From 'The Lenton Listener' Issue 38
February - March 1986
A Near Miss for The Three Wheatsheaves?
Plus The Hopkins Family of Lenton
Down at the County Record Office on High Pavement, we were looking through the various card indexes searching for any possible references to The Three Wheatsheaves or its past inhabitants. One of the routine checks to make was to look through the index of wills deposited there. An obvious surname to begin with was Hopkin(s)*, as the landlady at the beginning of the nineteenth century was Mary Hopkins followed by Humphrey Hopkins. There was nothing for these two, but one of the index cards indicated that there were documents referring to an earlier Humphrey Hopkins of Lenton, a farmer who had died in 1759. On examination, one of the documents proved to be the formal application by his wife Sarah for powers of executorship as Humphrey had died intestate. More interestingly there was also an inventory of the Hopkins' property at the time of Humphrey's death. We have reproduced the details of this inventory below, complete with original spellings. Our attention was immediately taken by the inclusion in the first column of 'In the Brewhouse 1 Copper Brewing Vessels & other Furniture'. Any early proprietor of The Three Wheatsheaves would undoubtedly have need of such equipment as beer was almost always brewed on the premises. Was it possible that we had come across early details of the farm of which The Three Wheatsheaves formed a part?
If this Humphrey Hopkins was to prove to be an early landlord of The Three Wheatsheaves, it seemed sensible to seek out evidence of a family connection between him and Mary and the later Humphrey Hopkins. Lenton's parish records have now been put on microfiche which can be examined at the County Record Office. These records of Lenton baptisms, marriages and burials show that Mary Hopkins had been the wife of William Hopkins, who had died in 1800, and that Humphrey Hopkins had been their son. William proved to be the son of Humphrey and Sarah Hopkins. So we had our family connection.
As we explained earlier in this issue, Professor Barley gave his opinion as to which were the earliest portions of The Three Wheatsheaves and which were later additions. Then he tried to match the arrangement of his estimate of the original building with that indicated in the inventory. It was at this point that doubts began to creep in. The Three Wheatsheaves had four rooms on each of its three floors while the inventory only suggested the presence of three rooms on the ground floor (parlour, kitchen and brewhouse), three on the first floor and cheese and corn garrets in the roof space. So the inventory appeared to indicate a smaller building, seemingly not The Three Wheatsheaves. Professor Barley, however, suggested that the matter was not so cut and dried. Our inventory made no mention of a reception room known as a hall. Compilers of inventories had been known to ignore the hall in their calculations and that might be the case in this instance. Then again Professor Barley said his estimate as to what was the original building might be in error. Set against this Professor Barley gave cause for another doubt to surface when he explained that the presence of a brewhouse did not necessarily imply a hostelry. Larger farmers normally brewed beer for their own consumption.
There was also a further complication which, until now, we have kept from you. At much the same time that the later Humphrey Hopkins was landlord of The Three Wheatsheaves, the proprietor of The White Hart was also a Hopkins, John Hopkins. From our cursory examination of the parish records we weren't sure whether or not this John Hopkins was related to our Humphrey Hopkins. If the family connection could be established, then we might be better off switching horses and examining the arguments for the inventory being that of The White Hart prior to its extensions in 1804. This was the motivation for constructing the Hopkins family tree which we display on these two pages.
We must apologise to our readers at this point that what now follows may prove rather hard going. Apart from any inherent complexities in the subject matter, we have been forced to insert reference numbers throughout the rest of the text. A glance at the family tree will make the reason for this apparent. Certain christian names were such firm favourites with the Hopkins that without the use of reference numbers it would have been nigh on impossible to make it clear who we were talking about.
The first to appear in our family tree is John Hopkins (1). His first marriage to Mary Parker and second one to Elizabeth White were both included in T.M. Blagg and F.A. Wadsworth's Abstracts of Nottinghamshire Marriage Licences Vol 1 (pub.1930). Unlike early parish registers those who filled in the details of marriages by licence recorded quite a lot of information about bride and groom. So we learn not only their parishes, but also their ages and the bridegroom's occupation. In both 1699 and 1721 John Hopkins describes himself as a paper maker living in Lenton. His farmer son Humphrey (2) was evidently not carrying on the family business, so we may well be able to presume that Humphrey and his family were the first Hopkins to live in the farm house which provides us with our inventory.
His wife Sarah survived Humphrey by twenty years. In all likelihood the tenancy of the farm passed to John (4), as he was the eldest son. (Humphrey and Sarah's first born, John (3), is presumed to have died in infancy though we can find no record of his burial). We say in all likelihood; we cannot be sure for John and his brother William (5) were both tenant farmers in Lenton. We know this from two sources. The first is the wills which both men left, now deposited at the County Record Office. In his will John Hopkins bequeathed various sums of money to three of his children, John (6), Elizabeth Walker (7) and Humphrey (8), to be paid once Elizabeth, his wife, had died. He left his 'lands, messuages and tenements, goods and chattels' jointly to his wife and son William (9). He also included a proviso in his will that John (6) should only be paid half his bequest of £200 if John chose to apply for the tenancy of the farm from George de Ligne Gregory Esq.
Our second source of information sheds light on John's decision. This is the land tax returns kept at the County Record Office. The Lenton returns between 1780 and 1826 give not only the name of the local landowners but also the names of their tenants who paid out an annual sum based on the value of the land they rented. Up until 1807 John Hopkins (4) paid the annual amount of £7 10s. 8d. but following his death this responsibility fell to his executors. Then in 1808 William Hopkins (9) took over the payments. He continued to do so until 1814 when the payments appear to be shared with his brother John (6). Their mother Elizabeth had died the previous year so John must have eventually agreed on a joint tenancy with William. William died in 1822 but the partnership appears to have carried on 'in name' as the payment of £7 10s. 8d. continued to be made by J & W Hopkins. When John (6) came into his inheritance following his mother's death in 1813, he seems to have put the money to good purpose. Besides the partnership with William, the land tax returns indicate that he also took over The White Hart along with the farm attached. The previous tenant George Wombwell had died that year after at least thirty years occupancy there. Unless we have misinterpreted the facts, this discovery rules out the idea that our inventory can be that of The White Hart. Until 1813 it does not appear to have come into the ambit of any of the Hopkins.
Now we return to William (5) and John Hopkins (4). When John died in 1807 his estate was valued at 'not more than £800'. By comparison William, his brother, had done rather better for himself. His estate at his death in 1800 was worth 'not more than £1,999'. The land tax returns show that William both added to the lands which he rented on at least two separate occasions and also gradually bought up portions of land. From William's will it is clear that he had made arrangements following his death to sell his land 'several Closes, hereditaments and premises situated in the parish of Lenton' to a John Wright and a Matthew Needham. He also requested that the tenancy of their farm be passed on to his wife Mary. Mary is definitely known to have been landlady of The Three Wheatsheaves in 1810 and it seems clear she was carrying on after her husband, William. One piece of corroborative evidence is that when their son Robert (15) died in 1811 the parish records refer to his burial as 'Robert Hopkins of Lenton of William Hopkins (victualler)'. At this point we have to admit that our inventory probably does not belong to The Three Wheatsheaves and, if so, then William Hopkins (5) was the first of our Hopkins to be proprietor there. If we are right then what ultimately happened to the farm in our inventory?
We start from the presumption that the farm did pass to John Hopkins (4) and that one of his sons eventually took up the tenancy. The likely son is William (9). After that we are faced with a problem. William died in 1822 a bachelor. His brother and partner John (6) seems to have taken over (or retained) the farm's tenancy but undoubtedly continued to live at The White Hart. Perhaps brother Humphrey (7) moved in. There is, however, no evidence to support this suggestion. A thorough search of Lenton's marriage and burial records only produced the burial of wife Sarah and son William. His two daughters, Sarah and Elizabeth, if they married, did not do so in Lenton. Furthermore Humphrey (7) does not figure in the burial records. All of which suggests that Humphrey and family had left Lenton for good by the time of Williamís death in 1822. A similar argument can be made for his sister Elizabeth (8). We only learn of her marriage to John Walker from its mention in her father's will.
If none of John's (3) children or their heirs are likely to have moved into the farm house after 1822, what about the other side of the family, one of William's (5) children or grandchildren? We haven't found out much about Elizabeth (13) and John Brothwell, but we do know that brother John (14) became a lace manufacturer living initially on Bridlesmith Gate and finally at Carrington. Mary (12) married Elias Roberts, landlord or son of the landlord of The Rose in Lenton. Soon afterwards this was renamed The Rose and Crown and sometime before 1813 the landlord became a John Annis. So Mary and Elias would not have been there after this date. They probably lived elsewhere in Lenton but where is not clear. We have discovered that after his marriage to Sarah Weston, William (11) initially farmed at Trowell until 1810. What happened in the next ten years is not clear but in 1821 the Lenton land tax returns indicate that he entered into a partnership with a William Weston (most likely his wife's father or brother) and helped run the Weston's farm, which was probably situated somewhere along Radford Marsh Road. This is the road which starts on the Derby Road beside The Three Wheat sheaves and used to run through to the Ilkeston Road. On his mother's death in 1812 Humphrey (10) clearly took over the running of the farm attached to the Three Wheatsheaves, having previously rented a small farmstead elsewhere in Lenton. So out of these, only Elizabeth and John Brothwell and Mary and Elias Roberts cannot be eliminated.
It is something of a stab in the dark to suggest that the Roberts or the Brothwells might have gone to live in the farm after William's death, but we don't have any other names to propose. The sources of evidence rather dry up. The Lenton land tax returns continue until 1832 but from 1827 onwards omit the names of the tenants. From our point of view this was a most inconsiderate change in practice, for it is during this period that John Hopkins (6) ceased to be landlord of The White Hart. Pigot's directory for 1831, the first to give any real details of Lenton's residents, states that The White Hart's landlord was Thomas Wright. In all likelihood John Hopkins also relinquished the tenancy of our farm at much the same time; certainly White's 1832 directory fails to include him in its list of Lenton farmers (the only Hopkins mentioned is Humphrey at The Three Wheatsheaves).
Even had we found any more of the Hopkins family in these early directories, it wouldn't have been a lot of help as the directories don't yet provide any addresses. You have to wait for the 1841 Census before you can pinpoint which street a person lived on. The Roberts were both dead by the time of this Census, but we were more fortunate with Elizabeth Brothwell, who was alive and living in Lenton. Her residence was near the Church on Gregory Street, then known as Town Street. We cannot identify the actual house but feel confident that it wasnít our farm. The Gregory Estate map of 1823, kept at the Record Office, clearly shows which land and properties the Gregory family owned. Scrutiny of this map suggests that Elizabeth must have lived in a property built on Gregory land after 1823 or alternatively lived in a house which was not part of the Gregory Estate. Either way it can't be the farm.
With Elizabeth Brothwell's 1811 residence ruled out and the Roberts left unlocated, we have nothing more to offer. If only we could have kept tabs on the farm and its occupants for a little while longer, then the directories and the Census material would probably have been sufficient to enable us to locate the building and so reveal the farm's ultimate fate. The story must remain unfinished, at present a puzzle, awaiting someone else to discover new sources of material which will provide the solution.