Worth a candle?

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Thomas Bourn was a wheelwright with a keen business sense and an eye on the top of Station Road (before there was a station for the road to lead to.)

In 1750 he had approached John Walker (at Crystal House) and Dr Nicholas Heygate (at Laud’s Cottage) about an old barn and bit of orchard between their houses. He’d paid them £18 for it.

By 1776, he’d converted it into three cottages for village weavers, William Hipwell jun. (son of limping William Hipwell from the 1771 Militia List), John Barker and Thomas Naseby. At this point he put the property up for sale and Richard Harris, a tallow chandler (candle-maker) from Yelvertoft bought it – for £90.

The chandler gave the weavers their marching orders and took over the candle light1premises for his own use. But the purchase price had been a bit of a stretch and so a few months later he took out a mortgage for £50.

Bearing in mind the nature of his business, the lender advanced the money only on condition that Mr Harris insured the property with the Sun Fire Office, London ‘or other publick office of insurance’, a relatively novel idea in West Haddon at this time.

(The premises survived the hazards of candlemaking in the 18th century, only to burn down in the 19th cePhotobauble Hovis cropped resized_edited-1ntury when the baker, then in residence in half of it, had an unfortunate mishap…)

But phoenix-like it rose again to supply baked goods to 20th century villagers!)

The wheelwright’s son

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John Tavener, the wheelwright, bought a house in West Haddon with the wheelwrightbarns, stables, outhouses and appurtenances in 1732 for £60. It was in a good position for his business, on the main road through the village, with plenty of room for workshops.

Lime House cropThis was the house where his son Thomas and daughter Judith were born. Then, when Thomas was only 7 years old, his father died. The family stayed on at the house, but what became of the business is unclear.

Thomas and his sister were educated, either by their mother or by Henry Newton, the village schoolmaster and parish clerk and Thomas signed the register when he witnessed the marriage of his sister to Giles Killworth of Barby in 1758.

In 1771 he was listed as a weaver in the Militia List, as also were John, Robert and William Killworth. It’s tempting to think there may have been some kinship connection or at least friendship between the two families. Both the Taveners and the Killworths appear in the West Haddon parish registers for the first time with babies baptised in the 1730s. Had the boys trained together as weavers in the 1740s? And is that how Judith met Giles Killworth – perhaps some kind of cousin from Barby?

In 1774 his mother died, leaving him the house and a small enclosed farm of about 20 acres, rented out to Nathaniel Parnell. (She had objected to Enclosure, but it had gone through anyway.) How long he continued as a weaver is unknown. The Northamptonshire textile industry was failing by the 1780s. At some point he divided the house into two, and a list of ‘hous dwelers’ in 1783 suggests that he had rented part of it to John Killworth.

Thomas never married and his life left little trace behind it. By the time he died, aged 63, he was living in Barby, perhaps with his sister. His divided house and the farm in West Haddon were rented out until Judith’s granddaughter sold the house to a local builder, John Johnson, who turned the house back into one.

Ann Tabernar’s trees

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In 1733 Ann Gulliver married John Tavener (also spelt Tabernar), a wheelwright.

The Gullivers had lived and farmed in West Haddon for centuries, John was a new arrival. They had a son, Thomas, and a daughter, Judith, and then John died, leaving Ann with two small children to bring up alone.

She seems to have been quite a resourceful woman. What happened to the wheelwright’s business is unclear, but some years after John’s death she bought nearly 20 acres of land and rented it out. She also had the common right attached to her cottage and another four acres somewhere in the parish. As a landowner, she stood to gain from the Enclosure.

But she joined those against Enclosure and, in the Pro and Con document, gave her reason:

that she had some trees growing on her land and if they would defer the inclosure till they were full grown she would consent, but taveners treesnot till then.

How many trees she had, or where they were, is not specified.

However a survey of a landholding, quite close to the one she was eventually allotted at Enclosure, includes a valuation of the trees on that land, in 1798, which gives s3La6_edited-1ome idea of the sort of price that timber fetched ‘full grown’ as opposed to ‘small’. In Sedge Hollow (the triangular field between the roads to Watford and Long Buckby at the bottom of Station Road) there were 31 elm and 2 ash trees, valued at £21, and 86 ash, 17 elm and 8 oak, small, valued at £12. 13 shillings [£12.65].

Was she serious about the trees? or just cocking a snook at the new absentee landowners like Thomas Whitfield, who wanted to barge in and change things and yet had never set foot in the village that had been home to her family for generations?

Felling axe