Barcroft, Henry (1839–1905), inventor, was born 6 June 1839, the only son of Joseph Inman Barcroft of Lisburn, Co. Antrim, and of Stangmore Lodge, Tyrone, and Mary Barcroft (née Wright), whose father lived in New York. The family were involved in the linen business in Lisburn, and were members of the Society of Friends; they were related to a John Barcroft (1664–1723), whose account of his travels and travails in Ireland and England was popular reading for several generations of quakers, and they were closely related to other Irish quaker families, including the Hoggs of Lisburn (later Barons Magheramorne) and the Pims. One of Henry Barcroft's two sisters was Sarah Barcroft (1842–1927), who became a noted quaker minister, travelling and preaching in France and England. Their parents died when the children were young.
On 29 August 1867 Henry Barcroft married Anna Richardson Malcolmson, daughter of David and Sarah (née Richardson) Malcolmson from Clonmel, Co. Tipperary; she was a niece of John Grubb Richardson (qv), and Henry Barcroft joined the Richardsons’ linen manufacturing business in Bessbrook, Co. Armagh. He became company secretary (later managing director), and bought a large house at the Glen, Newry. The company began weaving damask linen in 1867, and in 1869 Barcroft patented a jacquard power-loom known as the Bessbrook self-twilling machine, which became famous for the quality of the patterns produced and very popular throughout the industry. At the Philadelphia exhibition of 1876, to considerable acclaim, the quaker-run company exhibited a linen and silk damask cloth into which had been woven the appropriate scene of William Penn's unsworn treaty with Native Americans. Barcroft was a director (along with the Richardsons) of the Bessbrook and Newry Tramway Co., the second electric tramway in the world, which was established in 1884 and first operated trams in 1885, carrying both people and Bessbrook products. He developed a hydraulic system for opening and closing level-crossing gates, and also worked out the practical details of a means of making carriages which had been first suggested by a Mr Holt. Using Barcroft's adaptation, the carriage wheels were without flanges and could run both on rails and on ordinary roads. This permitted flexible and economical operation, and the tramway ran successfully for many years before closing in 1948, after a bus service was set up in competition. Another of Barcroft's patented inventions was a shallow-screw propellor for shallow-draft lighters, which were in use on the Newry canal.
Barcroft and his wife were also noted for charitable work; he helped establish one of the first Carnegie libraries in Ireland, as well as a technical school in Newry. The family name is still remembered in Newry, in the shape of Barcroft Park. He was high sheriff of Co. Armagh, and a member of the Institute of Civil Engineers. Henry Barcroft died 18 November 1905 in Baldoyle, Co. Dublin, after years of poor health. He was survived by his wife, three unmarried daughters, and two sons. One son became a doctor, the other was (Sir) Joseph Barcroft (qv), who in turn had a distinguished son, Henry Barcroft (qv) (d. 1998), a professor of physiology like his father, and also FRS.