Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: March 27, 2018
Webpage updated: August 12, 2022



ROBERT BAYLY (1839-1901)

Mr Robert Bayly was born at Brunswick Terrace, Plymouth, on August 11th 1839.  He was the first son of Mr John and Mrs Elizabeth Bayly.  His mother was formerly Miss Elizabeth Windeatt.

After being educated at the private school of Mr Joseph Greaves and in France and Germany, he returned to Plymouth join his younger brother, Richard (1840-1875), in the family timber business of Messrs Bayly and Fox.  As Mr Charles Fox left the partnership in 1846 they re-styled the business as Messrs R & R Bayly.

Mr Robert Bayly married Miss Emma Sophia Sewell, of Cirencester, Gloucestershire, in 1868 and a family soon followed: John Bayly was born on May 28th 1869 and baptized at Charles' Church, Plymouth, on July 6th 1869.  John Bayly was then followed by three sisters: Elizabeth Mary Bayly, born July 28th 1870; Agnes Emma Bayly, born January 28th 1872; and Edith Anna Bayly, May 5th 1874.  They were followed by two more sons: Richard Bayly, in 187 and Robert Bayly in 1878.  Finally camed two more daughters: Emily Bayly, in 1882 and Kathleen Margaret Bayly in 1887. 

Although the family at first lived in modest surroundings at Number 3 Bedford Terrace, just off the main Tavistock Road, in 1875 Robert moved the family outside the Town boundary, to Tor Grove in the parish of Weston Peverel.   They had an all-female staff comprising a nurse, a cook, a parlour maid, a house maid and a child's maid.  His brother died that same year, after a short illness.

It was at Tor Grove that one of the most significant events in local and national history took place.  In 1877, while visiting the Town to lecture to the British Association about the invention of the telephone, Mr Alexander Graham Bell stayed at the Mr Bayly's residence.  He installed one of the first telephone lines between the house and the gardener's cottage and this remained in use for many years afterwards.  In due course the instruments were presented to the Plymouth Museum.  Robert took an energetic interest in trying to provide electrical communication between coast-guard stations and lighthouses, which on January 23rd 1892 led to him being ridiculed in the satirical magazine "Punch".  He later offered to pay for the installation of the wireless in the Eddystone Lighthouse.

In 1882 Robert built a new house at Tor, for which he reverted to the original spelling of Torr, with two 'Rs'.  He was in the forefront of everything useful and philanthropic in his native town and also in the County.  He was elected to the first Devon County Council and was appointed a Justice of the Peace for the County.  During his lifetime he was chairman of the Plymouth Chamber of Commerce, chairman of the Sutton Harbour Improvement Company (which the family had helped to found in 1812), served as a Cattewater Harbour Commissioner, and helped his father to found the Marine Biological Association. He became a life member of the Devonshire Association in 1871.  For relaxation, he sailed his yacht "Alkelda" on many long voyages, including one to Saint Petersburg.   All in all, he was a very busy man.

Although he was prominent in every walk of life in the Town, as the local newspapers of the day record, Mr Robert Bayly firmly declined the many invitations to became Mayor of Plymouth and to stand for Parliament.

He was seriously ill for five years before his death on July 18th 1901.  He was buried in the churchyard of Pennycross Parish Church on July 22nd 1901.

Management of the timber merchant business of Messrs R & R Bayly then passed to Robert's second son, Mr Richard Bayly (1877-1912).

Following the death of his widow, Mrs Emma Sophia Bayly, on March 14th 1921, the Trustees of the estate, Mr Alfred John Meybohm Venning, Mr Arthur David Ricardo and Mr Godfery Nix Dickinson, sold Torr House and the surrounding pasture, plantation and allotments amounting to 47.135 acres to the Torr and Venn Garden Estates Ltd for 28,000.  Included in the sale was a tiny parcel of land at the junction of Tor Lane and Tavistock Road (now Outland Road), which was owned by Mr William Chapell Hodge and had formerly been part of the land owned by the Trustees of the Sir John Gayer's Charity.


  Compiled with the kind and valued assistance of Mr R D Bayly.