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.

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.