Baker Baker Papers

Scope and Content

This extensive and varied collection provides particularly rich source material for 18th and early 19th century social history. It covers family letters and papers domestic and scholarly, papers of their antecedents, notably the Conyers family, parliamentary elections, Co. Durham public affairs, estate management, business affairs, land in Co. Durham in various places, including Haswell, Pittington and Lanchester, the Boulby Alum Works near Saltburn on the North Yorkshire coast, estates in Westmorland near Brough, Appleby and Kirby Stephen, an estate at Stanton, Northumberland, coal and lead mining interests (including the Hetton Coal Co. and lead at Bulbeck, Northumberland), education at Eton and Cambridge, the Tyne Bank, stocks, shares, insurance, probate legal proceedings, deeds, Acts of Parliament, rentals, books of household, estate, wage, grain and employers accounts with vouchers, inventories of household, garden and farm gear and stock, maps, plans, stud books, travel accounts, military and militia matters, political and scandalous pamphlets and cartoons, animal pedigrees and prescriptions, recipe books, miscellaneous note books and printed books.

Apart from a few items, the collection begins towards the end of the life of George Baker (d. 1697). This is accompanied by a small amount of material relating to his brother Thomas Baker (1656-1737) the antiquary, of St John's College, Cambridge. The minority of George Baker (d. 1774) is well recorded, with accounts and letters detailing his expenses at Eton and Cambridge, and the frequent exasperations of his guardian. The meticulous account keeping of Judith Baker (1726-1810) make both the household accounts and the records of the Boulby Alum Works particularly full, providing a record both of life in the household of a country gentleman, and an early phase in the chemical industry of the North East. The improvements made to Elemore Hall by George Baker, his stud books and interest in 'improved' breeds of livestock and attempts to run a pack of hounds for hunting, the collections of scandalous pamphlets relating to the Countess of Strathmore and satirical political cartoons bought by his wife Judith, and accounts of the machinations surrounding parliamentary elections in Durham City in the 1760s are some of the features of this rich vein of social history. The nineteenth century material covers a period in which the family's sources of income change and in many cases decline.

Administrative / Biographical History

Six generations of George Bakers form the basis of the lineage of this family, established at Crook Hall, near Lanchester, Co. Durham and then Elemore Hall, Pittington, Co. Durham. Sir George Baker (d. 1667) purchased Crook Hall around 1635, and was succeeded by his son George Baker (d. 1677). Of his sons, Thomas Baker (1656-1737) was a noted antiquary, and George Baker (d. 1697) inherited Crook.

George Baker (d. 1723), the fourth of the sequence and son of the third, married Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas Conyers, through whom the family inherited Elemore Hall and the Boulby Alum Works in North Yorkshire, and was an MP for Durham City. At his death his two children, George Baker (d. 1774) and his sister Margaret were still minors. George studied at Eton, and Cambridge, and married Judith, daughter of Cuthbert Routh (d. 1752) of Dinsdale in 1749. While she proved to have a fine understanding and control of business, his affairs show a more extravagent attitude to life.

The last George Baker (d. 1837) had a daughter, Isabella, who married his sister Elizabeth's son Henry Tower (George Baker's sister having married Christopher Tower). Their son Henry John Baker Tower changed his name in accordance with the will of the last George Baker, to Henry John Baker in 1844. His son Ferdinand (1858-1909) made over Elemore Hall to his sisters Isabel (d. 1911) and Eva (d. 1931), from whom Henry Conyers Baker Baker, eldest son of their youngest brother, inherited in 1931.


The main deposit was arranged before the more recent accessions, so these have been added to the end of the existing sequence. Arrangement is by document type, then in chronological order, as follows:

  • Boxes1-7: Documents relating to the alum trade
  • 8-27: Correspondence and miscellaneous papers (boxes 8-10: 1561-1759; 11-16: 1760-1787; 17-22: 1788-1845; 23-27: 1846-1891)
  • 28-39: Deeds (including some for Boulby Alum Works)
  • 40: Farm leases
  • 41: Wills
  • 42: Parliamentary bills and acts
  • 43-73: Books (including estate and housekeeping accounts; wages books; stock, pedigree and stud books; recipes, culinary, medical and veterinary; cellar books; and numerous printed volumes and pamphlets)
  • 74-117: Vouchers (including records of household and estate expenditure, payments for clothes and travel, and election expenses)
  • 118: Oversize items
  • 119: Maps and plans
  • 120-122: 1994 deposit, including miscellaneous printed volumes (racing calendars, seedsmen's and other merchants' catalogues, etc.)
  • Unnumbered portfolio: Political and satirical cartoons

Access Information

Open for consultation

Acquisition Information

Deposited through the National Register of Archives and Brigadier H.C. Baker Baker in 1947, when the family home Elemore Hall, Pittington, Co. Durham, was about to be sold.

A further deposit of papers and cartoons was made in 1994 by Mr. William Baker Baker of Sedbury Hall.

Six alum books were acquired separately, four being found in the University Library in 1968 and two sent via the Durham CRO from the Spennymoor Settlement in 1977. It is now unclear by what means these books had reached those locations.

Other Finding Aids

Online catalogue available at online catalogue.

Separated Material

There are some Boulby Alum Works accounts for 1800 in T.E. Forster Collection, vol. I, p.96 in the North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers, Neville Hall, Newcastle. This volume also contains material relating to the Conyers family.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to make any published use of material from the collection must be sought in advance from the Sub-Librarian, Special Collections (e-mail and, where appropriate, from the copyright owner. The Library will assist where possible with identifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.

Related Material

Dixon-Johnson Papers: Christopher Johnson's Book contains a section devoted to property transactions conducted by George Baker (d. 1774).


Drury, J. Linda, The Baker Baker portfolio of prints - its content and acquisition, Durham County Local History Society Bulletin, 56 (May 1996), 3-20.  Fewster, J.M., The making of Frank Hall Standish, Transactions of the Architectural and Archaeological Society of Durham and Northumberland, n.s. 6 (1982), 27-30.  Gosden, J., Elemore Hall transformed, 1749-1753, Transactions of the Architectural and Archaeological Society of Durham and Northumberland, n.s. 6 (1982), 31-36.