He was born in Withypool, Somerset around 1849. By the early 1870s, he had moved to Bradford and was living on Great Horton Road.
He married Caroline Cadman, daughter of brickburner William Cadman, at Bradford Cathedral on 24 August 1873. They had seven known children together and the birth locations indicate that Robert frequently had to move his family in search of work:
By the time of the 1881 Census, they were living at 37 Blacker Road North, Fartown, sharing a property with labourers William Williams (aged 30) and John Long (aged 39).
At the time of the 1891 Census, the family was living at Chrimble in Golcar and the two oldest daughters (Sarah aged 14 and Harriet aged 16) were working as worsted spinners.
Caroline likely died in 1902, aged 50.
On Monday 8 January, foreman Frank Crabtree had laid a series of eight gelignite charges in the reservoir's puddle trench. The charges were detonated and Crabtree, along with excavator Thomas Makin, believed they had heard all of them explode. Unfortunately one had not and remained embedded in the rock and this wasn't detected when Crabtree and Makin examined the trench.
Work on clearing the debris was then delayed for several days due to poor weather.
Baker left his home in Slaithwaite at 6:45am on the morning of Friday 12 January and, by 10am, was working with colleagues to help clear the trench of the debris and rock loosened by then detonations. Alongside him were William Hughes, Thomas Makin, William Reeve, quarryman John Lockwood and others.
At around 10:30am, Baker and Reeve were breaking up some of the larger rocks with pick axes when one of them struck the rock with the undetonated charge and it exploded. The flying debris hit several of the men, but it seems Baker took the brunt of the force and was killed instantly, probably by a rock which struck his head. It was also reported that his leg was fractured and his back badly burnt.
Reeve and William Hughes were treated and allowed to return home, whilst John Lockwood was transferred to the Huddersfield Infirmary.
The inquest into his death was held on Monday 15 January at the Old New Inn, Marsden, with deputy coroner Mr. J.E. Hill. After hearing the evidence, the jury returned a verdict of "accidental death" and recommended that the Waterworks Committee provide for the widow and her seven children.
Robert Baker was buried the following day at St. Bartholomew, Marsden.
At a Town Council meeting held on 17 January, Alderman Crosland intimated that the Waterworks Committee would provide some form of compensation to the family: