from the Internet Gun Club
Historical Data For Thomas Kerslake Baker
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Name Thomas Kerslake Baker
Other Names Frederic T Baker; F T Baker Ltd
Address1 73 Farringdon Street and 1 Stonecutter Street
Address2 1 Stonecutter Street
Address3 2 Bury Street, St James's and 1 Stonecutter Street
Address4 34 St James's Street and 1 Stonecutter Street
Address5 88 Fleet Street
Address6 88 Fleet Street and Blackhouse Court
Address7 88 Fleet Street
Country United Kingdom
Trade Gun maker
Other Address 88 Fleet Street and 21 Cockspur Street; 88 Fleet Street and 29 Glasshouse Street, Regent Street; 29 Glasshouse Street; 64 Haymarket.
Thomas Kerslake Baker was born in 1801 in Rochester, Kent. He commenced business in 1833 at 73 Farringdon Street and 1 Stonecutter Street as a cutlery, gun, pistol, plated and japanned goods warehouse, but case labels after 1900 state "Established 1830" which was probably a guess.
In 1841 the gun making side of the business moved to Stonecutter Street. The 1841 census records Thomas Kerslake as a hardwareman living at 73 Farringdon Street with his wife Frances Belinda (b.1806 in Mundford, Norfolk) and two sons, Frederic (b.1828) and William (b.1830). Three apprentices and a servant lived in the house.
In 1844 Thomas Kerslake bought the rights to William and Thomas Seymour's patent safety gun lock and submitted it for trial to the Hon. Board of Ordnance. They rejected it and although the lock was shown at the Great Exhibition in 1851 it attracted little interest.
In 1845, Thomas Kerslake moved the gun making side of the business to 2 Bury Street, St James's, but in 1846 he moved into 34 St James's Street, premises formerly occupied by T J and then T E Mortimer (T E Mortimer had moved to Edinburgh).
At about this time Thomas Kerslake was appointed gun maker to Queen Victoria so quite obviously, he had made a name for himself as one of London's top gun makers.
The 1851 census records the family living at 73 Farringdon Street and Thomas Kerslake described himself as a hardwareman.
In 1851 Thomas Kerslake moved from 34 St James's Street to 88 Fleet Street, and in 1852 closed at Stonecutter Street. In 1853 he opened additional workshops at Blackhouse Court.
Colt revolvers had been shown at the Great Exhibition and had attracted much interest, not least from Thomas Kerslake who, on 24 April 1852 registered design No. 3230 for his single action nickel silver framed revolver with a long off-set hammer spur. About 3000 were made for him by an unknown Birmingham pistol maker but they, like other English transitional revolvers, which were merely poor adaptions of pepperbox revolvers, they were not as popular as the Colt revolver which was made using "state of the art" precision machinery.
In 1857 the Blackhouse Court premises were closed and the firm traded only from 88 Fleet Street.
In 1858 Thomas Kerslake's son, Frederic Thomas Kerslake Baker, seems to have taken over the gun making side of the business which became famous for shotguns and rifles rather than the revolvers for which his father is remembered.
The 1861 census records Thomas Kerslake living at Laurel Bank, Forest Hill, Lewisham with Frances Belinda and a servant. It also records Frederick Thomas living at 12 Stanstead Lane, Lewisham with his wife Julia Ellen (b.1837 in Walworth, London) with their children Frederic Thomas (b.1857) and Ellen F (b.1860). Frederic Thomas described himself as a gun maker employing 2 men and 1 boy.
On 9 February 1866 Frederic Thomas registered patent No. 403 for an extractor for a drop-down action. From 1866 to 1886 some of the firm's best guns were engraved with the date of manufacture on the trigger guard in Roman numerals. The same system was used by John Blanch and latr adopted by E J Churchill who used it on his short barrelled XXV model guns.
In the 1871 census Thomas Kerslake was recorded as a 70 year old ironmonger employing 8 men and 1 boy. He was living at Sunny Side, London Road, Forest Hill, Lewisham with two boarders and a servant. Frances Belinda had died in 1867 and Thomas Kerslake died on 1 January 1879 leaving an estate valued at less than £2000.
The 1871 census records Frederic Thomas Baker and Julia Ellen living at Hyde Cottage, Stanstead Lane (probably the same address as previously) with Frederic T and Ellen F and five more children all born in Lewisham, Frances G J (b.1862), Alice A (b.1864), Louisa S (b.1866), Belinda K (b.1869) and Hilton C K (b.1870). Frederic Thomas described himself as a gun manufacturer employing 3 men.
On 30 April 1878 Frederic Thomas Baker registered patent No. 1735 for a barrel and fore-end attachment.
In the 1881 census Frederick Thomas and Julia Ellen and their family were living at 2 Knatchbull Road, Camberwell. Three more children all born in Camberwell were recorded, Alfred G (b.1872), Bessie B (b.1874) and Julia M (b.1877). Frederic Thomas described himself as a master gun manufacturer employing 7 men and 2 lads, his son, Frederick Thomas (II), aged 23, was employed in the business.
In 1882 the firm took on additional premises at 21 Cockspur Street.
In 1877 E J Churchill had joined the firm, and by 1882 he was manager.
On 3 March 1887 Frederick Thomas died leaving an estate valued at £3622,16s.5d. and Frederick Thomas (II) inherited the business. In 1991 E J Churchill left to establish his own business at 8 Agar Street.
On 9 March 1897 Frederick Thomas (II) registered patent No. 6141 for a single trigger.
In 1899 the Cockspur Street premises were given up and a new shop opened at 29 Glasshouse Street, Regent Street. In 1901 the 88 Fleet Street premises were given up and the firm traded only from 29 Glasshouse Street.
In the early years of the new century the firm saw a gradual decline in business which resulted in Frederick Thomas (II) going bankrupt in 1913. The name, goodwill and assets of the company were sold to F T Baker Ltd, a company owned by John Deeley, Leslie Taylor and Charles Gardner of Westley Richards & Co Ltd. They moved the company to 64 Haymarket where it was recorded in 1915 but not after that date.
The firm invented a single trigger mechanism, but it was not the famous Baker single trigger mechanism which was patented and made by William Baker of 7 Bath Street, Birmingham.
The firm sold cartridges under the name "Baker's Best" (F T Baker post 1900 and 1910).
The 1850-1857 gun case label shown below was kindly supplied by John Russell-Smith.