We will probably never know quite why exactly Captain Baselow decided to relocate with his family to Cardiff from the German port of Rostock in the 1860s. It is likely that he had heard of the burgeoning port of Cardiff and the economic opportunities that lay ahead.
By that time the two Bute docks had been constructed together with the railways bringing coal down from the mining valleys. Cardiff was beginning to boom and for people like Captain Baselow with maritime experience and his entrepreneurial skills great times lay ahead.
I must admit that until a month ago I hadn’t heard of the Baselow family. I suppose that’s not surprising. They never turned out to be one of the great ship owning families of Victorian Cardiff such as the Seager, Readon-Smith or Radcliffe families. The family does however contain some very interesting stories well worth sharing.
I probably wouldn’t have come across Captain Baselow at all had it not been for an enquiry from a member of ‘Living Lines’ – a group of writers affiliated to A48 Theatre Company. Every year this company put on performances in Cathays Cemetery called ‘Graveyard Voices’. Sadly the performances are unlikely to take place this June due to the Covid 19 pandemic, but the company are hoping to be able to tell the Baselow family story in September. Keep an eye on their website for updates.
More of the connections between the Baselow family and Cathays Cemetery and the Roath area later but in the meantime let’s see what we know about Captain Baselow. It’s not a huge amount if I’m honest. It’s more a case of piecing together the snippets we can find and going from there.
Captain Baselow, or to give him his full name, Captain Hans Henrich Jacob Baselow, was born in the port of Rostock, Germany on 26 Jan 1816. He went by the name of Henrich. By the time he emigrated to Wales in the 1860s he presumably had lots of maritime experience to have the title of Captain. In the 1871 census the Baselow family are living at 162 Bute Street. He is a partner in a ship chandlers and sail making company Baselow, Gensz & Goulter. He is also working in the maritime insurance industry. In 1874 however Captain Baselow and his business partner Albert Goutler are declared bankrupt.
By 1880 his fortunes have evidently bounced back. The Baselows had moved to 17 Mount Stuart Square, residences for the upwardly mobile overlooking the leafy green.
Henrich was working as an agent for German Lloyd’s a company that existed till 2013. Captain Baselow however died on 8 Sep 1881 aged 65. He is buried at Cathays Cemetery (plot L1276).
Marie Henrietta Sophie Olerich was born in around 1826, also in Rostock, and went by the name of Sophie. She married Henrich on 4 Dec 1846 in Rostock and went on to have four children before emigrating to Wales.
The 1891 census tells us that after Henrich died she continued to live on her own means at 17 Mount Stuart Square with her children and still employing a servant. In 1901 however we find she had moved to 1 Howard Gardens with her son, a house they called Rostock. This was presumably because they preferred for their house to overlook a pleasant green rather than the Coal Exchange building which was built on Mount Stuart Square.
Sophie died on 9 Mar 1902 aged 76 and is buried alongside her husband Henrich in Cathays cemetery.
The Baselow children:
Henry Baselow, the German soldier and cigar manufacturer.
Henry David Frederick Baselow was born in 1848 in Rostock. The newspapers provide an interesting insight into his life. He fought right through the Franco-Prussian war of 1870 on the German side serving in the regiment of Fusiliers No.90, fighting in Sedan, Metz and Paris. He was to later deliver lectures in Cardiff on his experiences in that war.
He became a naturalised ‘Englishman’, as did all the Baselow family. In the 1881 census he is in boarding house in Middlesbrough describing himself as an iron merchant. In 1891 he married Alice Emma Bielski at Broadway chapel in Roath, Cardiff. She was daughter of a Polish shipbroker and had grown up in the Roath area. They went on to have four children three of which survived into adulthood.
Henry attended Broadway Wesleyan Methodist church and was evidently somewhat conservative in his views. In 1894 he chaired a meeting of the Roath branch of the British Woman’s Temperance Association. In 1898 he campaigned against the introduction of trams being allowed to run on a Sunday.
His business interests included running a large cigar factory in Mexico. He even became the British vice-consul in Vera Cruz, Mexico. His obituary stated that the adverse climate in Mexico undermined his heath leading him to relinquish his business in later years.
In the 1901 and 1911 census we find the family living in London where Henry describes himself as a cigar manufacturer. When he dies however in 1913, the funeral takes place back in Cardiff officiated by the minister of Broadway and attended by the German Consulate and W H Seager the Cardiff ship owner.
After Henry dies, Emma Baselow returns with the children to live in Cardiff close to her family. They live at 55 Westville Road, Penylan. Henry and Emma’s son, Henry Frank Baselow, worked in the accounts department of Morgan Wakely and Co, coal exporters, Mount Stuart Square. He enrolled in the British army in 1915 and is sent to the Western Front but was killed in action on 5 Oct 1917 aged 20. He is buried in Belgium but is remembered on a war memorial plaque that used to be in Roath Park Wesleyan Church (corner of Wellfield and Albany Roads). When the church closed down the plaque was evidently removed for safe keeping. It was discovered in recent years propped up against a wall in one of the chapels at Cathays Cemetery, nobody knowing its origin. In a strange sort of way it’s as if he was reconnecting with his grandfather, Captain Baselow, buried not far from the cemetery chapel. The plaque is currently in safe storage at Thornhill Crematorium.
Frank Baselow – the flamboyant merchant
Franz ‘Frank’ Ernst Baselow was born in Rostock in 1852. After his father Captain Baselow died in 1881 he and his mother continued to live in Mount Stuart Square and Frank was a provisions agent supplying the constant stream of cargo vessels leaving Cardiff and taking coal around the world.
Again the newspapers provide some interesting snippets of maybe a flamboyant character. In 1888 he is advertising in the Lost and Found section of the paper for the return of a ‘massive gold watch seal with green and red stone’. The finder is promised to be handsomely rewarded.
In 1907 he had a diamond tie pin stolen from outside a restaurant in Soho, London. The pin was said to be worth £23, almost £3,000 in today’s money.
When he and his mother are living at ‘Rostock’ 1 Howard Gardens in 1901 it is Frank who is described as head of household. His mother dies in 1902 and later the same year he marries Florence Lydia Smith from Buckinghamshire. They go on to have one child, Frank Thomas Henry Baselow.
Franz ‘Frank’ Baselow dies in 1915 aged 64. His probate records that he leaves a surprising small sum of £105. I say surprising because his tomb at Cathays Cemetery is one of the most grand in the whole cemetery and perhaps depicts his flamboyant character and German heritage. The tomb has a carved stone sculpture of a mother reading to a child. This may depict his widow Florence reading to son Frank.
Sophie Baselow – the shipbroker’s wife
Johanna Eliza ‘Sophie’ Baselow was Captain Baselow’s only daughter. She married Carl Johann ‘Emile’ Martin in Cardiff in 1875. Emile, was born in Oldenburg, Germany. He was a shipbroker and similarly lived in Mount Stuart Square.
They went onto have eleven children, nine of whom survived into adulthood. As their family grew they moved from Mount Stuart Square to Stacey Road in Roath. Emile died in 1923 in Bath and Sophie in 1833 aged 81. They are both buried in the same grave as Captain and Mrs Baselow at Cathays Cemetery.
Arthur Baselow – the New York pharmacist
Arthur Jahanas August Baselow was Captain Baselow’s youngest child, born in 1862 in Rostock. In the 1881 census he is living at home in Mount Stuart Square and working as a chemist’s assistant. The profession seems to have appealed to him but Cardiff less so and in 1888 he emigrates to America.
On 1 Mar 1888 he arrives in New York and works as a druggist (pharmacist) in Manhattan. He becomes an American citizen and married Joanna Salinger in 1897 and they have two daughters, Marjorie Louise Baselow and Dorothy Lorna Baselow. I haven’t yet found if Joanna Salinger was related to the New York author J.D.Salinger but you never know.
In 1911 they were living on E 96th Street. Arthur Baselow managed the Altamont Pharmacy on 7th Avenue in the very heart of Manhattan, a few yards from Times Square. He died suddenly of a brain haemorrhage in 1914 in Manhattan aged 52, the funeral taking place at St Peter’s church, Manhattan.
So if you ever find yourself standing in Times Square, take a look up 7th Avenue and think of Arthur Baselow, born in Germany, grew up in Cardiff and died in New York.
The Baselow name lives on?
It looks like not. From Captain Baselow’s three sons there were only two male offspring. One of them, died in WWI and the other never married. Even more reason then that we eagerly await for an opportunity to hear the Baselow story to be part of the ‘graveyard voices’ depictions. And there is much more information about Cathays Cemetery on the excellent Friends of Cathays Cemetery website.
Many thanks to Kathy Thomas of the ‘Living Line’s group in the A48 Theatre Company for her help in researching the Baselow family.
The pictures that never made the cut.
Invariably I gathered more pictures than I needed in researching the article so if you are still awake here are some more: