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Ann Elizabeth Baker and the Bakers of Hazelrigg House

There is less published biographical information about Ann and no portrait has been discovered. It would be a mistake though to assume that Ann was of little significance and purely her brother’s companion. Whilst she did accompany him on many of his research trips and provided skilled sketches, she also pursued her own historical, natural history and local dialect interests. A commentator in 1857 wrote, “the companion of her brother’s journeys, his amanuensis, his fellow-labourer, especially in the natural history, and had made drawings for, and even engraved, some of the plates for his great work.”1

The most significant contribution to Northamptonshire’s heritage was however made by Ann Baker’s own meticulous work and publication. During the greater part of the time in which she accompanied her brother from village to village, she compiled, from the mouths of the common people, the collection of dialect and colloquialisms that appeared in her “Glossary of Northamptonshire Words and Phrases” published in 1854 in two vols. This was indeed a labour of love with her; and is one of the most full and satisfactory of all our local lexicons, and still of value to both philologists and historians, giving us a local snapshot of mid-Victorian language. Miss Baker devoted herself to antiquarian subjects from her earliest years, and her retentive memory enabled her to connect the present with the past with remarkable accuracy.2

In her knowledge and appreciation of church architecture, Miss Baker was scarcely inferior to her brother and was elected an honorary member of the Northampton Architectural Society. Credit was due to Ann, more so than to her brother, for the restoration of St. Peter’s church in Northampton, referred to in the following words of a reverend and learned gentleman: “But let it never be forgotten that long before this [the Northamptonshire Architectural] Society was in existence, long before there was awakened in this country the enlightened appreciation of the great church works of our forefathers now so prevalent before Glossaries were published and even Bloxam 3 was an unknown name, there were a brother and sister in this town, dwelling under the shadow of St. Peter’s, who, by their active vigour of mind and actual labour of hand, kept alive an interest in this church, and so, I verily believe, when no one else, even its appointed guardians, seemed to care for it, preserved perfect and intact those singular remains, the minutest carving of whose every stone there are hundreds now to appreciate.” 4

It was her painstaking work commenced in 1823 removing the whitewash from the Norman arches and capitals of St. Peter’s Church, Marefair just a few doors away from where she was later to move in 1831. Subsequently, her discoveries led to the restoration of that church by George Gilbert Scott.

Her memory and being able to link to significant historical events is demonstrated in her recollection of being taken by her parents, when yet very young, to hear John Wesley preach in the open air on what was called “the Green” 5 at Northampton. 6

Ann’s pursuit of knowledge was not solely for her benefit as she supported charitable and educational institutions in Northampton. As a visitor of the schools and prisons, she was engaged almost to the very close of her life and was ever ready to give her patronage and personal assistance to every well-conducted plan for advancing the social, educational, and moral condition of her townsfolk of whatever class.

In memory of
Born at Northampton, Sept. 28th.1781.
Died Oct. 12th. 1851.
15 years Magistrate of this Borough
The historian of his native county
Skilled in archaeological and mediaeval learning
An early and zealous promoter of the restoration
of this Church.
An active supporter of benevolent institutions
Unwearied in his efforts for the
moral and intellectual advancement of his fellow-men
Distinguished in private life by his
urbanity, kindness and affection
and by the humility and faithfulness
of an earnest Christian disciple.
His remains are interred in the family vault
in King-Street chapel.
(sister of the above)
Born June 16th. 1786.
Died April 22nd. 1861.

A mural tablet to George and Ann Baker can be found on the south aisle of St Peter’s church, Northampton. In some ways, this is an example of the esteem with which they were held in the community, although being Unitarians and but buried in the nearby King Street Independent chapel (now demolished) their efforts were recognised by the Anglican community.

The Bakers were originally Independents and therefore Trinitarians7; but when, on the death, in 1827, of the Rev. John Horsey, minister of Castle Hill chapel, a few of his congregation, who had been influenced by Horsey liberal leadership and Unitarian influences, formed themselves into a separate society, Mr. and Miss Baker warmly sympathised with the movement, and supported it by their presence at the opening service, which was conducted by the Revds. Robert Aspland8, William Field 9 and Chasles Berry10, and by their subsequent regular attendance at the Sunday evening services, though they did not entirely join the congregation until after the death in 1831 of their own venerable and beloved pastor, Benjamin Lloyd Edwards11, of King-Street chapel.


‘George Baker, Obituary’. Northampton Mercury, 18 October 1851.

‘George Baker, Esq.’ Gentleman’s Magazine, 2, 36 (1851): 551–52, 629

‘Miss Baker’ Gentleman’s Magazine, 3, 11 (1861): 209.

Currie, C. R. J. and C. P. Lewis, eds. English County Histories: A Guide. Far Thrupp, Stroud, Gloucestershire ; Dover, NH: Alan Sutton, 1994. (Northamptonshire by Paul Stamper)

Druce, George Claridge. The Flora of Northamptonshire. Arbroath: T Buncle & Co, 1930, Ixxxvii-xc

An edited version of this post was published in Northamptonshire Heritage Forum’s journal Hindsight in April 2022.

  1. Murray, John. ‘The History and Antiquities of the County of Northampton, Etc’. The Quarterly Review 101, no. 201 (1857): 1–56.
  2. ‘Ann Elizabeth Baker’, Gentleman’s Magazine, 1861, p 208
  3. Matthew Bloxham was an eminent architectural historian, archaeologist and fellow member of the Northamptonshire Architectural Society.
  4. ‘The late Miss Baker of Northampton’, The Christian reformer; or, Unitarian magazine and review, 1861, p 442-4
  5. A former Strict Baptist chapel on The Green near St Peters was used by the Methodist society from about 1767 until 1793 when a new chapel was opened in Kings Head Lane. This was the same building later used by the Unitarians. Ann Baker was born in 1786 and John Wesley died in 1791. It is not clear when Wesley’s last visit to Northampton occurred.
  6. ‘The late Miss Baker of Northampton’, The Christian reformer; or, Unitarian magazine and review, 1861, p 442-4
  7. Trinitarianism is the belief in one God who exists in three persons—God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
  8. ASPLAND Robert. Born 13 Jan 1782 at Wicken, Cambs. Baptist Academy London, Aberdeen. Min 1801-1845, from 1805 at Hackney New Gravel Pit Chapel. Founder editor, Monthly Repository and Christian Reformer. Secretary B& FUA. Died 30 Dec 1845 at Hackney.
  9. FIELD William. Born 6 Jan 1768 at Stoke Neington, Middx. Homerton Academy & Daventry Academy 1789-1843 at Warwick, High Street Presbyterian Chapel. 1826-1850 Kenilworth, Warks. Died 16 Aug 1851 Leam, Warks.
  10. BERRY Charles. Born 10 Nov 1783 at Romsey, Hants. 1799-1802 Homerton Academy. 1803-1859 Great Meeting, Leicester. Died 4 May 1877, Liverpool.
  11. EDWARDs Benjamin Lloyd. Born 1765. Hoxton Academy. 1786-1831 Kings Head Lane (King Street) Independent, Northampton. Died 4 May 1877, Liverpool.

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