John Hall of Barby

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October 6, 2015 by auntkatefirmin

Northampton-Mercury-mastheadI’ve speculated about what it was like in Barby about the time Thomas Hall left for London. I’ve thought about the kind of resources it would take to maintain the business of a cow keeper. Until recently I had to rely on general information about the era and the locations rather than wills, inventories or other documents specific to the family.

Going back before the census I’ve been looking for ways to fill in the gaps and having some great successes with newspapers – though not for Aunt Kate’s ancestors until now. I’m still working on the assumption that Thomas Hall was baptised in Barby in early 1790 and was the child of John & Ann Hall. I’m currently assuming that there is only one John Hall in the neighborhood of Barby and I’ve located two properties that he might have occupied!

First the text of various articles, then quick thoughts on what can be gleaned from these new finds, followed by an overall summary.

Relative to John Hall’s status or “condition”

A gamekeeper circa 1802. © The Trustees of the British Museum

A gamekeeper circa 1802. © The Trustees of the British Museum

From the Northampton Mercury of 20 September 1788, 11 September 1790, 3 September 1791, and 20 September 1811:

The lists of those purchasing a “certificate” published under “Game Duty” for Northamptonshire:
Hall, Mr John, Barby [1788]
Hall, John, Barby, Gent [1790]
Hall, John, Barby Gent [1791]
Hall, John, Braunston, Gent [1811]


-The game duties were put in place in 1785. John Hall was able to pay 2 guineas a year for the privilege of shooting game. This places him in a rather exclusive group.
-Only two individuals with the surname Hall are on the list. I will assume Mr John Hall of Northampton listed in 1788 & 1790 (& possibly other years) is a different individual.
-All the individuals on the list (which occupies1/2 to  2/3 of the page) are either “Gent,” “Esq.” or appear to be clergymen. Some of the lists clarify that they include only those individuals who are not game-keepers.
-The optical character recognition for the indexing is not perfect, while I have found only one other “gentleman” in Barby, Richard Lord, further research might turn up other names and other years.
-The dates and locations tie well with a man with children baptised in Barby and married in Braunston.

Relative to John Hall’s residences:

From the Northampton Mercury of 1 August 1795:


A Commodious Dwelling-House, consisting of a Hall, Parlour, Kitchen and other Conveniences and suitable Out-Offices adjoining to the same, with a pleasant Garden, inclosed with a Brick Wall, and well planted with choice Fruit Trees, now in a flourishing State; Together with a CLOSE of exceeding rich PASTURE LAND thereto adjoining, containing by Estimation, Five Acres or thereabouts, now in the Occupation of Mr. John Hall, and of which Possession may be had at Lady-Day next.

The above Premises are situate at BARBY, in the County of Northampton, and distant from Rugby about Three Miles.

BARBY is a large and Populous Village, where a considerable Manufactory in Tammies and Lastings has been carried on for a Number of Years, and the above Premises are of sufficient Extent for the like Purpose.

For further Particulars, and to treat for the same, apply to Mr. John Hall, of Barby aforesaid; to Mr. Charles Earl, Attorney at Law, in Rugby; or to him at the White Bear, in Coventry, on a Friday; or to Mr. William Hall, Silkman in Coventry aforesaid.”

Property in England still confuses me. In 1795 John Hall appears to be what I will call the proprietor (in addition to be the occupant) of a building and related pasture. I use proprietor as opposed to owner which implies that he held the land with few or no conditions, which may not be the case. No other person is mentioned so he doesn’t seem to be an agent or executor for another party. At no time is the status (freehold, copyhold, other) of the land mentioned: maybe purchasers from the region would already know the terms and conditions of the local land tenure.

The common lands were enclosed in Barby in 1778, and reviewing the details would probably help understand how this property compares to other dwellings, in this “large and populous village.” There is very little revealed about the livelihood of John Hall the occupant – I’d need to do some research, but I’m guessing five acres is not a huge space for a herd of dairy cattle and in any event while a gentleman might own a farm it is not a farm or a dairy being sold. Given the changes brought by enclosure, the declining relations of Britain with France, and the rise of industrial weaving, the likelihood that the new purchaser employed the local weavers of “tammies and lastings” in these buildings seems small. (A tammy being a plain-weave fabric of wool or mixed fibers and a lasting a twlll fabric.)

The John Hall of 1795 had a pleasant, modern (separate room for a kitchen) dwelling, with amenities like an enclosed garden. He had enough space for some type of workshop or office. He may have kept some animals but there is no mention of tools or stock for trade; in other words he doesn’t seem to have been a craftsman although he could have used the premises for some type of mercantile business. It’s not clear to me what use a gentleman of 1795 would have for the out-buildings.

A John Hall was paying taxes in Braunston in 1798; perhaps he moved there directly after selling these properties. Assuming that he was the father of Elizabeth Hall who married in Braunston in 1811, the family remained in the area for another 10 years or so. Barby, Braunstone and Dunchurch are all within easy walking distance of each other.

Who is William Hall, silkman of Coventry – can he be a brother or a cousin?

From the Northampton Mercury of 25 Feb 1795:

And may be entered upon at Michaelmas next, A Valuable and Desireable CLOSE of exceeding good PASTURE LAND, together with a rich Meadow thereto adjoining and belonging lying and being in ONLEY, in the Parish of BARBY, in the County of Northampton, containing together twelve Acres or thereabouts; now in the Occupation of Mr John Hall of Barby aforesaid; and are also lying near to a Dwelling House, usually known by the Name of the Old-Swan, on the Chester Road, near Dunchurch, in the County of Warwick.For a View of the Premises, apply to the said John Hall; and for Particulars or to treat for the same, apply to the said John Hall, or to Mr. Charles Earl, Attorney at Law, in Rugby.”

If possible, want to find out more about the region of Onley within Barby, and the Old-Swan dwelling-house near Dunchurch. I haven’t looked at maps of the area recently. In 1870 the population of Barby was 645 with 156 houses. In 1840 the town had four public houses.

I’m a little perplexed about the circumstances that would lead one individual would be the occupant of two properties during overlapping times and/or to move from one property to the next in such a short period. If the advertisement didn’t specify “occupant,” I’d just think Mr Hall owned multiple properties. The “commodious dwelling” would be vacant March 25, 1796 (Lady-Day following August 1795) the Old-Swan and related close to the western side of Barby would be vacant 29 September 1795.

Scene from a Northamptonshire village in 1795. © The Trustees of the British Museum

Scene from a Northamptonshire village in 1795. © The Trustees of the British Museum

In conclusion:

I wonder how much property John Hall owned, what he sold, what he retained, and if the properties can be connected to extant buildings.

At first glance Thomas Hall, son of a “gentleman,” doesn’t seem like a person with the inclination take up a trade, unless out of necessity. I was looking for a yeoman-farmer background for Thomas, something that gave him animal husbandry experience. Still, the son of a gentleman would hopefully have been well educated on keeping accounts and other practical knowledge that could be applied to a business. On the other hand, given the poor economy around Braunston and Barby, maybe the life of a business-man in London seemed more appealing to a young man than the life of a small-town gentleman. Perhaps a glimpse farther back in time might show whether Thomas’ father, John Hall gentleman, was living off the assets of yeoman-farmer ancestors in a way that wasn’t sustainable in the extremely poor economic conditions in the area around the turn of the century and Thomas was only returning to a life more like his forebears. If Thomas is related to the earlier Halls in Barby it seems very plausible that his father, or grandfather, was a yeoman who prospered and decided to live the life of a gentleman, but that Thomas didn’t have the same set of circumstances and made different choices.

Certainly Thomas Hall wasn’t moving the the fashionable crowd in London or living in the more upscale parts of town – while not poor, he was not a “gentleman.”  We still can’t be certain that he was the son of a gentleman; if he was it explains where he got the capital, and probably the confidence, to start his business.

Signing of as always with more research to do! Hopefully I’ll be able to turn up something on William Hall, silkman.

PS: For this region and time period, I’ve had the best luck with which includes the Northampton Mercury. I find that each location and time period requires a fresh approach.

Related: The Pitttom Family of Barby – there is a mention on page 20 of land purchased from John Hall who died in 1791. Interesting reading!


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