• Dodleston
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  • Dodleston

History Group

The main work of the Group, for the past two or three years has been the building up of an oral history collection. So far around 20 local people have been interviewed and their memories recorded both on tape and in print. There is also an on-going collection of local material, started in 1999, of various items such as programmes, posters, photographs of local events, newspaper cuttings, etc.

We still get enquiries for copies of Dodleston: the History of a Marcher Parish. This has been out of print for many years, but production costs prohibit a reprint. However, it is intended to issue a revised edition on CD next year - watch this space. Also, the Group would like to hear from anyone who may have a copy of the book that they wish to sell.
Each year the Group receives a number of enquiries, often from people living abroad, for information about their ancestors.

In most cases we have been able to provide useful data from the Parish Register Transcripts, which the Group published a few years ago. Printed copies of these can be consulted at either the Cheshire Record Office or Chester History & Heritage Centre - and we also have a few copies still available for sale on microfiche. Anyone making enquiries about their ancestors are requested to send a stamped addressed envelope for a reply. A small charge is made for photocopies of entries in the Transcripts.

One of our members, Bernard Dennis, had his article on Dodleston village published in the September issue 2006 of Cheshire Life.

For the last few years, in March, a public lecture has been arranged by the Group in Dodleston Village Hall. Last year a capacity audience heard Len Morgan give one of his fascinating illustrated talks on 'Around and About Chester'. The previous year's lecture, by Graham Fisher, on 'Eaton Estate Villages and the Buildings of John Douglas', was also extremely well supported. We hope to present another interesting evening next March, although as yet details of speaker and topic are awaiting confirmation.

Know Your Village, The Red Lion

Know Your Village, The Red Lion

What have the Romans done for us?

There is archaeological evidence to prove that Dodleston and its environs was once inhabited during the Bronze Age and more latterly by the Romans when they settled in Chester during the early part of the last Millennia.

The history of pubs can be traced back to Roman taverns, through the Anglo Saxon alehouse, to the development of the modern generally prevailing tied house system.

The inhabitants of Great Britain have been drinking ale since the Bronze Age, but it was with the arrival of the Romans and the establishment of the Roman road network that the first inns called Tabernae, in which the traveller could obtain refreshment, began to appear. After the departure of Roman authority and the fall of the Romano-British kingdoms, the Anglo-Saxons established alehouses that grew out of domestic dwellings.

These alehouses formed meeting houses for the locals to meet and gossip and arrange mutual help within their communities. Here lie the beginnings of the modern pub. They became so commonplace that in the year AD 965 King Edgar decreed that there should be no more than one alehouse per village.

The Anglo-Saxon women, never averse to earning a few guineas, promptly took over the role and began running ale-houses from their own homes. It was customary to hang a green bush outside their home to signify when their heady fermented cocktail was apparently fit for human consumption.

Our Pagan Nordic ancestors whether Angle; Saxon or Jute shared our love of ale. In many ways it held the invading warrior bands together. Drinking in the Mead hall was an activity, which bonded the chief to his followers. Normally women brewed and served the drinks, they were the barmaids of their day.

The spread of Christianity did nothing to lessen the English thirst for ale and many Pagan rituals, which involved drinking, were adopted by the Christian church. Ales were sometimes brewed especially for church festivals or to raise funds; these were known as 'scot ales', and those who brewed secretly to avoid giving the church its share were drinking 'scot free'.

Because of the poor and dangerous quality of water in early ages, ale was part of the staple diet and could be relied upon not to cause too many health problems! Sounds like a good excuse for a drink!

In Dodleston, records show that there was a 'Red Lyon' public house in 1737 but not on the site of the present pub. It was sited at the corner of Pulford lane, facing the church and opposite the church car park.

In 1787, the first definitive record of Alehouses is produced and there were two entries for Alehouse Keepers in Dodleston, namely John Lawrence and Margaret Weaver.

Apart from the Red Lion, which was in its present location in 1840, there was also a Beer House in what is now Hawthorne Cottage just less than 100 meters from the current pub. This was kept by John Hughes. The villagers, many of whom worked on the land, must have had a considerable thirst to satisfy.

As the 19th century came to a close, the Dodleston as we now know it was beginning to take shape with slated, brick house and farms replacing the thatched, half timbered dwellings and hovels of earlier centuries.

The Red Lion is the name of over six hundred pubs throughout the country. The lion is one of the most common charges in coats of arms, second only to the cross, and thus the Red Lion as a pub sign probably has multiple origins: in the arms or crest of a local landowner (eg, Egerton); as a personal badge of John of Gaunt, founder of the House of Lancaster; or in the royal arms of Scotland, conjoined to the arms of England after the Stuart succession in 1603.

The wide proliferation of public houses on our high streets can be, in part, traced back to the introduction of Gin to England by the Dutch in 1688. The drinking of gin which was as much as twice the strength of the gin we now drink. It was so popular amongst poorer peoples that for a meagre sum a rag soaked in gin could be bought to suck on by a patron who couldn't afford a whole glass of gin! Ale and Beer producers counteracted the popularity of gin by aggressively marketing ale, and producing more ale houses. Drinking reached epidemic proportions, and the strength of gin led to poor physical and mental health and an increase in crime and disorderly behaviour.

In response to this a number of laws were passed (such as the Gin Act (1736) to clean up drinking establishments, making it the responsibility of the proprietor or 'landlord' to ensure that drunkenness and debauchery (such as prostitution and gambling) did not take place on his premises. The landlord or another employee of the establishment must gain a licence to sell alcohol. The granting of licences was originally conducted on a very strict basis, and was recently relaxed further, as local authorities now have the power to grant extended licensing hours to local pubs as they wish.

In the Victorian times, the time of day you could buy alcohol was dictated by the times landlords were willing to remain open. Licensing laws dictating hours of sale simply did not exist.

Indeed, had it not have been for the First World War, they may never have done. At the start of the war, the government knew that they had to strictly control the workforce (amongst other things) so as to ensure victory. As a result, one such clause written into the Defence of the Realm Act 1914 ensured that alcohol was watered down and pub opening times were restricted to between 12:00 - 15:00 and 18:30 - 21:30. This was to ensure workers in munitions factories, Broughton being one, could turn up to work the next day sober and work productively throughout the day.

The Defence of the Realm Act (which also introduced British Summer Time to boost wartime production) was relinquished in 1918, but the pub opening times stayed the same until the Licensing Act 1964, which extended the time to 22:30, and then the Licensing Act 1988, which further extended the time to 23:00.

So there you have it, if it wasn't for the Romans, we wouldn't have had taverns and the outbreak of war in 1914 saw restrictions on drinking times but at least the Red Lion continues to be much enjoyed by locals and visitors alike.

Bernard Dennis November 2010

Dodleston Local History Group presented its ninth illustrated lecture on Tuesday 22 March 2011

Dodleston Local History Group presented its ninth illustrated lecture on Tuesday 22 March 2011 in the Village Hall to a capacity audience. The subject was 'The Poulton Dig' and the lecture was very ably given by Mr Mike Emery who is Director of the Poulton Research Project.

His talk and PowerPoint slides demonstrated how life has evolved on the site of a Chapel, ranging from the Mesolithic, Roman and Medieval periods and onto the era of the English Civil War.

Artefacts discovered on the site also prove an intriguing link between Poulton, Salisbury Plain and the World Heritage site of Stonehenge.

Dodleston Local History Group (DLHG) are planning a visit to the Poulton site in early summer 2011.

Anyone interested in learning more should contact Bernard Dennis by email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it website: http://www.bernarddennis.co.uk

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