Mrs Pepper of Badingham White Horse


The #OnePlace blogging prompts have been helpful starting points for my writing this year. As has happened before, I started looking for #OnePlacePubs inspiration in the newspaper archives. Inns, after all, were constantly in and out of the news – inquests, brawls, license transfers, coaches, gossip. During this particular research session, one name popped out over and over: Hannah Pepper.

It turned out that Hannah Pepper had no known children. As is so often the case, this meant that she didn’t appear in numerous online family trees, many of which record only direct ancestors of the compiler, not their childless siblings. Here in a One-Place Study, Hannah and her husband William are remembered as part of a much wider community – such is the bonus of this type of research.

I cannot help but imagine Hannah as quite the formidable landlady. As a widow in her later years, living in a female household, with guests who were often drunk at best and violent at worst, I cannot see that her responsibilities would have been perpetual plain sailing. Ruling a large household as housekeeper during her earlier life must have taught her much and given her confidence and many of the required skills to keep order, I think. Do you know of Hannah Pepper? Can anyone reading this shed further light on her character?

Here’s what we know so far.

Who was Hannah Pepper?

Hannah Pepper began life as Hannah Bennett, probably the daughter of Joseph and his wife Elizabeth, baptised 12 October 1817 at Otley.* The most tempting records for 1841 might suggest she remained in the area and worked in domestic service by the time she was 26, perhaps on the Thoroughfare in Woodbridge.

In 1851, we can confidently place Hannah Bennett in a large household in Hollesley. The Barthorp household might ring a bell if you know something of the Suffolk Punch; Hannah worked on the family estate that 29 years later would create the famous stud by bringing in its first Suffolk Horse. Nowadays, you can visit The Suffolk Punch Trust: Home of the Hollesley Bay Colony Stud.

But I digress. 

Along with Mr and Mrs Barthorp (John and Mary at this time), Hannah looked after two of their children and visitors. The live-in staff numbered four in 1851, and if the order in the enumeration book is significant, then, at 36, she may have been the housekeeper. Below Hannah is listed Harriet Tye, 24; William Pepper, 37; and Warner Goodall, 30. Ten years later, both William and Hannah remained with the Barthorps, now enumerated with an address: Red House, from whence John Barthorp farmed 1136 acres. We can also be grateful to the 1861 census for furnishing us with job titles: William was then the butler, and Hannah the housekeeper and cook. 

In a very Downton Abbey move, Hannah and William wed in early 1864. They had worked side by side for at least 13 years by then (barring leaving and rejoining the staff between census returns) and would have been nearing 50. What did they do once married? Something very logical: they moved into the hotel trade. William took on the license at the East Suffolk Hotel on the High Street in Aldeburgh in 1866.

William and Hannah remained at the East Suffolk Hotel into the 1870s. The 1871 census includes a niece, Cassandra Smith, aged 18, as a barmaid. We know the couple had moved to the White Horse by 1875 because on 22 October, the ‘deeply lamented and respected Mr William Pepper, of the White Horse Inn, Badingham [died] aged 63 years’. He is buried in the village churchyard. Further investigation shows Mr Burrows, the former landlord, had to give up the Inn after an incident in which 13 windows were smashed in 1874 (a story for another day), so the Peppers had not been in residence very long by the time William died.

By the time of the 1881 census, Hannah was the head of household, licensed victualler with a live-in ‘assistant’, Georganna (sic) Burrows, aged 16 and born in the parish (not the former landlord’s daughter). By this time, Hannah’s name had already appeared in local papers, charging drinkers with nuisance.

Who were those Hannah saw to the Bench?

At Framlingham Petty Sessions in April 1876, David Fulcher, a Badingham brickmaker, was charged with refusing to quit the White Horse Inn when requested by Hannah. He pleaded guilty and was fined 11s and costs 9s, in default 14 days’ hard labour. 

A year later, William Baxter, a labourer living in the parish, was charged with refusing to quit the Inn. He was fined 5s and costs, in default, seven days’ hard labour. He paid. Intriguingly, at the same court sessions, James Thurlow, another labourer, this time of Yoxford, was charged with having “on the 22nd March, obtained beer and biscuits of Hannah Pepper, of Badingham, under false pretences.” Unlike most of the other incidents mentioning Hannah, the latter case was dismissed.

A few months later again, under the title ‘When the Wine’s In the Wit’s Out’, the Framlingham Weekly News recounts a story relating to William Chandler, dealer. In addition to being drunk and refusing to quit, this gentleman was also charged with having “at the same time and place committed wilful damage, to the amount of 14s., by breaking 10 mugs, 8 tumbler glasses, 1 benzoline lamp, and 1 square of glass, the property of Hannah Pepper.” A Mr Watts, appearing for Chandler, pleaded guilty on his behalf in both cases. 

There is somewhat more information given in this case. The newspaper reports that he had called at the pub at 8 pm “in a very drunken state” and called for a 1/2 pint of penny beer. Hannah said no. However, Chandler sent a little boy with a penny and got the beer surreptitiously. Chandler became “drunk as a beast” and threw mugs, glasses and chairs “up to the ceiling and out of the door; his language was too bad to be repeated.” The newspaper reports that Hannah was “very much upset.” Not surprising, I don’t think. 

Something must have been going on between the families. Mr Watts claimed that Hannah had strong feelings against his client. That she “was inducing [Chandler’s] father to neglect his home, which was rendered miserable by her harbouring him at unreasonable and unseasonable hours.” His client was, he said, a steady respectable and hard-working young man. Hannah was unable to reply although she wished to. 

In the end, William Chandler was given significant fines for both offences, each of which carried a default of a month’s hard labour. The fees were paid. The Bench intimated to Hannah that “not withstanding the statement of the Counsel, she would in the absence of all evidence to the contrary, leave the Court with the same character as she entered it.”

[It’s almost the end of April, and this blog topic, as I make the final changes to this post, so it is a job for another time to see what became of this William Chandler. Where had he gone by 1881? I have Chandlers on both sides of my family tree so I daresay I am somehow connected.]

Perhaps the most serious incident reported during Hannah’s years at the White Horse was an assault that took place on 31 January 1878. A hawker by the name of William Woolnough appeared at Framlingham Petty Sessions charged by Hannah Pepper with having assaulted and beaten her. He pleaded guilty. Hannah described how she was sitting in the kitchen at the White Horse when she heard a noise outside. On investigating, she found the accused and ordered him off her premises. Instead of leaving, he forced his way indoors, trod on her toes and struck her. Hannah admitted slapping William’s face in self-defence. He argued that she slapped him two or three times before he struck her. William was fined £3 3s and costs of 16s 6d, in default two months’ hard labour. It was considered more serious than the other offences listed here; the Bench noted that his next appearance would be met with imprisonment.

William’s (possible) wife, Eliza, had herself been before the Bench a few months earlier, charged with assaulting Maria Goodchild, also of Badingham. The case was dismissed. Neither was it William’s first transgression, having been hauled up in 1876 for assaulting a bricklayer in the village; on that occasion, the two men had paid expenses between them.   

Another year later, in February 1879, William Meadows, a hawker in his 30s who lived in the village, was charged by Hannah for being ‘drunk and quarrelsome on her premises’. He pleaded guilty. Giving evidence, Hannah said William came into her house very drunk and “behaved badly several times.” Hannah asked the Bench to be lenient as he was disabled. William was fined £1 10s., costs 19s, in default one month’s imprisonment with hard labour. The money was paid.

On a visit from his home village of Laxfield, painter George Read became ‘quarrelsome [and] disorderly’. He refused to leave the Inn on the night of 29 April 1883 and stood further charged with breaking the glass of a door at the White Horse Inn, valued at 3s. He pleaded guilty and was fined the large sum of £5 9s 6d including costs, in default two months’ hard labour. The sum was paid. A George Read, painter, is enumerated in 1881 as being only 19. Later records suggest he migrated southwards to Wanstead – perhaps for a fresh start and better opportunities.

How long did Hannah stay in Badingham?

In October 1886, Fred Mayhew applied for temporary authority to carry on the license at the White Horse Inn. 

Towards the end of her life, Hannah went to stay with a Mr John Martin (and presumably his wife, Sarah Ann) in Orford. She died there on 31 December 1890, aged 76. Hannah was buried at Orford, not brought back to Badingham to be interred next to her husband. 


Hannah Pepper comes across from the archives as a strong woman who stood up for what she thought was right. The dates and ages don’t quite match up, but she was nearly 60 by the time she arrived at the White Horse (going by the 1881 census) and soon widowed – yet she remained at the helm for 11 years, by which time she was 70. As we’ve seen, Hannah had replaced the glass in her door several times by then. She’d been through countless arguments and even been physically assaulted (she hit back). From housekeeper to landlady, this was a lady that was comfortable with being in charge.

I’m glad I met you, even if only through the documentary record, Hannah.


*A 30-year-old Hannah Bennett was buried in Otley in 1846. With more time, I will work out who she was; if she was single, perhaps this baptism is not the correct one.

Framlingham Weekly News, 30 October 1875, DEATHS, Page 3.

Framlingham Weekly News, 20 June 1874, EXTRAORDINARY LARKING, Page 4.

Norwich Mercury, 29 April 1876, FRAMLINGHAM, Page 7.

Framlingham Weekly News, 7 April 1877, FRAMLINGHAM COURT HOUSE, Page 4.

Framlingham Weekly News, 17 November 1877, WHEN THE WINE’S IN THE WIT’S OUT, Page 4.

Framlingham Weekly News, 9 February 1878, ASSAULTING A LANDLADY, Page 4.

Framlingham Weekly News, 12 May 1883, FRAMLINGHAM COURT HOUSE, Page 4.

Framlingham Weekly News, 23 October 1886, FRAMLINGHAM COURT HOUSE, Page 4.

The Ipswich Journal, 10 January 1891, DEATHs, Page 8.