Duller and dowdier than Bloomsbury…

Albert Victor Baillie, Dean of Windsor from 1917 to 1945, was born in 1864 in Germany where he lived until his family moved to England in 1873. He was educated at Marlborough College and Cambridge University and was ordained in 1888. He held several ecclesiastical positions before becoming Dean of Windsor in 1917. On his appointment he quickly set his mind to raising money for the restoration of the Chapel.

Whilst at Windsor, Baillie suffered the loss of his wife, Constance, after which he increasingly encouraged guests to his home to ease his feeling of isolation. His loneliness can be seen in a letter written by the Dean to his friend Chris Dyer-Smith asking him to come and stay with him.  It is one of several letters and telegrams sent by Dean Baillie to Dyer-Smith from 1933 to 1946, which are now in the custody of Chris’s daughter, Valerie, and have recently been photocopied for the Chapel Archives. As Dean of Windsor, Baillie was often visited by foreign tourists and this gave him the opportunity to return these visits during his annual holidays. He went to America twice: in 1923 and again ten years later when he was accompanied by his niece Fanny. A photocopy of a journal which he wrote during this second visit has also been donated by his daughter to the St George’s Chapel Archives.

Dean Baillie’s travel diary is very entertaining and it shows his thoughts on the people he met and the places he and his niece travelled to in 1933. As a typical Brit he focuses on the weather they experience, from the storms on the journey over to America on ‘The Empress of Britain’ to the desert-like heat of Tucson which they visit towards the end of their trip. Surprisingly Tucson is apparently where Albert Baillie finds his first good cup of coffee in America.

In his writing we see that both the Dean and Fanny enjoyed their time in California where they mixed with the film making elites. They even attended a Hollywood party although Albert is unimpressed by this gathering and the film stars present and he describes the occasion as “duller and dowdier than Bloomsbury”.

During this trip, Albert Baillie participated in services in a number of American parishes. He describes how a talk he gave in Dubois was particularly well attended due to his reputation. This also resulted in his being subjected to frequent photography throughout his time there.

These photocopied letters and travel journal written by Albert Baillie are a welcome addition to the St George’s Chapel Archives, augmenting the more formal records relating to his time as Dean of Windsor.

Lizzy Clapham (Archives Volunteer)

The King's Free Chapel. The Chapel of the Most Honourable and Noble Order of the Garter. The Chapel of the College of St George.