1883 he met Nicholas Flood Davin, the editor of the Leader, in Regina. He travelled the CPR as far as it had then been built (about Medicine Hat). Upon his return to England, he wrote of his experiences in a book entitled Life and Labour in the Far Far West (1884).

Bill Barry
Road sign at the entrance to Bredenbury, Herefordshire, today.

Barneby returned to Canada in 1888 as the guest of the vice-president and the general manager of the Manitoba & North Western Railway, the owners of a line beginning at Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, and projected to link with Prince Albert, but which was subsequently taken over by the CPR and rerouted westward through Saskatoon and on to Edmonton. Barneby's trip on this visit took him all the way to Vancouver, a mari usque ad mare, but he made two interesting side trips. The first was to some property he had purchased in 1881 near Otterburne, Manitoba, which he had named "Little Bredenbury". The second was to the end of track on the M&NW, which at that time reached as far as Langenburg. Again he wrote a book on his return to England, this time called The New Far West and the Old Far East (1889).

Bill Barry
The Barneby Arms Hotel, Bredenbury.

In recounting his adventures in what is now eastern Saskatchewan, Barneby wrote that "Beyond Churchbridge there is another new settlement called the "Commercial Company," at which a station named Bredenbury was to be located this present year." He made a trip to Churchbridge, and also describes a quick visit to the Icelandic settlement at Logberg/Thingvalla on his way back to Langenburg. At the end of the chapter containing these reminiscences, the following appears:

"NOTE. - The Manitoba and North Western Railway was extended 25 miles towards Prince Albert during 1888, and the following new stations have been opened -- Churchbridge, Bredenbury, and Saltcoats."

Fascinating stuff!

Bill Barry
Bredenbury Court today. The long classroom addition on the left was added in 1950, the chapel on the right in 1903. Other than that the building is very much as Henry Barneby left it. It is now St. Richard's School where Hugh Farey teaches.

There would seem to be no doubt that my suspicions of an English connection for the name of Bredenbury have been confirmed by the information provided by Hugh Farey. Although Barneby does not directly claim credit for the name, certainly he suggested it to his hosts, the senior officers of the Manitoba & North Western Railway, who were only too pleased to oblige their guest with a station name.

So, if a revised version of People Places: The Dictionary of Saskatchewan Place Names comes out at some time in the future, here is what it will have to say about Bredenbury:

"William Henry Barneby was the "lord of the manor" of Bredenbury Court near Bromyard, Herefordshire, England. He visited western Canada three times, in 1881, 1883 and 1888, and wrote books on his experiences on the latter two occasions. On his third visit he was a guest of the Manitoba & North Western Railway and journeyed on their line to its then terminus at Langenburg. Barneby travelled by buggy from there to the nascent settlement at Churchbridge, and also visited the Icelandic colonies at Logberg and Thingvalla. "By 1890 the M&NW had been extended to Yorkton with new stations at Churchbridge, Bredenbury and Saltcoats. Bredenbury (from the Old English bredene berg, "fortified place made with boards") was doubtless named to honour the estate of the railway's distinguished English visitor."

Bill Barry
Bill Barry, Saskatchewan place name expert

One final note. Hugh Farey informs me that, while nearly everybody calls the English village (BREE den bur ee) today, there are some old timers in the district who pronounce it the way we here in Saskatchewan do, (BRED en bur ee).

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