Baker, Stanley (b.1893)
Stanley Baker was born in 1893 in the village of Westhay, Meare, near Glastonbury on the Somerset Levels. He worked as a wheelwright for his father, along with the local blacksmith they made wheels and wagons. Stanley’s other occupation was the village undertaker. He made coffins from elm and oak; the average cost of a coffin was fifty shillings.
Wheelwrights workshop, Kilve, c.1900. Wheelwrights workshop, Kilve, c.1900.
Sound File
Listen to Stanley Baker - 1.68MB Duration 3:39 min.

SB: Right. Stanley C Baker, Westhay, nr Glastonbury, builder, wheelwright and undertaker, if you like. We used to make the wheels for carts, wagons by hand even to sawing them out with a hand-saw, you know, sawing out the planks. Now what else can I say. The wheels were all hand…and the spokes and all were got out by hand, stocks and morticed by hand, felloes put on, of course, by hand.

KW: And you did undertaking in those days as well, in the early days?

SB: Yes ever since I can…well, I was born in it as well but I didn’t do much to help pay it, not much to do with the actual burial or anything like that. I kept out of that side of it if I could.

KW: How, how much did a, did an average coffin cost?

SB: In those days?

KW: Um.

SB: Paying the sexton, bearers?

KW: Well no, just the actual making the coffin, not the funeral expenses but the actual coffin.

SB: About fifty shillings I should say.

KW: And that was made from elm was it?

SB: Yes, the coffin and all, that ordinary cheap coffin, but if you ‘ad a oak, brass, a solid brass finish, you could hardly see the wood, paying the sexton and everybody ‘ad to be about six guineas, parson, bearers and everything.

KW: So, so this fifty shillings would be for an ordinary elm wood coffin?

SB: Elm wood, yes.

KW: Yes, and for an oak coffin of course it was how much? How much for an oak coffin?

SB: Those days, got to do a bit of guessing now, might be six pound because there’d be solid brass fittings on there, you see, always and that would be the board were black, black, all black, furniture on there [] dozens and dozens []

KW: Did you ever make um one of the horse-drawn hearses?

SB: Eh?

KW: Did you ever make a horse-drawn hearse?

SB: No []

KW: What about a bier, did you ever make a bier?

SB: Yes, I made a bier for Burtle, didn’t I?

KW: Have they still got it? Have they still got it?

SB: Yes, you’d like to see that I suppose, would you? If you want to do that [].

KW: And um, the bier there is in the church is it, at Burtle?

SB: Church.

KW: Um. Did you make any others for any other church?

SB: No, no...

KW: Just the one?

SB: Well, there were only, there were only ‘bout one in each church, you see, and course when the cemeteries opened they wanted a car, you know, ours up Meare now, that’s the hearse and bearers use trolleys now, push en. You wouldn’t use a bier today anywhere.

KW: No, no.

SB: We sold ours cos he haven’t been used for so many years.

Copyright Information
Copyright. This recording was made by Ann Heeley in November 1989. Photograph ©SRLM. For access to full interview please contact the Somerset Heritage Centre.