J. Manwaring Baines (1910-2002)

From Historical Hastings Wiki

Early Life[edit | edit source]

Born in Leeds on the 6th of October 1910[2][3], he was a member of the Baines family who had once owned the 'Leeds Mercury', and his father Frederic Talbot Baines was clerk to the Senate of Leeds University. John Manwaring Baines initially studied at Marlborough College, then graduated from the University of Leeds with a BSc in 1931[4].

Personal Life[edit | edit source]

He has a son, Dr Richard Baines (1940-) who is a locally renowned artist.
He was a keen observer of natural history, sketching and photographing much of the local fauna together with local buildings.
As anyone who has read his eponymous book Historic Hastings knows, he was also a keen cricket fan. He lived at 138 St Helen's Road from at least 1948[5] to 1980[6].

The dedication in his eponymous work is to his wife, Rae.


Offspring of Short name: J. Manwaring Baines

and Joined with-g1: Rae Barnes

Name Birth Death Joined with
Richard J. M. Baines (1940-)


Hastings Museum[edit | edit source]

With the retirement of Mr Ruskin Butterfield, J. Manwaring Baines was appointed as the Curator of Hastings Museum in 1935 at the age of 24[7]. This was out of a total of 30 applicants for the position[4]. Prior to this appointment, he was employed as an assistant curator at Leeds Museum since 1931[4] and was a Fellow of the Royal Zoological Society.

As one of his first tasks, he organised an exhibition of local maps and catalogued them for future reference. During his tenure at the museum, along with authoring a large number of local history books, he gave numerous talks on various topics relating to local history. In spite of the number of talks and lectures he gave, contemporary sources state that J. Manwaring Baines was particularly careful about who he shared material with and that many of his notes were in a very small handwriting, making it difficult to read.

There appears to be a large amount of correspondence both from and to J. Manwaring Baines consisting of notes and research material shared with many museums across the UK, although most of his research notes were donated by him to Leeds University.

War Service & Accident[edit | edit source]

Serving in the Special Constabulary and Police War reserve prior to the outbreak of war, he enlisted and was posted to Dover with a field artillery unit from the Royal Engineers with the service number 189911. Prior to taking a commission[8] in May 1941, he transferred to Scotland. A keen motorcyclist with an eye for natural beauty, he had an accident partly caused by admiring the bluebells on the banks of Loch Lomond. Speeding to catch up with his friends he came off his bike, being left lying in the road for two hours before being seen, which resulted in him being hospitalised. The injuries were so severe that they prevented him serving abroad, so he was transferred into a personnel management role. This then led into a role in the 45th Division working with repatriation of prisoners of war, finally being promoted to Command Personnel Selection Officer for the Northern Command and was released at the rank of Major to recommence work at Hastings Museum.[9], the museum itself having suffered some damage as a result of bombing raids.

Inventions[edit | edit source]

Whilst working in the Special Constabulary he invented a new type of Service respirator which earned him official thanks from the Government, but was not found practicable to adopt. He also invented what was known as the 'Baines Crest Clinometer' for enabling field gunners to determine whether their shot would clear the crest of hills and a new type of buckle for equipment.[9]

Whilst recuperating in hospital from the injuries sustained in the accident mentioned above, he prepared his notes for two books, which were printed once the restrictions on supply of paper eased.[9]

Roles in local society[edit | edit source]

  • He would appear to have been something of a dancer, winning a prize dancing with a Miss Smith during the 1936 Chamber of Commerce annual ball.[10]
  • Became an honorary member of the Hastings Aquarium Society in 1938.[11]
  • In the inter-war period, he would appear to have been an active member of the YMCA certainly since 1936, reportedly acting as a judge in a mock trial in 1938.[12]
  • Became a member of the Round Table in 1946[13]
  • He served as Parish Clerk for All Saints Church during the 1950s[14]
  • In 1951, J. Manwaring Baines assisted the setup of a new museum in Battle with the Historical Society, loaning some items from the Hastings Museum collection.[15]
  • Was a founding member of Hastings Area Archaeological Group in 1972[16]
  • He was one of the founders of the OHPS (Old Hastings Preservation Society).

Piltdown Skull Scandal[edit | edit source]

Following reports that the 'Piltdown Skull' discovered by Charles Dawson was fake in 1953, Mr Baines embarked on an investigation into a number of exhibits that had been lodged with the museum by Mr Dawson. It was discovered that five of the exhibits in the museum's collection were fake and others may also be found to be fraudulent too.[17]. There was also an allegation that Charles Dawson may not have been the author of the History of Hastings Castle, this appearing to have been the work of William Herbert, whose notes whilst credited in the form of five lines in the Dawson book, appeared to have been copied almost verbatim.[17]. There was also the issue of a black brick, inscribed HON AUG ANDRIA, a red brick bearing a similar, though distorted inscription of the same and a fragment inscribed . ON AUG . . . NDR . . . all alledgedly found during a dig at Pevensey Castle during 1902, subsequently displayed before the Society of Antiquaries of London on the 11th April 1907. J. Manwaring Baines drew attention to these finds (one of which was held by the British Museum, another at Lewes Museum) potentially being faked also.[18]

In response to this, all of the suspect Dawson exhibits were removed from display at Hastings Museum and a display of the Herbert manuscript held in the museum.

Hastings Rarities Affair[edit | edit source]

As a result of the Hastings Rarities Affair in 1962, the museum collection was again searched - this time for birds. Fortunately, none were found and he was able to report this fact.[19]

Pevensey Castle Investigation[edit | edit source]

During 1967, Mr Manwaring Baines was involved in the investigation of a local legend that a two mile long tunnel connected Pevensey Castle with nearby Westham. A local man recalled having found a tunnel south-west of the western gateway. Mr. Lower[20] in his excavations during 1853 did indeed find a tunnel in the form of a drain 18 inches high and constructed from large stones. Running north-west to south-east, it would have missed both the fort and the village of Westham. After Mr Manwaring Baines had investigated this tunnel, he felt it was most likely a drain dating to Tudor times.[21]

St Andrew's Church/Tressell[edit | edit source]

In 1905, Robert Tressell had painted a mural in St Andrew's Church, Queens Road. The church was being demolished during 1970, when local author, David Haines, happened to be passing. Recalling the mural from conversations with his wife, the author investigated further and found that in-spite of having been damaged during WW2 and further defaced by French students during 1967 and subsequently painted over with emulsion, much of the mural still remained.[22]

Although for unknown reasons, J. Manwaring Baines disregarded Tressell's work (even the author of this source found the mural repulsive), Mr Haines enlisted the support of his wife (then a librarian, but she apparently had John's ear) to encourage Mr Manwaring Baines to preserve what remained of the mural.[22]. The mural was removed from the church, but stored in the Borough's warehouse at Waterworks Road, taking a further appeal to place them on display.

Retirement[edit | edit source]

J. Manwaring Baines retired in 1972.[22] Post retirement little of his life appears in online archives of newspaper reports, but he was known to maintain his long standing relationship with the librarian mentioned above.

Autobiography[edit | edit source]

Mr Manwaring Baines wrote an unpublished autobiography "A Curator Unmasked", which together with other notes was lodged at Leeds University[23] At the same time as lodging his autobiography at Leeds, he also gifted a large number of his notes and correspondence to the University in 1985[24]

Death[edit | edit source]

Mr Manwaring Baines passed away in June 2002. There is a blue plaque on Stone Corner (which he considered to be Hastings' Market House) commemorating him.[25]

Bibliography[edit | edit source]

Footnotes (including sources)[edit]

  1. "Index entry". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved 11 January 2020.
  2. General Register Office; United Kingdom
  3. JISC Hub
  4. a b c Hastings & St Leonards Observer 29 June 1935 pg. 20
  5. Hastings & St Leonards Observer 08 May 1948 pg. 4
  6. Historic Hastings 3rd ed preface.ISBN: 9780948869006
  7. Hastings & St Leonards Observer 13 July 1935 pg. 3
  8. File:London Gazette Supplement Issue 35195 Supplement 3502.pdf
  9. a b c Hastings & St Leonards Observer 22 Dec 1945 pg. 1
  10. Hastings & St Leonards Observer 03 October 1936 pg. 11
  11. Hastings & St Leonards Observer 15 January 1938 pg. 14
  12. Hastings & St Leonards Observer 29 October 1938 pg. 5
  13. Hastings & St Leonards Observer 20 April 1946 pg. 6
  14. Hastings & St Leonards Observer 14 June 1958 pg. 1
  15. Transfer of some material from Hastings Museum to Battle HBC Website
  16. Email received from Kevin and Lynn Cornwell (HAARG) File:20191019140520 Re- General Query - J. Manwaring Baines.pdf
  17. a b Hastings & St Leonards Observer 20 November 1954 pg. 9
  18. D Joyce - Piltdown Man - Forged Brick Stamps
  19. Birmingham Daily Post 11 August 1962 p.15
  20. Lower, M.A. : On Pevensey Castle and the Recent Excavations there, SAC Vol. 6 1853
  21. Sussex Archaeology
  22. a b c Tressell and the Late Kathleen, A Biographical Memoir and a Message of Hope – D. V. Haines ISBN: 9781789011036
  23. a b Leeds University Library
  24. JISC Hub (Leeds Archive)
  25. Hastings Observer