Family Folk Tales; Taking Care of Business

The apprentices at Felbridge Place were always trouble. On a bright, cold January afternoon, way back in the 1880s, it was particularly chilly and so, at lunchtime the boys took themselves off to the Star Inn for a quick warm up. Now this wasn’t usually a problem when the days were short and the lads had been at work from before sunup, but today was different for some reason.

Henry Bingham, the Farm Bailiff became concerned when the minute hand passed the moment when they were due to start back. After ten minutes Henry became annoyed. When twenty minutes had ticked by he was furious, so he sent Arnold the foreman to see what had happened.

‘They’re on strike in the pub,’ the message came back.

‘We’ll see about that,’ said Henry, and down the hill he went to the Star Inn.

The apprentice boys were defiant. They were nice and warm in the pub, and they weren’t coming out.

‘You’ll have to make us,’ they cried, warming themselves, and their pints of beer by the welcome open fire.

Henry had a word with his foreman, who ran back up the hill to the farm. He returned five minutes later with a ladder which he propped up against the chimney of the pub.

‘You foot the ladder, I’m going up,’ said Henry, ‘did you bring the slate?’

And thus prepared, Henry climbed the ladder and put the slate over the chimney pot, sealing it up. Five more minutes passed, and then the apprentice boys began spilling out of the Star Inn, coughing, and spluttering.

‘Back to work lads,’ said Henry, ‘time to get some fresh air back inside you.’

‘What’ve you done to my chimney?’ said the innkeeper as he staggered out of his smoke-filled pub.

‘What did you do to my boys?’ said Henry.

‘My pub’s full of smoke,’ said the innkeeper.

‘Not to worry. It’s a windy day so I daresay the slate will be off in a minute or two,’ said Henry.

‘You’re leaving it up there?’

‘Of course,’ said Henry, ‘to remind you where your better interests lie in future.’

Henry Bingham was born in 1817 and worked at Felbridge Place Estate from 1856, when he was 39. He was appointed farm bailiff at Felbridge Place in 1871 and stayed in post until he retired at 71 years old in 1888. The landlord of the Star Inn at the time of the smoke-out incident was in fact Henry’s son-in-law!


About 14thcenturypoet

Author of The Legend of Zonza, an historical fantasy based on traditional Italian folk tales...
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