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Papers of James T. Baily, Industrial Superintendent, Knockaloe Alien Detention Camp (First World War)

Date(s): 1915-1920

Scope & Content: The papers consist of J.T. Baily’s heavily illustrated, detailed scrapbooks and diaries relating to his time as Industrial Superintendent at Knockaloe Alien Detention Camp and as relief worker in Germany after the First World War. Included is a hand-drawn diagram illustrating the administrative structure (and permanent staff) at Knockaloe. A booklet containing a catalogue of the art and craft work (including furniture designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, commissioned by Bassett Lowke, Derngate, Northampton) and photograph albums and photographs of Knockaloe internees are present. Further materials include printed ephemera such as postcards, pamphlets and entertainment programmes for Knockaloe Alien Detention Camp.

Administration / Biographical History: During the First World War (1914-1918) the Isle of Man was used as an internment base for civilian ‘enemy aliens’. Its biggest camp was Knockaloe Alien Detention Camp, Patrick, situated in the west of the Island. Originally designed for 5,000 people, by the end of the war it housed up to 23,000 men. The confinement of the prisoners led to specific behavioural issues known as ‘barbed wire disease’. Receiving its name from the aimless promenading of inmates up and down the barbed-wire boundary, other symptoms included moroseness and avoidance of others. It was decided that providing practical stimulation would cure the internees’ idleness.

The Friends’ Emergency Committee (a Quaker organization) based in Great Britain was invited to the Island from 1915 onwards with the aim of providing books, tools, equipment and materials for the inmates to work and establish workshops. On this Committee was James Thomas Baily (1876-1957), a Quaker relief worker and professional carpenter and craftsman. Born in Sleaford, Lincolnshire to James (c.1846-c.1888), a cabinet maker and Susannah (c.1849-c.1886), J.T. Baily was the eldest of four. Following in his father’s footsteps James entered the craftsmanship trade, teaching workshops at a number of schools. His ties to the Society of Friends (Quakers) came from his strict Congregational upbringing which also inspired his desire for missionary work. In 1900 James married Lucy Allott (b.1876) and the couple went on to have three sons. After the outbreak of the First World War, Baily was approached by St Stephen’s House (the headquarters of the Friends’ Emergency Committee) with regards to the perceived problem of civilian internees. It was proposed that Baily would go to the Isle of Man and become an Industrial Advisor, using his skills to create productivity within Knockaloe. Under this scheme there were improvements in living quarters, equipment for games, libraries, gardening, theatre productions and various craft workshops. Baily’s influence stimulated a fairly large-scale production of toys, ornaments and furniture (including furniture created by designs of Charles Rennie Macintosh 1868-1928) with sales in Great Britain, Ireland, Sweden, Holland, Denmark and the United States. Baily’s role became so essential in the running of Knockaloe that in 1918 he became the Industrial Superintendent, transferring him to the Manx Government Service.

In 1919 Knockaloe Alien Detention Camp closed. Returning to Britain Baily was again approached by the Society of Friends (Friends Emergency and War Victims Relief Committee) to take up the role of famine relief worker in Germany. Baily toured the country for most of 1920, reporting on the conditions of the German people and the after effects of the war. Baily then returned to Britain and accepted a teaching vacancy at a large Quaker boarding school in Ackworth, Yorkshire. In the late 1930s Britain began receiving refugees escaping Nazi persecution in Europe and once again Baily was approached to offer his services. He became warden of Carclew House, Cornwall deploying mixed labour workshops and acted as advisor to the refugees. By the Second World War (1939-1945) Baily was employed by the Friends’ Relief Service to manage a mansion at Flax Bourton, Somerset which housed evacuee children from the slums; many were so dirty and infested with fleas and lice that it was impossible to send them to ordinary homes. The organization provided clothes and food, established personal hygiene and provided educational work (including craft workshops). In 1957 James Thomas Baily died aged 80 and was buried in the grounds of the Quaker Meeting House, Sibford, Oxfordshire.

Language: English

Extent: 4 boxes

Item name: scrapbooks, journal, photographs, loose leaf ephemera

Collection: Manuscript Archive

Level: FONDS

ID number: MS 10417

Record class: Private

Access conditions: No regulations or restrictions are implemented on this material. Advance notification of a research visit is advisable by emailing


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