Who was Farmer Baily?

The following article/s was written by Lawrence Biddle for the November and December 1981 parish magazine

Part I

Just outside the north wall of the nave lies the vault in which Farmer Baily of Hall Place, is wife and his son and only child, Thomas Farmer Baily, are buried.

Farmer Baily moved into Hall Place in 1820 at the age of 21, his son was born four years later and in 1828 Farmer Baily died.  His widow, who had the high sounding Christian names of Amelia Carolina Sophronia, subsequently married the more prosaically named William Smith of Sydenham and they brought up the young Thomas at Hall Place.

In the eight years in which Farmer Baily occupied Hall Place, there seems to have been little building activity either at Hall Place or in Leigh, apart from West Cottage and Oak Cottage which would appear to date from this period and during Thomas’s minority there was no doubt little incentive for William Smith or his wife to build when the property would belong to Thomas as soon as he came of age

When Thomas did come of age in 1845, there was, however, a period of 20 years in which there was a spate of building both at Hall Place and in Leigh and it is fortunate that Thomas made a practice of dating his buildings so that it is easy to trace his remarkable building activity.

In 1846 he built the Gothic Hall at the east end of Hall Place.  This was demolished in 1870 but its windows and roof were used in the congregational chapel which now forms the large village hall.  About this date, he also seems to have reconstructed in the gothic style the north front of Hall Place.

In 1852 he built the East Lodge and probably also the Pepperpot Lodge.  In 1855 he built Laundry Cottage and the four Fleur de Lis Cottages (the two western cottages were later extended to become the Fleur de Lis pub).  In the same year he reconstructed the Home Farmhouse and in the following year built Church Hill Cottage.  In 1861 he was active in the rebuilding of the Nave and Tower of the church and he must have arranged for his relative Charles Baily to give his services as Architect gratuitously.  He built in 1863 the head gardener’s house, in 1864 Park House, in 1865 Stone House and in 1869 Rings Hill Cottage and some time during this period he must have built the Kennels and Stocks Green Bungalow.

The contribution Thomas made to Leigh as we know it today was, therefore, very substantial and one wonders what was the source of his wealth.  He does not appear in Burke’s Landed Gentry so that it is unlikely that he was a large property owner.  Apart from Hall Place he occupied East Dulwich House which was in an area in which a successful businessman might live in the 19th century.  It is interesting to find that in Camberwell, which is only a short distance from Dulwich, there was at that time a brewery known as Thomas Baily & Co. The spelling of Baily is the same, though this spelling is not the most usual form, but so far, no evidence has been found which will positively connect him with the brewery.

In 1870 Thomas Farmer Baily sold Hall Place and his property in Leigh and retired to Ryde.  By 1874 there was a new owner to the brewery (James Jarvis) and in 1876 Thomas died.

Part II

Last month I wrote about the Baily family’s occupation of Hall Place from 1820 to 1870.  It was surprising to find that they did little or no building during the first 25 years of their occupation, but between 1850 and 1865, they engaged in very substantial building in the village and then in 1870 sold up and left.

The Baily family were not landed gentry but clearly they had a substantial source of wealth and as they seemed to have some connection with East Dulwich, I thought they might have had some lucrative London business, possibly the brewery carried on in Camberwell under the name of Thomas Baily.

However, I found the clue int he City Library.  From the eighteenth century, the Baily family owned a substantial farm in East Dulwich, est of Lordship Lane.  Of course, they did not make their substantial fortune out of farming, but between 1820 and 1860 East Dulwich was in the course of suburban development and over the period they must have realised substantial sums by the sale of building land.

Development in the area was greatly accelerated when teh railway was built in 1851 with a station at East Dulwich.  No wonder that in 1852 Thomas Farmer Baily could afford to build two very expensive lodges and gateways at Hall Place and to follow this up with the building programme in the village which I outlined last month.