William Proctor Baker - 1834-1907 (Mayor 1871)




William Proctor Baker was the elder brother of Arthur Baker and born on 21st July 1834 at 27 Portland Square in Bristol. He was educated at Bristol Grammar School.  His joined his father's corn milling and merchants business (whihc grew to become Spillers & Bakers, Ltd.) and was a partner in the business by 1860.  He was a Merchant Venturer (Master in 1869) and became Mayor of Bristol in 1871.  From 1872 to his death in 1907 he was President of Bristol General Hospital. For many years he lived at Broomwell House in Brislington and died on 17th August 1907 aged 73.

William's brother-in-law was George Edwards

In 1872 the capstone of the new steeple on St Mary Redcliffe Church was laid by the Mayor.  A report of that event is reproduced below from the Bristol Observer newspaper:-

The capstone of the new steeple of St Mary Redcliffe Church was laid on Thursday afternoon by the Right Worshipful the Mayor (Mr W. Proctor Baker). During the last week this achievement of his worship has furnished a prominent topic in local circles, on account of the novelty of the feat; as though laying a foundation stone of an edifice is an every-day occurrence, exciting little attention from those not immediately interested in the affair, yet ascending nearly 300 feet, by means of ladders placed almost perpendicularly, to adjust the capstone in its position is decidedly a novelty.

The weather was decidedly unpropitious for the exploit, for the sunshine of the morning soon after the hour of noon gave place to that peculiar appearance in the atmosphere which generally betokens the approach of a thunderstorm, and the treacherous character of the calm was evinced just before two o'clock, when the proceedings were fixed to commence.  The heavy showers that then fell temporarily cleared the space at the foot of Redcliffe Hill.  More than one peal of thunder was heard.  The majority of those who were assembled were impressed with the idea that the Mayor would not venture to carry out his intention.  True to the appointed time, the chief magistrate was , however, at the west end of the church, and the Mayoress, Mrs Baker, with him.

About half past two o'clock, when the storm had somewhat abated, the Mayor and Mayoress left the church and prepared to take their places in the cage, which by means of a steam engine, ascends about 50 feet above the tower.  Mr Rice, clerk of the works, was the only other occupant, and amidst hearty cheers from the spectators who thronged the churchyard, and the masses outside the enclosure who, on the shower ceasing, again occupied every point of vantage, the lift ascended.  Before it had mounted any great height, the rain once more fell; but having commenced the task, neither the Mayor nor his lady would shrink from going through the entire programme.  It need scarcely be said that no display was made by his worship, who appeared in ordinary attire, and wherever else the civic chain may have been taken, it has not been worn on the summit of Redcliffe steeple.  The aerial journey to the platform 50 feet above the summit of the tower was easily and agreeably effected, but beyond that point the ascent, by means of ladders, required a clear head and steady nerves.

The Mayor, in laying the capstone, used a mallet made from a piece of old oak taken from the church fittings.

Subsequently the Mayoress stood upon the capstone, and, the others in the elevated situation, enjoyed the prospect, which, though not seen to much advantage on account of the unpropitious weather, afforded glimpses of the surrounding country unattainable from any other eminence in Bristol.  As the Mayor and Mayoress reached the ground they received the congratulations of a large body of friends who could admire their courageous conduct without caring to emulate it.

Bristol Observer, 11th May 1872   

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