The Saracen's Head and
the Pipe and Punchbowl Inns
Early Warburton was more of a hamlet than a village. The majority of the houses and cottages were clustered around the old church with an Inn, "The Pipe and Punchbowl", on the North side of the churchyard. Two cottages also stood facing Wigsey Lane on the present garden of the old rectory. The local hostelry, "The Saracen's Head", was rebuilt by R. E. Egerton-Warburton, and during alterations, a secret room was found containing a collection of armour and weapons which are now in Arley Hall. It is reputed also that Dick Turpin, the infamous highwayman of the 18th century, used this Inn as a sanctuary and hiding place. It is said that being a fief of the Priory of St.John of Jerusalem, Warburton was at that time beyond the reach of the law and consequently was considered a place of refuge for criminals.
How much of the Dick Turpin story was romantic fiction on the part of a former landlord, is not clearly known.
The wide dispersal of Warburtons as early as the 16th century made it necessary to establish, so far as this genealogical search was concerned, the forebears of Neville Warburton, of Preston, Frank Warburton, of Liverpool, and the late Earle C. Warburton, of Oakland, California, all of whom are descended from William, born 1732, who married Elizabeth Atherton at Warburton Church in 1765. It was equally important (since it was claimed he was a native of the village) to establish or identify his homestead.
The first indication came in a will of William Warburton who died in 1822 in which reference was made to "...my dwelling house held under lease for three lives... and that field or parcel of land known by the name of Hemp Croft".
This gave the first evidence of the family's origin in Warburton, and an effort to identify, if possible, these houses referred to in the will was most important.
Searches were made at Warburton village where, with the aid of the late Thomas Newton and a former rector, the Rev. L. J. Forster, the grave of William and others were located in the churchyard, and several references to them found in the church records - but no specific mention of Hemp Croft.
The Drinkwater diary in the custody of the church, made several references to William and other Warburtons, but as a second diary had been kept, it was felt that the search would be incomplete if this were not examined.
This book was eventually traced to the Masonic Temple, London. It had been sold in 1926 for £5 by Adela Egerton-Warburton, of Great Budworth, to Charles Noah, of Altrincham, from whom it has passed into the care of the Freemasons. By their kind permission, an inspection was made, and a Hemp Croft located under the ownership of a Mr. S. Drinkwater in 1742. The name of the previous owner was not mentioned although it was probably Sir George Warburton.
Thirty-one years later (May 1751) a survey and map was made by the Drinkwaters as "...a model of whereabouts of everybodys estate in Warburton Moss (abt. 170 acres)..." and in this diagram, shaped roughly as an oval, was recorded William Warburton plotted on the West side.
It was postulated, therefore, that Hemp Croft lay to the North-westerly side a short distance from the old church, and near to the site of Hollins Ferry over the Mersey. This seemed to be confirmed by the will of Thomas Warburton the elder, 1555 (will made 7th Sept., 1627, proved 6th June, 1628): "...and that parcel of Hemp Croft which lyethe between the footwaie to the Holy ferry and William Heies ffield".
Hemp Croft was now considered to be a holding, possibly divided into more than one lease. It must be mentioned at this point that there were no freeholders in Warburton, other than the Warburtons of Arley, prior to 80 years ago. All residents would be either leaseholders or tenants of a year or less. Some of the Arley branches of Warburtons were not even freeholders. Settlements were made upon them of lands already tenanted for the purpose of providing an income.
A further Hemp Croft was found in the tithe apportionment period dated May to October 1839, but the occupier was given as Rowland Eyles Egerton-Warburton and a William Robinson's lifehold.
In his will, William Warburton bequeathed that his house and the moiety be left to his married daughter, Mary Brimilow, for the rest of her natural life. Mary died on the 7th February, 1826, aged 53 and was buried in Warburton churchyard. The apportionment (1839) would therefore have been retrieved by Egerton-Warburton, and this may account for the appearance of William Robinson as the new holder.
The records at Chester Castle were again searched for any previous map which would reveal Hemp Croft and showing William as leaseholder. This bore little or no fruit and for a period the search was halted until Mr. Lawson, during his investigations at the Chester registry, discovered the actual tithe Map of 1839 together with a schedule of apportionment of rent charges in lieu of tithes.
This completely destroyed the original hypothesis that Hemp Croft was one specific area of land, for no fewer than eight such crofts and yards were registered all over the parish. The plan also indicated houses, cottages and barns and parcels of land within the boundaries. In many cases, the holders whether for "three lives", "one life", or annual tenancy, comprised scattered pieces including land enclosed from the Moss and the Water meadows. It only remained to identify "that parcel" belonging to William and this was achieved by Lawson's observations and astute deductions.
Searching the Warburton Town Record Book, he observed references to William providing sacramental wine to the church, board and lodgings etc., which seemed to indicate an inn or hostelry. He searched the Alehouse Recognizances and found William recorded as the landlord of the "Pipe and Punchbowl Inn" situated to the North side and close to the old church. Adjoining the building was a plot of land known as Hemp Croft, together with several others at various parts of the parish so named and belonging to him.
His will bequeathed only half of the house and croft to his daughter Mary (and that only for the term of her life) the other half to his son William, and upon Mary's death, the whole would pass to her brother.
Although William died in 1830 the lifehold remained in being until as late as 1851 and was held by Sarah, his daughter, who married Thomas Tittle, of Liverpool, at Warburton Church on 17th August, 1830. Confirmation of this is to be found in the census returns for 1841. In the 1851 census, however, Thomas is described as a farmer of 9 acres, which would infer that that the " Pipe and Punchbowl" was no longer an Inn and had been converted to private dwellings.
It would seem that William junior, upon his father's death, had obtained a fresh lease and that Hemp Croft was held independently of the " Pipe and Punchbowl" lease - for it must have been leasehold for him to settle the moiety in the way he did.
The next stage in the investigation was to identify the actual building in the village. This eventually led to the house of Mr. William Oakes, who lived in one of four terraced cottages on the Green adjacent to the church. He confirmed that the terrace had at one time been converted from an Inn formerly occupied by Thomas Tittle from whom his father had taken over. The remaining three cottages were, he believed, guest-rooms and outbuildings and of a later construction. The absence of beer cellars was explained by Mrs. Oakes. She had had them filled in many years ago.
The building is slated, but at one time was thatched. It is built of hand-made bricks on a sandstone base. The windows are latticed and in sets of four. At the rear of the building is an iron pump over a sandstone horse-trough in what appears to have been the inn yard.
Situated on the original bank of the river, a short path ran down to stone steps from which, according to local tales, the ghouls gained access to the churchyard to carry out their nefarious acts of robbing the fresh graves. Indeed, it is very probable that they may have made their plans in the tap-room itself.
The withdrawal of the innkeeper's licence in or just prior to 1851 was at the instigation of Egerton-Warburton, who was responsible for the rebuilding of the "Saracen's Head Inn". He considered one inn in Warburton was ample to meet the needs of the inhabitants, and in consequence the "Pipe and Punchbowl" ceased to function as an inn.
The final confirmation was found in the record made by the Rev. G. Egerton-Warburton in 1872, when noting the burial of Thomas Tittle in Notes on names in the burial register:
A.D. 1872. 146. Thos. Tittle originally came from Liverpool. He died
in the same row of houses as Guest... His house was a beer house at one time.
Thus the mystery of Hemp Croft and the "Pipe and Punchbowl Inn" was solved, and the house of William Warburton clearly established.
In his will, William bequeathed to his son William "...my pews in Warburton Church." This bequest appeared significant at the outset of the search and worthy of further investigation, because Drinkwater, in his record, made a pew plan in 1744 on which William's name appears, and also Park pews owned by Warburton. It was these Park pews which arrested interest, for it was thought there may be some link between Warburton Park and William Warburton. Newton records "...About the end of the 17th century a kind of lean-to aisle of sandstone was built by a Mr. Warburton of Warburton Park... and afterwards known as Park Pews." No mention is made in the will to "The Park".