Sidmouth entrepreneur Tony remembered
- Credit: Archant
From tea boy to business owner to property developer – Tony Barlow was a force to be reckoned with.
Entrepreneur Tony, who died on July 18 at the age of 85, first hit the headlines in the Herald in 1980 when he bought Sidmouth’s Peak House at auction.
Described as a ‘professional gambler’, he had made waves in the national papers when he bet £30,000 on Margaret Thatcher to win the general election.
It was one of the biggest stakes at the time and gave a return of more than £43,000.
It was far from his first time in the limelight – Tony privately sued footballers Kevin Keegan and Billy Bremner for swearing on the pitch, made bumper sales of lottery tickets and flouted postal strikes as he courted publicity.
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With less to promote, he quietened down in his later years. But then news fell in his lap when Geri Halliwell’s helicopter pilot made an emergency landing on his lawn.
He didn’t know who the former Spice Girl was, but soon found himself in the spotlight once again.
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Tony had left school ‘as soon as possible’ to start making some money.
He started out as a tea boy at an engravers’ on journalism hub Fleet Street, excelled as a salesman, and wound up buying it when it was on its uppers.
He sold it, opened his first of three shops in London and broke the mould for opening hours.
“He used to say it was open eight days a week and all day, every day,” said Ian, one of Tony’s five children. “He was money-driven, but it was more of a game to him – money shows you won the game.
“If someone said he couldn’t do something, he always needed to prove that he could. He was a great believer in common sense and would always fight for his principles.
“He believed in getting things done and he loved publicity. It was born and bred into him.”
He had hoped to convert Peak House into eight flats, but it was grade-II listed soon after its purchase and he had his first run-in with the town council.
He fell in love with the property and moved in with his wife, Marilyn. They were married for 23 years.
Tony retired at that point, aged just 49, but kept himself busy taking photographs, playing tennis at Sidford Tennis Club and developing properties.
He was behind former garage Roselands Court in Station Road, the Fort Café and St Peter’s Court behind Dukes, among others.
A funeral service has already been held. Marilyn thanked everyone for their kind words and the many cards the family has received.
Tony leaves Marilyn, children Ian, Steve, Gary, Vicki and Scott, and five grandchildren.