Archibald John & Frederick William Baker


Saddlescombe and Devil's Dyke (a St Aubyn's card)

To home page
To directory of publishers
To gallery

Postcard publishers, Hove. Archibald John Baker was born on March 25, 1878 at Hartland Villa, Cavendish Road in Willesden in London, and his brother, Frederick William Baker, in the same house on April 2, 1881. Their parents were William Joseph Baker, a chemist (born in 1819 or 1820), and Amelia Hitchens Baker, née Penrose (born in about 1841), both Londoners, who married in 1858. They had at least three sisters: Amelia Ellen Baker (born in 1859), Laura Elizabeth Baker (born in 1861) and Maud E. Baker (born about 1880).

After William Baker retired, he and his family moved to the Sussex coast, perhaps to enjoy the fresh sea air and escape from the choking London smogs. The 1891 census records that they were living at 13 St Aubyns, an imposing terrace house in a much-favoured part of Hove. They then set up home at 8 Sackville Road, Hove, where William died on the 27th of May 1897, aged 78. The 1901 census records that his widow and children had moved to 12 Sackville Road. Archibald was working as an "auctioneer's clerk", while Frederick was a "commercial agent's clerk". The three sisters were unmarried. By 1907 Mrs Baker and her children had moved to 67 St Aubyns.

On December 1, 1913 Archibald Baker, then 35 years old, married Elizabeth Anne Nightingale ("Annie") at Steyning Register Office. The marriage certificate records that he was still working as an auctioneer's clerk and that his father had enjoyed "independent means". Annie was 9 years his junior and lived in Hove. Her father, Charles Nightingale, was dead, but had been a Captain in the Cape Mounted Rifles. She herself had been born in the Cape Colony.

After they married, the couple may have gone to live at 10 St Michael's Place, Brighton, where Pikes 1915 Directory records that an Archibald Baker had a flat. In any event they had all too little time together before the Great War was to bring them tragedy. Archibald Baker enlisted at Hove in the 9th Battalion of the Royal Sussex Regiment (the date is not yet known) and was sent to France. He was killed in action on the 12th of April 1917 in the battle of Bois-en-Hache near the village of Angres south west of Lens, within sight of the notorious Vimy Ridge captured by the Canadians after terrible loss of life. He has no known grave and one can only hope that he received a decent burial. His name is inscribed on the Memorial Gateway at Ypres.

The War Diary kept by the 9th Battalion gives a graphic description of Private Baker's final battle, though it does not mention him by name. The Battalion were ordered to "go over the top" and attack the opposing German lines in a bloody set-piece engagement of the type that was repeated endlessly throughout the War. The men mustered in the trenches before dawn, were given the usual rum ration to instil courage, and in "a blinding snow-storm" set off under heavy fire to try to capture the German positions. In this they were partially successful, but not before 45 men were killed and many more wounded in a no-mans land "full of large shell-holes and churned into a sea of mud by bad weather and heavy shelling". After the battle the survivors were withdrawn from the front to rest in camp, where they tried to forget the horrors of war by organising football matches.

After her bereavement Annie Baker went to live at 3 Norman Road, Hove, with her sister, Mrs Grace Mackeson, and mother, Caroline Nightingale. Grace had been born around 1875 in the Cape Colony, about three years before Annie, and in 1903 had married Henry Robert Mackeson (born in about 1862 at Pinner, died 1914, aged 46). On the 9th of September 1921 Annie was found dead on the beach near Roedean School with severe injuries that left no doubt that she had fallen from the top of the cliffs. An inquest held on the 13th of September failed to determine whether she took her own life or whether the fall was accidental. On the whole, suicide seems unlikely. According to the family, she had got over the death of her husband "to some extent", had just been on holiday, and had "always expressed a horror of suicide". The weather was hot, she and her sister had slept badly, and she had decided to take a morning bicycle ride before undertaking various engagements. A witness saw her sitting on the edge of the cliff with her legs over the edge, but did not see her fall. The position of the body close under the foot of the cliff suggested that she did not deliberately leap from the cliff but simply lost her footing, perhaps because the cliff edge crumbled or she turned giddy on standing up.

In the wartime Electoral Registers, Frederick Baker is listed at 67 St Aubyns as an "absent voter", which almost certainly means that like his brother he saw active war service. When the war was over, he returned to live with his mother and elder sister, Amelia Ellen Baker. In 1921 when he successfully sought administration of his late brother and sister-in-law's estate (they had died intestate and childless), he stated that he was a market gardener by profession, and that, before enlisting, his brother had worked as an estate agent.

Frederick and his mother and sister continued to live at 67 St Aubyns until at least 1923, but by April 1925 they moved to 28 Park Crescent, Brighton. Caroline Nightingale (Grace and Annie's mother), who lived at 6 Norman Road in Hove, died on January 18, 1927. Grace died in Hove in 1944.

Amelia Hitchens Baker died at Park Crescent on November 1, 1934, aged 93. After her death, Frederick and his sister left Park Crescent, but probably did not move very far. Frederick died in 1966 at Hove, aged 85.

Archibald and Frederick Baker started publishing Sussex postcards in 1906. The cards were originally quite a strong sepia colour, but have tended to fade badly, and some are now a disappointing straw yellow, though they can usually be brought "back to life" by scanning and adjusting the contrast.

The brothers issued their first cards anonymously, but by May 1907 they began to print their name and address on the back ("A.J. & F.W. Baker, 67, St. Aubyns, Hove"). Evidently, they were developing and printing the cards at home, which cannot have been very convenient for them. The 1910 Electoral Register records that they both had furnished bedrooms on the second floor of Number 67, which was owned by their mother, whom they each paid £39 a year in rent. The fact that they paid her a commercial rent is somewhat puzzling. Was she an exceptionally mercenary lady, anxious to secure the last penny? It seems more likely that the transaction was a paper affair designed to give the brothers a right to vote at elections.

From the outset, the brothers are believed to have worked in partnership with Cecil Travers. Archibald was a witness at Cecil's wedding in June 1907, which suggests that he was a close friend. It was presumably by mutual consent that the Baker brothers concentrated on publishing cards of West Sussex, while Travers focussed mainly on East Sussex. All three were energetic entrepreneurs, and between them they established a very sizeable postcard empire. John Robards, who has made a detailed study of the Travers and Baker cards ("Postcards from Cecil and the Baker brothers", 2002, Picture Postcard Monthly, 274, 12-14), has established that they share a common numbering system. He believes that in the early years the brothers printed Travers' cards for him, including writing the captions.

Before the end of 1907 the Baker brothers transferred postcard production to the basement of a butcher's shop at 210 Church Road, Hove, which they shared with Travers. They continued, however, to live with their mother at 67 St Aubyns. Travers himself began to play an increasing part in postcard production, for example writing some of the captions. In early 1910 cards with a dark black and white finish were introduced and production of the sepia cards ended, perhaps because it had become evident that they were prone to fading. Robards believes that Travers imposed this change on the Bakers, who decided to part company with him and give up postcard production either at the time or within the next eighteen months. Robards points out by way of support that when Archibald married in 1913 he described himself as an "auctioneers' clerk" and made no mention of postcard publishing. However, it is worth remembering that both brothers were clerks in 1901, and there is no evidence that they ever became full time publishers. They may have always regarded postcard production as a spare time activity to be fitted in at weekends or afternoons off. The only certain fact is that the brothers withdrew from postcard production before the First World War, leaving Travers to continue the business on his own. By the time Travers retired in the early 1920s, he and the Bakers together had published a total of about 6000 cards, making them three of the giants of Sussex postcard publishing.

Among the many fine cards that the Bakers published are some studies of sheep shearing at Perching Manor Farm at Fulking. Illustrated here is a card they produced of Alfred Parks, the butcher at 210 Church Road, which he may have used for publicity purposes.

Acknowledgement: Grateful thanks are due to Adrian Vieler for kindly helping to research the Baker family.

To directory of publishers
To gallery

Design: Lucid Design