Celebrating 40 years with the Registration Service in Oxfordshire

Over the past 40 years Julia Barnes has registered more than 20,000 births and deaths and conducted about 8,000 marriages.

And the popular member of Oxfordshire County Council’s Registration Service has no plans to retire any time soon.

Colleagues, family and friends attended a surprise party at Wheatley Register Office to celebrate her 40 years’ service.

“I thought I was being taken out for afternoon tea at the Crazy Bear in Stadhampton,” explained Julia. “We stopped off to check something at Wheatley Registration Office and when I walked up the steps I saw this table with balloons saying ‘40’ on them.

“It still didn’t dawn on me that it was to mark my 40 years in the Registration Service. It was so lovely and so unexpected.”

The council’s Registration Service oversees the registration of births, deaths, marriages, civil partnerships, citizenship and naming ceremonies among its many duties.

That service is all part of the county council’s commitment to thriving communities – helping people live safe, healthy lives and play an active part in their community.

‘It has changed dramatically since I started’

Born and bred in Oxford, Julia trained in accountancy and worked for Norwich Union Insurance Company in Beaumont Street.

She gave up work to raise sons Ian and David and when they started school she applied for a job in the Registration Service as additional registrar of weddings and deputy registrar of births and deaths.

Shortly after she became a registrar in her own right, spreading her week between Wheatley, Thame Town Hall and the living room of a house in Dorchester on Thames. In 2001 she transferred to the John Radcliffe Hospital.

Most Saturdays are taken up by weddings, although Julia remains tight-lipped over some of the more famous couples she has married.

She does hold the distinction of officiating at the first Oxfordshire wedding outside of a registry office, registering the service at a nightclub in Benson in June 1995.

“It’s an amazing job. It has changed dramatically since I started. Back then it was all done in fountain pen and ink. Now what you really need are competent IT skills.

“I think most of all, as a Registration Service we pride ourselves on doing everything we can to help people. We’re doing all we can in Oxfordshire to make the service perfect.”

‘I love the role too much to consider giving it up yet’

Julia, whose husband John passed away three years ago after a long fight against illness, doesn’t intend to give up her work with the Registration Service just yet.

“One day I’ll wake up and decide that I’ve had enough,” she said. “But registration is such a gratifying thing to be able to do and I love the role too much to consider giving it up yet.”

While Saturdays remain set aside for work, along with weekdays where required, Julia enjoys spending time with her family, including six grandchildren.

Then there’s tending to her allotment, greenhouse, three chickens, aviary of birds and a tortoise. And she remains a dedicated swimmer.

Having qualified as a swimming instructor in 1972 and receiving national recognitions from the Royal Lifesaving Society, Julia finally gave up teaching in 2014. But she still swims 80 lengths at least once or twice a week.

Going out of her way to help customers

Additional superintendent registrar Lorna Hind said: “Julia registered the birth of my twin girls in the John Radcliffe Hospital in December 2002. We paced up and down in the corridor outside the birth registration office on the maternity ward, wondering why on earth the registrar was taking so long.

“Eventually, Julia emerged, and apologised for keeping us waiting. Very sadly, she had been registering the birth of a stillborn baby. She registered our children’s births with calmness, kindness and professionalism, even though she had just had to deal with an extremely difficult situation, and both our daughters were screaming their heads off at the time.

“Ten years later, I joined the Oxfordshire Registration Service as a deputy registrar and my path crossed with Julia’s again. She was still as calm, cheerful and professional as I remembered her.

“She is known throughout the service for going out of her way to help customers, at both the happiest and the saddest times in their lives. We have all learned a great deal from Julia and hope to have the pleasure of working with her for many more years to come.”

Contact the Registration Service

The Registration Service operates out of offices in Abingdon, Banbury, Bicester, Didcot, Henley, Oxford and Witney. To find out more about registering a birth or death or to arrange a ceremony click here.