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.
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.
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’.
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.