Select Baldwin Miscellany

Here are some Baldwin stories and accounts over the years:

William Baldwin, A Protestant Man of Letters

A respected author, editor and translator during the middle years of the 16th centrury, Baldwin published a small number of works that displayed linguistic and narrative complexity as well as a sophisticated understanding of the political power of writing. 

As the editor of the anthology A Mirror for Magistrates (1559), as a compiler of a popular philosophical compendium, as a translator of the Biblical Song of Songs and of Italian satirical works, and as the writer of original works of poetry and prose, Baldwin demonstrated the range of his interests and the scope of his literary experimentation. 

Baldwin had the distinction of having published the first sonnet in English and the first long work of prose fiction in English, Beware The Cat (1570).  This book is now seen as the best piece of anti-Catholic satire of its time.

Thomas Baldwin the Balloonist

Vincenzo Lunardi, the dare-devil Italian balloonist, visited Chester in 1785.  While he was in the White Lion regaling his auduence with spellbinding stories of the air, one who took heed was a young clergyman from Hoole Hall, Thomas Baldwin.  Thomas had already experimented with balloon making and subsequently made the ascent in Lunardi's balloon to applause "that was mixed with terror and delight."

The scientifically minded Baldwin carried out experiments whilst in the air, including sampling foods to see if they tasted the same (they did!) and carrying feathers to see if the balloon was rising or falling.  He went on to write Airopaidia, one of the first English books on ballooning.  Artifacts of his exploits are on display at Hoole Hall, now a country house hotel.

The Baldwin Family and Wilden

Alfred Baldwin, born in 1840, was the twelfth child of George Pearce Baldwin who had developed the Wilden ironworks at Stourport.  After the father died, Alfred's elder brothers took over the running of the business. But they had so mismanaged affairs, driving the company close to bankruptcy, that Alfred himself took control at the age of 29. 

Alfred's home, Wilden House, lay just across the lane from the forge.  When the wind was from the west, the smoke blew into the windows of the house.  Alfred's son Stanley was born there in 1867.  He joined his father's company as a partner in 1888.  He was to spend twenty years in the business before going into politics and ultimately becoming Prime Minister.

Baldwins of Buckinghamshire and Connecticut

When Sir John Baldwin died, he left his son Richard part of the parish of Dunrigge.  He became thereafter Richard of Dunrigge.  Richard gave his namesake grandson Richard some land in Cholesbury.  So this Richard became known as Richard of Cholesbury.  Richard then married and had a son Joseph who sailed away to America.  Joseph would be known as Joseph of Milford because he was one of the pioneer founders of Milford, New Haven.

Baldwin Governors of Connecticut

Simeon Eben Baldwin was born in 1840, one of nine children of Roger Sherman Baldwin and his wife Emily.  He came from a family of Governors.  His ancestors included the first five Governors of the colony of Connecticut.  His father had been Governor of Connecticut from 1844 to 1846.  Roger Sherman, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, was another ancestor.

Baldwin Quaker Immigrants

The large wave of Quaker immigrants which moved from England to Pennsylvania in the late 17th and early 18th centuries included two brothers from Pendle in Lancashire, John and William Baldwin.  Their father had been a Quaker too, having attended monthly Quaker meetings at Marsden since 1675. 

John had married Jennet in England in 1697 and they migrated to Makefield township in Bucks county, Pennsylvania two years later.  Jennet died soon after and John married for a second time to Ann Scott.  They were the forebears to a large number of Baldwin Quakers in the Midwest.

Although he had visited America earlier, William Baldwin did not come to America to stay until 1714.

The Baldwins in Canada

In the summer of 1799 a family of new Irish immigrants arrived in Upper Canada - Robert Baldwin and his two sons and four daughters.  They were impoverished.  Fortunately, while in York they were able to stay on Duke Street with William Willcocks, a former neighbor of theirs who had enticed them over.

Robert had been, according to the reminiscemces of his youngest daughter, deeply alarmed by the persistent rumors of impending French landings in Ireland (in anticipation of which he had barricaded his house and armed his servants).  The unrest preceding the uprising of the Society of United Irishmen in 1798 had also convinced him of the need to leave.  His eldest son William Warren noted in 1801:  "The horrors of domestic war conspired to drive us from our native country."  The motivation of acquiring cheap land also probably played a part.

The Baldwins married into the Willcocks money and, when Robert died, his surviving sons inherited thousands of acres of land throughout Upper Canada.  Spadina House, a present tourist attraction in Toronto, was built by eldest son William.

Dr. William Baldwin and his son Robert became active in the political reform movement and evolved the principle of responsible government with which their names are associated in Canadian history.  Robert Baldwin was one of the first proponents of a bicultural nation and is regarded by many as Canada's first pre-confederation Prime Minister.  According to The Canadian Encyclopoedia:

"The domestic change from autocracy to responsible government was achieved by the most remarkable political partnership in Canadian history - that of Robert Baldwin and Louis LaFontaine." 

Indeed, the victory of the Reform Party in 1848 was "one of the most significant in Canadian history." 

When the new parliament assembled, Baldwin rose to insist that the new speaker be fluent in both English and french, a motion seconded by LaFontaine and carried by loud cheers from all parts of the chamber.

The Baldwin Fiddlers

Four generations of Baldwins have been fiddlers in and around Newent in the Forest of Dean.  The first was James who passed the mantle down to his son Charlie.  Charlie, born in 1827, lived to be 98.   When he was old and living in the almshouses in Newent, he was visited by the collector Cecil Sharp who noted down a number of the tunes that he played.

Charlie's son Stephen was the youngest of his eight children.  Stephen learned to play by watching his father's fingers as he played and imitating them.

"When I'd just left school something came over me and I asked him to show me how to finger it.  He showed how to put my fingers on.  The first tune I played was Men of Harlech.   I learnt to put them in tune and somehow I stuck to it.  It was like a gift.  All of it came to me, one after the other.

Eighteen months later I was playing for dances and all sorts of things.  You could tell I'd picked it up quick.  I suppose it was my old man being a fiddler.  Look, it came from him.  At any rate, I managed to learn it."

Stephen inherited his father's fiddle which Charlie Baldwin had bought at a music shop in Hereford and he in turn passed it on to his own son Charlie.  Charlie continued to play it until he was forced to give up when rheumatism stiffened in the the first finger of his left hand.

Charlie, born in 1902, would often accompany his father in pubs vamping on the piano.  He remembered one such occasion at the Crown in Aston Crews (Herefordshire) when his father suddenly stopped playing and said: "Listen! There's a wireless, we're off."  Off they went down the road to the White Hart where there happened to be a coachload of people from Wales.  Stephen and his son Charlie got in by the back door, collected their pints, and "soon got going."

Stephen Baldwin died in 1955.     

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