the communities of Bures St Mary and Bures Hamlet
page forms part of the research
carried out around the area of Bakers Hall and Butlers Farm
when it was commandeered by the US Army and USAAF during
Directly opposite Pricketts Hall
Farm, a well hidden By-Way leads onto the concrete road built
by the US Army which used to encircle Nurses Wood.
Alongside this By-way lived local
characters by the names of Norfolk
Bill, George (Quark) Baker and Old
Both Norfolk Bill and Quark were so well known by the service
personnel in the area, they often shared food and warmth inside
the guard posts.
Both lived in "Shepherds Caravans",
Norfolk Bill`s was fixed whilst George`s was mounted on wheels
which meant he could move location much more easily.
Their locations are circled red
on the left map.
George (Quark or
Quack) Frederick Baker.
During the 1930's, an elderly weatherbeaten
man with a large white drooping mustache, could regularly be seen
walking and tri-cycling the Colne road above Bures Hamlet. Usually
attired in a felt cap, corduroy trousers and a poachers coat,
he was known locally as 'Fred' or 'Baker' but perhaps more commonly
as 'Quark Baker'.
Quark was born George Frederick Baker and he was my great great
grandfather. This is his story:-
Born in 1859 in Stoke By Nayland,
Suffolk, George was the youngest of seven children of William
and Sarah Baker.
George was raised in Stoke and did not leave the village
until 1881 when he married Naomi Humphrey in Polstead.
The Baker's were to have five children in five years and
by 1884 were living in Assington.
Ezra Francis Walter Baker (male b1881)
Alfred Ernest Baker (b1882)
Frances Ellen Baker (female b1884)
Thomas William Baker (b1885 - d1886)
George Frederick Baker (b1886)
Thomas William was to die
in infancy, but tragedy was to strike again when his wife
Naomi died in January 1887, aged just twenty seven years. This
left widower George with four surviving children under the
age of six.
was to arrange for his two youngest children, Frances and
George, to be raised by other families away from Assington.
Neither were to see their father again for over forty years.
At the time of his marriage
George was a blacksmith, but as years went by he turned to numerous
jobs working on the land.
In 1900, George Baker married again, this time to single mother
They were registered as living in Assington in 1901, but sometime
after that they left and moved to Bures Hamlet, leaving George's
now adult sons, Ezra and Alfred, behind.
The Baker's, including Rosetta's 12 year old son Bertie, lived
in Water Lane (either No10 or 12) but the marriage was cut short
when Rosetta developed cancer and died suddenly in February 1902.
Records confirm that George was living in Water Lane from 1902 until
1931 or 1932.
indicates where we believe Quark lived in Water Lane - now demolished
I don't think George(Quark)
& Ezra (Francis) had anything to do with each other
once Ezra had grown up.
They were living in different parts of Assington in the 1901 census
and in 1918 when Ezra was still living in Assington,
There may well have been a falling out between them because when
Quarks youngest son, George Baker, visited his father in
1935 (it was the first time they had met since George was a baby),Quark
told him that both his brothers Alfred and Ezra
had been killed in the Great War.
certainly died in 1915 but there was never any reference to
Ezra having been killed in the war until quite recently, when
on-line army records clearly showing him having been discharged
a) Quark genuinely thought that Ezra had been killed
b) Quark, out of spite for Ezra ,didn't want his youngest
son George contacting his eldest brother.
Quark knowing he was alive and well and living in the Assington
A death certificate shows Ezra
having died in December 1962, aged 81, at Melton Hospital,Woodbridge.
As with his 1914-1918 army records, he was known as Francis
Walter Baker. He'd obviously long dropped the Ezra.
One very interesting aspect of the death certificate is the
mention of Francis's address prior to his death in hospital........he
was living in Water lane, Bures Hamlet.
Unfortuantely its not known
when Ezra (Francis) arrived in Bures Hamlet. It could
have been years after his father had died in 1944. Also,it was
probably just a coincidence that Ezra ended up in Water
Lane. Most of the properties in Water Lane were 'rented' so
the odds of Ezra living in his fathers old cottage is
Back to Quark, by 1933
George`s (Quark) address was given as Butlers Farm, so
we know he fell on hard times somewhere between 1931 and
It does seem that Quark lived for 30 years in Water lane
before possibly being evicted at the approximate age of
73 years, to be made homeless.
Mr Laurie, owner of Butlers
Farm was most concerned at George's circumstances and
provided him with a Shepherds Caravan on a plot of land
adjacent to Pricketts Hall
By the mid 1930's, it would appear
that he was living a rather solitary life in his caravan in
various locations off the Colne road between Bures Hamlet and
White Colne. Why he was
roaming around when he had a permanent pitch, remains a mystery.
However he seems to have settled
down by October 1936, as his address on the Electoral Roll was
given as 'The Hut', Colne Road.
George often told the Lauries,
he couldn't be happier with his new home.
Although George was never officially
employed at Butlers Farm, Mr Laurie always kept a watchful eye
on him. At harvest time, George is still remembered for
sitting and watching the proceedings whilst eating his
lunch of bread, cheese and chewing on a raw onion.
George was a great friend
to Jim Laurie(son) and often took him shooting. To this
day Jim treasures a letter George took the trouble to
write from his shepherds hut, while he was posted away
during WW2 - a real friend indeed.
I thank you kindly for
the tobacco, my dear old boy master Jim.
I now take
up my pen two answer your kind and welcome letter which
I received on Wednesday morning and was pleased two hear
that you was quite well as it leaves me pretty well for
an old man and I thank god for it.
You said that
you think you may be over in about three weeks time and
that you may be home I shall save some carridges for you
dont fear so we can have a shot or two at what we come
across. I have got some by me now and we shall try my
best two get some more for you to have some sport.
I think long
for you to be bak home again for I miss you so and so
do the dogs miss you to. Poor old Bill gets about at the
present, he is holding pretty well barring his rupcure.
So now I must conclude with my best wishes for you hoping
that the war will soon be over so that you will be home
G F Baker
George lived the simple
'good' life and took any work offered, usually bean picking,
pea picking, rabbiting and ratting. No wonder George kept
the bottom of his trouser legs tightly tied with string.
One of his strange habits was to smoke his clay-pipe upside
He also shot
rooks which was how he was to acquire his nickname of
Quark, the sound the rooks made when they saw him coming.
Quark was also into a spot of poaching.
By the early 1930's, Quark had re-established contact
with his now married daughter Frances and
his son George. Frances lived in Lexden
and Quark would often make the journey to visit her. Sadly,
Frances was to die (from cancer) in 1936 leaving
her brothers George and Ezra as Quark's
only surviving children.
George would occasionally visit his father from
his home in Holbrook, Suffolk. It`s not known if Quark
had any real contact with his stepson Bertie
who had lived with him in Water Lane.
During the 1930's Quark was a
regular sight walking and tri-cycling the lanes above Bures
Hamlet. On foot he would often use the footpath by Nurses Wood
and Butlers Farm as his shortcut to the village. By road,he
would use the trike. On Thursdays, Quark would regularly catch
the bus to Sudbury market having first left his trike in the
alleyway beside Webbers shop. This would later be 'liberated'
by local children once school was out for the day. But not for
long as the bus with Quark on board, was due back in the village
The children usually got a few rides along the road, before
being chased off by Quark, shouting and waving his stick.
Left:- typical Shepherds Caravan taken 2007 at
Stoke by Nayland
For many years Quark just had his numerous dogs for company although
strangely he was never seen in the village with more than one dog
at a time. The dogs were named "Fly" and "Flossy"
which George used for hunting rabbits. George would send down a ferret
into the rabbit burrow and cover the hole with netting. "Fly"
would get extremely agitated pulling at his lead. George would often
be heard to say "Fly,you are too resolute". The Laurie
children being very young at the time could never work out what this
word "resolute" meant, until much later in life.
On one occasion, Quark had to visit
a local dentist who complained bitterly about Quark`s aroma, it was
the disinfectant that he used on his dogs.
By the mid 1930's, Quark`s 'caravan'
was permantely situated down the lane opposite Upper Jennys
Farm (later Pricketts Hall farm).
Quark would often receive eggs and a rice pudding and have his
can filled with oil by Mrs Doe who lived at the farm. In return
Quark would provide her with freshly killed rabbits.
Outside his accommodation hung a sign which stated:- "A
place where you are treated the best and grumble the most"
Around this time Quark acquired
a new neighbour in 'Norfolk Bill' who had his static caravan
/ hut positioned by the Laurie's close by to Quark's caravan.
However the men were rarely seen socialising together and its
possible they may have eyed each other with suspicion.
left:- drawing by Busky Laurie
Quark was known not to get along with
everyone and in particular had taken a dislike to the occupants of
nearby Peartree Cottage.
On the day they moved, Quark was seen standing outside banging his
Quark didn't have many visitors but one regular was the insurance
man who would give Quark a small pension for his sons killed in the
By the outbreak of the second world war Quark was eighty years old
and in declining health.
As the war progressed, US military
personal also arrived in the area and Nurses Wood became the site
of a secret 'bomb dump'. Living in the restricted area, both Quark
and Bill were exempt from carrying passes.
Both Quark and 'Norfolk Bill' became
well known to the various military personal stationed in the area.
Both the US servicemen in Nurses Wood and the Army personal manning
the searchlight hut on Colne Road were often seen attempting to ride
Quark's trike although invariably they would fall off.
On many an evening,Quark would walk the few hundred yards down the
lane to the searchlight hut, not just for the company but also for
the warmth from the lamp and the serviceman's fire.
On 28th April 1941 Quark was interviewed by
the BBC instigated by Dr Thomas Wood.
This caused great excitement at Butlers Farm, but sadly the children
never got to see the visit, as farming took priority. Unfortunately,
the BBC archives record no transmission of this interview.
Unfortunately,walking home in the cold midnight air he would
suffer from chills which aggravated his bad cough and failing health.
Then, in the autumn of 1944, Quark was missed for a couple of days
and was eventually found semi-collapsed in his hut. A doctor was called
and Quark was taken to St. Michael's Hospital in Braintree.
His home for forty four years, Quark never returned to Bures Hamlet
and George Frederick Baker died peacefully at St. Michael's
on November 5th, 1944. He was eighty five years old.
On his death certificate his address was given simply as
"The Hut", Colne Road, Bures Hamlet. This would have been
his home for something like 12 years.
Over sixty years after his passing, Quark Baker is still remembered,
sitting in an armchair in his hut surrounded by his dogs.
Paintings of Quark by Busky Laurie
Acknowledgment also to Mr. Reg Bower, Mr. Alfred Cardy, Mr. B J Clampin.,
Mr. Eric Doe, Busky and Jim Laurie, Arthur Kemp,
Trevor Riches, Gordon Webber and many others in Bures who
If you can shed any more information
on this gentlemen, then please use the Contact icon or the Forum
ver 8(JR). 17.09.07
ver 9 update 07.01.09 by Rob Brown
:- When I last visited my fathers cousin, who is Quarks' great grand-daughter,
in conversation,without any prompting from me she revealed that Quark
appeared in the 'Picture post' magazine. So it may well have been
Picture Post which was the source of those photographs of Quark you
have on-line? I wonder if the wireless interview in 1941 / Picture
Post feature were connected in some way although I could only guess
which one came first
ver10 update 05.02.09
by Rob Brown:-
During the war period the BBC came to Bures and recorded a very brief
exchange between 'two countrymen of Bures' in which they declared
their determination to get the harvest in regardless of the Nazi menace.
They were anonymous, but their names are given in internal pages as
"Edward Ewer and John Swallow."
ver11 update 03.03.09
by Busky Laurie- new
ver12 update 19.04.09
with Water Lane map
ver 13 update 16.03.10 New photo on bike