The Tinkers Inn
The house to the left of the Central Stores is called “The Old Tinkers Inn” which provides some clue as to the previous use of what is now the Central Stores and the two houses either side. Take a look at the design of the gables. This design is associated with buildings either commissioned or renovated by Charles Longuet Higgins.
The actual date that the Tinker’s Inn came into being is not known, but the Historic Environmental Record (HER) states that the original building was erected around the mid 1700s. The Tinker Inn is itemised in the 1786 catalogue for the Purchase of Turvey.
There is also evidence that The Tinker’s Inn was an important staging post for coaches travelling between Warwick or Rugby and London. We know that in 1839 the Oxford to Cambridge Coach stopped at the Tinker’s Inn on three times a week in either direction.
The building underwent considerable re-modelling in 1861, which converted the Inn into the three dwellings that are now visible (The Old Tinkers Inn, The Central Stores, Gables End). A hand-written note from Don Beatie, an old resident, states that The Tinker’s Inn ceased to be a coaching inn in 1860. The regulars of the Inn were so sad to see it go that they formed “The Tinkers Club” which met regularly at the Three Fyshes until the early 1900s. The property remained in the hands of the Longuet Higgins family until the “Old Tinker’s Inn” and the surrounding land was sold by John Esmond Longuet-Higgins to Joseph Percival Wooding on 13th October 1953.
The Tinker’s Inn Signboard
There is much debate as to how the inn acquired its name but a well known “Tincker” of Turvey certainly existed. A book was published in 1630, called “The Tincker of Turvey”. A very rare original can be found in the British Museum but it can also be read online. In the 1650’s an anthology of country songs also included the Tinker of Turvey’s Song, which starts:
Here sits a joviall Tinker
Dwels in the towne of Turvey.
I can mend a Kettle well,
But his hammers were scurvy.
The Tinker’s Inn or The Tinker of Turvey’s Inn undoubtedly acquired its name from either the ballad or the book. The original Inn’s signboard maked reference to the Tinker of Turvey and Wallace, in 1838, makes reference to the fact that it was very old. The board reads:
The Tinker of Turvey, his dog, and his staff
Old Nell with her budget will make a man laugh.
A water budget or budget was a skin bag for holding water, thought to have been introduced by Crusaders. It would have been a useful item for a tinker travelling the roads. In heraldry a budget is a small bag regardless of its contents. A “Doxy” is mentioned in the Tinkers song; this would have been the unmarried mistress of a beggar or rogue. Perhaps Nell could have been that, but she might just as easily have been his wife. It is notable that in the sign the Tinker is carrying a kettle, an item that is referenced in the bawdy songs.
Nell has been associated with Nell’s Well in Newton Lane but there is no evidence to make this connection. Indeed, if Nell was a Doxy and travelled with the Tinker it would seem unlikely for a specific well to be associated with her. It seems more likely that a particular Nell took responsibility for maintaining the well in Newton Lane.
When the Inn closed in 1860 it was owned by the Longuet Higgins and so the sign was transferred to the Abbey where it was stored. When the Longuet Higgins family sold the Abbey in 1919 the sign was given to Mr Wright in Mill Lane, who kept it. In 1951 a local journalist, visiting the village, learnt of the old sign and, with a little bit of detective work traced it to Mr Wright. On learning of the board’s heritage Mr Wright sold the sign to Luton Museum where it is now on display at the Stockwood site.