THE LIFE OF JOHN MARLOW OF WOOD HILL,
NORTHAMPTON – PART ONE
Written in 1899 for the Northampton Daily Chronicle
John Marlow writes: ‘When I was a boy there stood on Wood Hill the old town Weighing Machine, which was in a dry, covered shed and always under lock and key. This was pulled down about 1840 and another (removed 1899) built in its place. At that time it belonged to three or four gentlemen in the Town viz. the late John & Nathaniel Freeman of the Market Square; an old and respected solicitor Mr Thomas Howes of Abington Street and, I think, Mr Rands of Newland also had an interest in it. About that time I undertook the management and carried it on for more than quarter of a century. When I left Wood Hill about 1865, the management was undertaken by the proprietor of the Black Boy.
During the time I managed it, I used to weigh several hundred tons of coals a year for the County Gaol, the Infirmary and the Workhouse. A charge of 6d was made for each load.
I am told there were two houses at the corner of the Churchyard (All Saints in Northampton town centre) and my father said that one was occupied by an old tradesman named Jones. The cellars were occupied by Messrs Jeyes, the chemists and after them by Mr W Hensman who used them for some years. When he left for his new premises in Abington Street William Phillips, the brewer, had them for his stores. They had no brewery in the town here and their office was next door to where I lived. They soon built a Brewery in Bridge Street.
By the side of the Cab Rest there is an iron grating and underneath are some large cellars that were used as an ice-house. Many cart-loads would be put down and fetched away as required.
At the corner of Wood Hill where the Bank now stands, lived an optician called Charles Tarelli, who was well known and patronised for his correct weather glasses.
The old Black Boy was then old-fashioned and kept by Mr Hugh Warren, during his time the old pub was pulled down and replaced by the present one, which would be close on 60 years ago. When he left, it was taken by Martin Dickins, who had lived at the Two Brewers in Abington Street. Martin Dickins kept the Black Boy for several years; he was a sporting character and used to hunt. It is now in the hands of Mr Downing.
On Wood Hill was a noted tailor of the name of John Kilpin, he did a good trade. At the next house were the two Mr Grevilles (Henry & Edwin) the chemists, they were the first who made aerated waters in the town 50 years ago. Mr Butler Wilkins was an assistant in the shop.
On crossing the road, where Waterloo House now stands, were some very old premises and there was a jetty running through called Conduit Lane. At the corner stood an old public house called the Cook’s Arms, a lively place run by William George. When the Mops (Mop Fairs) were held it would be crowded inside and out with boys and girls wanting to be hired.
The front part of Waterloo House was an old grocer’s shop, and the next corner where Mr Becke’s offices are, was another very old-fashioned grocer’s shop and tallow-chandlers, kept by an old gentleman called Inwood. Waterloo House was built some 50 years ago by a gentleman named Elliott who lived where the Herald Office is now.
I remember when there was only one fish shop in the town and that was on Wood Hill. A very old-fashioned place, you had to go up three or four steps and all the fish had come by coach, sometimes only a small hamper. They had to supply the town, it was always divided equally amongst the gentry and there was no cheap fish. Peggy Trasler, opposite the Post Office, sold bread penny cakes, the boys used to stop and look in her window and tease her, she would run after them with a stick. She always wore a large nightcap.
In those days the George Hotel was the only place for a large gathering. It was kept by John & W. Higgins, two first-class business men. A busy place because it was a great posting-house. You would see gentlemen travelling to all parts of the country, some in their own private carriages, change horses in front of the George – and away! Horses always stood ready harnessed.
As a great commercial house, the George had no equal. Always a great favourite with Birmingham men who used to drive their own horse and trap and bring their samples with them and stay the whole week, going to some small towns round the neighbourhood but making the George their Headquarters and very frequently every room was occupied.
The Assembly Rooms were the scene of all town and county Balls and Public Dinners. I have seen 300 and 400 diners there and when the County Ball used to take place, you could see County families come in their own carriages with post-horses. The carriages would stand round the churchyard, along George Row, Wood Hill and Mercers Row until their owners were ready to go home.
In the coaching days the Angel was the head place for changing the horses. It was kept for many years by the late Mr Tom Shaw, he would have more than 100 horses, and going to London, the coaches would change horses about every 8 or 10 miles and it would take them eight hours or more to get there. But the railways soon took their place.
At the present time, most tradesmen keep a horse and a conveyance. In the old days, the bakers would come in on a horse with the bread in bags on either side. There were four newsman’s vans, starting from the Woolpack; one to Banbury; one to Bedford; one to Stamford and one to Leicester. They left at 6am and called at various villages – they would take newspapers, parcels etc. and some passengers. In going to Leicester they would stop two hours in Market Harborough to bait horses; they would get to their journey’s end about 6pm.’