Colne Valley Arms

The Colne Valley Arms was a pub long before it acquired its name.  The first record we can find of it having a name is in Kelly's Directory for 1866 when owned by John French, it is believed that the construction workers of the railway line frequented the pub, and thus giving it its name.  The pub was in the hands of the French family from at least 1845 to 1925ish.  They ran a building/carpentary business as well as a wheelrights from the premises.  Kelly's Directory for 1894 lists Walter French as Owner of Colne Valley Arms, Builder, Contractor, Blacksmith, Timber Merchant, Wheelright, Carpenter, Hurdle Maker, and Lime Burner you could say a man of many trades!

The above picture was sent to us by Pat Steed and shows her Grandfather, Tom Steed, standing on the left with his thumbs in his waistcoat, with possibly Walter French's men at the front of the pub.  He was a plumber, (maintaining the wells and pumps), decorator and glazier.  Could he have sub-contracted to Walter French's empire?  He lived in the cottage next to the railway line from 1904 to at least 1911 so presume the picture is dated between those years.  Can anyone put a name to any of the others?

 The following comes from Suffolk Free Press, August 19th 1891:-

Inquest at the Colne Valley Arms, New England, on the death of Darvil Hannibal aged 4 1/2 who met his death on Thursday morning by falling off a chaff box drawn by a traction engine belonging to Mr. E. Baldock.  Charles Hannibal said, "deceased is my son, I am 45 years old, I live at Birdbrook and am a bricklayer, deceased was going to Wixoe school, he was fond of running behind carts as other children are." Richard Hannibal aged 10 years said yesterday morning, "We were going to Wixoe school, Mr. Baldock's engine caught us up, there were 5 children running behind, my brother ran to an iron bar between the elevator and chaff box, I ran to get him off, he was swinging on the bar and he was tiring, I tried to get him off, he fell off and the hind wheel went over his head.  I did not see a man with a red flag in front."  Verdict Accidental.

Up until 1927 it was not unusal for inquests to be held in public houses,  inns or village halls, any space large enough to allow attendance of the coroner,  jury of 23 men and the general public was used. The body was on view while the evidence was listened to from witnesses and, if available, medical reports read out.  The jury then voted on a cause of death.  12 votes were needed to render a decision.  The Landlord of the pub would be paid for storing the body and for the room/rooms used for the inquest.

RURIDECANAL MAGAZINE JUNE1912:  FUNERAL OF MR. FRENCH. - On Wednesday afternoon, April 24th, Mr. W. French was laid to rest in the new burial ground.  The Church was filled with mourners who had come to attend his funeral, amongst them were many of those who had worked for him for years past.  His favourite hymn, "For ever with the Lord" was sung.  The lesson was read by the Rev. R. St. Leger, Vicar of Ridgewell, who had come out of respect for the deceased.  There are many who feel the loss of Mr. French.  His kindliness and good humour made his liked by all.  While his industry was the means of providing work for a large number of men.  He passed the whole of his life in our neighbourhood, and in fact lived nearly all the time in the "Colne Valley Arms," where he was born.  Until the last few years he was a regular attendant at Church, and only ceased to come owing to his increasing infirmities.

Burried 24th April Aged 69.

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