Ancestry UK

Henry Stuart Baker — A Professional 'Amateur Casual'.

Henry Stuart Baker was born in Sheffield in about 1875. In 1901, he was an assistant schoolmaster at Brightside, Sheffield. Over the next decade he published several articles in newspapers. In 1910, he began staying in lodging houses and workhouse casual wards in England and Wales, giving his occupation as compositor. In that year, he began earning money by arranging with local newspapers to write, for a fee, an article describing a stay in the casual ward of their local workhouse. Over the following two years or so, he produced dozens of such pieces. As well as an account of a night at the workhouse, his articles generally included some general information about tramps, slightly tailored for each locale. He also went on to write a number of more general articles, such as accounts of 'characters' he had encountered on his travels.

Although a few of Baker's articles identified their author, most were published anonymously under the byline of 'Amateur Casual' — a term that originated in 1866 with the first workhouse investigator/journalist James Greenwood. Unlike Greenwood's one-off exposé of life in a casual ward, Baker turned it into his regular occupation, effectively making him a professional 'amateur casual'.

A selection of Baker's workhouse reports, or extracts from them, can be viewed from the list below, arranged in order of the name of the union concerned.

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Ancestry UK

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