Saturday, 2 June 2018

(333) Baker of Highfields

The earliest member of this family of whose identity it is possible to be certain is Richard Baker (1675-1749), a surgeon who moved from London to Leominster in Herefordshire. Burke's Landed Gentry says that his father was John Baker, the younger son of Sampson Baker of Norwich and London, merchant, who was 'believed to be a younger son of Sir Richard Baker MP of Middle Aston, Oxon and St Bride's, London, the historian... who died in Fleet debtors' prison 18 February 1644/5'. As far as the connection with Sir Richard Baker (and thus with the Bakers of Sissinghurst) is concerned, this seems to be a specious fantasy (Sir Richard did not marry until c.1621, and his children are all accounted for), and it is far from clear how much reliance should be put on the rest. 

If I have correctly identified Richard Baker's baptism at Stepney (Middx) in 1676, his parents were indeed John and Margaret, as Burke's suggests. But no marriage of a John Baker and Margaret Leighton is to be found, and nor is a baptism for a John, son of Sampson Baker. It may, however, be relevant to note that Burke's gives John a brother, Sampson Baker, gent., of Market Bosworth (Leics) and Rugby (Warks), born about 1643, and it is possible to find baptisms for both 'Samson', son of William & Susanna Baker in 1637 and his brother John in 1642 in the parish registers of Market Bosworth. William Baker of Market Bosworth was born in 1608 and was in turn the son of Sampson Baker of Market Bosworth and his wife Millicent Gooddale, who were married in 1605. It seems very possible that they are the true antecedents of this family.

Very little is known about Richard Baker (1675-1749) of Leominster, surgeon. He married at St Bride, Fleet St., London, in 1698, and his older children were born there. He appears to have moved to Leominster between 1705 and 1708 and he was still described as 'of Leominster' when his will was proved in 1750. His eldest surviving son and executor was William Baker (1705-71), about whom much more is known. After his baptism, he first appears in the historical record as a joiner working on the construction of Ditchley Park in Oxfordshire in 1727 under the direction of Francis Smith of Warwick, the most successful architect, mason and contractor in the Midlands. Although Smith put together teams of workmen for each new project he worked on rather than employing the same men continuously, he used consistently used a small pool of trusted specialist craftsmen - masons, bricklayers, joiners, carpenters, plasterers, painters, plumbers, ironworkers and so on. In the late 1720s and 1730s William Baker was one of this team, and is recorded working on half a dozen of Smith's commissions, including some of his most prestigious jobs, such as Ditchley Hall, Mawley Hall and Wingerworth Hall. By the later 1730s he was not only a craftsmen but also working as a site foreman, co-ordinating the work of the different building trades. His circumstances altered greatly with his second marriage, early in 1737, to Jane Dod, the heiress of a cadet branch of the Cheshire gentry family of that name. They made their home in the prosperous little town of Bridgnorth (Shropshire), where their four children (although as not below, William may not have been their biological father) were all born, and it was probably soon afterwards that William began to work on his own account, and to design buildings as well as constructing them. The death of Francis Smith in 1738 may also have been a factor in his change of role, although Smith's firm continued under his son. A full list of his known works in architecture can be found in Sir Howard Colvin's Biographical Dictionary.

In 1744, Jane Baker inherited her family seat of Highfields at Audlem (Cheshire), and by 1748 she and William had relocated there. William continued to work as an architect, surveyor and occasional contractor, but he combined this with the role of a gentleman farmer, as his surviving payments book for 1746-59 makes clear. He also operated a small brickworks on the Highfields estate. In 1767 he bought the manor of Fenton Culvert in Stoke-on-Trent for his younger son, and established a pottery there which was run in partnership between the two men until William's death. We know less about his architectural output after 1759, but it is apparent that he continued in practice until his death, when his elder son, Richard Baker (1743-1803) was assisting him. Richard is, by contrast with his father, a shadowy figure. He was educated at Repton School but did not attend a University and became assistant to his father in his architectural and surveying practice. After he succeeded to the business in 1771, its architectural output more or less ceased: he probably did not inherit his father's creative gifts and he certainly did not share his practical experience of building. He seems to have spent some of his early years in Leominster, and it may be that his wife came from that town, as he is said to have used her maiden surname (Hassall) while living there. After his mother died in 1783 he moved to Highfields, and he was probably responsible for the modernisation of the house which took place around that time. When he died at the relatively young of sixty in 1803, he described himself in his will as 'architect' rather than 'gentleman'. He had left marriage and children rather late in life and his heir was a teenage son, William Baker (1787-1863), who was a pupil at Shrewsbury School. He too seems to have used his mother's maiden name from time to time, and when he was married in 1813 he was called William Baker alias Hassall. He is not known to have followed his father and grandfather into architectural practice or surveying, but one of his five sons, Thomas Dod Baker (1830-80) took up the profession again and became Borough Architect of Kidderminster; several of the others became lawyers.

William's eldest son, another William Baker (1816-76), inherited Highfields from his father, and seems to have been a conventional country gentleman, interested in field sports and farming; indeed, he may have been primarily interested in field sports since he was Master of the Albrighton Foxhounds in 1856. By his second wife, Henrietta Louisa, the daughter of Dr. John Bellyse of Nantwich, surgeon, he produced nine children, and when he died he was succeeded by his eldest son, John Bellyse Baker (1850-1932). It was the time of the great agricultural depression, and there are signs that his father may have handed over the estate in fairly poor condition. At all events, after a few years John came to the conclusion that he could not continue to live and farm at Highfields, and the estate was sold in 1884 to a Liverpool ship-broker, Charles Walford Kellock (d. 1897), who 'restored' and modernised the house. John and his family then emigrated to New Zealand where he became a sheep farmer and grazier, but for reasons which are unclear this was not a success. By 1890 he was back in England and after a few years working as a farm bailiff in Lancashire, he had recovered sufficient capital to purchase a boarding house at St Anne's-on-Sea, on the Lancashire coast, which he and his wife ran for many years. Socially, it was aeons away from the life to which he had been brought up, but it does seem to have provided a reasonable living. His sons were able to go to Christ's Hospital School although they did not attend a University. His elder son, Bellyse Baker (1886-1947) joined the cotton manufacturing industry as a clerk before the First World War, and war service, worked his way up the business to be its sales director. The fruits of this career enabled him to repurchase Highfields when it came on the market at the end of the Second World War, but he died shortly afterwards, and it was left to his son, John Bellyse Baker (1915-2010) to restore and reoccupy the house. Although the family had sold a good deal of the contents of Highfields when they went abroad in 1884, they had retained many of the more personal family items, and it was possible to return these to the house when they reacquired it. John Bellyse Baker developed a deep personal interest in the house and his family, and when Highfields was opened to the public in the 1980s, he wrote a guidebook for visitors. The house is no longer open to the public, but remains the home of the present John Bellyse Baker (b. 1956) and his family.

Highfields, Audlem, Cheshire

Highfields, Audlem: the house as it exists today. Image: Ken Maple. Audlem Online
A fine and symmetrical but much altered timber-framed house, built for William Dod, with cross-wings either side of a central hall block. The date of the house is unclear. In 1553 William Dod I acquired a pasture known as 'Highefelds', on which no house yet stood. His son, William Dod II, is recorded as 'of Highfields' in 1568, and so presumably a house had been built by then. But was it this house?
Highfields, Audlem: the chimneypiece of the Best Parlour, 1615.
Image: Country Life.
A chimneypiece in the Best Parlour in the south wing is dated 1615 and has the initials of William Dod III (1577-1647), and the whole fabric of the house could be of this date (a bedroom on the first floor has another original overmantel with the initials of his wife). Indeed, I would argue strongly for the later date if it was certain that the symmetry of the front was original, but the central porch and the gable above it seem to be 19th century, and the present arrangement by which the single-storey hall is entered in the centre seems to be 18th century, with some internal evidence that there was at one time a conventional hall and screens passage arrangement. In the absence of any dendro-chronological evidence, however, the date of the original building must remain a matter for speculation.

In the late 17th century, staircases with twisted balusters were inserted into both the cross-wings; that in the south range has balusters consisting of two detached strands twisted together, while that in the north range has clusters of balusters forming newels. There may have been other changes at the same time, including perhaps the addition of the drawing room between the wings on the garden front. Traditionally, this addition is said to have been made by the architect, William Baker, after he married Jane Dod and gained possession of the house, but it seems unlikely he would have built in timber when he was operating a brickworks on the estate, and it is more likely to be a 17th century addition. Baker, or his son and successor at Highfields, Richard Dod Baker (1743-1803) was, however, probably responsible for making a central doorway on the entrance front, and for the dado-height panelling in the hall. Richard was presumably responsible for inserting the sash windows with thin glazing bars and two tripartite windows recorded the earliest photograph of the house c.1860. The same view also shows that the house was then stuccoed and this too is likely to have been Richard's work.

Highfields, Audlem: the garden front, c.1900, from an old postcard.

After John Bellyse Baker sold the house in 1884 to Charles Walford Kellock, it was given a rather heavy-handed restoration. He stripped off the stucco to reveal the timber-frame beneath, replaced the Georgian sashes with leaded casements, added a new front porch, a timber-framed service wing on the north side, and tall chimneys of bright red Ruabon brick, which gave the house a more picturesque and irregular silhouette. In the north range an inglenook fireplace was created, with a late 19th century Gothic chimneypiece, and several other timber overmantels were brought in from elsewhere or fabricated from old carved work that may originally have adorned an overmantel or a bed or a cupboard. One such piece, labelled 'John Gwyn 1674', was installed in the drawing room, and there is another in the hall. Also apparently of the 1880s is the large half-timbered single-storey lodge on Woodhouse Lane. In the 1940s, the Bellyse Baker family bought the house back and were happily able to return many of the family pictures and other contents which had been removed from it in 1884.

Descent: William Dod (fl. 1553); to son, William Dod (fl. 1568); to son, William Dod (c.1577-1647); to son, Thomas Dod (d. c.1652); to brother, George Dod (1602-60); to son, George Dod (b. 1653); to son, George Dod (1681-1714); to daughter, Jane (1711-83), later wife of William Baker (1705-71); to son, Richard Dod Baker (1743-1823); to son, William Baker (1787-1863); to son, William Baker (1816-76); to son, John Bellyse Baker (1850-1932), who sold 1884 to Charles Walford Kellock (d. 1897); to son, Walter Walford Kellock (d. 1930); sold to Maj. & Mrs. Llewellyn, who leased it out; sold 1944 to Bellyse Baker (1886-1947); to son, John Bellyse Baker (1925-2010); to son, John Bellyse Baker (b. 1956).

Baker (later Bellyse Baker) family of Highfields

Richard Baker (1676-1749) 
Baker, Richard (1676-1749).
Probably the son of John Baker (b. 1642?) of London and his wife Margaret Leighton (or perhaps Claiton), baptised at Stepney (Middx), 28 May 1676. He seems to have shifted occupation radically, being at first recorded as a gilder and button-maker and later as a 'sea surgeon'. He later worked as a surgeon at Leominster (Herefs). He married, 9 October 1698 at St Bride, Fleet St., London, Mary, daughter of W. Smith, and had issue:

(1) Mary Baker (1699-1790), baptised at St Bride, Fleet St., London, 6 August 1699; married James Breach (d. 1790), surgeon, of Reading (Berks) and had issue; said to have died February 1790;
(2) Elizabeth Baker (b. 1701), baptised at St Bride, Fleet St., London, 20 March 1700/1; married, 5 October 1721 at Leominster, Thomas Nash, surgeon, of Leominster, and had issue four sons and one daughter;
(3) Richard Baker (b. 1702), baptised at St Bride, Fleet St., London, 28 February 1702/3; died unmarried before 1750; said to have been buried at Islington (Middx);
(4) William Baker (1705-71) (q.v.);
(5) James Baker (1708-44), baptised at Leominster, 26 December 1708; apothecary; married, 14 October 1736 at Stanton Lacy (Shrops.), Martha (who m2, Edward Adams, son of Edward Adams of Bagnall (Staffs) and had further issue), daughter of Joseph Adams of Burslem (Staffs); will proved October 1744;
(6) Henry Baker; educated at Shrewsbury School; died young;
(7) Susanna Baker (b. 1714), baptised at Leominster, 26 May 1714.
He lived in London and moved to Leominster (Herefs) between 1705 and 1708.
He died 24 May 1749; his will was proved at Hereford, 7 August 1750. His wife's date of death is unknown.

William Baker (1705-71)
Baker, William (1705-71).
Eldest son of Richard Baker (1676-1749), surgeon, and his wife Mary, daughter of W. Smith of London, baptised at St Bride, Fleet St., London, 14 October 1705. Employed as a joiner and later foreman by Francis Smith of Warwick, architect, on projects including Ditchley Hall, 1727; Mawley Hall, Etwall Hall, Swynnerton Hall, Wingerworth Hall, Catton Hall and Patshull Hull, at several of which he worked on his own account after Smith's death in 1738, when he set up his own business as architect and surveyor. He was based at first at Bridgnorth (Shrops.), but after his second wife gained possession of Highfields in 1744, they moved there, and he thereafter combined his work as an architect and contractor with the life of a gentleman farmer; he also seems to have operated a brickmaking works on the estate. The fortunate survival of his payments book for the years 1748-59 provides evidence of the range and balance of his activities. His designs owe much to the pattern books of James Gibbs, but also show some Palladian influences, as might be expected in even a provincial architect of the mid 18th century. His earliest known independent work and probably his most significant building was the Butter Cross in Ludlow, a plan and elevation of which are shown in his portrait. He worked chiefly by contracting with a small number of craftsmen contractors for the erection of his buildings: Roger Eykyn (who was perhaps his brother-in-law), Gabriel Featherstone and Charles Trubshaw being the most frequently used. He married 1st, 5 July 1729 at Blymhill (Staffs), Eliza (1707-29), eldest daughter of James Eykyn of Ackleton, Worfield (Shrops.), and 2nd, 17 January 1736/7 at Bridgnorth, Jane (d. 1783), elder daughter and sole heiress of George Dod, barrister-at-law, of Highfields, Audlem (Cheshire), and had issue*:

(2.1) Charity Baker (1739-1817), baptised at Bridgnorth, 23 September 1739; succeeded her father in the Woodhouse estate at Audlem, 1771; married, 9 November 1761 at Audlem, as his second wife, Lawrence Barrow, banker, of Chetwynd, Newport (Shrops.), Pool House, Astley (Worcs) and Chambers Court, Longdon (Worcs), but had no issue; buried at Longdon (Worcs), 25 April 1817; her will was proved in the PCC, 10 July 1817;
(2.2) Mary Baker (1741-1809), baptised at Bridgnorth, 20 August 1741; married, 28 August 1766 at Audlem, Capt. Edward Thorley (1740-94) of Colchester, of 2nd Queen's Royal (Tangier) Regt. and commander of Essex Militia, son of Rev. Thomas Thorley, Master of Audlem Grammar School, and had issue two sons and two daughters; lived latterly at Seed Green, Astley (Worcs); buried at Astley (Worcs), 29 July 1809, but is commemorated with her husband on a monument in St Botolph, Colchester; will proved 6 December 1809;
(2.3) Richard Baker (1743-1803) (q.v.);
(2.4) William Baker (1744-84), baptised at Bridgnorth, 18 April 1745; potter, initially in partnership with his father, as Baker & Bagnall of Fenton (Staffs) from 1767; Lord of the Manor of Fenton Culvert; DL and JP for Staffordshire; married, 1767, Sarah (d. 1833) (who m2, 21 December 1793, Ralph Bourne (d. 1835) of Hilderstone Hall (Staffs), and had further issue) and had issue three sons and three daughters, from whom descend the Meath-Baker family of Hasfield Court, who will be the subject of a forthcoming post); died 25 November 1784.
He acquired Highfields, Audlem, on his marriage to Jane Dod in 1736, and purchased the manor of Fenton Culvert for his second son in 1767.
He died 29 November 1771 and was buried at Audlem. His first wife died 31 October and was buried at Worfield, 3 November 1729. His widow died 17 March 1783.
* Terry Sancroft Baker informs me that yDNA evidence strongly suggests that the biological father of Richard and William, and perhaps of all the children, was Sir Edward Blount, 4th bt., for whom Baker remodelled Morville Hall from 1738 onwards.

Baker, Richard (1743-1803). Elder son of William Baker (1705-71), architect, of Audlem, and his second wife Jane, elder daughter and sole heiress of George Dod, barrister-at-law, of Highfields, Audlem, baptised at Bridgnorth, 20 July 1743. Educated at Repton School. Architect and surveyor at Leominster (where he used his wife's maiden surname) and later at Audlem and Stratford-on-Avon. He married, date unknown, Hannah (1758-1826?), daughter of John Hassall of Nantwich (Ches.) and had issue:
(1) Hannah Baker (1776?-1851), said to have been born 1776; married, 27 September 1808 at Mucklestone (Staffs), Dr. John Bellyse (1774-1850) of Dorfold Cottage, Nantwich (Ches.), son of Dr. John 'Cockfighting' Bellyse of Woodhouse, Audlem, and had issue five sons and one daughter; died 23 August 1851;
(2) Richard Dod Baker (1784-1807), born 1784; educated at Brasenose College, Oxford (matriculated 1801); an officer in the army (Ensign, 1803; Lt., 1804); died unmarried, 1807;
(3) William Baker (1787-1863) (q.v.);
(4) James Baker (b. c.1788), born about 1788; educated at Shrewsbury School (admitted 1802);
(5) Jane Baker (c.1790-1849); joint owner with Dr John 'Cockfighting' Bellyse (1738-1828) of Woodhouse, Audlem, which they purchased in 1820 from the Trustees of Mrs. Barrow's Charity and sold in 1849 to Lord Kilmorey; married, 26 September 1820 at Norton-in-Hales (Shrops.), Edmund Wells Oldaker (1786-1874) of Norton Green Hall, Burslem (Staffs), solicitor, son of William Oldaker, and had issue two sons (who died young) and seven daughters; died 25 July 1849 and was buried at Norton-le-Moors (Staffs), 1 August 1849;
(6) Mary Baker; died young.
He lived at Leominster until he inherited Highfields from his father in 1771; in his last years he was apparently living at Stratford-on-Avon (Warks).
He was buried at Audlem, 9 July 1803; his will was proved in the PCC, 30 September 1803. His wife is said to have died in 1826.

Baker, William (1787-1863). Second, but eldest surviving, son of Richard Dod Baker (1743-1803) of Highfields, Audlem, and his wife Hannah, daughter of John Hassall of Nantwich (Ches.), born 1787. Educated at Shrewsbury School (admitted 1802). At the time of his marriage he gave his name as William Baker alias Hassall. JP for Cheshire, 1839-63. He married, 9 August 1813 at Audlem, Anne Hough (d. 1854) of Layton (Ches.) and had issue:
(1) Richard Dod Baker (1815-43), born 26 July and baptised at Audlem, 15 November 1815; educated at Shrewsbury School (admitted 1831; left 1834); articled clerk to John Cooper Beckett, solicitor, 1833; solicitor at Audlem; died unmarried and without issue and was buried at Audlem, 24 August 1843;
(2) William Baker (1816-76) (q.v.);
(3) Sarah Baker (1818-1907), baptised at Audlem, 10 March 1818; married, 28 October 1845 at Audlem, James Goulbourn Etches (d. 1869), solicitor and later Master in Chancery, of Whitchurch (Shrops.), son of William Etches, and had issue seven sons and two daughters; died at Wellington (Shrops.), 16 April 1907; will proved 6 July 1907 (effects £420);
(4) Anne Baker (b. 1819), born 24 May 1819 and baptised at Audlem, 24 February 1820; married, 9 February 1864, Rev. James Alexander Wood, son of Capt. James Alexander Wood, but had no issue;
(5) John Hough Baker (1821-42), baptised at Audlem, 6 March 1822; died unmarried and without issue and was buried at Audlem, 10 January 1842;
(6) Mary Baker (1823-1905), baptised at Audlem, 15 April 1823; married, 22 April 1863 at Audlem, John Beaumont Piercy (c.1834-1900), architect and later secretary of the Staffordshire Waterworks Co., eldest son of Rev. John Piercy, rector of Rushock (Worcs); died 6 November 1905; administration of goods granted 6 January 1906 (effects £306);
(7) Jane Baker (1825-1914), born 10 June and baptised at Audlem, 11 June 1825; married, 24 October 1864 at Audlem, her first cousin, Joseph Hayward Bellyse of Blandford Forum (Dorset), solicitor, son of Richard Baker Bellyse, surgeon, but had no issue; died 11 April 1914; will proved 4 May 1914 (effects £417);
(8) George Baker (1827-77), born 26 August and baptised at Audlem, 27 August 1827; admitted a solicitor, 1852; partner in Machin & Baker of Audlem; clerk to Audlem Petty Sessions; married, 1870 (lic. 15 Nov.) at St George, Wolverhampton (Staffs), Jane, daughter of Richard Allman of Buerton (Ches.) and had issue one son and three daughters; died 1 October and was buried at Audlem, 5 October 1877;
(9) Thomas Dod Baker (1830-80), baptised at Audlem, 25 February 1830; architect and surveyor at Kidderminster, in partnership with John Beaumont Piercy until 1861 and subsequently Borough Architect; died unmarried, 7 May 1880; will proved 29 May 1880 (estate under £800);
(10) Charlotte Baker (b. 1832), born 14 February and baptised at Audlem, 23 July 1832; probably died young;
(11) Charity Baker (1834-1920), born 7 March and baptised at Audlem, 9 March 1834; married, 19 February 1862, Henry Onslow Piercy (1835-1909), son of Rev. John Piercy, and had issue; died at Bridlington (Yorks), 9 December 1920; will proved 6 May 1921 (estate £775).
He inherited Highfields, Audlem, from his father in 1803.
He died 8 July and was buried at Audlem, 13 July 1863; his will was proved 29 October 1863 (effects under £300). His wife was buried at Audlem, 5 December 1854.

Baker, William (1816-76). Second, but eldest surviving, son of William Baker (1787-1863) of Highfields, Audlem, and his wife Anne Hough of Layton (Ches.), born 3 September and baptised at Audlem, 5 December 1816. JP for Shropshire and for Cheshire (from 1873). Master of Albrighton Foxhounds, 1856. He married 1st, 18 June 1838 at St Nicholas, Liverpool (Lancs), Prudence (d. 1840?), daughter of William Cliffe and widow of John Baker (1806-37) of Fenton Culvert (Staffs); and 2nd, 8 February 1849 at Westminster (Middx), his cousin Henrietta Louisa (1830-80), daughter and heiress in her issue of Dr. John Bellyse of Dorfold Cottage, Nantwich, surgeon, and had issue:
(2.1) Henrietta Baker (1849-1935), born 9 February and baptised at St Martin-in-the-Fields, Westminster (Middx), 12 May 1849; lived at The Cedars, Audlem; died unmarried, 22 November 1935;
(2.2) John Bellyse Baker (1850-1932) (q.v.);
(2.3) Mary Louisa Baker (1852-60), baptised at Audlem, 11 July 1852; died young and was buried at Audlem, 23 January 1860;
(2.4) Jane Ellen Baker (1854-65), baptised at Audlem, 26 March 1854; died young and was buried at Audlem, 15 November 1865;
(2.5) Richard Dod Baker (1856-1902), baptised 5 October 1856; admitted a solicitor, 1881; churchwarden of Audlem; died unmarried, 23 September 1902; will proved 1902 (estate £24,574);
(2.6) Arthur Baker (1860-1916), baptised at Audlem, 12 April 1860; JP for Cheshire; lived at Hillside, Audlem; married, 16 August 1898 at Audlem, Marianne (d. 1908), daughter of James Hall of Kynsal Lodge, Audlem, and had issue one son and two daughters; died 29 April 1916; will proved 25 May 1916 (estate £10,587);
(2.7) Charity Baker (1862-81), born 1862 and baptised at Audlem, 22 January 1863; died unmarried, Jan-Mar 1881;
(2.8) Louisa Charlotte Baker (1866-1918), baptised at Audlem, 23 December 1866; died unmarried, 17 June 1918; will proved 23 August 1918 (estate £1,408);
(2.9) Emily Jane Baker (1869-1941), baptised at Audlem, 24 December 1869; Red Cross volunteer nurse, 1914-19; died unmarried, 1941.
He lived at Kynsal House, Audlem, until he inherited Highfields, Audlem, from his father in 1863.
He died 19 May 1876; his will was proved 21 July 1876 (effects under £1,500). His first wife may be the person of that name who died at Stoke-on-Trent in Oct-Dec 1840. His widow died Apr-Jun 1880.

Baker, John Bellyse (1850-1932). Eldest son of William Baker (1816-76) and his second wife, Henrietta Louisa, third daughter and heiress of Dr. John Bellyse of Dorfold Cottage, Nantwich (Ches.), born 17 August and baptised at Audlem, 17 November 1850. Educated at Repton School. In 1884, under the pressure of the Agricultural Depression, he sold Highfields and emigrated to New Zealand, where he became a sheepfarmer and grazier, but by 1890 he had returned to England and was working as a farm bailiff at Hindley (Lancs). By 1901 he was a lodging house keeper at St. Anne's-on-Sea (Lancs). He married, 23 June 1884 at Audlem, Richmal (1858-1934), daughter of William Mangnall, architect, of Prestwich (Lancs), and had issue:
(1) Bellyse Baker (1886-1947) (q.v.);
(2) Dorothy Baker (1888-1965), born at Wanganui (NZ), 10 October 1888; schoolteacher; lived at Nantwich (Ches.) and later at Old Colwyn (Denbighs.); died unmarried, 26 June 1965; will proved 26 October 1965 (estate £6,636);
(3) William Mangnall Baker (1890-1961), born 22 August and baptised at Audlem, 1 November 1890; educated at Christ's Hospital School; secretary of banking company; lived latterly at Old Colwyn (Denbighs.) with his two sisters; married, October 1913, Annie (b. 1889), daughter of William Tattersall of Blackpool (Lancs); died 24 November 1961; will proved 12 February 1962 (estate £6,505);
(4) Richmal Charity Baker (1895-1978), born 23 July and baptised at Audlem, 1 September 1895; working as 'daily governess' in 1939; lived at Nantwich and later at Old Colwyn with her elder sister; died unmarried, 29 April 1978; will proved 18 August 1978 (estate £46,682).
He inherited Highfields, Audlem from his father in 1876 but leased the house out until he sold the estate in 1884.
He died 15 April 1932. His widow died 26 December 1934; her will was proved 17 May 1935 (estate £1,426).

Baker, Bellyse (1886-1947). Elder son of John Bellyse Baker (1850-1932) and his wife Richmal, daughter of William Mangnall, architect, of Prestwich (Lancs), born at Wanganui (NZ), 23 June 1886. Educated at Christ's Hospital School. He served in the First World War in the Royal Field Artillery. He worked for a cotton manufacturing firm, starting as a clerk and rising to be Sales Director. He married, 16 June 1913, Lillian (k/a Lily) (1884-1971), daughter of Joseph Crosland of Blackpool (Lancs), and had issue:
(1) John Bellyse Baker (1915-2010) (q.v.).
He lived at Wilmslow, but repurchased Highfields, Audlem in 1946.
He died 17 November 1947; his will was proved 15 April 1948 (estate £28,735). His widow died 28 December 1971; her will was proved 27 September 1972 (estate £4,898).

Baker, John Bellyse (1915-2010). Only child of Bellyse Baker (1886-1947) and his wife Lillian, daughter of Joseph Crosland of Blackpool (Lancs), born 29 November 1915. Educated at Pownall School. Before the Second World War he was a salesman in his father's cotton manufacturing firm. Author of Highfields, Audlem, 1982. He married, 4 October 1952, Josephine May (k/a Jo) (1929-2016), only daughter of Joseph Henry Henderson of Roseneath, Wilmslow (Ches.), and had issue:
(1) John Bellyse Baker (b. 1956) (q.v.);
(2) Josephine Charity (k/a Chat) Baker (b. 1960), born 27 June 1960; married, October 1994, Simon J. Wright, and had issue one son and one daughter.
He inherited Highfields, Audlem, from his father in 1947.
He died 3 June 2010; his will was proved 17 February 2011. His widow died 2 July 2016.

Baker, John Bellyse  (b. 1956). Only son of John Bellyse Baker (1915-2010) and his wife Josephine Mary, only daughter of Joseph Henry Henderson of Roseneath, Wilmslow (Ches.), born 26 December 1956. Educated at Ellesmere College. Estate agent at Nantwich with Baker, Wynne & Wilson since 1992. He married, August 1987, Susan M. Fearnall (b. 1961), and had issue:
(1) Hannah Elizabeth Baker (b. 1989), born 25 December 1989; educated at Queen's School, Chester and Reading University (BSc);
(2) Katherine Charity Baker (b. 1992), born May 1992; educated at Queen's School, Chester and Newcastle University (BSc).
He became joint owner of Highfields, Audlem, with his father in c.1982 and undertook a programme of restoration with the support of English Heritage.
Now living.


Burke's Landed Gentry, 1972, pp. 35-38; P. de Figueiredo & J. Treuherz, Cheshire Country Houses, 1988, p. 241; J.M. Robinson, 'Highfields, Audlem, Cheshire', Country Life, 31 January 1991, pp. 48-51; R. Morrice, 'The payment book of William Baker of Audlem' in Bold & Cheney, English architecture: public and private, 1993, pp. 231-46; Sir H.M. Colvin, A biographical dictionary of British architects, 1600-1840, 4th edn., 2008, pp. 90-92; C. Hartwell, M. Hyde, E. Hubbard & Sir N. Pevsner, The buildings of England: Cheshire, 2nd edn., 2011, p. 119.

Location of archives

Bellyse Baker of Highfield: deeds, accounts, family and estate papers, 1550-1850 [record on the National Register of Archives, but current location unknown].

Coat of arms

None recorded.

Can you help?

Here are a few notes about information and images which would help to improve the account above. If you can help with any of these or with other additions or corrections, please use the contact form in the sidebar to get in touch.
  • If anyone is able to provide greater certainty about the descent of this family in the 17th century, or further information about Richard Dod Baker (1743-1803) and his family, I should be very pleased to hear from them.
  • Can anyone provide portraits or photographs of the members of the family whose names appear in bold?

Revision and acknowledgements

This post was first published 2 June 2018 and was updated 18 October 2018, 13 August, 4 October and 13 October 2020, and 15 March 2022. I am most grateful to Terry Sancroft Baker for additional information and images.

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