#52Ancestors: Week 2: Favourite Finds

John Cutting: Publican of New Inn

My choice of the family group to research in 2022 is my maternal Cutting Line. In my family tree for the Cuttings, I have been focussing on my great, great, grandparents who lived in Hampshire, England. John Cutting was born in 1800 in Penton Mewsey and married Ann Craddock in 1826 at the Holy Trinity Church, the oldest church in the Pentons. Penton is derived from Penitone, which is a farm held at penny rent. The village is adjacent to the hamlet and parish of Penton Grafton. Both villages are collectively known as The Pentons.

In my research for John and Ann, I was searching through the old Census record transcripts, and came across this one for 1841. I looked closer at the details on the original document and noticed the occupation of John was noted as Publican. The family lived at the New Inn, located in Fyfield, Andover. This was the first time I had seen a Publican in the family tree, and I was intrigued. Thankfully I had the transcript which I had copied into my Evernote files; as the original 1841 census was very faded and hard to read.

Occupation – PUBLICAN; Full address New Inn, Fyfield, Andover, Hampshire, England; Street New Inn; Parish or township Fyfield; County Hampshire; Sub-district Ludgershall.

Family member first name(s) James, Charles, Thomas, George, Martha, John, William, Ann, Albert; Family member last name Cutting; Archive reference HO107; Piece number 383; Book number 5; Folio number 7; Page number 9

Note: they had two other children after 1841; another daughter Emily born 1844, and another son, Harry born 1845, who was my great, grandfather.

I imagined what it might have been like for my great, great grandparents at Christmas time in the New Inn. This little tale sprang to mind as I researched the history of Christmas in England in the 1840s.

Christmas at The New Inn, Fyfield, Andover, Hampshire 1841

John wanted this Christmas to be the best Christmas ever for his wife and seven children. The Inn was doing well, catering for the travellers and there was a positive feeling of goodwill in the small community of Fyfield. The family had taken over the Inn in the years after the great floods in Hampshire, not long after they married in 1826. Since then they had made many improvements to the Inn, including the installation of electric lights.

He sat at his oak desk in the study, making a list of items he wanted for the celebrations. He had cluttered the desktop with pieces of paper, old Christmas cards, letters to St Nicholas, from his younger children, and his wife Ann’s list of menu items for the Christmas dinner. His life would be happier if he kept his wife happy and ensured that her wishes were fulfilled. Ann had transformed his life when she said Yes to his proposal of marriage back in 1826. Visions of her walking down the aisle in her beautiful wedding gown, hand-stitched by her mother, in the Holy Trinity Church at Penton Mewsey, filled his mind.

John and Ann had selected a beautiful fir tree from their garden to be chopped down and carried inside to be decorated for this special Christmas. They were following the traditions set down by Prince Albert under the guidance of Queen Victoria; traditions that were becoming popular in the 1840s, including the Christmas Tree. John and Ann also wanted the family and patrons to enjoy a traditional Christmas dinner with all the trimmings, so his list of foods for his chef to order included:

Fish, turkeys, geese, and game pies; fresh vegetables such as potatoes and pumpkin; plum puddings and mince pies. John wanted a table laden with roast meats; roast vegetables; puddings and pies for the guests at the Inn to enjoy on Christmas day.

The Christmas tree was to be the focal point in the main entrance hall of the Inn, just at the foot of the staircase. You could smell the fresh pine as you entered the New Inn. The gardener had chopped down the tree selected by Ann and had it ready for the family to decorate, with their festive ribbons, candles, and ornaments. An Angel was to be placed on the top of the tree by Martha, the eldest.

John wrote on his list: wax candles and sweets such as caraway or aniseed comfits, covered with boiled sugar and crafted into the shape of a plum. Martha was keen to have these. She said, ‘A little wire stalk at the top makes them convenient for hanging on trees’. He added oranges stuck with cloves, cinnamon sticks and pine cones, sugar candies like barley sugar, twisted into different shapes–and for a special treat, some Everton Toffee.

John also arranged a surprise for the children – a feast of gingerbread and apples. In Germany, the old saying that St. Nicholas appears with a rod for naughty children, and gingerbread for good ones, was growing in popularity. So John planned to dress up as St. Nicholas, in a red suit, covered with snow, a long white beard, and a red nose. He would ask the children, who would be awed & alarmed, — “if you have been good, you shall have gingerbread & apples.”

He was glad that Christmas Day fell on a Saturday this year. It was the first time he had felt grateful for the new bylaws for Publicans to shut their houses from 12 midnight on a Saturday to 1 pm on the Sunday following. This hiatus would give him precious time with his family and not have to open the doors for 12+ hours.

Next on his list were the gifts for each of his children.

Martha aged 16 –

George aged 14

Thomas aged 12

John aged 10

William aged 8

Charles aged 6

James aged 4

Albert aged six months

Now he needs your help! What would you suggest as gifts for children of these ages in 1841? What were the popular Christmas gifts at the time? When and how were they given to the children?

You may find some help with this from these blog posts:

Alternatively, you may find what was being advertised for Christmas Gifts in the old British Newspapers; like this one from The Morning Herald (London) 23 December 1841.

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