The Lodge / Sandakan

I had a great Uncle and Auntie who I am trying to research and they clearly lived in Yapton at some stage. Their names were Ernest Reginald Baker and Isabella Baker. He was known to his friends and family as 'Reg' and she was known as 'Belle'.

They had a particularly interesting early life, with Reg travelling out to Borneo in 1914, aged 24, where he worked as a civil engineer. They married in Newcastle in 1926, and lived together out in Borneo before returning to the UK sometime before 1939.

They spent the rest of their lives in West Sussex and Hampshire. Belle died in Churt, Surrey in February 1965. Reg died in 1975 in Chichester, although I remember visiting him in a small apartment in South Harting (Petersfield) in the late 60s when I was about 8 yrs old.

© Richard Rose 2017

Going through my parents' photographs, I recently came across this small card that advertised a small guesthouse that Reg and Belle must have owned in Church Lane, Yapton. They must have named it Sandakan when they bought it, because that was the name of the town in north Borneo where they lived and worked.

I am keen to know if the house does still exist, and if anybody knows anymore about the couple or how their little adventure worked out.

Richard Rose
February 2017

Minor updates by Richard Rose July 2022

See also: People: Reg and Belle Baker


The house was actually in Church Road rather than Church Lane. Perhaps they thought that sounded more appealing, or perhaps they simply got the two roads mixed up like most of us still do today (the two roads run into each other at the church gate). It was located opposite Grove Lodge and shouldn't be confused with that.

As one of the larger houses in the village this house had a varied past. The earliest information we have at the moment comes from the 1861 census when it was called The Lodge. At that time it was owned by John and Sarah Sparks who ran the agricultural steam engine business which bore his name, and who moved to Yapton from Lincoln in 1856. A large 3-bedroom house in the driveway from Church Road was named Lodge Cottage and housed the servants and staff.

By the time of the next census, in 1871, the cottage was occupied by John's brother James, and father John, who had also moved into the village. One of the servants, Harriet Hotston, obviously caught James' eye since by 1871 they were married and she became Harriet Sparks.

After John died aged 56 in 1880, the engineering business was continued by two of their children Sarah Eliza and George Thomas. Sarah moved into the cottage, and the 8-bedroom house was rented out as a school for young ladies ("Miss Scott Ladies School") run by Annie Scott. Apart from Miss Scott the house had 10 young ladies (aged 11-18), two governesses and three servants.

It seems Sarah may have called the cottage Rose Cottage - but this shouldn't be confused with the Rose Cottage further along Church Road! One of the difficulties with researching the history of small villages is the tendency to use similar names, and also to use multiple names!

By 1899 Sarah had moved around the corner to Sunnyside, and The Lodge was rented out as a "gentleman's residence" to Captain Gerald M Brooks RN who was an inspecting officer in the coastguard service, with his wife, five children and four maids/domestic servants, while the grounds were maintained by a full-time garderner who lived at the now-called Gardeners Lodge.

The house then went through a chequered period of time during the acrimonous family feud which followed the death of Sarah Sparks (snr.) in 1914. In 1920 the house was being let to Major Cecil Dudley prior to its sale in the acrimonious "John Sparks Trust" sale of 1924 which broke up the family business and property empire.


Sale Particulars 1924
© David Ruffle 2010 / Geoff Westcott 2017


Sarah (S.E.) Sparks purchased the house back from the auction for £2,000. But she did not live there but let it to Cecil M. Brown on a seven year lease from 25th March 1924, at a rent of £150 per year.

On Aug 7th 1931 all Sarah Eliza's property in the village was auctioned off, at the Norfolk Hotel, Arundel. She was aged 70 at that time and the sale was to repay her loans and debts. The sale catalogue described the house as a 'Gentleman’s Comfortable Creeper-clad Freehold Residence, away from the noise of modern traffic'. It went on to say that hunting could be enjoyed with the Cowdray and the Crawley & Horsham Foxhounds. The Lodge was withdrawn from the sale when the bidding was at £2,800 (£148,000 in today's money). Who subsequently purchased it we don't currently know.


Sale Particulars 1931
© David Ruffle 2009 / Geoff Westcott 2017


For a short period of time in 1944 the house was used to billet Canadian and American troops prior to embarkation at Portsmouth for the D-Day Landings.

From 1938 until after the war, Miss E B Davis ran a preparatory school from the house, before Ernest R Baker and his wife Isabella bought the house and renamed it Sandakan in 1949. The Bakers ran the house as "a small but exclusive Guest House, providing quiet, comfort and good food".

Local historian David Ruffle remembers Mr Baker dressed in shorts and wearing a safari style hat. He garaged his 1934 Austin Ten car in the garage next to Ivelwade. David's mother did laundry for Mrs Baker which he remembers taking back to her via the rear tradesman's entrance,

In 1954 Mr Read and his family moved in and the house was renamed The Limes.


The Limes c.1956
© David Ruffle 2009 / Geoff Westcott 2017


By the late 1950s the house was in a pretty derelict state and was subsequently demolished and a small estate of five houses built, which are the houses present today as The Limes.

The Gardeners Cottage and buildings, one with a generator to supply electricity to The Lodge were demolished in the 1960s and two houses (Ilex Cottage and Lodge Cottage) built on the site.

If you have any memories of Reg and Belle Baker, or can add any information about the house, then please get in touch!

February 2017


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