“First class West End harness at prices one half their original charge”


“First class West End harness at prices one half their original charge” – Sporting Chronicle – Saturday 22 October 1864

Originally it was spotting a mention of the elusive David George of East Dereham which drew my attention to the British Newspaper Archive .  I could see that it was a death announcement, so I decided to sign up for a month’s subscription to see what more this notice might reveal. Well the Norfolk News of Sat 3 May 1851 did tell me that he died “very suddenly”, that he was “much beloved and respected by all who knew him” and that he was “leaving a large family to lament their loss”.  It would have been really nice if it had said “son of the late xxxxx of xxxxxxxx” – but it didn’t, so David George’s origins remain a mystery.  Ah well – worth a try.

George; East Dereham

Norfolk News – Saturday 03 May 1851


But having got a month’s subscription, what else can I find?

Loads of really interesting and often random things!

Three months before his father’s death, on Saturday 1st February, Francis George was mugged in Swaffham!  (What was he doing there?  Did he often go there?).  Charles Wales stole two calico bags, a piece of dumpling, an ounce of bread, an ounce of meat, and a frock coat from Francis.  The perpetrator got a month’s imprisonment.

Meanwhile, twelve years earlier in Oxfordshire, Caleb Buckingham, my stonemason ancestor, was convicted of “unlawfully assaulting and kicking” his apprentice!  He got a hefty fine of 17 shillings – I should think so, too.  What was he thinking of?

Still in Oxfordshire, my Neighbour ancestors in Lewknor were not playing ‘happy families’ in 1847:  the Overseers brought a case against twin brothers Richard and Robert Neighbour for refusing to support their father, who was residing in the workhouse.  However, it turns out that the brothers considered their father quite capable of doing a day’s work and claimed that he had “left a good place of work to go to the workhouse”.  The case was dismissed as the magistrates “possessed no power to compel children to support their parents when they were able to earn their own living”.  What was going on there, then?

Neighbour; Lewknor

Oxford Chronicle and Reading Gazette – Saturday 06 February 1847


In 1870 William Pitcher (of the Horse and Groom, Swaffham, see blog post number 10 ) was the victim of a theft from the pub kitchen – John Forster stole a steel from him, for which he was committed for seven days’ hard labour.

In the 1860s business was booming for George Bryant in Chapel Place Mews, Belgravia.  His frequent adverts in the Sporting Chronicle indicate that he sold new and second-hand saddlery and harness as well as rugs and horse clothing.  And (thank you very much, George) it tells me that the business was established in 1837 (that would have been by his father John, according to the 1841 census).  We located Chapel Place Mews the other year – it’s pretty near Buckingham Palace.  Great job on the marketing, George!


Bell’s Life in London and Sporting Chronicle – Saturday 08 February 1868



Well, I’m going to keep going during my month’s subscription to see what other gems I can find!


Ancestral pub number 1

Horse and Groom Swaffham

Across all the various branches of family I research, in addition to the ubiquitous ag labs, I have found a number of individuals who ran pubs.

So here goes for Ancestral Pub Number 1 – The Horse and Groom, Swaffham, Norfolk.

Horse and Groom Swaffham
Horse and Groom, Swaffham

I first came across the Horse and Groom in the 1851 census on discovering that my ancestor John George’s sister Ann had married William Pitcher and had found herself assisting to run the pub.  Ann and William had married in June 1841, and it seems that Ann was already working in Swaffham at that time.

In the next census, Ann is still described as an ‘innkeeper’s wife’ and William is also working as a painter as well as running the pub.  It was not unusual to have another occupation alongside.   Ann and William were to be at least 50 years at this address, and must have become very established members of the Swaffham community.  They brought up five sons there, and had various lodgers and servants living with them.  The 1881 and 1891 give William the slightly more upmaket-sounding title of ‘licensed victualler’, the family being joined by their granddaughter Matilda, working as a bar maid.

By the time of the 1901 census, however, there has been some reversal of roles:  83 year old William is no longer head of the household but describes himself as a ‘retired painter’.  Their son Albert is now the licensee, together with his wife Emily.

On looking more closely into this establishment I discovered, via the Norfolk Pubs site that William was not the first Pitcher to hold the licence at the Horse and Groom:  before him there was Christmas Pitcher and then Elizabeth Pitcher from 1830 to 1841.  Elizabeth appears on the 1841 census aged 70 as an ‘inn keeper’ in Lynn Road, and living with her is 20 year old William, a painter. Christmas appears in an 1822 Norfolk directory at the Horse and Groom, Swaffham.  I’ve been unable to find a baptism for William, but a fellow Ancestry researcher has William as a grandson of Christmas and Elizabeth, thus giving three different generations of Pitchers running this pub.  I’ve not been able to find a baptism for Christmas either – do you think he was born towards the end of December?!

So many of our old pubs are no more – derelict, turned into private dwellings or morphed into the latest Tesco Express.  So I was thrilled, when preparing for our Norfolk Expedition this summer, to discover that the Horse and Groom is still there in Lynn Street, Swaffham, and still operating as a pub, under that same name.  It had to be included on the grand ancestral tour.

Horse and Groom Swaffham
Horse and Groom

The pub is a few hundred yards along the road from the main market square, where a number of other pubs are still operating.  On market days they must all have been buzzing with activity.  The name ‘Horse and Groom’ is probably indicative of the fact that this was obviously a coaching inn and Swaffham is likely to have been an intersection of routes between King’s Lynn, Thetford, East Dereham and Norwich.

We enjoyed a very pleasant meal at this establishment, which is obviously still well-patronised and which offers B&B accommodation, as it possibly always has.

Swaffham Church