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Charles Fields of the Rodney Inn, Saltfleet

by Ruth Gatenby

Note from C B Fields

Note from C B Fields

Location of Rodney Inn, Saltfleet

Location of Rodney Inn, Saltfleet

In the mid-19th century, Thomas Overton and William East were merchants in Louth.  We have 40 informal notes sent to them, concerning the sale of alcoholic drinks.

These little pieces of paper give us a glimpse of how business was conducted at that time.  Here we focus on five notes written by Charles Bradley Fields, a publican in Saltfleet.

Sept 30th 1845:  Please to send me eight gallons gin and four gallons rum, by Mrs Parrish.  I will pay you after the races.  I have sent two dozen porter bottles by Mrs Parrish.

Sept 1st 1847:  Please to send me two gallons of gin today.  I will send you the money next Wednesday.

Jan 24th 1848:  In answer to yours received on the 18th instant, I am sorry that I have got no money now but will give you some in fourteen days from this date.  Hoping you will not take proceedings against me before that time.

July 19th 1848:  I have sent £1 1s for the last two gallons of gin.  Please to send me two gallons of gin today and one kilderkin [half a barrel] of porter today of the lowest price if it be good, and I will send you some more money as soon as possible.

Oct 2nd 1849:  I have sent three pounds by the bearer.  Please to send me six gallons of gin and four gallons of rum.  And I shall come to Louth on Wednesday after the fair, and not fail in bringing you some money.  Please to send me one dozen large bottles of porter.

The Rodney Inn was in the centre of Saltfleet just to the west of the Crown Inn, on the road that is now Pump Lane.  For many decades, the Fields family had been running the inn, but Jesney Fields died in 1834, and then his wife Eleanor in 1843.  In that year, 22-year-old son Charles must have taken over the business, and he also married farmer’s daughter Elizabeth Wells.

The notes show that Charles Fields did not normally go to Louth to collect the supplies, or to pay for them.  Instead, he trusted Mrs Parrish, probably Mrs Charlotte Parrish the wife of the Saltfleet grocer.

He intended to pay Overton & East “after the races”.  This was not because he was hoping to back a winning horse in the races, but because each year in the autumn, there was an annual fair in Saltfleet (at which farm animals were bought and sold), and this was followed by horse racing and other sports such as rifle shooting.  People flocked to Saltfleet for the races, and the inns were well patronised.  Charles needed supplies of drink, but he could pay only after the races.

Alas, Charles found it impossible to remain solvent, and he gave up the Rodney Inn in 1857.  In 1861 he was working as an agricultural labourer, and in 1871 as a hairdresser.  He died in 1873, at the age of 52.  His widow, Elizabeth, became a laundress.