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Fred Baker and Catherine Outram-Hatto (1884-1957)

Fred and Catherine were the parents of Vera May Baker, who married Gordon Woodward. Fred and Catherine were married in 1911 in Burton on Trent, Staffordshire, where they lived all their married life. They both died in Burton.

Fred Baker (1885-1956)

Fred Bakewr Fred (left) was one of 11 children. His parents met in Sudbury, Derbyshire, and his father was a journeyman painter by trade. Two of Fred's sisters died in infancy.

In 1914, Fred and his six brothers volunteered for army service and he was badly injured during the Battle of the Somme in 1916. He always said he was glad he was injured down his left side, as that meant that his right hand was still able to hold a glass of beer.

The picture on the right was taken in 1914 when the brothers joined up. They are (back row, left to right), William, Charles, Harry, Walter, Herbert, Fred and Frank. (Front row, left to right) Elizabeth, Charles Baker Snr. Eliza Baker and Virginia.

Fred's father, Charles Baker, was born in Sudbury, Derbyshire in 1853, the third child in a family of 10 children. Fred's grandfather, William Baker, and his Great Grandfather, John Baker, both came from Linton, Castle Gresley, Derbyshire. Fred's mother, Elizabeth Victoria Fletcher, born 1856, came from Whittington, Gloucestershire, but how she came to meet Charles in Sudbury is unknown. They were married about 1878 and soon afterwards settled in Burton on Trent. Fred, born 8 September 1885, was the fourth child and fourth son. In 1881 the family lived on Princess Street, Horninglow, Burton, but later moved to Horninglow Road and then Hawkins Lane, Burton. Charles died in 1922 aged 68 years, and Eliza died in 1931, aged 75 years. They are both buried in Stapenhill Cemetery, Burton. (See the Baker family tree for more details of the family members.)

Catherine Outram-Hatto (1884-1957)

Catherine Baker Catherine (left) was born Catherine Outram on 4 October 1884 in Bentley Cottage, Hungry Bentley, Alkmonton, Derbyshire. Her mother was Fanny Outram but her father's name is unknown. Fanny worked as a servant at Fauld Cottage, Hanbury, Staffs for a farmer named John Archer, and then as a scullery maid at Mayfield Hall, Derbyshire where she became pregnant and had to leave. Fanny said that Catherine's father was the heir to the Hall, but this has never been proven. The story is probably true, as young female servants were often on the receiving end of male attention within large households. She also said that Catherine's father was later killed in London, run over by a Hansom Cab.

Catherine was born in the house of Thomas and Catherine Jeffery, Fanny’s aunt and uncle. Fanny and her sister, Mary Ann, had grown up with her aunt and uncle after their mother died when they were young. Their father moved to Wakefield leaving the children in the hands of his sister in law and her husband (Thomas and Catherine). He died in Wakefield in 1865. In 1885 Fanny, now with a one-year old illegitimate daughter, married James Hatto a brewers' storekeeper at St Peter’s Church, Stapenhill, Burton and Catherine took the name Outram Hatto. James was twenty years older than Fanny and came from Reading, Berkshire. Fanny had a son by James in 1886 but he died aged two years. Sometime around 1895 James Snr. died, just before Fanny gave birth to her second daughter Agnes May, although there was always a rumour that James wasn’t May’s father. Fanny died in Lansdown Terrace, Horninglow, Burton on 24 June 1906, aged 46.

As a teenager, and like her mother before her, Catherine went into service as a scullery maid, at first at Abbeyfields House, Newton Road, Burton, working for a member of the Ratcliffe-Gretton brewery family. She then worked as a housemaid at Crakemarsh Hall, near Uttoxeter, owned by Lady Elizabeth Anne Cavendish. Her son, Tyrell William Cavendish, married an American, Julia Florence Siegal, and in late 1911 they decided to visit Julia’s father in New York. They booked a passage on Cunard’s new luxury cruise liner, the Titanic, due to sail in the spring of 1912 - the first class tickets cost £78, about £6,100 in today's value. Julia Cavendish asked Catherine to go with them as her maid and companion, but she declined the offer as she was due to get married. The Cavendish family sailed on the Titanic with a maid, Nellie Barber. Julia Cavendish and Nellie Barber both survived the sinking of the Titanic, but Tyrell Cavendish drowned.

On Christmas Day, 1911, Catherine married Fred Baker at Horninglow Church, Burton. They then went to live in a new rented terraced house on Wetmore Road.

Fred and Catherine as a family.

Fred Baker in wheelchair Whilst crossing no-man’s-land during the battle of the Somme in July 1916, Fred was shot several times in his left arm and left leg and also lost part of the top of his skull in a shell blast. It was a miracle that he survived. He was later assessed as 100 per-cent disabled and awarded a full war pension.

After the war Fred travelled around the streets in a self-propelled three-wheeled chair (left) but he was able to hobble about the house with a stick and could stand up unassisted for short periods of time. For the rest of his life he worked from home pegging rugs, sold through the Disabled Men's Handicraft Organisation. He once made a special rug bearing the Burton Corporation coat of arms (right) and presented it to the Mayor of Burton. It's still on display in the Town Hall.
Fred Baker with pegged rug

Despite Fred's disability, he and Catherine had three children after the war, five in all.

  • Eric Frederick Baker was born 27 October 1912 in Burton. He married Mary Coulton and had three children. He died in 1993.
  • Reginald George Baker was born 2 April 1914. His first wife, Edith Banton and his son were killed when a plane crashed onto their house in Burton in 1945. He later married a German woman but after his mother died his whereabouts were unknown,
  • Donald James Baker was born in December 1919 but died in May 1920.
  • Bernard Charles Baker was born 27 November 1921 in Burton. He married Dorothy Baxter and went to live in Hartlepool. He had two sons and died in 1974.
  • Vera May Baker was born 5 February 1924 and married Gordon Arthur Woodward in Burton in 1945, They had four children and she died in 2013.

During the 1920s and 1930s times were hard for Fred and Catherine as they struggled to make ends meet on Fred's war pension, although at £2.10s.0d (£2.50) a week it was better than many other men in the neighbourhood earned. Their next-door neighbour was a road sweeper who earned only thirty shillings (£1.50) a week, and had four daughters to feed.

Catherine was very close to her sister, Agnes May Hatto, and when she died in 1937 she was devastated. May married John Thomas (Jack) Jeffery in Yeaveley, Derbyshire in 1935. Catherine pleaded with her sister not to marry Jack, as she said that they were cousins and that she was sure it would end badly. May refused to listen and before Catherine could do anything they were married. They had a child, but it was born severely disabled and did not survive. May died soon afterwards (19 October 1937) of an embolism. Whether the fact that they were cousins had anything to do with the disability is unknown, but having a first child at age 41 was always a high risk event. As a midwife, May must have known the risks but decided to take the chance.

Catherine had a sort of sixth sense and believed in the saying, "What goes around comes around". She had a sharp tongue and was a staunch Church of England follower who was strict about things, but believed in fair play and helping others. She often had premonitions and kept a pack of Tarot cards in her apron pocket. Fred always poured scorn on her 'visions' as he called them, but most of her predictions were close to the mark. On one occasion, whilst ironing, she suddenly stopped what she was doing and said, “You know Fred, that Mrs Carter isn’t long for this world”. Fred carried on reading the paper as if she’d said nothing, but a few weeks later the woman, who lived four doors away, dropped dead suddenly for no apparent reason! When Fred's brother, Frank, was dying in 1943 from throat cancer, Catherine told him it was, "divine retribution for ill-treating your wife". He used to lock her (Linda) in the coal house when he went to work to stop her flirting with other men. Catherine used to let her out as soon as Frank had gone to work. Linda died in 1933 aged 43.

World War Two and beyond

Baker Family 1942 The picture on the left shows the family in 1942. Eric Baker took the photo so he is not in the picture. The people are (front, left to right): Pauline (Eric's daughter), Vera, Fred, Gwen (Eric's daughter), Catherine, Mary (Eric's wife) and their son Cedric. (Back row, left to right): Reginald, Edith (Banton) his wife, and Bernard Baker.

When the second world war began, Eric Baker, aged 27, was called up for military service but was rejected due to his flat feet and was sent to work in an aircraft factory in Coventry. After the Coventry Blitz in 1940 he said that being in the army would have been much safer. Reg was already in the army, based in Jamaica. He went to France as part of the British Expeditionary Force and was one of thousands of soldiers rescued from Dunkirk in 1940. In 1941 Bernard Baker was called up and joined the RAF as an electrician. He was later based at RAF Lyneham, Wiltshire. Vera volunteered for the WAAF, the Women's Auxiliary Air Force, in 1942, without telling her parents. Her mother wrote to the WAAF demanding that she be released, but they ignored her demands. (Read more about Vera's war time experiences on the Gordon Woodward page.)

All of Fred and Catherine's children survived the war, but Reg's wife and young son were killed when a plane crashed onto their house in Stafford Street in 1945. Burton wasn't bombed heavily during the war, although a land mine fell onto Bass's Meadow behind Fred and Catherine's house on Wetmore Road, shattering all the windows in the long row of houses, except for their house and two others that were sheltered by a large spoil tip, dumped there by the gas works. The Germans were aiming for the gas works and it was only luck that they missed.

Fred died on 6 September 1956 from lung cancer. During World War One the troops were given as many cigarettes as they could smoke, mainly to help calm their nerves. Fred continued to smoke after the war, as most people did. He smoked plain, roll-up cigarettes without any filter and eventually they took their toll. He was buried at Stretton Church, Derbyshire.

Catherine died on 17 December 1957 from a stroke. She collapsed in the kitchen and died in hospital soon afterwards. She was buried at Stretton alongside Fred.

Compiled by Graham Woodward, Nottingham, England (UK).