RUTLAND LOCAL HISTORY & RECORD SOCIETYRegistered Charity No. 700273Rutland County Museum, Catmose Street, Oakham, Rutland, LEl5 6HWNEW PUBLICATIONImproving Agriculture in Nineteenth Century RutlandThe Life and Achievements of Richard Westbrook Baker (1797-1861), Steward of the Exton Estateby Vanessa DoeThe Rutland Local History & Record Society is pleased to announce the publication on 10th May 2018 of the latest title in its Record Series, a biography of the most influential improver of agriculture in Rutland in the early nineteenth century, Richard Westbrook Baker.About the bookIn 1814 a seventeen-year-old youth began work for Sir Gerard Noel, Bt, on his family estate at Exton. Fourteen years later, that young man was to become Sir Gerard’s estate steward, a role in which he then played a very significant part in the development of improved farming practice in Rutland and beyond. This biography recounts how Richard Westbrook Baker, who had been born in Baldock (Hertfordshire) in 1797, led by example in this period of rapid agricultural change, and caused great improvement in both arable and livestock farming in the county.The author, Dr Vanessa Doe, said, ‘Baker had a profound effect on many aspects of rural life in Rutland. For instance, he became a foremost livestock breeder, particularly of Shorthorn cattle, and won many medals and prizes. He designed an improved Rutland plough, and set up annual ploughing meetings. He founded a Friendly Society to help farm labourers during periods of hardship and introduced spade allotments on estate villages for the same reason. He was held in such regard that he was presented with a service of silver in 1841, and with a silver model of the Rutland Plough in 1847. We are so fortunate that his career is so well documented by surviving archives and press reports’.David Wood, who is Chairman of Trustees of the Rutland Agricultural Society, commented, ‘Richard Westbrook Baker was the driving force that founded our Society in 1831, and then its annual show, with the support of Sir Gerard Noel. The lasting success of his many projects is reflected in the fact that this year we will be holding our 186th Rutland Show. This book is testament to his work and ambition, and gives a full account of what he set out to achieve’.
The Rutland Local History & Record Society’s Honorary Editor, Tim Clough, recalled that he first encountered Baker many years ago when he was Curator of the Rutland County Museum and carried out a study of the Rutland Agricultural Society’s background and origins. Tim continued, ‘Baker was clearly such an important character that he merited a detailed biography, and I am so pleased that Vanessa has now provided us with this definitive account of his work. Over the years the museum has been able to acquire some of his silver as well as images of his prize-winning beasts, and what is even more gratifying is that some of his descendants who live in Australia have been in touch and have confirmed that they still possess the wonderful silver model of the plough which was presented to Baker in 1847.’Debbie Frearson, the Society’s Chair, said, ‘We are delighted to be adding this well-illustrated biography of Richard Westbrook Baker to our publication list, and we are grateful to the Rutland Agricultural Society for a contribution to the cost of publication. Baker’s career as Sir Gerard Noel’s estate manager was outstanding, and he was deeply involved in so many aspects of the farming world. It is wonderful that we now have such a detailed account of his many achievements’.This new biography will be launched at the Local History & Record Society’s annual general meeting at the Rutland County Museum on Thursday 10th May at 7.30pm, when Vanessa Doe will give a short presentation about Richard Westbrook Baker. There will also be a special exhibition for the evening of items relating to Baker in the museum’s collections.About the authorAfter studying history at Cambridge, Vanessa Doe joined the staff of the Department of Economic History at Sheffield University where she completed her doctorate. She then transferred to the Extra-Mural Studies Department to work on local history projects in Derbyshire. Having lived in Derbyshire during her teaching career she moved to Rutland in 2006. Her interest in Richard Westbrook Baker began in 2007 with work on documents in the Exton archive in the Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester & Rutland. Whilst this archive was closed for the preparation of a new catalogue in 2010 she joined the Lyddington Manor History project and contributed to the publication of Buildings and People of a Rutland Manor in 2015, after which she resumed work on Richard Westbrook Baker.Publication date 10th May 2018.Price: £12.50 (£10.00 for members of RLHRS) plus £2.50 UK p&p.For further information and images, please contact: Tim Clough, Honorary Editor, Rutland Local History & Record Society, email firstname.lastname@example.org.RLHRS Record Series No 6 (Crown quarto, viii + 128pp, full colour) ISBN 9780907464587Click here to order your copy