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The Rushden Echo, 23rd March 1928, transcribed by Jim Hollis.
The Brothers Baker
Five Brothers at Rushden
Interesting Family Story and Picture - Ages Totalling 371 Years.
Driving Sheep to London from Rushden.

The Baker Brothers 1928

(l-r) Charles, Benjamin, James, William & Thomas.


Not many families in the county have a more interesting story to relate, than the brothers Baker, of Rushden, all five of whom are natives of the town and are living and enjoying fairly good health. They are Messrs. James, Thomas, Charles, Benjamin, and William, and their ages are respectively 80, 78 (last Saturday), 76, 70, and 67, a total of 371 years. They were all bred and born in the town, and their father was also born in Rushden.

Mr. James Baker started at the age of five to drive a plough to assist his father, Mr. Eli Baker. Consequently he did not get a chance to have any “day-schooling.” He attended the old Top Meeting at Rushden on Sundays. After being at the plough for a few years young James Baker obtained work in the service of Mr. Thomas Chambers, of Higham Ferrers, where he stayed for twelve months. He then came to work for Mr. Rhodes, who was bailiff to the squire at Rushden. He kept at that work for about seven years and then went to various jobs, including ironstone quarrying at Wellingborough. Mr. Baker has been married twice, his first wife dying after about 29 years of married life. Mr. Baker recalls the start made in boot manufacturing by the late Mr. William Claridge in premises at the back of Mr. W. H. Marriott’s house in High-street South.

“I played centre forward for Rushden rugby team for nine years,” Mr. Baker told a representative of the Rushden Echo in an interview. “They were rough matches, too. We played at the bottom of Nippendale, not far from the Athletic Club. When we were boys at home we lived in an old thatched cottage. My father had a room put on the top for us boys, and when we had to go to bed we had to climb over a great beam and go up a ladder. In those days we thought we were lucky if we got bread and lard for lunch. Mostly it was only bread and onion. For supper we used to pull a few bean straws from the stack and cook the beans. We had

Bread Delivered Once A Week

by James Rootham, who was the baker. We had quartern loaves, and they used to be put on the shelf on the Saturday when they came and were taken one at a time until they were gone. There would be no more bought until the next Saturday. It was wheaten bread, though I have heard my father say he had to eat barley bread as black as his hat.

“My father was horsekeeper and foreman for John Gross at the ‘Top’ Farm (Manor Farm), and we lived at one time at what we called ‘Australia Lodge’ (the lodge at the Rectory Farm). Jack Willis and I used to be the best sack-carriers in the district. A Newton man once challenged us, but when the time came he didn’t face it out. One Rushden Feast John Gross wanted ten loads of sacks putting on the machine, and he asked my father how long it would take us. Father said we would do it in an hour-and-a-half. John said, ‘If you can do it as quick as that I will give you 5s.’ We did it in an hour and 20 minutes, and John Gross paid the 5s.” Mr. Eli Baker worked at one time for the late Mr. Sartoris.

Mr. Baker also spoke of his grandfather, Benjamin Baker, who, he said, used to be shepherd at the Hall at the time the Fletchers were living there. Benjamin used to kill one sheep a week for the people at the Hall. Mr. Baker remembered his grandfather giving one of the boys the “biggest hiding of his life” for saying he would not do as he was told. Benjamin lived to a great age, and Mr. Baker’s father was in his 73rd year when he died. “I was born at five o’clock in the morning on Nov. 5th in a little house near the Wheatsheaf,” Mr. Baker concluded.

Mr. T. Baker claims to have worked the first Blake’s boot-sewing machine in Rushden. Mr. Charles Baker (Mr. Harry Baker’s father) was formerly a member of the Rushden Temperance Band. Mr. B. Baker used to be an able cricketer. Mr. William Baker made the first loaf of bread for the Rushden Co-operative Society when they started that branch of activity in Crabb-street.

Mr. Thomas Baker recalls even more interesting facts about his grandfather Benjamin, who, by the way, lived to be 77 years of age. He had a perfect and complete set of natural teeth to the last, having discovered a herb which made a good toothpaste and preservative. Benjamin used, as a shepherd, to fetch sheep from farms all over this district and drive them by road from Rushden to Smithfield Market. He would have as many as 500 or 600 in his flock, and with the aid of two well-trained sheepdogs he would do the whole journey in three days, returning home by stage-coach. He lived opposite the old Coach and Horses at Rushden. The dogs would not wait for Benjamin. No sooner did they see the last sheep securely penned at Smithfield Market than off they would come straight away for home, and they would reach Rushden before the stage-coach arrived.

“Luxury” food (to the family of old Benjamin) was the weekly baked pudding. This was a pudding which contained a sheep’s head, and one was taken to Mr. Wright’s bakehouse every Sunday. The wife used to bake barley-flour bread. “It was so hard,” Mr. Baker says, “that they could throw it over the house and it didn’t break! I can remember having to go to work without food, and so hungry was I that I pulled up a root of potatoes and ate them raw.”

Mr. T. Baker, relating more about himself, said he was only about five years of age when he drove a team of oxen in the plough in Rushden. Later he was apprenticed to black-smithing in Rushden. He had almost served his time when he decided to go to Islip to work. After three days a policeman came and fetched him back to Rushden to complete his apprenticeship. He then went and worked for Mr. Tearle, blacksmith, of Yelden, then to Islip, and later to Brigstock. At the latter place he was asked if he could make a set of harrows. He said he could, and he all but finished one set when he decided to come back to Rushden, and worked for the late Mr. Colson (Uncle of the late Mr. J. T. Colson, who used to be a School Manager). In the old factory (now the Rushden Adult School) Mr. Baker operated the first Blake sewing machine. A pal of his (Billy Dunn) went to Messrs. B. Denton and Sons and also learnt the operation.

Mr. Eli Baker and his family lived at Australia Lodge for a time and then removed to Magpie Hall (beyond the Rushden football ground). Mr. T. Baker says that the name was given to the hall in a peculiar way. A light fall of snow came one day, and a man wrote in the snow near the place “Magpie Hall.” The name has stuck to it ever since.

An uncle of Mr. T. Baker went to live in London, and he had an interesting career. In the olden days as a merchant sailor he visited Russia three times. He founded a business in London as a biscuit manufacturer, and this was a successful venture.

There are 35 children of the five brothers living and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.


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