Beer and alehouses ...


It can be imagined that most small villages would have been self-contained in olden days with their own shops, tradesmen and public houses.  In fact with most water being unsafe to drink at this time a glass of beer was regarded as a safer alternative and a regular constituent of most people’s diets.  The Red Lion and The Kings Head (New Dawn) are two village inns that have survived the test of time and are still with us today but this piece will concentrate on smaller sites that were here possibly only for a short time and are now long since gone. 

We are lucky inasmuch as a ‘terrier and valuation of the messuages, lands, and other hereditaments liable to poor rate in the parish of Norton’ from 1838 still survives giving various details about the village.  Amongst the properties listed in Norton were the two above-named public houses and in addition two other drinking establishments.  The first of these was owned by Thomas Margarett and was occupied and run by an 80 year old widow, Hannah Baylis.  It was located at Cold Elm and was described as a ‘beer house and garden’, was 17 perches in size had a gross estimated rental or annual value of £6 and a rateable value or net annual value of £5.  Unfortunately other than knowing it was located at Cold Elm it is not possible to identify exactly which house this referred to.  John Baylis had married Hannah Morris at St Mary’s, Norton, in 1782 but there is no reference to the family at the time of the 1807 Inclosure Act.  John died, aged 77 years, in 1832 and Hannah, aged 87 years, in 1845.

An advertisement from 1839 announced the sale of “359 maiden elm timber trees” from Norton.  The advertisement states that the trees in question were “growing upon Estates in the parish of Norton, Gloucestershire, extending from the Cold Elm Inn (which is three miles from Gloucester, on the Turnpike-road to Tewkesbury), to Wainlode’s Hill, on the banks of the River Severn, where there is excellent and extensive wharfage”. 

I have never come across the name Cold Elm Inn before so tried to identify the property in question from other documents but without any success.  Perhaps Hannah Baylis’ ‘beer house’ was the Cold Elm Inn referred to in the sale notice, perhaps Cold Elm Inn was a previous name of the Kings Head or just a general reference to the inn at Cold Elm and not an actual name at all.

In 1838 there was also a property in the occupation of a 65 year old widow, Deborah Leach, that was described as being “nr Norton Farm, cider house, garden and orchard”. The full schedule of the property recorded :- 

“Cider house and garden                                                                      0-  1-  8

 Orchard                                                                                                  0-  3-38

                                                                                                   Total:     1-  1-16

 Gross estimated rental or annual value of each holding                    £10

 Rateable value or net annual value of each holding                          £8”

Once again there is not enough information recorded here to be able to identify the exact property to which this entry refers.  If we return to the 1807 Inclosure Act schedule again, however, we can identify where the family lived then.  Coincidentally the acreage given for their property, known as Plot Nos 154 and 155 in 1807, is identical to that recorded in 1838 thus confirming the site.  Thomas Leach had married Deborah Ralph at St Mary’s, Norton, in 1797 and the house in question would have stood behind where the two farm labourers cottages can now be found almost opposite Norton Farm along Wainlode Lane.  At the this time the area appears to have been known as Street End.  Thomas died, aged 60 years, in 1833 and Deborah, aged 89 years, in 1861. 

Thomas senior died on 8th March 1833 and his two sons, “Samuel Leach and Charles Leach both of the parish of Norton in the County and Diocese of Gloucester labourers” swore “that they are the executors named and appointed in the said Will that they will well and faithfully perform the same and tender an inventory and account &c”.  The following is the inventory that was recorded giving an insight into what a respectable villager might have owned at this time; “Kitchen and Cellar :- Clock, warming pan, plate and dishes, square table, 3 round tables, 4 chairs, corner cupboard, 2 hogsheads, 3 barrels, 1 half barrel.  Bedroom :- 2 stumps(?) bedstead, 2 beds, 2 pairs sheets, 2 blankets, chest”.  Several of the items listed might suggest an association with a ‘cider house’ or something similar but the final listed item is more specific; “36 gallon cider” !  The total valuation of the above came to £5 17s 6d.

Although there are several references to Deborah Leach amongst the surviving records after 1838 none of them refer to the ‘cider house’ again.

Included as a memorandum in the Parish Council Minute Book of 1898, written by Rev Marks who was both the Chairman of the Parish Council and parish vicar at that time, we find the following; “A memorandum about the bridle road from Yew Tree Farm to Sandhurst Lane.  Old Mr Charles Healing who lived in the parish about 60 years and was some time assistant overseer told me that old people when he was young had told him that the path from Yew Tree Farm to Sandhurst Lane was the usual bridle road to Gloucester from Norton Green; that there were formerly several houses along that way and that one sold liquor to travellers.  Ann Padgett who lives in the last cottage remaining along that road told me that her father in law said that the farmers and others from Tewkesbury district always rode to Gloucester with their wares along that road and that he as a boy had earned many a coin by opening gates for them.  She said also that her own house was then a public house”.  The times that ‘Old Mr Charles Healing’ would have been referring to would again take us back to the turn of the 1800s.

So that gives us three, possibly four, sites at Norton where a person could enjoy an ale or two without having to visit the two village inns.

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