16th December 2014. The sixteenth contribution to the Village Advent Calendar Windows, at the Village Shop and Post Office, Magpie Road.
More pictures on the next page.
The small building which is now the Village Community Shop was formerly known to older parishioners as “The Reading Room” or the “Billiard Room”. It was built in 1720 at the expense of John Hodges as a charity school and in his will dated 18th June 1722 he made provision for “the salary for a school teacher to instruct ten poor children……to learn to read, write and cast accounts.”
John Hodges also made provision for three pennyworth (1.5p) of bread to be given to each of six poor people on every Lord’s Day, provided that they attended divine service. A careful account of the recipients of this charity was kept from 1783 until 1919 in the “John Hodges’ Breadbook”. A copy of each page in the Breadbook can be seen on the village website. There are several interesting entries, not least at the foot of Page 3, thus:
“NB This Wm Abbott, Clerk, was had to Northampton Goal for highway robberies. Transported to Botany Bay for life”. William Abbott was a member of the notorious Culworth Gang, village labourers turned highwaymen, who stole from travellers along the Banbury Lane and Welsh Road and broke into houses over a wide area. As Parish Clerk, William had access to the old chest in Sulgrave church in which he hid stolen items. The gang were apprehended in 1787 and stood trial at Northampton Assizes. Four men were found guilty and hanged before a crowd of 5000 on Northampton Racecourse. William Abbott was initially condemned to death but turned King’s Evidence and had his sentence commuted to transportation to Australia for life.
The very first entrant in the Breadbook still has a descendant living in the village today.
The “teaching of ten poor children” came to an end in the late 19th century when the village state school was opened and thereafter the building was used as a reading room. National and local newspapers and other publications were provided for those who could read the papers but not afford to buy them.
In 1927 the “Reading Room” became the “Billiard Room” when the the village billiard club transferred there from other premises. The club rules, devised mainly by the then vicar, stipulated that “no boy under the age of 23” should be allowed to join!
The club survived and prospered in the local leagues for eighty years or more.