May 062019

As part of my one-place study for the village of Wing in Buckinghamshire, I’ve been reading the local newspaper, the Leighton Buzzard Observer, each week on the 150th anniversary of its original publication. In the 4th May 1869 instalment there were multiple mentions of Wing, but one in particular caught my eye.

report of conviction of John Lathwell for drunkeness in the Leighton Buzzard Observer 1869

While not all one-place studiers have an ancestral link to their study place, most do, and I do too – my ancestors include some of the Lathwells of Wing (as well as many other families residing there throughout the 19th century). I have a master family tree drawn up of all the known Lathwells of Wing, so my first step after reading the report of this court case was to check to see if it was MY John Lathwell or another John Lathwell mentioned. I was somewhat relieved to confirm that my John Lathwell had died in 1863, and his son John had died as an infant, so it wasn’t my John disgracing himself during a funeral. The other major branch of Lathwells in Wing included just one John alive in 1869, so it’s reasonable to assume that he is our man. As an aside, according to the records for Aylesbury Gaol available on the Centre for Buckinghamshire Studies website, that John later did a stint there for theft, and they even have a photo of him!

I then got curious about this incident itself. Whose funeral was it? Why was he drunk? Was this his way of mourning a loved one, or was he just a random drunk guy stumbling by disturbing the proceedings?

The parish registers of All Saints Church should hopefully be able to answer the first question at least. I’ve transcribed all the burials from 1813 to 1909, so I checked my records and the only burial on 15th April 1869 was for Susanna Attwood, aged 76, of Wing. Who was Susanna Attwood? The name definitely rang a bell, so I checked the census for 1861 for any clues and found her together with her husband Richard, innkeeper, living on High Street. Of course! The census may not have named the building they were living in but I now knew why I recognised the name. Richard and Susanna were the proprietors of the Cock Inn, and I had spent time last year researching the Cock as part of the Society’s Shared Endeavour project on Built Heritage.

Richard and Susanna Attwood were from the villages of Lillingstone Lovell and Lillingstone Dayrell respectively, rather than being Wing natives, and I couldn’t find anything in my records to suggest a connection between the Attwoods and the Lathwells beyond innkeeper and imbiber. And perhaps this is the answer as to why John Lathwell was drunk – a tribute, of sorts, to his favourite pub landlady?

Alex Coles

  One Response to “Drunk At A Funeral”

  1. This is wonderful, Alex, and a great example of the potential for story buried in even the briefest of newspaper notices.

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