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BAYLISS, Ebenezer – Telephone Badsey 65, a transient resident of Wickhamford

In the late 1920s Badsey Telephone Exchange was opened, linking the local villages to the rest of the country by means of the telephone system.  In the 1930 Badsey Exchange Telephone Directory there were numbers allocated from Badsey 2 to Badsey 65, although not every number in the sequence was still listed.

Wickhamford telephones

In Wickhamford there were only five telephones:

  • George Lees-Milne at Wickhamford Manor was Badsey 15
  • Edward Carter at Pitcher’s Hill Farm (now called Wickham Farm) was Badsey 32
  • Sydney Carter at Shire End, Pitcher’s Hill was Badsey 55
  • C. M. Oldacre at The Farm, Wickhamford (= Charles Oldaker of Field Farm) was Badsey 58
  • Finally, there was Ebenezer Bayliss of Pitcher’s Hill with Badsey 65

The first four residents appear in many village records, but there is no other reference to Ebenezer Bayliss in any Wickhamford record.  He does not appear in the Wickhamford Electoral Registers of this period, so who was Ebenezer Bayliss?

The search for Ebenezer Bayliss

A search of census records and birth, marriages and deaths, revealed a few men of this name, spelled either Baylis or Bayliss, who might be the Wickhamford man concerned, but by a process of elimination there seemed to be only one possibility.

The 1851 census in Edmonton, Middlesex records a Baylis family where Rebecca Baylis, a widow, was a ‘Crape Finisher’.  The address of the family was the Crape Factory – crape was a gauze material produced to mourning apparel, which went out of fashion in the 1880s.   Rebecca had eight children, aged between eight and nineteen years old, living at home, plus a cook, housemaid, nurse and manservant.  Ten years earlier, in 1841, there were nine children and another was born in 1843.  The father of the children was James Baylis, a crape manufacturer.  One of the children was called Ebenezer, but the ancestor of the Wickhamford man was one of his brothers, Henry, who was born in about 1834. By 1851, Henry was an engraver, probably in the crape factory, where two elder brothers worked as crape finishers. 

Moving forward to the 1881 census, Henry Baylis was 47, an engraver in a crape works and living in Shepton Mallett, Somerset.  He was married to Charlotte and they had five children living at home.  The eldest three were born in Leyton, Essex, but the next two, including Ebenezer, were born in Glasgow, whilst the youngest was born in Middlesex, so the family had moved around quite a lot.  Ebenezer Baylis, named after Henry’s younger brother, was 14 and still at school. Two older brothers were watchmaker’s apprentices. 

Ebenezer married Kate Stock in Shepton Mallett, in 1898, and at the 1911 census they were living in Swansea, with a 12-year-old son, Ebenezer Cecil, who had been born in Shepton Mallett.  Ebenezer Baylis, aged 44, was a watch maker and repairer. 

With no census returns yet available for 1921, the next result for Ebenezer and Kate Baylis is found in the 1939 Register.   They were living in Salisbury, Wiltshire by this time and Ebenezer’s occupation was given as ‘Watchmaker and Jeweller (Repairer)’.  It is also recorded that he had been born on 15th May 1866. During his lifetime Ebenezer, born in Glasgow, had lived in Shepton Mallett, Middlesex, Swansea and Salisbury.  He died in Salisbury, aged 80, in 1947.

It would seem that Ebenezer Baylis’s work took him to different parts of the country and that in 1930 he was lodging in Wickhamford.  As he was working as a watch repairer, it is feasible that he required a telephone in connection with his occupation.  As he was not planning on staying long in the district, he did not bother to register to vote. 

A local connection?

Was there another reason for Ebenezer to be in the Evesham area?   In the 1939 Register, living at 35 Princess Road, Evesham was William Bayliss (b. 1883), a jeweller and optician, with his wife, Olive, and daughter Muriel, who was a jeweller’s assistant.  Earlier, in 1911, William and Olive lived in Gillingham, Dorset, where he was a ‘Watchmaker and Jeweller (Dealer).  William had been born in Evesham, Olive in Exeter.  Could William Bayliss and Ebenezer Baylis be distantly related and their joint occupations brought them together in Evesham in 1930?

William’s ancestry has been traced back two generations to look for a connection to Ebenezer’s.  His father was Frederick Charles Bayliss, who was born in Marylebone, Middlesex in 1859, which is in the same general part of the country as Ebenezer’s family.  However, Frederick Charles Bayliss was the illegitimate son of an Ann Baylis and there the story stops.  Although Ebenezer’s father, Henry, had a number of sisters, there was no ‘Ann’.

Tom Locke – February 2018