Where was the Red Lion?

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In 1756 members of the Elmes family sold the Red Lion in West Haddon to William Burbidge. For the best part of the next 40 years it seems to have become the most important public house in the village. red-wine-drinker-2nd-half-of-the-18th-century-credit-franz-laktanz-graf-von-firmian

The Burbidge family probably arrived in West Haddon in the late 1740s. Their daughter Elizabeth was baptised here in July 1749, but two other daughters appear to have been born earlier, elsewhere. A son John was born at the beginning of 1753. If they were already in the village for some years before buying the Red Lion, they may have been working there as tenants in those early years.

Very shortly after the purchase, William died, in January 1757. It may have been a very sudden death. He left no will. His widow Mary took almost a year to take out letters of administration on her husband’s estate. Not only was she keeping the Red Lion going, whilst also bringing up Elizabeth, Mary and John (Sarah had died in 1752), but she was also pregnant. William junior was born four months after the death of his father. Turnpike meeting at WH notice9-15-2009_013_edited-2

The Turnpike Trustees met at the Red Lion. So did the Enclosure Commissioners. Mary was an enthusiastic supporter of Enclosure, though she owned no land. She did however enjoy the rights of the two cottage commons attached to the house and she was awarded four acres of land in place of them at Enclosure (now the site of the Mower Shop and water tower on the Northampton Road) She was said to be a very industrious woman, keen to educate her sons (at Guilsborough Grammar School) and she took a pride in bringing up all her children respectably.

Property auctions were held at the house and it was also used for the transaction of local government business, such as the putting out of parish apprentices and settlement examinations – for example, on 29th December 1762 the Overseers of the Poor spent 2s6d [13p] on ale at the Red Lion ‘when William Kemshead came over from Burton Latimer about his settlement’. Mary Burbidge receipt

Until 1791 Mary kept the business going, eventually being bought out by John West of The Crown. He divided the house into cottages and enjoyed the extra business coming to the Crown.

And so Mary’s home, once such a significant centre of village life, disappeared. No-one now remembers where it was. It was described in 1791 as ‘All that long-established public house, known by the sign of the Red Lion…containing a very extensive range of building, with a good barn, stabling, yard and out-offices.’ Guesses may be made, but so far, no evidence has come to light to identify the property which was once such a familiar element in the life of the village.

John West(s) at the Crown

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In 1740 John West got a fine for serving short measure and ‘breaking the assize of ale’ so he was already selling alcohol from the premises we now know as The Crown. But at the time he was also working as a shoemaker and he’d divided the house to make two cottages, with another shoemaker as a tenant next door. The building would have looked very different at that time.

Twenty years or so after the unfortunate episode of the short measure, John had become a pillar of the community and in 1763 he took his turn to serve as an Overseer of the Poor for the year. There were always two of them and his partner was John Underwood, ledgerthe leader of the opposition to Enclosure in the village. They had a busy year.

Smallpox struck the village and through the summer he had to stretch the Poor Rate to cover medical and nursing costs and pay for funerals for those families who were unable to meet the expense themselves. Widow Hall’s house was set up as an isolation unit for patients and John kept them supplied with beer. (It was safer to drink than well water and perhaps it offered them all a bit of cheer).

The following year was free of smallpox, but he still had a funeral to attend. His new daughter Frances was buried at barely a week old. He survived her by only six months.

His son John succeeded him as an energetic 25-year-old anCrownd it was his energy which turned that little pair of cottages into a thriving hub of the village, where as well as selling food and drink, he hosted auctions, hiring fairs, public meetings and even, in 1795, a performance of The Messiah.

Where there’s a will…

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…there’s a glimpse into a life. Wills offer clues about family, property and financial arrangements and can also include small details that conjure up the character or attitudes of the individual.

In West Haddon, over the twenty years surrounding the Enclosure year, there were 323 burials – about 16 a year on average. 140 of them were children and 183 adults. Of those, 24 left wills.

So rather more than 10% of the adult population made wills before they died. Most of them were men. The three women in this sample were all widows. A wife had nothing to leave as the law recognised all her property as belonging to her husband, and it was rare for an unmarried woman to leave a will (though Joan Elmes did, at the beginning of the century).

Five of the men described themselves as yeomen – a status rather than an occupation – it signified a property owner. Four were labourers, three were tailors and then there was a shepherd and a fellmonger (a dealer in sheepskins – fell wool was a lower quality than wool that had been sheared from a living sheep, but it still had a market and the skins could be tanned for leather or made into parchment.) Then there was a woolcomber and a weaver, a carpenter, a grazier, and Thomas Clarke, who mentioned no occupation in his will and no other village records have yet thrown any light on what he did for a living.

Nicholas Heygate we have already met as an apothecary, doctor and Turnpike trustee, but by the time he came to write his will he was retired. His sons were mostly set up in promising careers and he probably felt quite comfortable in describing himself as  ‘gentleman’.

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 called himself a shoemaker and his house, which we now know as the Crown, was still, at the time of his death, divided into two cottages with another shoemaker, John Lucas, in the other half. But when the parish clerk came to record his burial he put him down as ‘victualler’ or innkeeper, recognising his other occupation.

When William Page senior wrote his will in 1768 he left his farmhouse with the gardens and outbuildings etc to trustees ‘for the comfortable support and maintenance of my brother Edward for life, then to my brother Samuel for life then to my nephew William, eldest son of my brother Samuel, forever.’ Was his brother Edward disabled in some way? He also left bequests to his five sisters and directed his trustees to sell his newly enclosed farm to pay the bequests and also to repay his sister Elizabeth the money he owed her on a mortgage – thus distributing his share of the profits of Enclosure.

Mary Kirtland, on the other hand (whom we have already met, in her divided house) had no land to dispose of, but she left her niece £20, a blue silk quilted petticoat and a satin gown; and her nephew an oak bed with green curtains.bed with green curtains

blue silk quilt

…a hundred pounds of his own money…

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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 ledgerJohn – 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?

Gravestone of John Underwood and his wife Hannah
Gravestone of John Underwood and his wife Hannah

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.



at Widow Hall’s house…

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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]All Saints railings people tinted_edited-1
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.)

pestle mortar and candleholderWilliam 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.