When is a Lord not a Lord? The curious case of Lord Baker of Little Moulton
- Credit: Julia Holland/Norfolk Lord
With his coat of arms, charity fundraising, and “Common Seal of the Manorial Guild” all printed on the cover of this autobiography, ‘Lord’ Russell Baker has all the trappings and style of an aristocrat.
However, questions have been raised about his use of the title and description of himself as part of the British nobility. Our research has found he is no noble and the “Manor” he states to be Lord of has not existed since the 1300s.
He is also using a charity’s logo on the cover of his unprinted book without their permission, the charity has confirmed.
For a decade the businessman and fundraiser has been using the title Lord Russell Baker of Little Moulton, including in newspaper articles, charity events and in official documents.
On his Facebook page he claims to be “British Nobility” and his book is described on his website as “an adventurous tale of a modern day British Lord”. Even the website’s address continues the noble theme - norfolklord.co.uk.
In response, Mr Baker, 59, said he had “acquired” the title of Lord of the Manor of Little Moulton - a hamlet in south Norfolk - in 2011.
He has not answered our questions about how he acquired it, however, genuine peerages which legally entitle someone to call themselves a Lord cannot be bought.
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You can buy a Lordship of the Manor allowing you to call yourself, Lord of the Manor, but not legally a Lord.
Mr Baker, a cyber-security consultant, from Bracon Ash, said: “I have never stated, styled myself or purported to be a peer of the realm. I have only ever advertised myself as a Manorial Lord which I am and legally too.”
In his response, he quoted extensively from a website which sells manorial titles.
But some of websites have been shown to be selling fake titles by solicitors.
Solicitor Michael Baxendale has won money back for several clients who bought titles online, believing they would become a Lord.
He said that many Lord of the Manors for sale online are not genuine.
The companies behind them claim to have researched the title and found it is vacant, but the problem, Mr Baxendale said, is that the title is not theirs to sell. If a title lies vacant it reverts to the Crown.
He compared it to someone finding an abandoned car on the side of the road and then selling it on.
Mr Baker, however, says he has a legal letter and an assignment deed showing he is the rightful Lord of the Manor of Little Moulton.
The website he quoted from tells its clients they can call themselves Lords as long as they don’t deceive people with the title.
According to a book of Norfolk history, there has been no Lord of the Manor of Little Moulton since 1345 when the manor was subsumed into a larger one.
But Mr Baker insisted he has every right to call himself a Lord and his title has nothing to do with the ownership of the land.
However, his usage of the title has annoyed one member of the real nobility.
The 7th Earl of Bradford, Richard Bradford, who campaigns against the sale of fake titles on his website faketitles.com, said: “The whole situation is ludicrous. He is calling himself a Lord when he isn’t one. He has described himself as part of the British nobility on Facebook. It just isn't true.
“The ownership of a genuine Lordship of the Manor doesn’t make you a Lord or give you the right to call yourself one. You cannot buy a noble rank.”
Meanwhile, the charity whose logo is printed on the front of his autobiography, the Norfolk Community Foundation (NCF), said they did not give him permission to use it and they are not being supported by any sales of the book.
The charity said it had asked Mr Baker to remove their logo after spotting it on his website.
Mr Baker claimed, however, it was “generally” agreed with the NCF that he could use their logo.
“I have always kept them in the loop and shared the book cover design and updates with them throughout 2021,” he said.
NCF chief executive Claire Cullens, however, said this was not the case.
She said Mr Baker had asked them in July about proceeds from the book supporting local groups through them.
They replied asking for clarity, including being transparent about how much from each book sale would go to the Foundation.
She said they never heard anymore from him until seeing their logo on the book’s cover in November.
“What concerns me is someone could buy something with our logo and could therefore make an assumption that proceeds are going to our foundation. That is disingenuous to any potential supporter,” she said.
From 2014 to 2016, she said Mr Baker had raised £30,000 mainly through sporting events which the Community Foundation had distributed on his behalf.
Mr Baker was also made a patron of charity the Norfolk and Accident Rescue Service (NARS) in 2014. A NARS spokesman said he stopped being their patron in 2019 and the charity did not wish to comment.
What is a Lord of the Manor?
Lords of the Manor were originally a form of land holding with roots in Anglo Saxon England when kings and nobles divided their land between different tenants.
The term referred to a tenant rather than to a noble Lord. Things changed in 1291 when Edward I ordered any new manors had to come from the Crown rather than from local nobles.
Many were subsumed into larger holdings and lay unused.
The problem with websites selling titles, solicitor Michael Baxendale said, is they will find titles which have fallen out of use and sell them on, but they are not theirs to sell. If a title falls out of use it returns to the Crown.