William Meath Baker | People from Stoke-on-Trent

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William Meath Baker 1857-1935

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William Meath Baker

Key facts:
William Meath Baker was the only son of Revd. Ralph Bourne Baker. 
Revd. Ralph Bourne Baker was the brother of William Baker who left all his estates to him on his death in 1865. 
William Meath Baker continued the family tradition of public benefaction. He built Fenton town hall at his own expense.


father: Rev Ralph Bourne Baker mother: Frances Crofton Singer

William Meath Baker



1857 Born 1st November 1857 at Hilderstone (Staffordshire)
1863 William Baker IV (his uncle) bought an estate called Hasfield Court, in Gloucestershire. 
1865 William Baker dies and WMB's father inherited the estates - the family move to Hasfield. 
  WMB educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge
1875 WMB's father dies and W.M.B became country squire at Hasfield Court, Gloucester (see census details below)
1886 Awarded M.A. degree
1888 Built Fenton town hall at his own expense. Started development of shops and houses in the area of the town hall
1935 WMB died 15 January 1935
  He was a keen mountain climber often climbing in the Swiss Alps. 
  Became High Sheriff of Gloucestershire 


How the Baker estate and potworks was transferred to William Meath Baker

In 1863 William Baker IV (the uncle of William Meath Baker) bought an estate called Hasfield Court, in Gloucestershire. William made plans to change it by refacing the brick walls with stone and adding a porch, but he died before the move was accomplished and the alterations were completed by his brother Ralph. William died on the 16th of August 1865 and the Staffordshire Advertiser reported that the day of his funeral was one of general mourning in Fenton. He was buried in Fenton Churchyard and the funeral was attended by many of the workers from his factory. 

His brother, the Rev Ralph Bourne Baker inherited the factory and the estates at Hasfield, Gloucestershire and Doveridge Woodhouse. He married the Bishop of Meath’s daughter, Francis Crofton Singer, and they lived at Hilderstone where he was the incumbent until 1860. 

Here his son William Meath Baker was born in 1 November 1857. The family moved to Hasfield Court in 1865 where Ralph Baker died in 1875. The property was inherited by William Meath Baker. He did not take an active part in the running of the factories at Fenton, which traded as William Baker & Co., but he made regular visits to Fenton where, like his uncle William he was heavily involved in the development of the town


 William Meath Baker's involvement in the development of Fenton


Fenton Town Hall:
At the beginning of 1886 William Meath Baker offered to build a new town hail for Fenton. In April 1888 he submitted plans to Fenton Local Board of Health for three new streets which were subsequently named Station Street, Baker Street and Gimson Street. 

Victoria Square:
In the mid 1880s William Meath Baker demolished the cottages on the east side of his factory fronting High Street (now City Road) and what later became Victoria Square. Here in 1885 he constructed 30 houses with ornate frontages decorated with moulded brickwork and terracotta tiles.
Four years later the Fenton Local Board of Health Board built public urinals in the Square. 

Victoria Square c.1915
Victoria Square c.1915
On the left are the houses W.M.B built - the public urinal in front.
In the centre of the picture is a drinking fountain presented by his uncle William Baker IV
[this in now in Fenton Park]

Hitchman Street:
In the meantime William Meath Baker submitted plans for a new street off Victoria Road in December 1889 which was named Hitchman Street. Here on a triangular site which also faced Victoria Road he built 12 houses and a shop in the same style as the houses fronting High Street and Victoria Square.

Hitchman Street
Hitchman Street - July 200
[Mrs. Hitchman was William Meath Baker's aunt]

Ashleworth Terrace:
Below Christ Church on Church Street, William Meath Baker built a row of 12 houses called “Ashleworth Terrace” decorated with his monogram and the date of construction, 1891, on the front. The houses were built in an ornamental style with small gardens in front and were let to middle class tenants including several pottery manufacturers, schoolmasters and
commercial travellers. 

'Ashleworth Terrace' Church Street (now Christchurch Street)
“Ashleworth Terrace” Church Street (now Christchurch Street)


In the early 1930s William Meath Baker began to wind down his interests in Fenton. 
In 1931 Fenton House was sold to the parish. The factory ceased trading during the great depression in 1932. 
The premises is now occupied by Kames Kent (Ceramic Materials) Ltd. though all the buildings on the site date from after 1932. 
William Meath Baker died in 1935 but his descendants still (2000) own some property in the area including the houses in Hitchman Street and Victoria Place.

source: Andrew Dobraszczyc's notes


1881 census:

Dwelling: Hasfield Court
Census Place: Hasfield, Gloucester, England


Marr | Age | Sex

  Birthplace Occupation
Frances Crofton BAKER  W 57 F Head Ireland Householder
Mary Frances BAKER  U 32 F Daur Ireland House Holders Daughter
Letitia Jane BAKER  U 28 F Daur Ireland House Holders Daughter
William Meath BAKER U 23 M  Son Staffordshire Landowner B A
Alice Frances CROFTON  U 32 F Visitor Ireland  
Helen Julianna JENKINS  U 36 F Visitor Ireland Bond Holder
John BELMONT  W 59 M Servant Marwood, Devon Domestic Servant Butler
Thomas SMITH  U 18 M  Servant Aston, Gloucester Domestic Servant Footman
Elizabeth An BEDDING  U 28 F Servant Forthampton, Gloucester Domestic Servant Housemaid
Laura BOX  U 27 F Servant Llanrus, Monmouth Domestic Servant Cook
Clara Louisa JAMES  U 32 F Servant Tipton, Staffordshire Domestic Servant Ladies Maid
Kate LAKE U 16 F Servant Ashleworth, Gloucester Domestic Servant Kitchen Maid
Rose Emme COLEBROOK  U 19 F  Servant Pembray, Carmarthen, Wales Domestic Servant House Maid
Louisa WESTLAKE  M 39 F Servant Paddymore, Somerset Domestic Servant Housekeeper


Variations on an Original Theme (Enigma), Opus 36

The story is told of how Elgar (who was a friend of W.M.B) , returning home from giving violin lessons, sat down at the piano and, to unwind, began improvising. 
Alice, Elgar's wife, commented favourably on the tune that emerged and Elgar responded by suggesting how certain of their friends might play it. The fourth variation was based on William Meath Baker.....

Fourth Variation - W.M.B.: (Allegro di molto)
William Meath Baker, "country squire, gentleman and scholar" is said to be informing his guests of the day's arrangements when  W. M. B. had a party at his estate and ordered horses and carts for transportation. He read the list of guests to the crowd, ran out of the music room and slammed the door.
A quick staccato version of the first part of the theme followed by a fortissimo rendering in the major section. This latter is accompanied by boldly undulating passages for the strings. The whole variation working up into a magnificent outburst from the whole orchestra, with the rhythm marked by the drums. Porte in this book feels that Elgar painted WMB as "impetuous."