Mexborough and Swinton Times April 27, 1907
Mr Henry Baker
Chairman of Conisborough Parish Council
Be there the man who n’er a word of Conisborough’s famous Councillor heard? – Of Mr Baker
We think not. Mr Henry Baker has had rough experiences at times, but despite this he has risen to his present prosperous position. And in the process he has succeeded in making his contemporaries aware of the fact.
A few of the leading points of a strangely varied career are distinctly interesting.
Born in 1853 at Tiverton of a good family, for long connected with agricultural pursuits, he migrated early in life to the dour North, joining in 1872 the West Riding Constabulary. From Wakefield he went as a raw recruit to Keighley, and from thence to the Rotherham division, distinguishing himself considerably when he kept the then unruly inhabitants of Wath in order.
He loves to relate how he detected the perpetrator of a robbery by means of the culprits brace button. On 5 November 1879 there was broken into and robbed in one night the churches of Wath and West Melton, the colliery offices at Wath Main, and the booking office at the Wath Midland Station. With surprising acumen PC Baker fastened on the clue afforded by the button found in the Wath Church, and by means of this button he located his man in a police cell at Barnsley, securing his conviction for a fairly heavy term of imprisonment.
PC Baker was the terror of evildoers, the nightmare of the gamblers, the enemy of the rioter, and for this he was greatly respected by the elite of Wath, upon whose property he kept such a sharp eye.
Quite the event of his police career at Wath was the presentation to him by the late Mr W S Cadman, J.P., of the Royal Humane Society’s medal, for saving the life of the child who was in imminent danger of drowning in the canal at Wath.
Then the guardian of public law and order took a step which ultimately proved disastrous, so far as his police career was concerned. He was appointed inspector of the newly formed Rotherham Borough Police Force, been chosen from amongst nearly 40 applicants, having under him five sergeants and 28 constables. One of the sergeants by the way was Mr Robert Peacock, at present chief constable of Manchester. Unfortunately inspector Baker did not “hit it off” very well with his Chief Constable; consequently there was trouble, and the inspector was made fairly uncomfortable.
He had held the office a year when a great wave of Temperance swept over the borough, and consequently many of the beer off-licences were regarded as superfluous by the Bench, who lauded notices of objection to be given in many instances. During the illness of his chief Mr Baker issued the notices, which cause a very bitter feeling to spring up amongst the licence holders. To such an extent did the public wrath wax, that the corporation passed a vote of censure on the Licensing Bench.
The whole of the blame fell on the shoulders of the Inspector, and he was requested to resign. He refused to do so, and therefore, on the recommendations of the Watch Committee, he was dismissed of his appointment after close voting in Council. He endeavoured to bring his case to the notice of the Home Secretary, but was unsuccessful, and his career as a member of the police force was brought to a sudden termination.
Before leaving Rotherham, however, he received a very practical testimonial to his worth in the shape of a cheque from the inhabitants for £50, and this, together with the purse of gold received from the public of Wath, formed a very substantial token that his work as a policeman was not in vain.
He then became traveller for Messrs. Nicholson, the brewers, with whom he was connected for six and half years; and then at that time he transferred his services to the Old Albion Brewery Company.
This was 17 years ago, and Mr Baker, and his son are still valid servants of the company.
Mr Baker’s public career as been short, but decidedly meteoric. In 1901, he was elected to the Parish Council, and his period of service is unbroken. He was elected in 1904 to Doncaster Rural Council, along with Mr S Whitfield, an old member in Mr Ogley being ousted. His emphatic return of a month ago are still within the memory of the Conisbrough people, and testifies to the fact that Mr Baker has grown in grace with the ratepayers.
He has formed a prominent figure in stormy School Board debates and has lent the charm of excitement to many a Parish Council meeting, and is a useful member of the Doncaster and Mexborough joint Hospital Board.
He recognises that his fighting days are over, and though the spirit of combativeness is strong within him, he will endeavour to preserve the dignity of local Council as far as possible, and conduct the meetings in an impartial and straightforward manner.
May we venture to hope that at the end of his year he may be said to have made an exemplary chairman.