Hubert ‘Baron’ Baker and Leopold ‘Totobag’ Williams
Leopold Williams
Notting Hill
Hubert 'Baron' Baker and Leopold 'Totobag' Williams

Hubert “Baron” Baker and Leopold “Totobag” Williams were two outstanding Jamaicans who established a “safe haven” at 9a Blenheim Crescent, Notting Hill, W11 2EE for new arrivals from the Caribbean in the 1950s and 1960s.

Hubert Baker, a passionate campaigner for racial justice, was born in Jamaica in 1925 and arrived in Britain in 1944, aged 19 years. During WW2, he joined the RAF. Discrimination was rife: ‘No blacks, no dogs, no Irish’ signs hung from windows across the country. Racist landlords and employment issues plagued Caribbean migrants, and the fascist Oswald Mosley called for the repatriation of Caribbean people. Baker persuaded the government to open Clapham South’s air raid shelter as temporary accommodation.

Following this, Baker and others helped to find employment and housing in nearby Brixton. When the Empire Windrush docked in Tilbury in 1948, Baker welcomed the 492 new arrivals.

The migrants, hoping to begin new lives, were to face immediate issues around housing. When housing was denied to Caribbean migrants, he found alternatives. When racists attacked Black Britons, Baker fought back. As a Ladbroke Grove resident, the racist threats on the street were unavoidable and violent. Baker and his friends saw a need for resistance and organised the community to protect the Black community.

Matters came to a head in 1958 with the first race riots in Britain when marauding racists terrorised the local community for two days.

Leopold’ Totobag’ Williams was also a well-known local resident who sheltered people in his café and organised the community to fight back.

Baker stated. “Immediately after the war, it was the government’s policy to “Keep Britain White”…that is to say, they wanted all the service personnel to be sent back to their respective countries. I took exception to that, but they eventually produced a policy whereby if you learned a trade, you could remain here…Things were alright, you could get jobs one way or another – but you know, if you are Black, you stay back; we were the last hired and the first fired”.

The plaque was installed , in partnership with Charlie Phillips,  and was followed by the Private View of Grove Survivors: by Charlie Phillips - A photographic and mixed media installation exhibition and tribute to Hubert “Baron” Baker and Leopold “Totobag” Williams at the Muse Gallery, 269 Portobello Road, W11 1LR.

Charlie Phillips, a Jamaican and leading documentary photographer, is a prominent and much-respected figure in Ladbroke Grove, Brixton and other Black communities. His work has been featured in leading international publications and art galleries, including Young Vogue (he was the first Black photographer to be featured on its cover), the National Portrait Gallery and the National Theatre, where his work was displayed as part of the seminal “Nine Night” Theatre production. He is also a former resident of 9a Blenheim Crescent, having lived there on his arrival to the UK in the 1950s.

According to Charlie: “Baron and Totobag were the first unofficial community leaders and gave a lot of people refuge, including myself, when I first came to the UK”.