Samuel Newman: alehouse keeper

In 1657 William Worcester, the constable, brought Samuel Newman, alehouse keeper, before the magistrates for allowing Richard Wills and Samuel Brabson to continue drinking late into the night at his alehouse. He wasn’t the first Newman in the village to keep an alehouse and turn an occasional blind eye to the law.

Over 70 years earlier, at the same court in 1581 that ordered villagers not to wander about carrying fire in wisps of straw, Robert Newman, common maltster and ale seller, was accused of breaking the assize of ale (i.e. selling short measure) and fined two pence.

A couple of generations later, in 1630, Henry Newman of West Haddon was granted an alehouse licence. Possibly Henry was Samuel’s father.

40 years after the fire another rare survival of a West Haddon manorial court roll records the proceedings on 29 April 1698. The court was held at Samuel Newman’s (probably by this time the son of Samuel Newman senior – though the old man was still alive). There was no manor house in West Haddon – a pub was one of the few public gathering places in the village where such a meeting could be held. On this occasion, under his own roof, Samuel Newman was fined a shilling for selling ale in short measures.

In his will Samuel junior left the pub to his son (another Samuel), who died, young and unmarried, leaving it to his sisters Sarah and Alice who, in 1750, along with their younger brother John, sold it to William Gulliver. In its first appearance in the deeds the pub is called The Cock.

Samuel Newman was one of those whose houses were burned down in 1657. It would be a reasonable assumption to suppose that the houses were all adjoining or close to each other. Pinning down the location of The Cock might identify the location of the fire. And it so happens that through the deeds we can do that. The Cock must have been rebuilt after the fire. And it was rebuilt again, in 1828, before being sold ten years later under its new name, The Wheatsheaf.

That brings to an end this commemoration of the 1657 Great Fire of West Haddon. The blog will continue, on an occasional basis, shooting off at whatever historical tangent captures my attention at the time. If you have been, thanks for reading.

Edward Clarke and the ruinous house

Half the house to my wife Alice for life during her widowhood and the other half to my son Edward. The pattern of houses being split between widows and their sons emerges strongly from wills made at around the time of the fire.

In this case Edward Clarke directed that his son, Edward junior, should have the half of the house that had belonged to his grandmother and that he be allowed wood for the new building of that house which is ruinous. This clause of the will suggests a house that had been divided between widows and sons for at least two generations and where general maintenance had been neglected.

When Edward junior came to rebuild he would almost certainly have had the roof thatched. It was the most common roofing material in village housing at this period. And the upper rooms in most houses would have been open to the rafters too – no plastered ceilings to hold back the flames if a fire took hold.

And downstairs a fire would be kept going in the hearth for cooking, even during summer. At curfew the fire would be banked down for the night, to be bellowed into life the following morning – so much easier than starting from scratch with flint and tinder in an age before matches. But if it went out overnight, it must have been very tempting to pop next door and take a light from a neighbour’s hearth – in a little handful of straw, perhaps.

An order from a manorial court in 1581 laid down that no person shall carry any fire in any wisp of straw, on pain of every time they are seen or taken, 12 pence: to the taker 4 pence, to the lord the rest.

So the fire hazard was well known of old and it paid to be vigilant if there were a few pennies in it. But people could get careless. And the spring and summer of 1657 were both extraordinarily hot. By August 1st all the thatch in the village must have been as dry as tinder…

George Spokes: a brief span

The Spokes family had been farming in West Haddon since the first Queen Elizabeth was on the throne. By the 1630s there were several branches of the family.

George was the son of John Spokes, who died in the spring of 1636, very shortly after making his will, so he may have been aware that he was dying (but we don’t know what of.)

John’s will has survived, along with a probate inventory, listing all his possessions at the time of his death. Because it lists household goods in the rooms they stood in, the inventory offers a snapshot of the house George grew up in. It was pretty sparse – quite minimalist.

Downstairs there was a hall (the main living room) which had a table, a form (a kind of bench) and three stools in it – no chairs. In the parlour (the best room) there was a bed, three coffers, three barrels and a thrall to stand them on. This was a room for entertaining visitors. It was usual at this period for the best bed to stand in the parlour, usually with bed curtains, displaying the wealth of the family by the quality of the fabric or the richness of the embroidery. (Visitors may have been offered ale, but it seems they were expected to stand.) The kitchen held the usual food-related equipment of the period. But there was only one chamber, or upstairs room. This held two more beds and a couple more coffers. The furniture was valued at a lot less than the household linens and bedding – the table, stools etc were worth ten shillings (50p), the brass and pewter ware £2, while the mattresses, blankets, sheets and pillows, tablecloths and napkins amounted to £8!

John left almost everything to George, with the understanding that he would take care of his mother if they can accord to live together, but if she shall depart from him then she is to have £10 and half the moveable goods within the house.

In the event, the widowed Elizabeth didn’t depart. Her son George did.

By the end of July in that same year, George had made his will, leaving various small bequests, including to his two godchildren and to the poor of West Haddon, and by the end of September his mother had inherited everything else.

Apologies – this should have been posted on 22 August.

Gregory Palmer: on the winning side?

The legal case between Samuel Clerke and the charity trustees gives one of very few glimpses of West Haddon at the time of the Civil War. There is already a question over the Vicar, Gregory Palmer, concerning the disappearance of the pre-1653 parish register. The taking of sides became more open in the course of this dispute.

A chest had been bought, with three locks and keys, for the deeds relating to the charity estate. It was kept in a private place in the parish church. Samuel Clerke kept one of the keys and the chest was only to be opened in the presence of himself and the trustees. These deeds would, of course, show just who had been party to the purchase of the various properties and lands. But –

The chest was broken up and the locks broken when the King’s army came into these parts and the deeds and evidences taken away and stolen, which the trustees believe was done by Samuel Clerke himself (he being a notorious cavalier attending the King’s army.) So, in effect, Vicar and village were claiming loyalty to the parliamentary (winning) side. How convenient.

Furthermore, they declared that by the summer of 1647 the church steeple had become so ruinous and in danger of falling that the villagers were compelled to take it down, at a cost of more than £200. To raise the money they had had to mortgage the charity estate. Samuel Clerke, as lay rector, was responsible for church repairs (in return for a hefty annual tithe payment) and he had failed to foot the bill. It is safe to say the relationship between the people of West Haddon and their manorial lord had broken down.

This story has a strange postscript. In about 1888 someone (the famous Anon.) wrote a narrative poem about a parish chest which was printed and sold to raise funds for the church restoration. The story was vague on detail, but concerned lost keys and a chest in the church which was broken open when part of the church stonework collapsed and fell on it. Was this a folk memory mash-up of the dispute and the spire demolition, passed down through generations of villagers?

Samuel Clerke: provision for the poor

Samuel Clerke was lord of the manor in West Haddon. He was buried here in 1688 but there is no evidence that he ever lived here. Had he done so he might not have found himself at odds with the freeholders of the parish, leading to  a legal dispute with them in the Court of Chancery. It is the record of that court case that gives us the earliest information we have about the establishment of the West Haddon Charity Estate.

The case is dated 1648 and refers to an initiative of about 20 years earlier. This may relate to a very bad harvest in 1630, which had left many starving. A number of freeholders in the village got together and set aside a piece of land and some cottages which could be rented out to raise money to support the poor. Later an adjoining close over the parish boundary in Silsworth, Watford, was added to the estate. It was administered by a group of trustees – some of their names are already familiar to us – Gulliver, Wills, Gutteridge, Worcester, Miller, Ward and Elmes.

The funds were also used for the public good of the village as a whole, for example, to pay for road repairs. There were no county councils in the 17th century. The inhabitants of West Haddon were responsible for the upkeep of all the roads and bridges in the parish – buying materials and paying labourers. Before the charity estate was set up the work would have been funded by a levy on all householders – like the Poor levy (the charity eased, but did not replace, the work of the Overseers of the Poor.)

The charity fields lay on the south side of the road to Crick, down in the dip where a stream runs under the road and marks the boundary between West Haddon and Watford. They are still there, and still administered by village trustees.

But was the original initiative Samuel Clerke’s idea, and did he put up the money to buy the land? That’s what the dispute was about.

William Gulliver: oldest village family?

William Gulliver was Bartin Gutteridge’s father in law. He was also grandfather of Joan Elmes. His cousin was the vicar, Gregory Palmer – to whom he left ten shillings to preach his funeral sermon. The Gullivers were a very well-connected family in West Haddon, possibly beacause they had been here for a very long time. The earliest recorded member of the family was Roger, mentioned in a deed dating from 1239.

Alas, all we know of William comes from the will he wrote in 1654, which gives just a glimpse of his family and his domestic arrangements.

His wife Elizabeth was to have the use, for her lifetime, of all the goods in the house in the kitchen, parlour and chambers, whether they be linens or woolen, iron, brass, pewter or whatever household goods I have (one brass pan only excepted). With only a kitchen and a parlour downstairs the house sounds relatively modest. But there were yards outside and possibly a barn and outbuildings – there was certainly a cowhouse. Elizabeth also inherited a couple of milk cows, various sheep, a hog and chickens, along with quantities of rye, wheat, barley and pease (dried peas were used to make pease pudding and could also be used as winter fodder, haulms and all, for livestock), and butter and cheese. Four hives of bees were to be divided between his wife and his executor.

His only son, Gregory, was left just a shilling, but this was not necessarily a sign of estrangement between them. He also names five married daughters, so he may have been quite old and already have settled farmland etc on his son as he came of age or married. However it is interesting that he appointed one of his sons in law as his executor, rather than Gregory, while another son in law got £5, my best hive of bees and a brass pan.

Bartin Gutteridge: a Silsworth connection

Silsworth was once a tiny settlement in Watford parish.By the 17th century it was no longer viable as an independent hamlet, but the land around it was good grazing and it was gradually parcelled up and sold – not just to Watford farmers, but also to several from West Haddon. The land of Silsworth ran along the West Haddon parish boundary roughly from the Crick road to the Watford road.

The Gutteridge family were among the West Haddon farmers who extended their land ownership beyond the parish boundary. Bartin senior was a relatively small farmer, with only about ten acres in West Haddon and an unspecified acreage in Silsworth. His house in West Haddon entitled him to one cow common (the right to graze a cow and a calf) and the right to pasture 20 sheep on the common grazing land across the parish. (Access to common land was carefully controlled to guard against over-grazing.)

Over the next 30 years his son, Bartin junior, increased his land ownership in West Haddon to nearly 50 acres with a 10 acre freehold in Silsworth and a lease on a further six acres.

In September 1657, the month following the fire, Bartin junior made his will. He was buried the following month. From his will we can see that he had a son (yet another Bartin), two married daughters and one under 21 who was still unmarried. She was to receive £200 when she came of age and it is reasonable to suppose that her elder sisters had been given similar marriage portions. Ann had married Adrian Ward (possibly a relative of John Ward, whose house had burned down), while Sarah had married John Wills, brother of the hot-headed Richard.

Bartin arranged for his son to inherit the house, but to share it with his mother for her lifetime. He laid down that she shall have the use of the great parlour and the little buttery joining up to it during her life. And what necessary occasions she hath, either in the kitchen or common hall, I do hereby appoint that she have the use of them altogether with my executor [Bartin.]


Richard Allen: a dead ringer?

In an age when husbands or wives might die at the drop of a hat, it was not unusual for widows or widowers to go on to have further marriages, resulting in many blended families.

When Richard Allen, a tailor, married his wife, Jane Mills, she was already a widow with children, and after he died, she seems to have married again – into the Kirtland family. (Jane Kirtland made a will in 1664, leaving bequests to the children of her first marriage to Mr Mills.)

Richard may have come to West Haddon from Warwickshire – he had relatives who shared his surname in Bilton, but then he also described William Pycraft of Billing as his brother – another blended family?

Richard made his will in the spring of 1645 (the Battle of Naseby was fought a few miles up the road in the summer of that year.) From his will we discover that he had recently bought a barn and small plot of land from John Lucas and taken a lease on a house and yard from Margery Loake and her son John, all of which he left to his wife towards the bringing up of her children. Richard and Jane appear to have had no children together.

Although Richard earned his living as a tailor, he seems to have had some livestock too, leaving a ewe and lamb to one of his step-daughters and a hoggrill sheep to his kinsman William Paget of Long Buckby. He left the rest to his wife – we don’t know how many.

Perhaps, being a tailor, he was particular about the disposal of his clothes. William Paget got an old suit of clothes and William Pycraft got his best suit: doublet, breeches and best coat. His frize coat went to another brother, Thomas West – where did he fit in? (Frize was a woollen fabric with the nap frizzed up – partly for decorative effect and partly for extra warmth.)

An unusual bequest was, Five shillings to the ringers – these were presumably the church bellringers – raising speculation that he may once have been one of their number.

William Henfrey: tailor and smallholder – keeping it in the family

Like William Lane, William Henfrey also made provision for his children – not through a marriage settlement, in his case, but through his will. This offers a brief snapshot into the lives of his family.

William and his wife Joan had two sons and two daughters when he came to make his will, which was about ten years before the fire. The boys had both been baptised at Crick, but the girls may have been born later, after the family moved to West Haddon (for what reason we do not know.)

He left the girls marriage portions and specified how the money was to be arranged. £8 was to be put out at interest to some honest, sufficient man or men for each daughter, with the interest added to the principal for the increase of her portion to be paid her at 20 years or at the day of her marriage.

In addition his five acres of land were to be sold when the eldest daughter Elizabeth came of age and the proceeds split between Elizabeth, her sister Mary and their brother Thomas. (William hoped that the land would fetch £30, giving them £10 each.) Having a few acres of land would have supplemented the family income, providing grazing for a few sheep, perhaps a house cow for milk, butter and cheese, as well as a supply of crops for income or home consumption.

His house was to be shared by his wife Joan, for her lifetime, and his eldest son William, but the boy was not to have his share until he reached 21 (which he did in 1651), along with first refusal on the purchase of the land, if family funds were to stretch that far when the time came.

Some years later the girls both married – Mary in 1670 and Elizabeth two years later. William appears not to have married, but Thomas, a tailor like his father, did, and when he came to make his will, early in the next century, he passed the five acres his father had bought down to the next generation of the family.

William Lane: another marriage settlement

William Lane was a small farmer in West Haddon around the time of the fire. He had two daughters. The elder, Mary, married Thomas Knowles in 1663 and all attempts to trace any record of the couple thereafter have so far failed. A few months after the wedding his wife Dorothy died, leaving his younger daughter, another Dorothy, to keep house for him while he was out in the fields.

But by 1666 (the year of the Great Fire of London), Dorothy had caught the eye of a young man from Crick, and marriage plans were afoot. While the bride and groom were perhaps gazing into each other’s eyes, their fathers got down to business…

It was customary at that time for the bride to be given with a dowry or marriage portion. It may have been quite small – as little as £5 has been recorded in some wills – but if the family could possibly afford it, it was the respectable thing to do. (One factor in the origin of the white wedding dress – before it was made popular by the young Queen Victoria – was the tradition of being ‘given away in a shift’, signifying the bride coming to her husband without a dowry.)

But Dorothy Lane didn’t have to worry about walking up the aisle in her nightie. Her father and future father in law, a weaver called William Parker, had an agreement drawn up whereby William Lane’s house was put into trust for the benefit of Dorothy and William junior and any children they might have. A sum of money may also have changed hands, but there is no record of that.

Neither is there a record of the marriage in the West Haddon parish register, but we can be sure they were married, because in February 1668 there is a record of the burial of Dorothy, wife of William Parker. Was this the result of a complication in a first pregnancy? Before the year was out, Dorothy’s father was dead too, leaving William Parker junior in possession of the house.

He may have lived in it for a while, but in 1670 the parish register records the baptism of a daughter born to William and his new wife, Grace. And in that same year William sold the house to Edward Page, a baker, for £39.10s.

During the course of the 19th century a Baptist church was built to the west of the property and a Wesleyan chapel erected behind it. Though the chapel has since been demolished, the house retains the name ‘Wesleyan Cottage’.