Roman Road Market traders mourn loss of ‘barrow king’ Brian Baker
- Credit: 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 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.
“Brian was a proper, old-time gentleman—he was ‘Mr Roman Road Market’,” trader Mario Apicella, 55, told the East London Advertiser.
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“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’.
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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.
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.
“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.