News from the Northampton Mercury

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Riot report9-15-2009_014_edited-1


The advertisement for the football match had mentioned ‘the cause now in hand’. It was now clear that ‘the cause’ had nothing to do with who had possession of the ball.

The fencing was stacked, ready to be put up as soon as the last harvest had been cleared from the open fields of West Haddon. That fencing was a clear symbol of the changes about to be imposed on the community.

But was it a spontaneous outpouring of public feeling? Or was it an orchestrated event by a few individuals, using that public feeling for their own ends? The local Justices of the Peace were not about to let this challenge to the authority of the landowning classes go unpunished…18th century army uniforms

That football game

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Football play ad9-15-2009_016_edited-1

What public houses were there in West Haddon in 1765?

The Crown Hotel as it is in 2015 on the left of the picture.
The Crown Hotel as it is in 2015 on the left of the picture.

John West was the third generation of his family to own The Crown, but its current frontage was probably not in existence until after his death in 1824. In 1765 it probably looked more like this two-storied current building, formerly Hopwell’s on High Street.

Hopwell's Antiques on High Street: in 1765 The Crown may have looked more like this.
Hopwell’s Antiques on High Street: The Crown may have looked more like this in 1765.
The Sheaf Inn, West Haddon

The Sheaf Inn had changed hands in 1750, when the deeds described it as ‘the sign of The Cock’. Elizabeth Tarry was in negotiations to sell it to Stephen Warren, a baker, following the death of her husband John in 1762, The sale went through in the month following the riot.

There is evidence for the existence of The Spread Eagle, in Station Road, in the 1790s. It may well have been in business already by 1765 and is depicted in the old postcard below.

The inn sign on the left of this picture of Station Road clearly reads The Spread Eagle.
The inn sign on the left of this picture of Station Road clearly reads The Spread Eagle.

Another widow, Mary Burbidge, ran the Red Lion after her husband’s death in 1757 until 1791 when it closed down. But where was it? One theory has already bitten the dust following the discovery of some property deeds. It was almost certainly in West End, High St or Northampton Rd. If you own property in any of those streets, your deeds may hold clues to the Red Lion’s location – please get in touch!

But what about the football match?

In the 18th century  a football match wasn’t the organised affair it is today, but a much looser free-for-all, offering good business to anyone selling alcohol.

MobfootyBut was a football game really the point of that advertisement?

The 250th anniversary of the West Haddon Enclosure Riots

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June 1st, 1765. The village sheep have been driven down to the Washbrook to clean their fleeces before the sheep-shearing begins…

The Washbrook
The Washbrook, is the stream that runs under the road here, marking the boundary between West Haddon and Watford parishes.

In the village, Richard Beale and John Fisher are just two of the many weavers working in small workshops or the living rooms of their cottages. There is birdsong and the scent of lilac on the air. As their feet work the treadles and they throw their shuttles back and forth, their fabric grows. As does a sense of unrest and apprehension as they contemplate the loss of a landscape they know and have come to depend on.

A weaver
Northamptonshire weavers produced light worsted fabrics made from combed wool. Most of them owned no land, but relied on local customary rights to run a few geese on the rough grazing of the parish, collect firewood and forage for other items to stretch their budgets when trade was bad.

The Enclosure Commissioners have set the surveyors to work, dividing up the open fields of the parish to make separate, self-contained farms. Richard and John aren’t sure what to expect. What they don’t know is that, in a couple of months, they will both face prison…