BAKER, Richard Joseph


The hazard of working with lead paint might well have a bearing on Richard’s declining mental health, since he worked as a house painter for over thirty years.

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Life Story for Richard Joseph Baker or Joseph Richard Baker

This story has been made more difficult to research with accuracy due to the way that both Richard Joseph Baker himself, and his parents, switched his forenames around. There is no Birth Record for either Richard Joseph nor Joseph Richard Baker. Interestingly he enters the Lambeth Infirmary as Richard J Baker and leaves as Joseph R Baker. Confusing to say the least! His death registration is recorded as Joseph Richard Baker.

The Baker Family – Background and Early Years 1816-1841

Richard Joseph Baker was the first-born child of Charles Baker (1816-1883), son of Moses Baker (1785-1839) and Martha Jones (1791-1872), and Catherine Brown (1819-1891). Richard’s parents, although both born within different parishes in London, at that time located in the county of Middlesex, move to live south across the river Thames.

His baptism, on 3 Nov 1839, and those of his subsequent siblings, takes place at St Mary Newington, situated on Newington Butts, later rebuilt on Kennington Park Road in 1876. Richard’s date of birth is recorded as 23 Sep 1839, and his father’s occupation is a General Dealer.

I have not been able to establish a marriage record for his parents which would have been circa 1838. The family lived in Walworth at Paragon Row, in Lock’s Fields close to an area known as Walworth Common, identified as Walworth Fields in an early map of south London  

Paragon Row, Lock’s Fields – Since the commencement of the 19th century a considerable advance has been made in the way of buildings in this neighbourhood, particularly on the east side of the Walworth Road. 

Lock’s Fields, formerly a dreary swamp, and Walworth Common, which was at one time an open field, have been covered with houses.

In Paragon Row the Fishmongers’ Company have erected several model dwellings, with the aim of benefiting a very poor locality. The dwellings have been built on the “flat” system, realising as nearly as possible the idea of the cottage character, and replacing old and dilapidated houses of an inferior class.

Richard’s parents lived the rest of their lives within the parish of St Peter, Walworth, appearing in both the 1841 and 1851 census’ living in Clifford St, eventually living in Bronti Place as found in the 1861, 1871, and 1881 census’ until their deaths. This area of Walworth, south of East Street running south towards Westmoreland Road was heavily bombed in WWII and has been completely redeveloped, losing most of the old street names.

At some stage after Richard’s birth in 1839 the family moved from Paragon Row to Clifford St, still within the same locality in Walworth. Recorded in the 1841 census we find his father Charles is a Journeyman Cooper, both his parents ages are given as 20, but as we know in the 1841 census the enumerator rounded down the ages of adults to the nearest multiple of 5, and Richard himself aged 2.

All three were recorded as being born in the county of Surrey but later census records confirm that both Richard’s parents were born in the county of Middlesex in the Parishes of St James, Westminster, and St Luke, Old Street respectively. 

The Growing Baker Family

Richard and his siblings, Charles Moses (1842-1901), Christopher Samuel (1845-), Edward Henry (1849-1920) and Eliza Catherine (1855-) were all baptised in the same church, St Mary Newington, even though St Peter’s Church was much closer to where they were living at the time of each baptism.

The family homes were firstly in Clifford St, then Waterloo St, then back to Clifford St at the time of the boys’ respective baptisms, with another move to Villa St at the time of Eliza’s baptism. Richard’s father was making a living at various occupations throughout this time – General Dealer, Journeyman Cooper, Soap Maker, Butter Dealer, General Dealer, Butterman. Variety is the spice of life!

St Peter’s Church, Walworth in Liverpool Grove was built to a design by Sir John Soane in 1825 to serve the rapidly growing community; over the course of the 19th century, Walworth’s population increased eightfold, reaching 122,200 in 1901.

In the 1851 census the family had returned to 11 Clifford Street, Walworth. Charles Baker now aged 35, is a General Dealer and his wife Catherine 32, is a Nurse. The children are Joseph 11, Charles 9, Christopher 5, and Edward 1.

In 1855, after giving birth to four sons, Richard’s parents welcome a baby girl, Eliza Catherine and the family have moved to Villa Street, still within the same area, and Charles Baker is a Butterman.

Moving into Adulthood 1861-1871

In 1861 the Baker family were living at 1 Bronti Place, Walworth where Richard’s parents remained for the next thirty years until their deaths. Charles continues to trade as a Butterman, with the teenage children starting to earn their keep – Joseph 21, a Wheelwright, Charles 19, a Carter, Christopher 16, an Errand Boy, with Edward 11, and Eliza 5, at school.

In 1871 only the younger children, Edward 22, and Eliza 15, are still living at home. Both Charles 54, and his son Edward trade as Butter Dealers. 

Early Married Life and the Birth of his First child 1862-1864

At the church of his baptism, St Mary Newington, Richard Joseph Baker, Wheelwright, marries Sarah Ann Perrott, on 28 July 1862, both are literate, both giving their residence as Bronti Place. Their fathers are Charles Baker, Butter Merchant, and Richard James Perrott, a Publican. The groom signed his name on the marriage certificate as R. J. Baker

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On 9 Dec 1862, at 34 Trafalgar Street in Walworth, Richard and Sarah welcomed their first child, Charles Joseph Baker, named after his paternal grandfather. His parents are named as Richard Joseph Baker, a Journeyman Wheelwright, and Sarah Ann Baker formerly Perrott, and the informant was his father R. J. Baker. 

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The new baby was baptised six weeks later at St Mary Newington on 18 Jan 1863. The family are living in Trafalgar Street, Walworth, close to Bronti Place, and Richard continues to work as a Wheelwright. The church baptism records Richard as Joseph Baker.

Birth and Death of his Second Child 1864-1865

On 20 Oct 1864, at 19 Camden Street in Walworth, Sarah gave birth to their second child, a daughter whom they named Catherine Eliza, named after her paternal grandmother, and a reversal of her father’s sister’s names Eliza Catherine. Her parents are confirmed as Richard Joseph Baker, a Journeyman Wheelwright, and Sarah Ann Baker formerly Perrott, and the informant was her mother S. A. Baker.  

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She was baptised a month later on 20 Nov 1864 at St Mary Newington. This time the baptism record gives her father’s name as Richard Joseph, living in Camden Street, Walworth, now renamed Morecambe St, and Richard has changed his profession from Wheelwright to House Painter, a profession which he will follow for the rest of his working life. 

The family moved to 12 Eltham Street, close to Camden Street, where tragically, on 17 July 1865, baby Catherine died at nine months old. Her death certificate states that she was ten months old, the daughter of Richard Joseph Baker, a House Painter, and that the cause of her death was certified as Pneumonia. The informant was her mother who was present at her death. 

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Catherine was buried at Victoria Park Cemetery in Hackney on 22 Aug 1865. 

Looking at the burials recorded on the same page as Catherine it appears that this cemetery accepts burials from both north and south of the river Thames. Hackney is a long way from Walworth, and I am intrigued as to why she is buried there.

Life continues in Walworth 1869-1871

Four years after baby Catherine’s death, on 1 Apr 1869 Sarah gives birth to a second son whom they name Joseph. He was born at 56 Southwark Bridge Road, yet the family live in Trafalgar Street in Walworth, and his birth is registered in St George Southwark. His parents are named as Richard Joseph Baker, a House Painter, and Sarah Ann Baker formerly Perrott, and the informant was his father R. J. Baker.

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 I cannot find a baptismal record for this child. 

Again Richard and Sarah experience the trauma of another infant death. Baby Joseph dies at five months. Like his sister Catherine he was buried at Victoria Park Cemetery in Hackney on 16 Jul 1869. The family’s address is confirmed as 28 Trafalgar Road, Walworth. His death is registered in Newington.

Sarah becomes pregnant again, and thankfully, on 29 May 1870, Annie Baker is born at 125 Penton Place, Walworth. Her parents are confirmed as Richard Joseph Baker, a House Painter, and Sarah Ann Baker formerly Perrott, and the informant was her mother S. A. Baker. Her birth is registered in St Saviour Southwark. 

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One month later, on 27 June 1870, the new baby was baptised at St Martins in the Fields. Their address is confirmed as 125 Penton Place, Walworth, and Richard’s occupation is Painter. 

It is a complete mystery as to why their daughter is baptised at St Martins in the Fields, Westminster, since St Mary Newington was the church of choice for all previous family events. Perhaps the old church at Newington Butts was taken out of service whilst the new church was built in Kennington Park Rd, which was completed in 1876. 

Move to Southwark and the Birth of their Fifth Child 1871-1872

Ten months later in the 1871 census the family were found at 2 Blackfriars Road, in Southwark. Richard J Baker now aged 31, continues his trade as a House Painter, Sarah 28, works as a Mantle Maker, with their children Charles 8, at school and baby Annie 9m.

Lying-in is an archaic term for childbirth (referring to the month-long bed rest prescribed for postpartum confinement)

On 21 Aug 1872 at the General Lying-in Hospital in York Road, Lambeth Sarah gave birth to a third daughter whom they named Nelly.

Her parents are confirmed as Richard Joseph Baker, a Decorator, and Sarah Ann Baker formerly Perrott, and the informant was his mother S. A. Baker. The family are still living at 2 Blackfriars Road, Southwark as in the 1871 census. 

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Move to Lambeth and the Death of their Fourth Child 1873

Sadly, all too common in the nineteenth century, life for children was often cut short and on 25 Aug 1873,  aged just 3yrs old, Annie Baker died at Pleasant Place, Brook Street in Lambeth. Her death registration gives the place of her death as in the public street called Pleasant Place, and the cause of death as Diarrhoea and a Convulsion Fit, with no medical attendant.

The informant who was present at the death was Ann Bliss who was illiterate, and lived on the street where Annie died, at number 34 Pleasant Place. Her father was named Joseph Baker, a House Decorator.

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This is Richard and Sarah’s third child to die in infancy and one can only imagine their despair. Annie was buried on 31 Aug 1873 in Lambeth Cemetery. NB: Who was Ann Bliss? Why was Annie playing in the street at Pleasant Place? Perhaps she had an aunt, her mother’s married sister, and was playing with her cousins?

Another child dies in Infancy 1875

Another sad moment in the Baker family occurs when Nelly dies in 1875 aged 2yrs. Her death is registered in the Lambeth district. Nelly’s death in infancy is the fourth of the Baker children to die so young. Fortunately it will be their last. Meanwhile their first-born, and only surviving child, Charles Joseph, continues to thrive.

Another Birth – their Sixth Child 1876

In 1876 Sarah returned to the Lying-in Hospital in York Road and was safely delivered of her third son, Edward, born on 24 Nov 1876. His parents are confirmed as Richard Joseph Baker, a House Decorator, and Sarah Ann Baker formerly Perrott, and the informant was his mother S. A. Baker. The family have moved to 9 Boundary Row off Blackfriars Road, Southwark. 

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The registration district for Edward’s birth is the Camberwell district.

The Last Thirty Years 1881-1908

By the 1881 census the family are found living very close to their previous abode in Blackfriars Road, at 2 Collingwood Street, Southwark, now named Colombo Street. Richard Joseph 41, continues his profession as a House Painter, also his wife Sarah Ann 39, their two surviving children are their sons Charles Joseph 18, who has trained as a Brass Finisher, and Edward 4 is at school. 

Departure to Australia of their First-born Son

Between 1881-1889 Richard’s eldest son, Charles Joseph, left England to seek a new life in Australia. It is hard to say how such a significant event would affect a parent. Australia was indeed the other side of the world, and he would have known that he would probably never see his son again. The first record I have found for Charles Joseph Baker is his marriage in 1890 in Victoria, Australia.

Census Years 1891-1901

Richard continued his life working as a house painter and by 1891 the family had moved ten miles to the south from Southwark to Lambeth and lived at 188 Lambeth Walk. The record shows Richard J Baker is aged 51, his wife Sarah 50, and his son Edward 14, earns his keep as an Errand Boy. 

Nothing eventful seems to occur in the ten intervening years between the census’ and in 1901 the family moved a short distance north across the Lambeth Road, to 24 Colwyn Street, now named Hercules Road. Richard J Baker is recorded as aged 59, but more accurately would be 61, and carries on his trade as a House Painter, and Edward 23, a Plumber. Richard’s marital status is recorded as M not W, but where is Sarah?

Admission to Infirmary

On 10 May 1902, Richard J Baker was admitted to the Lambeth Union Infirmary in Renfrew Road, Lambeth. His age is recorded as 62, his address as 24 Colwyn Street, as in the 1901 census, and his wife is named Sarah. After spending almost 9 1⁄2 months in the Infirmary, on 20 Feb 1903, Joseph R Baker was discharged and transferred to Horton Asylum.  The discharge details all tally with those of his admission.

After receiving care at Horton Asylum for almost 5yrs, Joseph Richard Baker died on 28 Dec 1907. His age is recorded as 66 in the Lambeth Union Summary Book, with the cause of death as Senility. The death is registered as Joseph Richard Baker in Epsom Dec Qtr 1907 2a 33. He was buried 5 days later, on 2 Jan 1908 in Horton Cemetery in plot 57a.

Note: The hazard of working with lead paint might well have a bearing on Richard’s declining mental health, since he worked as a house painter for over thirty years. Also, the trauma of the deaths in infancy of four of his children, and the emigration of his eldest son to Australia may have played a part.

Family Members

Wife Sarah – I cannot determine what happened to Richard’s wife Sarah. She is last recorded in the 1891 census aged 50. In the 1901 census Richard and his son Edward are recorded on their own at 24 Colwyn Street. Richard’s marital status is ‘married’ not ‘widower’.

In 1902 when Richard first entered the Lambeth Union Infirmary the person named as his relative or friend, was his wife Sarah, and the address given as 24 Colwyn Street. There are a few further records to explore which might give me a clue as to what happened to Sarah.

Son Charles Joseph Baker (1862-1037)

After emigrating to Australia, he married Alice Maude Beaumont Black (1869-1955) in 1890 in Victoria. Charles had two daughters Lillian Esther Baker (1894-1962) and Dorothy Muriel Baker (1895-1950). He is buried in St Kilda’s Cemetery, Port Phillip, Victoria (near Melbourne). There are living relatives in Australia, but I have not traced them, yet!

Son Edward – Similarly, I have no evidence for Edward Baker. His last record is with his father in the 1901 census.

Parents Charles & Catherine Baker

They continue to live in Bronti Place, Walworth. In the 1871 census we find two Butter Dealers in the family, Charles aged 54 and his son Edward 22, also at home are his wife Catherine 51, their daughter Eliza 25, and his widowed mother Martha Baker 81.

By the 1881 census just their daughter lives at home, Eliza 24, and Charles 65, is now a General Dealer, Catherine aged 63. Charles died in 1883, and his widow Catherine is still living in Bronti Place in the 1891 census, aged 74 and taking in washing to make ends meet. She died later that year.

Brother Charles Moses Baker (1842-1901)

I have traced four generations of the Baker brothers and found a living relative of Charles Moses Baker – a Gt. Gt. Grandson, who would be a descendant of Richard Joseph Baker – his Gt. Gt. Gt. Nephew.

Sister Eliza Catherine Baker (1855-)

Eliza married Charles Philip Vickers in 1885 at All Saints, Walworth. They had one son Charles Christopher Vickers (1886-1928). I have not been able to trace any further relatives.

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