The Fabulous Baker Boys

Left to right: Will, Rob, Stan, Reg, Frank and Cyril. Date unknown, but certainly inter-war; 1930s perhaps?

I thought we’d done this before, but apparently not. Therefore – since we have recently mentioned June’s uncles Stan (who died in May 1960) and Will (who had a stroke that same year but survived), and we will shortly be mentioning Cyril who also died in 1960, and June’s father Frank is never far from the proceedings – it’s probably time to do them justice.

William Augustus Baker, 1854-1897, who described himself as a ‘tea dealer and rent collector’ (although we suspect his tea dealing was done from a barrow on a street corner somewhere) was June’s grandfather; however he died nearly thirty years before she was born. He had married Alice Esther Daniel in early 1854, and by the end of that year the first of their nine children was born; this was Alice Edith Macord Baker, 1882-1962, (‘Macord’ being a family name with a fascinating pedigree of its own), who is the Miss Baker (Aunt Eda) who sometimes appears in the letters.

Apart from Eleanor, 1886-1964, who made an interesting marriage and was subsequently the family superstar, all the rest were boys: William Ernest (Will), 1882-1962; Robert Lionel (Rob), 1885-1971; Stanley (Stan), 1888-1960; Reginald (Reg), 1890-1968; Frank, 1892-1963; Cyril, 1893-1960; and Hubert Dudley (‘Bunny’), 1896-1917.

Frank was blinded in one eye as the result of a childhood accident, which kept him out of military service in the First World War when – as far as I know – all his brothers went; however he was able to serve as an ambulance driver. Bunny, who was in the Civil Service Rifles, was killed in 1917 on active service and buried at Railway Dugout cemetery, Ypres. Alice was awarded a pension on his behalf.

All the surviving ‘boys’ except Frank joined the GWR. Again, his disability prevented it; Frank became ‘business manager’ for Eleanor when she was widowed, and ran a number of hotels, pubs, and other commercial operations on her behalf.

As you will have gathered, railways were what brought the family together; Alec Atkins, as a young man, came to lodge at the house in Ealing which was then owned by Eda Baker – and which presumably gave priority to young GWR railwaymen – and there he met her niece, June, whom he married in 1954.

Taken in the late 1950s, so potentially about 25 years later than the picture above. Left to right: Will, Rob, Stan, Reg and Cyril. I would like to thank the ‘boys’ for kindly lining up in birth order each time and making a humble chronicler’s life easier as a result.

In the late 1950s the ‘boys’ were featured in an issue of the GWR magazine; their photo was taken at an annual cricket match and an article was written about their many years of service – which must by this point have totalled about 200 years, a small drop in the ocean of the joined families’ overall service. Five of June’s uncles were railway staff; so were both of Alec’s uncles, his father, his grandfather and a myriad of predecessors dating back to the earliest recorded member of the family in railway service who was a packer in the goods department at Weston-super-Mare.

Apart from Frank the ‘boy’ I have the clearest recollection of is Rob, who outlived all the others. He lived in a house in Ealing – very close to, and possibly later subsumed by, a large branch of Sainsbury’s – with his second wife, Rhoda, and an excitable little white poodle called Pepe. Rob was house-bound and in very poor health, and as result he bought the first colour television I ever saw in private hands – although I had seen a demonstration of colour TV in a department store a short time before that – in order to watch racing in the afternoons. Whether or not he ever had a flutter, I am not in a position to say.

I’m in intermittent contact with Rob’s grandson Christopher, who is one of the many cousins I’ve been in touch with during my family history researches. Chris’s father, Roy, very kindly sent me a whole batch of old family photos before his death a few years ago – some of which I will be reproducing here in due course.


Sunday 24th May, 1959

And here we go with the major part of the archive – ten years’ worth of letters, written sixty years ago!

So, when we last saw Alec he was nearly 21 and living in lodgings with a Mrs Stone in Hanwell. Fifteen years have passed since then, at some point during which he moved from Hanwell to Ealing to lodge with a Miss Eda Baker. (Mrs Stone may have ceased having lodgers when her husband came home after the war.) Miss Baker started life with seven brothers; one of them died in the Great War and one of them – Frank – had lost an eye in a childhood accident and was ineligible for military service. It also ruled him out of employment with the GWR, which was the course his five surviving brothers took.

Alec married Frank Baker’s elder daughter, June (Eda’s niece), in December 1954, and they bought a house in Ruislip and had two children. Now read on!


Sunday 24th May, 1959

Dear Don and Joan

Just a letter to thank you very much for Susan’s present duly received and appreciated. As you may know Dad and Mum came down for the week and they were present for her Birthday. We invited the two little girls from either side and of course Carol was there. She had a very good time as the weather was fine and they were all able to go out on the lawn. I am afraid that when bedtime came she was reluctant to go but as she was very tired the ructions did not last long. The following day ( Sunday ) we all went to Headstone Lane and she had a fine game with the girls there. I asked Sara if she would like to have Carol to live with them. She did not think much of the idea but said she would like to have Susan. On Tuesday we went to West Drayton to see the other Grandma and Grandad so have had quite a number of outings as a result of car and driver being available.* To-day I removed the whole of one side of shed and rebuilt to accommodate two windows. Had the assistance of next door neighbour this morning and this afternoon he took June and the girls out to a picnic tea in Kenton Park in his car. It was very hot work as sun shining strongly and the bitter wind of yesterday has gone. I hope Don’s Bronchitis is easier and that he is better condition than when we last met. We have asked Dad to contact Vicar of Clevedon with a view to getting Carol Baptised at Parish Church there when we are down there early in July. If Vicar agrees to do the job ( which is by no means certain apparently) we shall go down that week-end that he nominates. You were unable to come to Susan’s Christening because of the distance but if you can, we would like you both to come to Carol’s and stand as God-Parents. Well back to work to-morrow, got to do enough to keep the Governor’s pension going I suppose. Hope to hear from you through Clevedon that subject to date etc., being convenient, that we shall all see you in July.


*The car belonged to our very accommodating neighbour, Doug Gray, who seems to have chauffeured us around a considerable amount at this time.