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

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?