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John Gough - Immoral Innkeeper

The George Inn, 1718 - shown in red [X1/97/5]
The George Inn, 1718 - shown in red [X1/97/5]

On 16th July 1781 an advertisement appeared in the Northampton Mercury to the effect that the George Inn was going to be taken over by John Gough, butler to the late Lord Polwarth. On 12th March 1786 Thomas Gostelow, an employee of the Earl of Hardwicke, husband of Marchioness Grey, wrote to a Mr. Stamford about him. The letter, in the ownership of the BritishMuseum was, with other correspondence, transcribed for Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service by Mary Phillips [CRT100/27/4(i)]. The letter read: "I am very sorry to inform you of a disagreeable circumstance which I now labour under and which was occasioned as follows. On Monday last two young men from Buckinghamshire which I went to school with and which I had not seen for sixteen years, one of which was just married came to see me, being glad to see them and entertaining them with the best I could I made rather too free with liquor (which as I drink nothing more than small beer in common) what I then drank had the greater effect. I in the attended my friends to the George at Silsoe, where we also made too free with some liquor which at length totally deprived me of my senses, and as I informed, told Mr. Gough, keeper of the inn, that he murdered Bet Odell, and that she would certainly rise up in judgement against him, that I would erect a gravestone to her memory and her epitaph and many other bad words which language must arise from heavy vexation and sorrow which I have felt these four years experienced by the following most harsh accusations".

"About four years ago the said Elizabeth Odell lived with Mr. Gough as servant, the woman being ill was sent away to a neighbour's house, where Mr. Gough daily attended her and carried her wine and other liquors from thence but sent her away by his own manservant to a private house in Leighton parish for a few weeks where the parishioners, suspecting something more than common to be the matter, sent her back to Silsoe. Mr. Gough then took her into his own house where he administered medicine to her of some sort to cure (as he pretended) the ague, but it was generally believed to answer a different end, Mr. Gough soon after (to keep peace at home as is supposed) sent her away to another house in the town which was at the time of the general inoculation at Silsoe. Mr. Bolding inoculated her but soon after found of his error and accused her of her being pregnant, which she strongly denied, but being taxed very close she at last confessed and in two days after in going downstairs expired in labour. The news soon after reaching the ears of Mrs. Gough, gave her uneasiness and Mr. Gough, in order to appease her sorrow and make himself appear innocent told her that I was free with the woman. Mrs. Gough in order to unload her burden of grief told a Mrs. Humberstone of Silsoe of what her husband had said of me, which as soon as it came to my eras made me very miserable in thinking that I should be so barbarously accused of such a singular shocking circumstance, it dwelt so much upon my spirits I never have got the better of it. During the poor creature's illness to use the most abominable scheme to make me appear culpable, which was that soon after he sent her from his house the first time when he met me in the street, he often asked me to walk with him to see the woman, but it was never convenient for me but once so to do, when I was walking with him toward the house I told him that it was odd for men to go to see a sick woman, he said she was the best servant he ever had, and as she had not friends he would help her by trying to get more allowance from the parish, and said "Gostelow, you shall go". When he went into the room he asked her if her legs were swelled as much as they were? She answered very urgently "Yes". He stayed looking at her and turning to me said "Poor girl, she is in a dropsy" and I being struck with compassion went home and sent her a towel, but when the report of her being pregnant reaching me I saw how I had been imposed upon".

"I was on good terms with Mr. Gough before this happened and had received as presents a velvet cap of the late Sir Francis Clark's and two or three other trifles but when I found myself so much accused I returned them. Mr. Gough, finding me hurt, came down to Wrest and hoped I would forgive him, he further said if I would forgive him and never say a word so long as I lived he would tell me who was concerned with the woman, which being anxious to hear who he had in mind next to accuse told him I would not, He then said it was George Anderson his late servant, but the woman being gone no enquiry could be made into it. The late Mr. Cox the Sunday after the poor creature was buried [the Flitton and Silsoe parish register notes Elizabeth Odell, "singlewoman" of Silsoe buried 29th January 1782] made a very affecting sermon which was supposed to be on the occasion. From these circumstances and from what I told you when I was in London about two years ago you must think how ill I was used and what little reason he has to show such rigid resentment, who it seems not only means to prosecute but inform my Lord of me, a circumstance which he knows must hurt, if not for ever ruin me. I am exceeding sorry that I should be so much off my guard, but I hope his Lordship in his great kindness will this time forgive my misconduct and disappoint the design of so base a man, and as to the trial, I don't mind about as I hope Providence will interfere and not do me too much hurt, Mr. Pawsey informed me that as he never did anything to hurt me he would not now do it, and in consideration of my Lord's health would not mention it unless he was called upon [the Earl died in May 1790]. I hope his Lordship will think me worthy of forgiveness and his Lordship may depend upon never hearing another complaint of me, in am always at home and in my business take very great pleasure and it's well known that nobody does in general drink less. Should I be do fortunate as to remain where I am I will never enter the doors of the George any more. The poor woman's aunt, hearing I was very much distressed sent me the enclosed letter, thinking it would give me some relief".

This letter was not transcribed and, perhaps, did not survive. Joseph Pawsey seems to have said one thing to Gostelow and another to Lord Hardwicke, to whom he wrote five days later: "I beg leave to inform your Lordship that I arrived here yesterday afternoon about three o'clock and proceeded with Thomas Gostelow to take an account of the livestock such as horses, cows, sheep etc. and give him directions to prepare and proceed in making out his accounts, which he is now doing and I suppose will be completed so that he may be dismissed tomorrow; he is quite unable to make any defence or justification of his conduct otherways than by recriminating Gough, the landlord of the inn for his past conduct, in the same manner as he has written to your Lordship"

"I received your Lordship's commands by Mr. Wilde on Wednesday evening to give John Gough notice to quit the George Inn at Michaelmas Day next, I have this day obey'd these commands and given him written notice to quit accordingly at Michaelmas next in the presence of Mr. Harrison. He seems very much hurt at receiving the notice as being turned out of the house will be the ruin of him with a wife and five children and the woman near lying in with the sixth child".

"I have no doubt but Allen Hill will be able (under my instructions) to keep the accounts and manage the business of the house and park in such a manner as will do him credit and our Lordship's interest will in no way suffer nor will your Lordship (I hope) have any further complaints about this business".

"Gough has declared himself innocent as to the accusations of Gostelow relating to Elizabeth Odell or having anything in sending he away from Silsoe, or of any carnal knowledge of her, and declared before me and Mr. Harrison that what he gave her to cure the ague was port wine with pepper and mustard in it, that it was eight months before her death, and the same medicine which he gave his boy and man servant who had an ague at the same time. I am sorry to have to trouble your Lordship with a repetition of such a disagreeable subject but thought right to mention Gough's declaration before Mr. Harrison".

Pawsey wrote to the Earl again two days later: "I am honoured with your Lordship's letter of yesterday by Mr. Wilde and am very sorry the letter which I wrote to your Lordship by Friday's post did not come to hand on Saturday, in it I mentioned that I came here on Thursday about three o'clock and proceeded directly to take an account of the livestock such as horses, cows, sheep etc. that afternoon and that Mr. Gostelow was beginning  to prepare and make out his accounts which I then expected would be completed last night, but he had not quite finished it, however everything will be complete this day and he will be dismissed tomorrow (Monday) morning".

"Mr. Gostelow had nothing to say in defence of his conduct other than recriminating Mr. Gough as in the letter to your Lordship, nor do I find from Mr. Harrison and others in the village anything advanced in Mr. Gostelow's favour".

"I also mentioned in my letter on Friday that I had given John Gough the written notice to quit the Inn at Michaelmas Day next, and took Mr. Harrison with me as a witness. He seems much shocked and hurt at your Lordship's displeasure and declared his innocence as to the accusations of Gostelow which I have there more fully explained and although I cannot say anything in Gough's favour as a good, moral man, I might not help feeling for him when I saw five little children and the wife near laying in with the sixth".

On 20th Pawsey wrote: "I have this morning completed Mr. Gostelow's accounts and paid him the balance £32.15.0 and he had quitted Wrest with a heavy heart and openly confessed before Mr. Harrison how much he repented not talking the friendly advice I have at several times given him, and that getting into company of immoral men had led him to his ruin". It is interesting that a Thomas Gostelow witnessed Wrest Park Estate deeds in the 1790s, bought land worth £800 in 1797 [L5/692-693] and selling land to the Countess Grey in 1816 [L5/694-695] so he was clearly not a poor man and continued to live in the district.

On 4th September William Stuart of Luton wrote to the Earl of Hardwicke: "A tenant of your Lordship's, one John Gough of Silsoe, is so notoriously profligate and abandoned and guilty of practices so extremely prejudicial to the morals of the people that the magistrates acting for this division [presumably Luton] think it inconsistent with their duty to license his house for the ensuing year".

Pawsey wrote on 1st October: "I find that the justices of the peace (Mr. Stewart [sic] and Mr. Hawkins) have refused to renew Mr. Gough's license to sell beer in consequence of his immoral character and irregular conduct. A licence will be granted to Benjamin Carter when he comes at Lady Day [25th March] and as from this time to Lady Day is what is called the dead season of the year for travellers on the road, it is of no consequence, as Gough's licence to sell spirituous liquors by wholesale and wine will not expire before Lady Day the house will not be shut up only from selling ale".

This letter, written on 1st October falls after Michaelmas (which is on 29th September) when Gough was supposed to have left. This seems to indicate that Pawsey had managed to plead Gough's case with the Earl, presumably for the sake of his children. At any rate a Benjamin Carter was licensee of the GeorgeInn until at least 1854 though whether this was one man or a father and son is not clear.