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Author’s visit to ancient home unearths ancestor’s rich seafaring past

PUBLISHED: 09:42 05 February 2018 | UPDATED: 14:49 10 February 2018

Richard Wake-Walker who has been researching his family history outside Depperhaugh Hall, which was built by his great great grandfather Admiral Sir Baldwin Walker in the 19th Century. Photo: GORDON POWLES

Richard Wake-Walker who has been researching his family history outside Depperhaugh Hall, which was built by his great great grandfather Admiral Sir Baldwin Walker in the 19th Century. Photo: GORDON POWLES

Gordon Powles

Admiral Sir Baldwin Walker has an extensive seafaring past, as one of his ancestor’s discovered.

A historic photograph of Admiral Sir Baldwin Walker. Picture Richard Wake-WalkerA historic photograph of Admiral Sir Baldwin Walker. Picture Richard Wake-Walker

Many people enjoy turning detective and discovering their family tree.

However for one man, a recent trip to Suffolk has unearthed his ancestors’ rich seafaring past - and a remarkable rags to riches life story.

Admiral Sir Baldwin Walker led an extraordinary life, joining the navy age 10, and working his way up through the ranks to become an admiral.

He is credited with helping to eradicate slavery on the east coast of Africa and taking the Navy from sail to steam, before retiring to Eye in Suffolk and building Depperhaugh Hall.

Admiral Sir Baldwin Walker outside Depperhaugh Hall. Picture: Richard Wake-WalkerAdmiral Sir Baldwin Walker outside Depperhaugh Hall. Picture: Richard Wake-Walker

Now, a descendant of the 19th century admiral has made a first pilgrimage to his Suffolk home as part of research for a biography to tell his remarkable life story.

Fulfilling a life-long passion for his family’s history, Richard Wake-Walker - the great, great grandson of Sir Baldwin Walker - is currently in the process of writing and researching a biography of the admiral, which will be published in 2026 to mark the 150th anniversary of his death.

Travelling from his home in Wimbledon Mr Wake-Walker, 66, who runs a mining consultancy firm, visited his ancestor’s former home, his grave in Hoxne Church and the Oakley church where the admiral wed his wife, Suffolk-born Mary Worth in 1834.

The couple had 11 children together and it was this Suffolk connection which drew them to Hoxne to build their home, Depperhaugh Hall, which now serves as a Kingsley Healthcare nursing home.

A historic photograph of Admiral Sir Baldwin Walker, who built Depperhaugh Hall, in Eye, Suffolk. Picture: Richard Wake-WalkerA historic photograph of Admiral Sir Baldwin Walker, who built Depperhaugh Hall, in Eye, Suffolk. Picture: Richard Wake-Walker

Looking back on the career of his great, great grandfather, Mr Wake-Walker said; “Although he had little of the patronage which helped naval officers of that era gain promotion, he was able to rise through the ranks through fine seamanship, ability, leadership and devotion to the service.”

The current manager of The Depperhaugh home, Maxine Smith, showed Mr Wade-Walker around the site. She said was thrilled to have learned so much about the history of the building.

She said: “It’s clear that the admiral was a great man who deserves to be better remembered.

“At some stage in the future, it would be a fitting idea to work with others in the village to put on an exhibition in his memory.”

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