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Roman Road Market traders mourn loss of ‘barrow king’ Brian Baker

PUBLISHED: 16:00 30 July 2018 | UPDATED: 10:43 31 July 2018

Brian Baker, 'king of Roman Road' barrows and stalls. Pictures: Baker family (inset) and Mike Brooke

Brian Baker, 'king of Roman Road' barrows and stalls. Pictures: Baker family (inset) and Mike Brooke

Baker family/Mike Brooke

Tributes have poured into Roman Road Market where traders and shoppers left flowers for Brian Baker, ‘the king of the wheelbarrows’ who has died aged 77.

Brian in his workshop where he made and painted market stalls he hired out. Picture: Baker familyBrian in his workshop where he made and painted market stalls he hired out. Picture: Baker family

Brian was a wheelwright making market stalls who had carried on the family trade started by his grandfather almost 100 years ago which is being continued by his son Terry into the next generation.

He made the stalls in his workshop and hired them out from his yard in Hewison Road, off ‘The Roman’.

But a special stall was set up on Saturday by the family with photographs of Brian at work over the decades which was crammed with floral tributes from market traders and wellwishers.

Tributes on stall in Roman Road Market for Brian Baker. Picture: Mike BrookeTributes on stall in Roman Road Market for Brian Baker. Picture: Mike Brooke

“Brian was a proper, old-time gentleman—he was ‘Mr Roman Road Market’,” trader Mario Apicella, 55, told the East London Advertiser.

“He made the barrows and would hire them out, probably the last one left in London with these traditional costermonger barrows.”

Tributes came in from the people of Bow who knew ‘the king of Roman Road’.

Traditional costermonger's barrow that Brian Baker made in his workshop. Picture: Baker familyTraditional costermonger's barrow that Brian Baker made in his workshop. Picture: Baker family

Retired former Tower Hamlets councillor Ray Gipson, said: “I remember Brian Baker when I was a boy.

“He’s been hiring out his market stalls for decades and used to get us boys in the neighbourhood to set up the stalls for a couple of bob (10p).”

The Baker family have been in the barrow trade since 1920 when Leonard Baker gave up his job as a tram-driver at Bow Garage to go into business for London’s growing markets.

Terry and Majorie Baker at the stall in Roman Road market set up in tribute to their dad Brian Baker. Picture: Mike BrookeTerry and Majorie Baker at the stall in Roman Road market set up in tribute to their dad Brian Baker. Picture: Mike Brooke

Street traders had to set up trestles before then, but hiring barrows on wheels modelled on the old costermonger’s carts in Covent Garden and Smithfield was a market revolution.

The family trade has now been carried on by the fourth generation, Leonard’s great-grandson Terry Baker.

Terry and his sister Marjorie were in Roman Road on Saturday greeted by market traders and swamped with tributes and wellwishers leaving flowers on the wheelbarrow the family set up.

Tribute stall in Roman Road to 'king of the market stalls' Brian Baker, 1940-2018. Picture: Mike BrookeTribute stall in Roman Road to 'king of the market stalls' Brian Baker, 1940-2018. Picture: Mike Brooke

“My dad was a legend,” Terry said. “He was my workmate—my best mate. I miss him dearly.

“All these flowers on the stall just proves how much he was loved down the market.”

Brian Baker also loved horses and knew the teams of drays used for deliveries by Truman, Mann-Crossman and Whitbread breweries up to the and 1960s.

His grandfather Leonard at one time drove horse-drawn buses and trams in the early 20th century.

Many folk in the horse world will be at the funeral on August 13 when Brian is buried alongside his wife Margaret at East London Cemetery in Canning Town. Youngest son Danny, 41, who has carried on the family tradition with horses, is a carriage master who will be leading the horse carriage funeral procession.

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