Mike Baker – an Easton legend

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Section: Blog
Projects: Eastville Workhouse
Subjects: News
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Mike with the Eastville Workhouse plaque

It is with great sadness that we heard of the death of Mike Baker on 12th March 2020 at the BRI.

I first met Mike Baker around twenty years ago when he was leading a local history walk around Easton with fellow historian Jim McNeil. Mike and Jim were leading members of the excellent local history group Living Easton and they had been asked to host a group of young German trade unionists who were visiting the Easton Cowboys and Girls Sports Club. Afterwards in The Plough, the Cowboys HQ, Mike explained that one of Living Easton‘s projects was the Time Signs Trail, a series of colourful, contoured aluminium plaques that highlighted ‘famous’ people from Easton. Though, as Mike said, this was ‘history from below’, a history of local people “who were not born with a silver spoon in their mouths”. The Time Signs Trail plaques dotted around Easton, included John Wall the founder of the cooperative movement in Bristol, the Trade Union leader Ben Tillett and the opera singer Ruby Helder. Mike Baker was the researcher, designer and creator of all of these amazing plaques and many more, which in my and many other people’s opinions were far more eye-catching and interesting than the somewhat bland and limited ‘official’ blue plaques.

Mike Baker with the plaque
Mike Baker with the Seven Stars plaque

After our meeting in the Plough, being footballers and football fans, Mike asked the Easton Cowboys and Girls Sports Club to sponsor a new plaque he was making to remember the Arsenal and England captain Eddie Hapgood who was born in Barton Hill, which the club readily supported. The historical approach of ‘digging where you stand’ which Mike’s Time Signs Trail and Living Easton epitomised was one of the inspirations which led some of us from the Sports Club to launch Bristol Radical History Group (BRHG) in 2006. Mike was a member and collaborator with the group in a number of projects over the succeeding years. He created the striking plaques on the Seven Stars pub on Thomas Lane which remembers the abolitionist Thomas Clarkson and the Bristol sailors that whistle-blew on the slave trade and more recently one to mark the entrance to Eastville Workhouse at 100 Fishponds Road.

Mike working at Wards

Working at Wards Signs in Barton Hill, Mike was multi-skilled, carrying out detailed and meticulous research on the buildings, landscapes and people he depicted, designing the plaques, moulding the designs in clay for casting and then beautifully painting the finished items. He oversaw the whole process, yet liaised closely with local historians to achieve their collective visions. Mike was truly a renaissance historian in that he combined a wealth of historical knowledge with the artistic and technical skills to produce attractive and lasting artefacts.

1963 Bus Boycott Plaque

In a tradition which BRHG champions, that of giving our labour free for the enthusiasm of ‘doing history’, Mike never chased money; instead putting thousands of hours unpaid work into local history projects for the love of it. The best reason there can be. Mike was a shining example of selflessness, dedication and enthusiasm. As a real Eastonite, “born without a silver spoon in his mouth” and genuinely committed to his community and its history, we will miss him immensely. Our thoughts go out to his family and friends.

BRHG 14 March 2020


  1. RIP Mike you will be missed . A fantastic artist and down to earth guy . Remember when you were a street warden in Easton and really got results when there were problems in the area.

  2. Mike was a student at Filton Technical College on the Art & Design Foundation Course the same year as me in the mid-late eighties I think I remember. We Shared the same studio/workspace as each other with about thirty others. Whilst art students have a well deserved reputation for being flamboyant, egotistical extroverts I remember Mike for his erudition, dedication to his chosen craft and general quiet politeness and humanity.

    I heard he worked as a stone mason at some point after Filton conserving historical buildings and then I came across him again through association with BRHG. Often wished I would have had the opportunity to speak to him again on some future occasion.

    Sadly not.

    RIP Mike.

  3. I never met Mike Baker. Walking around Easton in lockdown, I’ve been finding his plaques. Unfortunately with his passing it looks as if the Living Easton website has lapsed.

    I’m trying to trace the Easton Time Trail plaques in Bristol and created a Facebook page (link below). Can anyone tell me the whereabouts or even just the name) of the 51 plaques out there? I’ve found about 15 so far

    Easton Time Signs https://www.facebook.com/Easton-Time-Signs-106634311554163

    Jack Whittaker

  4. Hi Jack I wouod like to know too I’m mikes sister Paula Baker please contact me text 07767 132890.
    I miss Mike terribly. I think we should try and get Easton Time Trial to remember him .
    Thank you

  5. My brothers work he doesn’t have his name on the plaques .
    It would be great to correct that and remember him and have a yearly Easton Time Trial.
    Prehaps link this to his date of his death 12 th March or remembering him on his birthday 14 th June as he died so young and gave so much to Easton.
    Please talk to Ian Beckey, Mikes friend .
    Paula Baker sister

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