Some history of the Black Horse Inn at Castle Donington in Leicestershire


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The Black Horse Inn may have been built by Joseph Lacey as he was recorded as owning land 'in the pasture' during the early 1830s and, by 1841, appeared in an electoral roll for Castle Donington as occupying a freehold house on Castle Hill. By this date Joseph Lacey was 70 years-old and kept the beer house with his wife Jane. The couple had married at Castle Donington in November 1814. Being twenty years younger Jane Lacey [née Roper] probably had a lot more energy and possibly played a key part in the day-to-day running of the Black Horse Inn. The couple employed servants to assist in the business.

There were a number of people named Lacey dotted around the parish of Castle Donington which is interesting as the name is of Norman origin, and derives from the village of Lassy in the department of Calvados. The name was introduced into Britain after William the Conqueror's success at Hastings. Indeed, two members of this clan, Ilbert and William de Laci, sailed across the channel with the Duke of Normandy who became the first Norman King of England.

Castle Donington : Sale Notice for the Black Horse Inn [1855]

Following the death of Joseph Lacey, the freehold of the Black Horse Inn was advertised in the regional newspapers. By this period the building seems to have gained a full licence. The tenant at the Black Horse Inn was Jane Sutton who was granted the licence in September 1854. The sale, held on February 20th, 1855, included three adjoining cottages.

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The sale of the Black Horse Inn may have brought a swift end to the tenancy agreement with Jane Sutton. Certainly, the licence of the inn was transferred to the former farm bailiff George Harris in June 1855. Born in 1818, a few miles to the south of Castle Donington at Diseworth, George Harris kept the Black Horse Inn for many years with his wife Sarah. Originating a little further away, she was born at Shepshed. Her mother, Mary Hayes, moved into the Black Horse Inn for her latter years.

The inn status of the Black Horse was upheld by George and Sarah Harris and they took in boarders and lodgers. However, as can be seen from the newspaper articles, this created a few issues for them over the years. The court case against John Lupton Veasey, on a charge of stealing various gold and silver articles belonging to the innkeeper's wife was bizarre. Whilst in custody on remand, Veasey had asked for pen, ink, and paper, for the purpose writing out his defence. On a sheet of paper being given to him, he said that one sheet of paper would be insufficient, as he should want many, so he was supplied with what he required. This defence, as he named it, was produced in court. However, it was reported that, despite exhibiting some talent, it contained much that was incoherent, and was thought, designedly introduced. The sheets of paper contained nothing but self praise, and an account of some "wonderful inventions," which were to astound the world at some future time. He appeared to lay claim to powers of ubiquity - to be capable of ascending or descending at will. It was altogether a strange composition.

It is interesting to note that the basket weaver Henry Hargraves was a boarder at the Black Horse Inn during the early 1860s. Interesting because, in later years, Joseph Fowkes was also recorded as a licensed victualler and basket maker. Perhaps Henry Hargraves worked for the future publican of the Black Horse Inn. Joseph Fowkes had lived close to the pub on Biggin during the early part of his career. In the 1860s his wife Frances worked, like many people in Castle Donington, within the lace industry as an embroiderer. Their son James played an important part of church life when, at an early age, he joined the choir and served as the organ blower. He later became a verger, a position he held for more than 50 years. During much of this period he also rang the "curfew" at Castle Donington, a custom that commenced on the 29th of September each year and continued for six nights each week until March.

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Licensees of the Black Horse Inn

1847 - Joseph Lacey
1854 - 1855 Jane Sutton
1855 - George Harris
1871 - George Harris
1888 - Joseph Fowkes
1899 - Mary Fowkes
1905 - William Holliss
Note : this is not a complete list of licensees for this pub.

Related Newspaper Articles

"As Mr. E. Fisher's van was proceeding between Long Eaton and Sawley, on its return from Nottingham to Castle Donington, on Wednesday evening week, it suddenly upset, in consequence of the driver getting off the road, the night being very dark. Fortunately, however, the passengers escaped with a few bruises. On Thursday evening week, as Mr. Wildman, the proprietor of an exhibition, was on his way to Castle Donington statutes, he fell off his van, and broke his leg. On Monday evening last, a poor old man, 76 years of age, named William Howarth, of Derby, being very near sighted, fell off an embankment near the Black Horse Inn, Castle Donington, and broke his leg. It is to be hoped that some means will be adopted to prevent future similar accidents at this unguarded place."
Nottinghamshire Guardian : October 30th 1846 Page 3.

"On Friday the 2nd of April, an inquest was held at the house of Mr. Joseph Lacey, Black Horse Inn, Castle Donington, before J. Gregory, Esq., Coroner, on view of the body of John Roughton, millwright, of Ashby-de-la-Zouch, aged 52 years. It appeared that on the previous Wednesday he was engaged in loading some timber belonging to a post windmill, near Hemington, which is in the course of being removed to another place, and that one of the guide stakes drew out of the ground and let the rearing pole fall upon him, by which his head was severely injured. He continued in great agony till Saturday morning, when he expired, leaving three sons and one daughter to lament his unfortunate end. He was a very superior workman, and highly respected by all who knew him. Verdict, "Died of a fracture of the skull from a rearing pole accidentally falling upon it."
"Fatal Accident"
Leicestershire Mercury : April 10th 1847 Page 3.

"A young man, apparently a Continental Jew, was brought up by Detective Walker, on suspicion of being concerned in breaking into the Black Horse inn, at Castle Donington, and stealing therefrom £57, on the night of Wednesday last. The man entered into a long statement of his different whereabouts during the present week; denying all knowledge of, or participation in, the affair. The landlord of the Black Horse attended and said the man was at his house in the early part of the week, and left on Tuesday' but he was seen upon the premises on Wednesday night. The prisoner was remanded to Castle Donington."
"A Suspected Burglar"
Nottinghamshire Guardian : October 20th 1859 Page 6.

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"Hernan Horwitz, a hawker aged 30, was charged with stealing two purses, a snuff box, and £49 in money, the property of George Harris, from his dwelling-house at Castle Donington, on October 12th. Mr. Maunsell conducted the prosecution, and Mr. O'Brien the defence. Mrs. Harris said her husband kept a public house, and the prisoner occasionally came there. He came in October, and slept in one of the front rooms. She kept her money in the next room to his. On October 11th, the prisoner said he had only 4s. in money left, and showed it her, so he must get to business. He also showed her his stock. She saw the money safe on the 12th. She heard a voice in the evening when in the back kitchen. She went upstairs with her husband. She found nobody there but missed the money out of a drawer. The window was open and there was a lean-to under the window, under which was the garden. [Cross-examined]: The prisoner was in her house from the 7th to the 11th. George Harris, the prosecutor, deposed that he kept the Black Horse, at Castle Donington. He corroborated the evidence which his wife had given. He could see in the garden where someone had jumped from the lean-to on to the garden, and walked a little distance barefooted, where some shoes had been put on. P.C. John Burton deposed that he found the drawer broken open. He found marks in the garden where a person had walked without shoes, and found a place where shoes appeared to have been put on. He traced footmarks to the grass. When the prisoner was taken to the lock-up, he said he could prove by many witnesses he was at Nottingham at the time. Afterwards on the 16th, he found the footmarks corresponded with the prisoner's shoes. Superintendent Hague deposed he went to Nottingham and made inquiries for the prisoner's witnesses. Told him the following day, that Mr. and Mrs. Asher could prove he had left their house on the afternoon of the robbery, and did not return till ten o'clock at night. He said "They can't say so." Witness replied, "They will say so." Prisoner said he had bought nothing but a coat at Nottingham, but witness told him that a gentleman would come forward and say he had bought goods and had paid a sovereign and half-sovereign. Compared the footmarks and corroborated the evidence of P.C. Burton. Frederick Pearson, dealer in small wares, deposed that on October 13th, the prisoner bought £1. 11s. worth of goods, and paid for them with a sovereign and half-sovereign. John Lambert deposed that on October 12th, a little before six o'clock, p.m., he was on the footway from Lockington to Kegworth, being then in the County Police Force. There he saw the prisoner, and a man whom he did not know was with him. The other man asked the way to Castle Donington, and witness replied "Two miles." He was sure it was prisoner. Afterwards he heard of the robbery. Thomas Twells, coal higgler, of Donington, deposed he was in his garden, about half-past seven in the evening. It was close to prosecutor's garden. He saw the prisoner walk up to Harris's garden. He heard of the robbery about half-an-hour afterwards. Harriet Twells, wife of the last witness, said, she was charing at Mr. Hickin's. She saw the prisoner about half-past seven p.m., on the above day, when she stood at Mrs. Hickin's door. Prisoner was passing through the yard, and she told him there was no road there. He did not speak, but went over the hedge into Tomlinson's garden. Anthony Maslin deposed he had charge of the Sawley station, at night. On October 12th, prisoner came to the station about 20 minutes to 9 p.m. He came from the direction of Castle Donington, and asked about a train to Nottingham. He took a 4th class ticket to Nottingham, and went by the train. George Hy. Walker, sergeant of the detective force at Nottingham, spoke to apprehending the prisoner at Nottingham. He found a quantity of jewellery at his lodgings, but the prisoner refused to say where he got it from. Told prisoner the charge, and said he had not been out of Nottingham, on the night of the robbery. Joseph Asher deposed, that on October 12th, prisoner was at his house, but left in the afternoon, and did not return till late at night. The next day his coat wanted mending. Sarah Asher, his wife, had died since she last gave evidence. The deposition of the late Mrs. Asher was read over. It corroborated her husband's evidence. Mr. O'Brien then addressed the jury on behalf of the prisoner, remarking that it was a case of circumstantial evidence, and contending that there was but very slight evidence to show that the prisoner committed the robbery. The learned Chairman having summed up, the Jury proceeded to deliberate, and after some delay, retired to a private room. On their return, they gave a verdict of not guilty. The prisoner was discharged."
"Charged with Stealing"
Leicestershire Mercury : January 7th 1860 Page 6.

"John Lupton Veary [29], baker, was charged with stealing two pairs of trousers, one waistcoat, one gold guard chain, one gold ring, one gold scarf pin, and one silver brooch, value £3, the property of George Harris, at Castle Donington, on the 6th December, 1869. Prisoner pleaded not guilty. Mr. Palmer prosecuted. Sarah Harris, wife of George Harris, living at the Black Horse Inn, Castle Donington, said on Sunday, the 5th of December, 1869, the prisoner came to the house and asked for lodgings for a week. She agreed to take him in. He had no luggage with him. He had some tea and went to bed. The next morning he came down about ten o'clock, and then left the house. He did not come back, and she saw no more of him until he was in custody. Shortly after he left the house, she went to a chest of drawers in her bedroom, and found the things disturbed, and that induced her to make a careful search about the room. She missed a pair of light trousers, a vest, gold ring, scarf pin, and brooch, which she had seen on the evening previous, a pair of new dark cloth trousers out of an adjoining bedroom; they had never been worn. The articles produced were her property, and were part of the things she missed. She gave information of the robbery to the police on the same day. P.C. Meakin, Abbott's Bromley, Staffordshire, produced the gold ring, chain, and brooch. He saw the prisoner on the 22nd December, 1869, and on that occasion saw prisoner wearing the ring and chain. He charged him with stealing the things, but he made no answer. Mr. Palmer said that the prisoner had committed four separate robberies from public houses, of which this was one. Prisoner was sentenced to three calendar months' hard labour."
"Theft of Belongings"
Leicester Journal : October 20th 1871 Page 3.

"Samuel Frederick Dunn, shoehand, Joseph Astle, gardener, and Frank Earp, butcher, all of Melbourne, were charged with stealing 60 cigars and 34 packets of cigarettes, value 7s. 10d., the property of William Hollis, the landlord the Black Horse Inn, Castle Donington. Harriet Hollis, wife of the prosecutor, said defendants all came to the house on Sunday, staying in the smoke room, where witness left them on one occasion alone. After they left the house witness missed the articles. Witness noticed one cigar lying on the floor in the smoke room, and this aroused her suspicions. She identified two of the men afterwards in another public-house, and on being searched a number of the cigars and cigarettes were found in their possession. Astle was also searched later, but nothing was found on him. Astle was, however, noticed attempting to hide something, and a part of a cigar was found behind a box. All three pleaded guilty, defendants asserting that they were under the influence of drink. Astle said he was very sorry, but he hardly knew what happened. Each fined 40s. or 14 days."
"Melbourne Men in Trouble"
Nottingham Evening Post : May 3rd 1905 Page 4.

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