Not all the people who owned land in West Haddon in 1765 actually lived here. Thomas Whitfield owned more land than anyone else, but there is no evidence to show that he ever set foot here. He was based in London, at the Six Clerks’ Office in Chancery Lane, supporting the work of the Court of Chancery.
He had bought the land in West Haddon , along with the Lordship of the Manor, from a merchant in the Canary Islands, who is also highly unlikely ever to have been here, but just enjoyed the income arising from the rents of his tenants and the Great Tithes – a tenth of all the grain and hay produced in the parish, due to him in return for his maintenance of the parish church.
The Enclosure Act abolished tithes and awarded land in compensation. A couple of years before the enclosure went through Thomas Ford, an elderly farmer and also probably village blacksmith, who owned about 10 acres of land, recorded his objections to the process ‘because too much were allowed in lieu of tyths’.
Jonathan Robbins, a shepherd’s son who had inherited a similar amount of land, with a cottage, from his father ten years before enclosure, agreed with him.
The local JPs lost no time in pursuing those who had had a hand in the riot – not just the rioters, but those who had set up the football advertisement or otherwise given encouragement to those who had burned the fencing.
Francis Botterell was suspected of preparing the advertisement, whilst John Fisher was believed to have helped to pay for it.
Meanwhile, Richard Beale, arrested on 5th August, was thrown into gaol to await trial ‘in heavy irons and fetters’ at the County Assizes in March 1766. At his trial he was accused of having promised the rioters ” half a hogshead of ale and a guinea to indemnify them if they would burn and destroy the posts and rails”. He was acquitted, as were 3 others, but had already spent months in chains. 5 men were sentenced to between 2 and 12 months and there is no evidence that any of them came from West Haddon. They may have come in from surrounding villages, just to be part of the action, and not moved fast enough to escape the soldiers.
Enclosing the open fields meant fencing off access to resources that had been available to the poorest in the community, to make a hard life just a little more bearable.
Wild fruit and nuts might be gathered in season to brighten up a boring and meagre diet.
Children were traditionally allowed to gather scraps of wool that may have caught on bushes – probably not enough to make a usable quantity of yarn, but enough perhaps to stuff a little cushion to make a hard stool more comfortable to sit on.
There were rules about the gathering of firewood, but ‘clotts and thistles’ could be collected and dried for fuel (a clott was a cowpat).
And for those who were unable to afford candles, there was at least one osier bed in the parish where rushes could be cut and turned into rush lights to lighten the darkness.
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…
What public houses were there in West Haddon in 1765?
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.
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.
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.
But was a football game really the point of that advertisement?
June 1st, 1765. The village sheep have been driven down to the Washbrook to clean their fleeces before the sheep-shearing begins…
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.
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…