Serving the communities of Bures St Mary and Bures Hamlet

This 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 WW2

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 Major
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.


George's solution 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 Rosetta Gunn.
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.

<<<<The arrow 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.

Alfred 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 in 1918.

Now did:-
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 area

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 probably unlikely.


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 1933.
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 Farm.

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.

It reads:-

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 for good.


G F Baker
The Hut
Colne Road
Bures Hamlet

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 down !
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 at 3.50pm.
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 tin cans.

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 war.
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.

    Rob Brown


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 remembered George
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 paintings added
ver12 update 19.04.09 with Water Lane map
ver 13 update 16.03.10 New photo on bike added