WHEREAS the WORK-SHOP belonging to Benjamin Collis, cordwainer, in West Haddon was broke open on the night of the 25th or early morning of the 26th June and the following articles stolen thereout, viz. one Wax skin, two black Grain ditto, one dressed Neats leather Butt, and a piece of Neats leather ditto; and three pairs of men’s shoes, two pair of them almost new, and the other pair were new soled and heeled
Whosoever will apprehend the offender or offenders so that he or they may be brought to Justice, shall, on Conviction, receive from the said Benjamin Collis a Reward of 2 Guineas.
NB On the inside of one of the Lappets was wrote Mr Boddington.
26th June 1784.
Benjamin Collis was the son of Benjamin Collis sen. and his wife Prudence, nee Parnell. By 1784 he and his wife Joyce had a family of six surviving children (four more having died young.) and he was already training up young Benjamin, his 11-year old, to follow him into the shoemaking business.
In April of Enclosure year, just months before the Riot, Benjamin had sold a workshop, part of his own premises, to John Newton, the weaver. The precise location is unclear, but it seems to have been part of the ‘market infill’ triangle between High Street and Crown Lane. Might the Collis workshop have been behind the thatched cottage shown on this postcard from 1906?
Robert Boddington and his wife were new to the village. His occupation is yet to be discovered, but he paid tax as an owner occupier of a house somewhere in the village and served a term as Surveyor of the Highways. He sounds like a solid and upright citizen – not one to imagine, perhaps, that his shoe repair would leave a trail through history.
John and William Martin were brothers. They were both weavers – the middle of three generations of weavers in West Haddon, from their father in 1707 to William’s son in 1796 (though young William was moving into shop-keeping as the textile trade declined.) They both owned houses (it would be nice to know where!) but no land. There is no evidence of how enclosure affected them, or whether they were involved in the riot.
By the time John came to make his will in 1786 he was not a poor weaver. He had about £600 to bequeath, as well as his house, furniture and silver shoe-buckles.
He left his wife, among other things, a bed with green hangings – green was evidently a popular colour for bedrooms at this time (compare Mary Kirtland’s bed bequest in 1765).
He had no children. He had a sister, Ann, married to John Haycock the saddler, who had three children, while his brother William had six, including the future wives of John West, who developed the Crown, and Robert Earl, later a village schoolmaster.
All these nephews and nieces were well provided for and he left his wife an annuity for the rest of her life. He also left a weekly allowance to his sister. Did she seem to be struggling? Or was he particularly fond of her?
It would seem that he felt he could trust his wife, Mary, to manage her finances on an annual basis, but Ann’s money was to be paid weekly – it’s tempting to speculate why this might have been.
A whole world of possibilities is conjured up by the clause:
2s 6d per week [12.5p] to my sister Ann Haycock for life, to be paid in the church porch every Saturday morning (or 3 shillings [15p] if greater interest can be got on the principal.
The church porch was a public place, where village business might be transacted in front of witnesses, where notices might be posted, about, for example, meetings of the Parish Vestry (a forerunner of the Parish Council), or Enclosure Commissioners. And it may also have become a village schoolroom after the loss of the Free School. A chilly one perhaps, but other church porches were used in this way. ‘Master’ Newton was not only village schoolmaster, but also parish clerk.
John Underwood was a grazier. In 1749 he married Hannah Kirtland, the daughter of another grazier and they had four children.
There was a tradition of public service in the family. John’s father (yes, another John – no imagination) twice took on the duty of Overseer of the Poor, in 1732 and 1742, along with William Robins (the shepherd, remember him?) and after his death, John jun. also served two terms in the same office – in 1754 with John Kilsby and in 1763 (the smallpox year) with John West as his partner.
In 1748 he owned sufficient land to entitle him to a vote in the general election. There was no secret ballot at that time and the way people voted was published in a poll book, from which we can see that John voted Whig (or liberal).
Dr Heygate didn’t vote at that election, because at that time he didn’t meet the property qualification. In the same year the proceeds of the village poor levy were recorded in the accounts of the Overseers of the Poor. These show that while John Underwood’s property value was rated at a guinea [£1.05], Dr Heygate’s was only 1/2d [about 6p].
Their situations were reversed in the run-up to Enclosure as Dr Heygate bought up land while John Underwood continued to rent most of his. In the Pro and Con document, where the Heygate name was absent, John Underwood headed the list of objectors.
John Underwood who is the principal person that supports the opposition says he’ll spend a hundred pounds of his own money to stop it but owns that they are very beneficial fields to inclose and would improve as much by inclosing as any fields he knows. Note. he rents above 4 yardlands at a low price and has of his own land only 2 quarterns. His reason for not consenting was that he does very well now and that he does not know whether it would be any better for him in case they were inclosed therefore he would oppose it.
Since there was a general belief that rents would soar for enclosed land, he was probably worried about a big rent rise for his 4 yardlands, which would not be offset by the rising value of his two quarterns which he would have the expense of fencing etc.
So was he involved in the organisation of the riot? Did he spend his own money on that newspaper advertisement and free beer? His name was never mentioned as a suspect, but will we ever know for sure? (He was more likely to have been the man who paid the legal bills for the drawing up of the counter-petition, presented to Parliament on 31st January 1764 ‘by John Underwood and 32 others against the Bill.’)
He and Dr Heygate seemed to be on opposite sides of the enclosure fence – were the families on good terms otherwise?
Two years after Enclosure, John was dead, but in 1773 his daughter Elizabeth married Dr Heygate’s son, Robert, with her brother and sister apparently happy to sign as witnesses to the marriage.
William and Elizabeth Hall came to West Haddon around 1750. Their daughter Priscilla was baptised in 1751 and her brother Richard five years later. The following year, William died.
The family were not well off and he was buried by the parish. The account book of the Overseers of the Poor recorded the expenses:
Paid for a coffin for William Hall, 8 shillings [40p]
Paid two women to watch with him and laying him out, 4 shillings [20p]
Paid four men to bear him to church, 2 shillings [10p]
Paid the clerk for ringing the bell and digging the grave, 2 shillings [10p]
Paid Mr Walker for crepe and jersey to bury him in, 1 shilling and 6d [7.5p]
(John Walker was a draper. He lived at what is now Crystal House.)
The summer of 1763 saw an outbreak of smallpox in the village and there are records in the same account book of what was spent on those who were unable to pay for their own treatment. Several seem to have been isolated at the house of Widow Hall. (Sadly we don’t know which house that was.)
William Masters was paid £1.1.6 [£1.7.5p] for ‘atending of the smallpox 43 days’and a further 30p for ‘sitting up 3 days and 3 nights’, while Kitty Line was paid £1.16.0 [£1.80] ‘for nursing of the people at Wido Hall of the smallpox for 6 weeks pay at 6 shillings per week’, while John West, of the Crown, was paid about 75p ‘for beer for all the people who had the smallpox’.
(The last expense may seem like an indulgence on the rates, but at that time well water was rarely safe to drink. The brewing process had a sterilising effect, so it was healthier to drink beer!)
Elizabeth survived the epidemic, but it may have taken its toll on her. She was buried in July 1765, just a month before the riot, leaving her children to be cared for by the parish. An entry a fortnight after her burial recorded money ‘spent at Burbidge’s [the Red Lion] when we set Hall’s children to Goodman’ (presumably a fostering arrangement). The following month Thomas Patch (father of the founder of the village brickyard), was paid about 16p to make a pair of shoes ‘for Betty Hall’s son’, which he mended in 1766 and later that year Richard was apprenticed to a Coventry ribbon-weaver.
Before the notion of stipends provided a vicar with an income, he would have had to rely on glebe and tithe to feed himself.
The Glebe was a piece of farmland, cultivated by the cleric himself, or by a hired man if he could afford one.
The Tithe was a tenth of the produce of the parish. A rector got the Great Tithes of corn and hay, but if he was a lay rector (not a clergyman) he would have to supply someone to hold services, administer sacraments, etc on his behalf, ie. ‘vicariously’ – hence, a vicar! The vicar got the Small Tithes.
In 1579, Ralph Turner, a new vicar in West Haddon, got into a dispute with his lay rector, Edward Andrew, about just what was included in Small Tithes. The Bishop of London and ‘several doctors of the civil law’ ruled that the vicar was due a tenth of the following:
flax (which made linen – hemp made a coarser fabric, more like sackcloth, and rope)
herbs (these included vegetables, a word not widely in use at this time)
By 1765 the Enclosure Commissioners awarded John Watkin the Vicar, in lieu of
half a yardland,
the swarth (a half-yardland-equivalent share of the hay from the village meadows – a tenth of which he presumably owed to Thomas Whitfield as his lay rector),
land called Spinney Close on the South side of the town (as yet unidentified – no acreage given),
a modus of 20 shillings for every yardland in the parish and a shilling per cottage, payable each year,
the small tithes
and ‘garden pence due to the Vicar out of the gardens, orchards or old enclosures of the several proprietors of the open field lands’
a farm of 157 acres
Bearing in mind that a half yardland was rather less than 20 acres, even adding up all the other sources of income due to John Watkin, it would seem that Thomas Ford and Jonathan Robins, objecting to enclosure on the grounds that too much was allowed for tithes, had a point.
In 1733 Ann Gulliver married John Tavener (also spelt Tabernar), a wheelwright.
The Gullivers had lived and farmed in West Haddon for centuries, John was a new arrival. They had a son, Thomas, and a daughter, Judith, and then John died, leaving Ann with two small children to bring up alone.
She seems to have been quite a resourceful woman. What happened to the wheelwright’s business is unclear, but some years after John’s death she bought nearly 20 acres of land and rented it out. She also had the common right attached to her cottage and another four acres somewhere in the parish. As a landowner, she stood to gain from the Enclosure.
But she joined those against Enclosure and, in the Pro and Con document, gave her reason:
– that she had some trees growing on her land and if they would defer the inclosure till they were full grown she would consent, but not till then.
How many trees she had, or where they were, is not specified.
However a survey of a landholding, quite close to the one she was eventually allotted at Enclosure, includes a valuation of the trees on that land, in 1798, which gives some idea of the sort of price that timber fetched ‘full grown’ as opposed to ‘small’. In Sedge Hollow (the triangular field between the roads to Watford and Long Buckby at the bottom of Station Road) there were 31 elm and 2 ash trees, valued at £21, and 86 ash, 17 elm and 8 oak, small, valued at £12. 13 shillings [£12.65].
Was she serious about the trees? or just cocking a snook at the new absentee landowners like Thomas Whitfield, who wanted to barge in and change things and yet had never set foot in the village that had been home to her family for generations?
When Emma Elmes died, leaving her nephew Thomas Spokes her farm in West Haddon, he was newly married to Rebecca Parnell.
In the spring of 1771 his father (another Thomas) died and he inherited the house and homestead in Guilsborough Road next door to the Patch family. He and Rebecca had four children (with two more to come) and all of them lived into adulthood.
Thomas Spokes sen. had been against enclosure (“thinks it won’t improve”), with barely 10 acres to his name. We don’t know what Thomas Spokes jun. thought, but by the time the surveyors had done their measuring and apportioning, his aunt’s legacy had left him with almost 40 acres and the prospect of higher rents if he took on a tenant. (Enclosure was generally reckoned to double the value of land overnight – good for landlords but bad news for tenants.)
Whatever his opinion, with the death of his father he was the head of his family and a man of property. A man to take on the responsibilities of village administration in the role of Constable. There were no police in the 18th century. A constable was the principal member of a group of what might be considered local government officials for a village, including overseers of the poor, surveyors of the highways, churchwardens, aletasters, haywards etc.
In 1771 Thomas Spokes was elected Constable. One of his most onerous duties that year was the compiling of the village listing for the Militia ballot. This was a list of all male inhabitants between the ages of 18 and 45 who were liable to serve for a certain number of days a year in the local militia, for a period of three years. Certain groups were excused service, such as the disabled, the poor with children (who would have to be supported by the village while their fathers were away) and apprentices. All the names were listed and then the dozen to serve for the next 3 years were drawn at random in the ballot.
He had help. John Colledge was his headborough, or deputy – a good man for this job as he was also parish clerk and used to writing legibly. Richard Baucutt, John Naseby and William Adams were his thirdboroughs, or assistants. Between them they produced a document which has been of huge value in building a picture of life around 1765. It not only listed names – 148 of them. It also included occupations for most of them (124).
There was only one gentleman in the village in this age-group (John Kilsby). Also an apothecary -something between a doctor and a pharmacist (Charles Heygate), a breeches maker and a saddler.
Out in the fields there were 6 farmers, 2 graziers, 2 husbandmen (small farmers). Most of the 13 labourers and 11 servants were also probably employed on the land (a labourer worked by the day, a servant in husbandry was hired by the year and lived as part of the farm household).
To keep body and soul together there were 3 bakers and 5 butchers, together with 2 victuallers, or innkeepers. 4 tailors and 3 shoemakers kept everyone clothed and shod. 2 masons and 3 carpenters built or adapted housing.
And beavering away in workshops all over the village were 49 weavers and 13 woolcombers. Each weaver needed the work of 10 spinners to keep him supplied with yarn. So although women were not included in the Militia List, we can be sure that a great many were fully employed at their spinning wheels. This was a busy village.
Of the three women who appeared on the ‘con’ list in the Pro and Con document, opposing the plan to enclose the common fields of West Haddon, two were considered incompetent to express an opinion.
East’s widow was not even acknowledged to have a name of her own and was dismissed as ‘not right in her senses’.
Emme Elmes, also a widow, ‘was old and childish and would consent’. Was this a clerical error? if she would consent she should have been listed with the others who supported enclosure, surely? Perhaps she confused the writer of the document in some way so that he was distracted as he wrote. In any event, we are left with the possibility of two female landowners perhaps suffering from some form of dementia.
And yet her will, made in December 1763 seems to be very clear and straightforward – did someone else draw it up on her behalf?
The will gives a picture of her wider family – what they did for a living and where they set up homes for themselves. Her property consisted of a farmhouse with a couple of paddocks in the village and farmland out in the open fields, being farmed by a tenant – John Facer. This went to her nephew Thomas Spokes, with money bequests to other relatives, including Richard Elmes of Eynesbury, Huntingdon, a yeoman, Thomas Elmes of Lilbourne, a cooper, Mary the wife of Thomas Mason of West Haddon, a baker, Elizabeth, wife of Daniel Hollinshead of the City of London, whitesmith and Mary Patch, mother of Thomas who, as an adult, was to set up the brickyard in Guilsborough Road.
She had no children of her own to inherit her property. The parish registers show that Emme Hollis married John Elmes, a mercer and chandler, in 1722. They had four daughters, all of whom died young. John himself died a matter of months after the birth of their fourth child in 1728. So after a marriage of only six years Emme lived a widow for 36 years, never remarrying.
A deed of 1745 shows that whilst living with relatives in Warwickshire, she sold premises in West Haddon (presumably her late husband’s shop). This raises the possibility that, although she was buried in West Haddon, she may have lived for a significant part of her life in Warwickshire, leaving John Facer to run the farm, and therefore being yet another absentee landlord.
Thomas Whitfield, of Watford in Hertfordshire, the Six Clerks’ Office in London, and Lord of the Manor of West Haddon, was not the only village property owner who lived elsewhere.
This house in High St. had been owned by absentee landlords for the best part of a century when Sir Thomas Ward of Guilsborough put it up for sale. He had inherited it from his parents. It had been part of his mother’s marriage settlement in 1711, to provide her with a dower house during her widowhood.
Sir Thomas was a JP and friend and neighbour of John Bateman of Guilsborough, the JP who had ordered Richard Beale to be held in irons after the riot.
He sold the property in 1763, shortly after the drawing up of the Pro and Con document, in which he is shown to own two cottages as well as over 100 acres of land. Given the wide frontage of the property, this may originally have been those two cottages. Certainly in 1763 there were two tenants: Ann Spokes, a widow and William Masters, a weaver.
Thomas Smith, a butcher, bought it for £65 and converted part of it into a butcher’s shop. Since then it has undergone major rebuilding, following a fire at the end of the 19th century.
The property deed of 1763 includes this extraordinary clause:
…and also all that South wall which separates the close and premises belonging to Sir Thomas Ward from the yard and premises now in the occupation of Ann Spokes and William Masters, except and always reserving unto the said Sir Thomas Ward the liberty of erecting a necessary house against the said wall when and as often as he shall think proper.
“In the South Field, one rood on Broadwell Hill, Thomas Towers, North”
This is the first line in a description of some land that William Robins, the shepherd, sold to William Boyes (another shepherd) in 1749. People in West Haddon didn’t have much to do with map-making before the Enclosure Commissioners sent in the surveyors in 1765. When land changed hands it was described in words, using names which in some cases had changed little since the Middle Ages. Even the document description goes back a long way – it was called a terrier – nothing doggy about it, but a Norman-French term for a landholding (terre = land).
The first line of this terrier is as good an introduction as any to the old open-field system of farming, which was swept away by enclosure.
The South Field was one of the three huge fields covering most of the parish.
Basically it was all the land between the Northampton road and the Watford road, running down to the brook that separates us from Long Buckby parish. West Field swept round from the Watford road to the Guilsborough road, down to the brook that separates us from Winwick parish. The East Field, or Debdale, formed a wedge between the Guilsborough road and the Northampton road over to Ravensthorpe, Coton and Guilsborough.
All the farmers in the parish followed a single rotation system, with one of the three fields left uncultivated each year, to lie fallow and recover its fertility (with the aid of the village livestock, whose dung was about the only fertiliser available). Each farmer held his land in bits scattered over all three fields, so there would never be a year when his/her land would all be uncultivated. The bits took the form of quarter or half acre strips which were arranged in groups called
furlongs. Furlongs were similar to modern fields except that there were no hedges, only grass paths or baulks to separate them from each other and provide access to the strips for plough teams and workers. Remains of the old strips can still be seen in some places as ‘ridge and furrow’, particularly early morning and evening when the angle of the sun is low.
“One rood” is a quarter of an acre.
“Broadwell Hill” furlong may have been about where the field now called Broad Hill lies, on the right of the Northampton road, just before the lane to Ravensthorpe goes off to the left.
“Thomas Towers, North”. To make sure the new owner cultivated the right strip, the name of the owner of the neighbouring strip is given. Thomas Towers had the strip to the North of the one William Robins was selling. And the fact that he was on the North tells us that the strips in that furling ran East to West. (Next time you go into All Saints’ Church, look down and you’ll see a memorial stone to Thomas Towers junior in the South aisle.)
The terrier goes on to list all the strips being sold, adding up to roughly ten acres, for which William Boyes paid £104.11s [£104.75]. Ten acres is an approximation of the land measurement used in the deed, which was a quarterne. There will be more to say about this on another occasion.