Leathern Bottle auction

The Leathern Bottle clearly visible behind the Midland Red bus NNL-140105-113425001
The Leathern Bottle clearly visible behind the Midland Red bus NNL-140105-113425001

It has come to light that the printer William Calcott was responsible for much documentation which has since become a significant historical resource.

One item now in the possession of the Banbury Historical Society comprises particulars and conditions of sale for an auction at the Leather (more usually Leathern) Bottle Inn located in Mill Lane.

Coming under the hammer at 6pm on Thursday, July 24, 1794 were recently built houses in Parsons Lane (later Street) and shares in the Oxford Canal and Grand Junction Canal Navigation.

Lot 4 concerned a pre-existing house that appears to have occupied a site on the northern edge of the Market Place and described in the details as occupying a site on Market Street.

Those responsible for the description of the Lot 1 properties make the interesting assertion that Parsons Lane in the late 18th century was ‘the greatest thoroughfare in Banbury’.

Status was also due to the nearness to the new St Mary’s Church then under construction. As for the buildings themselves their assets were identified as good cellarage, accommodation for lodgers, and a yard with a pump issuing good quality water, surrounded by paving and a walled garden.

Wash houses and brew houses made up the remaining buildings.

At the time of the sale each house was occupied by a tenant who paid the yearly sum of £28 7s. The particulars identified these men as Robert Hitchcox (staymaker), William Ruddock (tailor), William Slatter (joiner), and Joseph Enoch (gardener).

Lots 2 and 3 were the shares. In the case of the Oxford Canal the opportunity to buy into this late 18th century navigation was part of the original issue now priced at £124. The Grand Junction share would have cost the purchaser at least £100.

This section of the sale was especially interesting in the light of an examination of a much earlier document in the form of a plan for the intended navigable Canal from Coventry to Oxford and published in 1768 well before the Oxford reached Banbury 22 years later (1790).

This map by Robert Whitworth reveals the main reason for the project and also the route complexities especially in the Napton area.

At the Coventry end the benefits of an inland navigation outlet for coal from Bedworth area collieries (part of the Warwickshire coalfield) are very clear.

A section of the sale particulars suggests that good quality coal from Wednesbury pits could be conveyed to Banbury wharves and sold at £1 1s 8d (£1.08) per ton.

Looking further ahead the writer of these notes speculates that coal from the London area using the Grand Junction supply route might sell at Banbury for 25/- (£1.25) a ton.

Lot 4’s description demonstrated how a single building can enhance a key locality, the Market Place.

There is a valuable clue to its location when the description refers to the nearby new bank (probably Gilletts County Bank). It appears that the building comprises a house and shop with accompanying warehouse and localised source of water (pump and well).

Continuity of function suggests stability over a forty year period.

Here also as in Parsons Lane lodging rooms were considerable assets.

It was not unusual to use beer houses for auctions. Other similar later venues were the Cricketers and Prince of Wales in Grimsbury.

The Leathern Bottle became known as a tied house of Banbury’s leading brewery Hunt Edmunds and offered good stabling for horses used to haul canal boats.

It was here that the auction was carried out by Mr Hawtyn. As for the local environment this was somewhat conditioned by the proliferation of brothels as well as other less reputable beer houses.

The outcome of the sale room may well have been reported in Jackson’s Oxford Journal though this newspaper tended to treat Banbury stories as news in brief and they were therefore sketchily covered.

l I am grateful to Jeremy Gibson of the Banbury Historical Society for the kind loan of papers from the Loveday of Williamscott printed ephemera which is currently in his possession.