Mr Boddington’s shoe repairs

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From the Northampton Mercury, June 28th, 1784.

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. Shoemaker_edited-1

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?Cottages and Crown pre 1906_Detail_edited-2

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.

The shoemaker and the clock

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William Norman probably began his married life here, with his wife Emma and her parents. Their daughters married and moved away, but their son John remained in the family home and in due course brought his wife Alice to live Spread Eaglehere too.

John was a master shoemaker (perhaps his father had been the same.) We know he was a master because an apprenticeship indenture survives showing that he took on George Bradshaw in 1770.

Alice died in Enclosure year, having given John eight children, including two little girls who were under five when she died. Rachel, the eldest girl, was 18 by this time and could perhaps take her mother’s place with the younger children to some degree. Did she see it as a threat or a relief when three years later her father married Mary Wilson, a widow with two sons and  daughter of her own?

The house really wasn’t big enough so he seems to have extended it, with the help of a mortgage and also divided it in two (did the step families not get on?)

By the time he wrote his will he was living in one house and Mary James in the other. Who was Mary James? He wrote his will a month after his second wife had long case clock cropdied, leaving him with a four-year-old son.Was Mary acting as a sort of housekeeper?  A year or two before John made his will, a widow called Ann James made hers, by which we know that she had come from Watford. And she had a clock. It must have been a long-case clock, for it stood, rather than hung ‘in the dwelling house of John Norman of West Haddon’. But she didn’t mention any kind of relative named Mary. Did John just get her name wrong?