The Drinking Man’s History of West Haddon.

A Family Business.

The Newman family continued its connection with the ale-house keeping, at least as a part-time occupation. Sam Newman was a butcher and farmer. He and his family were among those unfortunate enough to lose house and possessions in the big fire of 1657. We cannot know how the family recovered from this disaster, but since they owned farmland perhaps on that August 1st, the night of the fire, most of their wealth was out in the fields in the form of crops and livestock, rather than in the house on the village street. One way or another we know he rebuilt his house and by the winter was operating it as an alehouse. We know this because in the following January he was hauled up before the Quarter Sessions in Northampton, accused of allowing Richard Wills and Sam Brabson to drink in his alehouse after ten o’clock at night!

Either the same Samuel, or his son, was still operating an alehouse in 1698. By this time it must have been a place of some size because in that year he played host to a hearing of the Manor Court.

The court could no longer be held at West Haddon Manor House because it had fallen down, or had been demolished - the Lord of West Haddon was by now a wine merchant who lived in the Canary Islands, so he didn’t really need a Manor House. But a public house was not an unusual venue for an official gathering like this. In many villages it was the only place, except the church, suitable for large public assemblies.

At this court Sam was fined for breaking the Assize of Ale – by now not really a proof of wrongdoing, just an informal, backdoor way of imposing a tax on alehouse keepers. There is no hard evidence for the whereabouts of the Newman pub, but Sam Newman junior died in 1715, leaving all his property to two sisters. Some years later his younger brother John joined with “others”, very likely the two unmarried sisters, Sara and Alice, to convey the property to John Gulliver. And the property conveyed , although at that time it was know as THE COCK, was the house we now know as THE SHEAF.

Meanwhile, in another part of the village, perhaps on the edge of the market place, now dwindling in importance, Hannah Skerrall was keeping her family provided for as best she could. She had been left a widow with one tiny daughter and another to be born 6 months after her husband’s death. It was perhaps brewing that kept her going until Elizabeth, the second daughter married a young tailor by the name of John West. This became a name to conjure with in the history of THE CROWN for over a hundred years. By 1740 John combining tailoring with alehouse keeping. The court files of Guilsborough Hundred show that he was paying the now regular annual fine for assize breaking.

But perhaps alehouse keeping was still not seen as a steady means of earning an income, his son, John West II, was trained as a shoemaker, and spent the early years of his married life in Watford earning his living in this way. He probably returned to West Haddon on the death of his father in 1750.