Sunday, 4 December 2016

Harringworth girls in peril?

Figure 1: The Bell Inn, Woodstreet, London by William Hogarth, circa 1733.

It seems hard to imagine today, but during the 18th Century and for many years before that Harringworth had been situated on one of the major cross country routes of England, leading from London via High Barnet, Hatfield, Baldock, St Neots, Great Stoughton, Kimbolton, Catworth, Brington, Lilford, Stoke Doyle, Deanthorpe, and Laxton to Harringworth, before proceeding on through Seaton, Wing, Martinsthorpe and onto Oakham.

From Oakham you could connect to services to Richmond in Yorkshire, Sheffield, or indeed Holyhead, as was advertised at the head of Thomas Gardner's map.

For many years I have used most of this route when travelling from my present home in Baldock to visit my parents in Rutland.  It has become a firm favourite of ours, and is surprisingly fast, neatly avoiding the A14 as well as busy parts of the A1.

Apart from the section from Lilford via Bareshanks Wood, where it reduces the road to a foot path, which would require a horse, or to go by foot, it is possible to do all the rest by car.  It passes through some very beautiful countryside along the way.

It is little hardship to divert past Bareshanks Wood via Oundle to miss out the only bit of the journey that you cannot do by car.

Should you so choose, Bareshanks wood has a good footpath, as well as very surprising twist to its history. Also bear in mind that it is about as close as we are ever likely to get to travelling on an original 18th Century road surface.

Figure 2: Thomas Gardner's Map of the route from London to Oakham.
Please click on the image for a larger version

It is very probable that the map actually shows the road as it existed in 1675, as John Ogilby this was when he undertook his mammoth surveying operation.  He walked the roads all over the principle and many of the secondary routes pushing a surveyors wheel before him.  Ogilby first published them in his book Britannia in that year.

During the following year he began to sell the map sheets separately as "Intinerium Angliae" or Book of Roads.  These maps were far to large to be readily taken out on the road, and were more suited to use as a coffee table type of book. They probably remained largely in Gentlemen's Libraries.  Very soon however other publisher's began to copy the maps, and these soon ran to many editions with the maps remaining in print for at least 75 years.

In 1719 Thomas Gardner hit on the idea of producing a "pocket edition" that was more easily taken into the countryside, although judging by the size of my copy of this map, one would have needed a very large pocket in your riding coat.

How was this road used, and who was travelling up and down it?

Turning to the local newspapers of the time, which are preserved by the British Library and which are available from the British Newspaper Online website, the following fascinating items can be found that illustrate just what was happening on the road.

On the 25th of January 1733, the Stamford Mercury carried the following advertisement by Thomas Chatteris, for his waggon service down to London.

Figure 3: Advertisement for Thomas Chatteris's waggon published in the Stamford Mercury, 25th January 1733.

This advertisement, and the many others that Chatteris inserted into the paper is interesting for its many implications.

By mapping his waggons route on Google Maps and using a walking pace, we can see that the waggon covered about 112 miles between Stamford and Woodstreet.  It was 92 miles for our traveller from Harringworth.

Figure 4: A map showing the route Chatteris Waggon took.

The waggons must have either have stopped very regularly, or have travelled at only a very sedate pace.  The eleven miles from Stamford to Oakham took fourteen hours, at an average speed of only 0.785 miles per hour.

There was a stop on Sunday for the whole day, before the nine mile journey to Harringworth commenced.  As they set out from Harringworth at 1 am on the Monday morning, they must have either travelled during the Sunday afternoon or during the evening from Oakham.

The seven hour, 11.2 mile journey to Oundle through the night was a bit faster at 1.6 mph. Perhaps there was nobody up at that time of day to greet them.  It is not possible to work out the speed of the onward journey to London, however they were only going at a  similar pace because the average speed works out at about 1.268 mph.

The total journey took about 123 hours.  As horses at a walk naturally at an average speed of 4.0 mph, or trot at between 8.1 and 12 mph, one can only presume that the waggons were travelling at a walk pace, and that for much of the time they were stationary while the horses feed and watered.

Perhaps they were turned out in paddocks in Harringworth near to the Swann.

It is quite possible, that unlike stage coaches that changed horses every 6 to 12 miles, that these waggoners used a single team to make the entire journey.

In addition to his regular waggon service, Chatteris introduced a special service to transport venison that had been hunted during the deer hunting season from the parks in Rutland and the extensive woods in East Northamptonshire.

A haunch of venison was a highly acceptable a prestigious gift in those days, and it is clear that the local gentry wanted to get the meat to London fast.

This was the period when the infamous Black Acts had been enacted, and only the aristocracy and gentry were supposed to have access to venison. Any one else caught with dogs or firearms out near a wood or park could expect to swing for it.

 At this time Burley on the Hill, was owned by Daniel Finch, 8th Earl of Winchilsea and 3rd Earl of Nottingham(24 May 1689 – 2 August 1769) who had in 1730 succeeded his father to the title.

Figure 5: Venison Service, 16th May 1733, Stamford Mercury
It was no doubt to this particular Nobleman that the advertisement was principally aimed.

Venison travelled  much faster than the ordinary wagon.  From Burley on the Hill to Harringworth, the 10.7 miles was covered in two hours. Perhaps they stopped for supper and a drink at the Swann, because it then took them an hour to get the four miles to Bulwick travelling at only 4 mph, only about half, their previous speed.

From Bulwick through Southwick to Oundle was another 7.2 miles, which took four hours, averaging just 1.8 miles per hour. From Oundle to the Bell in London was another 85 miles, and that took a further 26 hours, at an average speed of 3.27 miles per hour.

Figure 6: 19th Century Carriers Cart from Banbury Museum.

This all suggests that the venison was travelling in a much lighter wagon than that used for their other carrying business.  I suspect that they were travelling at about ten miles per hour when they were actually on the road, which means that out of the 26 hours spent going from Oundle to London, that they were only actually on the road for about 8.5 hours, and the rest of the time was spent in a comfortable hostelry or two along the way.

Figure 7: Daniel Finch, 8th Earl of Winchilsea
Did the Earl also route through Harringworth on his way from London on his way to his country seat?

Figure 8: The Swann Inn, Harringworth, one of Thomas Chatteris's stops, only he arrived at 1am on Monday morning. What did the villagers make of that?  How many waited anxiously here for the journey to begin?

Having reached London, the waggon finally arrived at the Bell Inn, at Woodstreet which was located close to Cheapside.  Our travellers, and most especially the younger women were possibly completely unwittingly that they were placing themselves as risk, as the Bell Inn was a notorious site at which pimps operated in order to seduce young a fresh country girls into their thriving trade.

The illustration at the head of this blog comes from “Innocence betrayed, or the journey to London”, from Harlot’s Progress drawn by William Hogarth in about 1732, which shows the Bell Inn, in Woodstreet, the very place the carrier was headed for.

Poor Mary Hackabout has been lured down from the countryside, where she falls into the evil hands of Mother Needham, who was a notorious procuress.  Hogarth had had to substitute a drawing of Mother Bentley, because Mother Needham had received her just deserts when she was pelted to death in the pillory.

Hogarth has also included drawings of Colonel Francis Charteris who was a notorious gambler, seducer and rapist in the doorway, as well as other people and symbols that would have sent a clear message to his audience. This print and the others in this series were best sellers in their day, and were sold to people across England.

It appears that Thomas had a brother (or possibly his father) called Robert who was probably the more senior of the two, and with whom he had started with in business by November 1728. The 1728 advertisement below appears to cover routes of more importance than the Harringworth route, using the Great North Road, so that it is quite possible that in 1728 Robert was setting Thomas up in waggoning and then that he gave him a less important feeder route, linking in to the main road.

Figure 9: November 21st 1728, Stamford Mercury.

By the 23rd of January of the next year, the following postscript had been added to the advertisement, that shows who their intended market was expected to be. Gentlemen, tradesmen and graziers, of whom the later were present in great numbers in the Welland Valley.

Figure 10: 23rd January 1729, Stamford Mercury. 

The service continued throughout the 1740's as can be seen by the regularity with which Thomas Chatteris continued to place advertisements with the Stamford Mercury.  It appears that as his business grew, that he was able to add new waggon services to his original routes.

Figure 11: 17th March 1743. Stamford Mercury.

By 1746 the venison cart had changed its setting out point from Burley on the Hill to South Witham, and was now calling at Exton instead.

Figure 12: Stamford Mercury 10th July 1746.

It must have required some very tough waggoners to drive the wagons at speed up and down the hills from Exton to Glaston, then onto Harringworth, and through the night to Bulwick and Oundle.

I enjoy driving those roads in daytime, when I am not in a hurry, but to manoeuvre a large waggon down those steep muddy roads must have been tough. The roads had very limited surfaces, as they were made up by the parishes, whose parishioners had to provide a road making service once or twice a year, or by workhouse paupers set to work to repair the largest of pot holes.

A few years ago I travelled between two villages in Romania on a horse and cart, and although it was only about five miles, I was extremely pleased to be able to get down from the cart, as the roughness of the journey over an unmade road had made for a great deal of jolts, and twists and turns. Yet here were men doing this day in day out, in all weathers. Coming down Seaton Hill must have taken some careful thought and skill, and it is a stiff climb out of Harringworth up the deeply sunken road, no doubt carved out by the passage of waggons and thousands of cattle over the years towards Laxton. The valley will have often had the waters out, so that there must have been some scary moments crossing the Welland.

The last advertisement that I can find published by Chatteris appeared in 1746, although his business may have continued on for many more years, until unfortunately in 1758 he appears to have been made bankrupt.

"All Persons indebted to the Estate of Thomas Chatteris, late of Oundle in the County of Northampton, Carrier, Dealer and Chapman, a Bankrupt, are required forthwith to pay their respective Debts to Mr James Cue, Clove-Seller in Fenchurch street, London, or to a Mr. Winbolt, Attorney in Tokenhouse-yard; or they will be sued for the same without further notice."

The General Evening Post: 1758.

As the 18th Century drew on, the roads were being converted into Turnpikes, and the speed with which Stage Coaches could travel in turn improved with the road surfaces. Many of his former passengers were probably choosing to travel by the faster coach. Two other new operators, Edward Baker and Truman also began to operate from Uppingham and Stamford using the Kettering Bedford, and Stamford, Great North Road routes respectively. Harringworth became a quiet rural backwater, as it was passed by.

The fact that he is described as a dealer and chapman, as well as a carrier suggests that he was having to diversify his business. Perhaps he wasn't getting enough carrying trade. 

If Thomas Chatteris had continued to ply his trade until at least 1758, he must have been quite an old man by that time.

The bankruptcy notices are also interesting because they illustrate that besides carrying, people and venison Chatteris was also engaging in trade in cloves and tea.

Were the good housewives of Harringworth beginning to turnover from beer to drinking tea?  Were they adding cloves to their apple pies?

Presumably he had been supplying many local businesses and chapmen in the Rutland and East Northamptonshire area with these scarce and often imported goods that had originated in India and the Dutch East Indies.

A notice also appeared in the Ipswich Journal on Saturday the 21st of October 1758, announcing that Thomas Chatteris of Oundle, Northamptonshire, Carrier had been made bankrupt.  It appears that Thomas may have been a Congregationalist as his son, also from Oundle was active in that church in the early 1800's.

Figure 13: A carriers waggon circa 1800. Chatteris wagon was probably little different.
Did poor Mary Hackabout come from Harringworth?

Probably not, however some local girls may well have arrived at the Bell, on a Wednesday morning, stiff with having spent hour upon hour bumping down the back lanes to St Neots, before joining the Great North Road and going on into London, hoping for a bright new future.

Hopefully they managed to miss the attentions of Mother's Bentley and Needham.

Figure 14: Parcels for where?  Harringworth, my good fellow!

With apologises to Rowlandson.


Sarah Chambers said...

Hi Nick,
Very interested in your blog about 'Windmills in the Welland Valley', did you know Harringworth had one in a field off Scotgate and also a Watermill on the River Welland?
I also enjoyed your blog on' Harringworth girls in peri'l. Do you have any more historical material on Harringworth?
I have accumulated a small archive about Harringworth, and hope to give a talk and walk around our village in 2017.
Sarah Chambers Email

Nick Balmer said...

Hello Sarah,

That's interesting. I had no idea that Harringworth had mills. I am not surprised by the windmill as little trace would remain today if it were a post mill. Presumably the watermill that you refer to is the one a field or so downstream of the Manor House. I have never researched that one.

I have bits about Harringworth, mainly connected to the iron ore quarries situated towards Laxton on the town of the ridge to the east of you, and about Spanhoe Airfield.

Nick Balmer