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Old Raven’s Clough Pub, Holbeach

Probably a lot of you will know the Old Raven’s Clough Pub in Holbeach Fen. I research House Histories, and Family trees and this one was a fascinating one to write. This is the redacted version as it is actually 40 pages long! I hope it will bring back a few memories for those who knew it as a pub.







A hoard of later 3rd century Roman coins, found on land at Ravens Clough,

A large urn containing a hoard of Roman coins was found c.1698 during trenching around a haystack at Fleet. The urn was ‘full of about three pecks of coins of Gallienus and the 30 tyrants, none lower than Tetrici’. The urn was inscribed with illegible letters, and was covered by oak board. The indicated findspot is at TF 368 201, at Ravens Clough.

‘Stukeley gave the date of discovery as c.1698, and said that the urn was covered with an oak board and added that the coins were ‘mostly about the time of Gallienus and the 30 tyrants as called Tetricus, Caludius Gothicus, Victorinus, Carausius, Allectus, etc. (253 – 296 AD)’. The description of the pot suggests that it was of ‘Castor’ ware.’


The Coroner’s Hearings and Courts trying minor offences were held in the public bar of the Raven’s Clough Pub, throughout the 1800’s, one of these was reported thus:-
Mr J. G. Calthorp held an inquest at the Raven’s Clough, Fleet Fen, yesterday week, touching the death of Harry Buffham, 12, son of Henry Buffham, labourer, Fleet Fen. On Wednesday the deceased was with George Boyers, who was carting corn for Mr Eastgate of Holbeach Fen, but was not at work himself. Boyers was driving corn waggons from one of Mr Eastgate’s fields, up to his yard. Boyers was leading the horse, and the deceased was walking on the same side of the waggon.
Hearing the deceased call out, Boyers stopped the waggon, and saw the deceased lying with his head in a wheel rut. The waggon had passed him three or four yards. – The jury returned a verdict that the deceased fell in front of the waggon, and was accidentally run over and killed, death being due to a fracture of the skull. Henry Buffham, young Harry’s father, was one of the lodgers at the Raven’s Clough shown in the 1881 Census. The pub also hosted auctions.


This was a momentous year for the Raven’s Clough Pub. A new law was passed in London; The Beer Act. It was introduced in response to decades of agitation pressing for a change in the 200 year old Licensing Act. After 1830, any householder who obtained the necessary license was entitled to sell beer.

Beer houses had proliferated in the three years since the Beer Act had been passed. 35,000 new public houses had opened selling home brewed beers. The Act had been passed to appease the Free Trade lobby, and to provide an alternative to adulterated beers being made by the breweries (and often further tampered with by unscrupulous publicans).

The Act permitted any taxpayer to be granted a license for £2-00 to brew and sell beer on the premises. “Gin palaces” also abounded. Many temperance workers regarded Beer Houses as dens of iniquity, and they may have been right. Where better to sell smuggled goods than from the beer houses themselves?

A Poor Law was introduced, and “workhouses” began to appear in every town. The one between Holbeach and Fleet, “the Union Workhouse”, later became the lunatic asylum. It is difficult to comprehend now, just how feared these establishments were.

A new Licensing Act provoked riots and disturbances all over Britain, and made the Liberal government of the time deeply unpopular, to the extent that every pub became a hotbed of Tory propaganda. The Tories presented themselves as the defenders and champions of the rights of the working man. The Act placed all liquor retailers under the control of the Magistrates, who regulated opening hours in an attempt to control drunkenness. As a result, thousands of Beer Houses closed allowing the Pubs themselves, to profit at their expense.

Pubs already played a key role in working class life and now this role was strengthened. The Law was seen as an attack on individual freedom. The Bishop of Peterborough famously said: “Better England free, than England sober!”

The census reveals an astonishing statistic; a third of women and girls between the ages of 15 and 20 were in domestic service.

The use of gas for heating, cooking and lighting was widespread throughout the country …although, still not at Raven’s Clough!

1914: .
British men signed up to fight in the Great War, believing they would be home with their loved ones for Christmas. Whole Pals regiments were wiped out. Men and horses were slaughtered in their thousands. In just four months on the Somme alone, 420,000 died. Almost every family in the land was touched by the national grief. Women who had gone to do the men’s work in the wartime began to demand their right to vote, protesting vociferously.

Fears of a second war were intensifying in Britain. Lincolnshire, also known as Bomber County was readied to play its part in training airmen. Coningsby, Cranwell, Scampton, Mareham le Fen, and Wittering, just a few air bases amongst many, flew sortie after sortie to defend British shores.

1939: September 1st.
Operation Pied Piper was launched to place evacuee children from the cities with foster parents in rural areas. Five children came to live at The Raven’s Clough Pub.

1944: D. Day, the coastal shores of Lincolnshire sent their share of sea craft to the armada of small boats to help evacuate the Allies to safety.

1945: Prefab housing begins to pop up in every town and village including Holbeach, (where some still stand).

In October, a hurricane hit Britain causing widespread damage. At the Clough, the shock in the morning was the astonishing sight of the huge pig barn, which had been lifted off its foundation, in tact and shifted, eighteen inches to the left!

This was built around 1812, by Christopher Carter (1753-1832), after the Fleet river was re-routed to flow into Fritz Drain down the side of the garden. Since it does not appear on Yeakell’s map drawn in that year it is possible to give an approximate date.

Christopher Carter was a merchant of beers and spirits, and on marrying his second wife, Ann Hardy, (a lady of substantial means), he had money with which to make investments. Building premises from where he could sell his produce, as well as collecting rents from the tenant landlords, would have made financial sense.

The house at Raven’s Clough was built of bricks, probably made locally from the nearby clay pits and fired at the Peterborough brick kilns. The building style is that of a vernacular Lincolnshire “Longback” with the roof line extended at the rear. The original river bed runs to the immediate left of the house when viewed from the back of the property, and the parish boundary actually bisects the house so the left side is in Fleet and the right in Gedney. This is borne out in the complexity of the deeds, since the garden also straddles the two parishes.

During their marriage Ann and Christopher had four children, Elizabeth Cardua, (1796-1873); Christopher, (1797-1851); Ann (1802-18670, and finally, John Hardy (1803-1878).
With financial help from his father, John Hardy Carter went into the family business, becoming a second generation merchant of beers and spirits, but in addition was a brewer, and farmer. By 1841, he was listed as Beer and Brandy Spirit Merchant and was employing 15 men. The links between the Carters and Couplands were already being made as the Couplands, who would later run the Raven’s Clough, lived next door to him.

His daughter Emma Jane was born when he was 36 years old, along with a son John Hardy, a year her junior, and another son, Christopher. John Hardy would become a Freeman of the City of London in 1855 in recognition of his charitable work and deeds.

Emma married on 18th June 1867, to Frederick Augustus Harrisson, it was a propitious marriage and they held the manor of Fleet Harrington. Soon after their marriage they would build and move into Mattimore House (shown below), in Fleet. (Employing Eliza Coupland as lady’s maid to Emma).

On the occasion of her marriage to Frederick, (a successful businessman in his own right, who owned Barrington Mill), Emma was provided marriage settlement from her father. She and Frederick were jointly given lands and property in trust, this provided them with rents and profits from the premises that were included in the settlement, and upon the death of one partner, these reverted to the remaining spouse for the rest of their lives, before passing to the children of the marriage.

One of these properties was the Raven’s Clough. Frederick died first and when Emma died the estate consisted of the following:
The estate of Emma Jane Harrisson, deceased

Reference Name HD/65/8
Conveyances from John Hardy Carter, esq, to the beneficiaries, and assents to devise.

Property: capital messuage, dwelling house, bakehouse, etc, in Holbeach; “The Bull” and 2 cottages and land adjoining in Holbeach; “The Bull” in Tydd St Giles (Cambridgeshire); “The Dog and Duck, with butcher’s shop, stables etc, in Boston, in a street called Wormgate, and land adjoining; “The Cock and Magpie” in Sutton St Nicholas; land at Gedney Drove End in Gedney parish, and “The Rising Sun” and another messuage there; “The Dun Horse” and land adjoining in Whaplode Fen in Whaplode parish; “The Old Saracens Head” and land in Whaplode; “The White Swan” in Leverington, (Cambridgeshire); “The Bell Inn ” with land adjoining in Whaplode Fen in Whaplode parish; “The Wheat Sheaf” and land adjoining at Gedney Drove End; “The Three Tuns” at Moulton Chapel in Moulton parish and 2 cottages there; messuage and land in Gedney Fen in Gedney parish; messuage in Broadgate, Sutton St Mary, formerly used as a beerhouse and called “The Dun Horse”; freehold farm called “The Doles” in Gedney Fen in Gedney parish, and “The Raven’s Clough, near the said farm; “The New Inn at Sutton Bridge in Sutton St Mary; “The Red Cow” in Moulton; “The Railway Hotel” at Holbeach and coalyard adjoining; building called “The Malting” erected by John Carter in Holbeach; “The Three Horse Shoes” in Holbeach; and “The Gate Inn” and three cottages at Tydd St Mary.

Note: The first deed includes schedule of Carter Harrisson settlements, 1867-1876. Some of the above properties have been found in previous bundles.
Extent: 5 items
Date: 1920-1925

Her sons, John Carter Harrisson, and Lenny Septimus Harrison, both solicitors; along with Oliver Wiles, were all trustees. John and Lenny were both solicitors, other sons, Alfred Everson Harrisson held a Bachelorship in medicine, Ernest Henry was a Doctor, and Christopher Charles farmed at Holbeach Hurn. Lenny and John conducted all the legal work and documents on all the deeds and documents I have found on the Raven’s Clough pub, often underwriting loans on the property to various purchasers over the years.

(Extracted from Deeds and Censuses)

James Bingham 30 Publican
Lavinia, his wife, 30
Sarah, daughter 10
James, son 8
John, son 6
William, son 1

Emma Harrisson, married, aged 26, born Stamford, Publican
(Emma was married to Thomas Harrisson born 1811 in Holbeach. Despite the same spelling as the other Harrisson family, I cannot find a connection between the two).
Maria, daughter, 9 born Raven’s Clough
Thomas, son 3 born Raven’s Clough
Lucy, daughter 11 months born Raven’s Clough
Job Cocker, lodger 25 Agricultural labourer
Raven’s Clough Cottage, next door, was the Blacksmiths

Michael Coulson, Publican 56 born Whaplode Drove
Sarah, his wife 56 born Spalding
Sarah, daughter 11 born Boston
Elizabeth Drakard, grandaughter
George Banks, Boarder 48 unmarried born Dowsby
James Seaton, Boarder 56 unmarried, born Langtoft
Robert Knight, Boarder, 73 born Tydd St Mary
Benet Thorpe, Boarder, 56 born Pinchbeck
John Wright, Boarder 76, unmarried, born Sutton St Edmund

Michael Coulson 66 Inkeeper born Whaplode
Sarah, his wife 66 born Spalding
Sarah, daughter 21 born Boston
William Stanberry, lodger 24, Ag lab. born Elm Cambs
Drover, lodger 35 Unknown
Boy, lodger, drover 15 Unknown

William Butcher Stanberry, 36 Publican and labourer born Elm
Sarah, wife, nee Coulson 31
Coulson, son 7 Born Raven’s Clough
John William, son 4 Born Raven’s Clough
George, son 1 Born Raven’s Clough
Alfred, son 7 months Born Raven’s Clough
Sarah Coulson, mother in Law
Rebecca Golden, servant, 15 Born Upwell
Henry Buffham, unmarried Lodger 36, Ag Lab born Holbeach

Johnathon Martin Coupland 58, Beerhouse innkeeper born Fleet
Rebecca, his wife 47 born Holbeach, Bell end
Catherine, daughter 27 dressmaker, Holbeach st John
Ellen, daughter 18 domestic servant born H st John
Maria, daughter 13 scholar, born Holbeach st John
Martha, daughter 11 scholar, born Holbeach Drove
Gertrude, daughter 7 scholar, born Holbeach Drove
Arthur, son 8 scholar, born Holbeach St John
Martin, son, 6 scholar, born Raven’s Clough
George, son, 2 born Raven’s Clough

Joseph Martin Coupland 63 Farmer and Publican (Widower)
Matthew Edward, son, 26 Ag lab, born Holbeach Fen
Martha Ann, daughter 21
Arthur Joseph, son 19 Ag lab
Gertrude Rebecca, daughter 17
George, son, 11
Ida, niece 2 born Fleet Fen


William Harper Mitchell 41 Innkeeper, and general labourer
Catherine Mitchell, wife 41 born Fleet
Ida, daughter 12 born Gedney
Alfred, son 10 born Raven’s Clough
George, son 8 born Raven’s Clough
Olive, daughter 4 born Raven’s Clough
Henry, son 1 born Raven’s Clough
Ivy, daughter born Raven’s Clough 1905
The census records there were four rooms in the house, apart from kitchen, scullery and bathroom, and the public rooms of the Inn itself.

William Mitchell is shown as the Innkeeper.

As related by Mr D Waters and Fred Sutton a family friend of Arthur Coupland.
Johnathon Joseph Martin Coupland and Rebecca Gott had a large family of twelve children; at one time, eight of them were still living at home. In order to feed his family, Joseph used to supplement the family diet by trapping eels in the river, and if any of the younger children, (or grandchildren), asked if they were eating eels, Joseph used to answer.

“No, its fresh water haddock!”

Arthur, was one of the mischief makers in the family. Minnie married and went to live down Stoton’s Gate, her husband had a nervous disposition apparently. As with most houses at that time there was no electricity. Arthur and Fred (who related this tale to me), stuffed straw into one of her husband, John Claxton’s suits, fashioned a head out of a hessian sack and hung the “body” from one of the meat hooks with a noose tied round it. In the half light John thought someone had actually hung himself in the house. Minnie apparently found the miscreants hiding in the barn, enjoying the unfolding drama. When she caught them she thrashed them both with the yard broom.

In the days when the Raven’s Clough was a beer house, the cellar could only be accessed from outside (and remained that way until 1985). The cellar was two steps down from the rest of the ground floor level and had a well , as well as the scooped racks for storing the barrels of beer. It was also used for rearing on piglets and young pheasants, as well as for hanging game.

The children all used to sleep in the landing bedroom which was accessed by stairs from the kitchen opposite to where they are today. The front of the house was divided up into a public bar and a lounge bar, and the entrance was in the middle of the front of the house, down a short hall serving both bars, the rear of the bar led to the kitchen area.

There was no bathroom until after 1954, the Ladies toilets were by the wash house outside, and the Gent’s outside one of the bars. For the family, there was an outside privvy which was emptied where the raspberries grew in the garden! Presumably they used gazunders, for night time, and used a tin bath which was brought out on a Friday night! (the same bath was probably employed whenever a pig was slaughtered)!

In fact, according to Fred Sutton, Arthur’s Friday night ablutions consisted of stealing a pair of his mother’s bloomers and jumping in the river outside and using them as a washcloth with a bar of carbolic soap! I can’t imagine he ever came out of the water any cleaner than when he jumped in, but apparently it caused great hilarity for all those propping up the bar of the pub.

Minnie, (Miriam) born 1867, married John Claxton, lived at Stoton’s Gate farm, by the 1901 census they had four children and worked on the land

Catherine, worked from home as a dressmaker and was eventually married in 1897 to William Stanberry. He knew the pub well having been a lodger at the Raven’s Clough in 1871 living with the then tenants, the Coulsons. Catherine and William took on the pub when her widowed father, Joseph, died.

Elizabeth, born 1871. At the age of 20, Elizabeth was working for the Harrisson family. The two families, although of different social standing remained friends for over half a century. The Harrissons had made their money from Barrington Mill in Holbeach and had been neighbours of the Couplands when the latter owned and ran the Horse and Groom in Holbeach High Street, and the Harrissons lived in the house where William Stukeley was born at the top of Barrington Gate; this was prior to their move into Mattimore House a grand villa on the Fleet road. Elizabeth must have been very well regarded, and treated as one of the family, and acting as companion to Emma Jane Harrisson, the lady of the house.

Certainly, the two sons, Lenny Septimus Harrisson, and John Carter Harrisson, both acted as lawyers for the family, as well as underwriting loans to enable the family to purchase the Raven’s Clough.

Elizabeth herself, eventually married Alfred Hodgson in 1899, after the death of her mother, Rebecca. A year later Elizabeth gave birth to a daughter, Violet Mary.

John Henry, born 1872. John married his wife Hannah in July 1895, and farmed all his life, latterly at Little Dog Drove where he lived. He and Hannah had six children the first born, three months after they married. Roseanna Jane was followed by Thomas William, John Henry, Walter Edward, Frances Jesse, and finally Ernest Albert.

Sarah Ellen, born 1873, died 1892. She never married.
Matthew Edward, born 1875. Matthew farmed all his life, he died in 1942, without ever having married.

Maria Jane, born 1877, married Coulson Stanberry, son of Sarah Coulson and William Stanberry who were the publicans at the Raven’s Clough in 1881! They had two children George Coulson Stanberry, born in 1900, and Hilda Jane born 1902, but sadly Maria died in October 1904

Martha Ann, born 1880, married William Lawes, who became quite a well off farmer. They had several children, William, Stanley, Wallace and David, and lived in Lutton Gate also employing Ivy Mitchell who was born at the Clough

Arthur Joseph, born 1883, He married Eliza Jessie Plummer, and they went on to have a large family, Mary Ellen, b 1907; Gertie May; Hilda Jessie; Lucy Ellen; Arthur Martin b 1912; George Henry, b 1917; Alfred Ernest b 1923; Ronald R, b 1924; and Martin J b 1929. He, like his father before him, fished for “fresh water haddock” in the Little Holland outside, and during the war time the family numbers were swollen further still, by taking in refugee children seeking shelter from the bombing raids in London. One of whom returned one day to see the house where she was billeted during the war years and spoke of Arthur and Eliza with great warmth and humour.
Gertrude Rebecca married George William Grange in 1908, on the 1911 census she was living at Bird’s Drove, Sutton St James. The couple do not appear to have had children. Gertie died in Oct 1930

Martin, born 1886 died 1913 and is buried at Fleet. He never married, but worked with horses throughout his life.

George, born 1889, died of wounds in 1917 in the Great War. He is buried at Arras

OCTOBER 10th 1929
Arthur Joseph Coupland purchased the Raven’s Clough for £550, from the Harrissons. Lenny Harrisson officiates with the conveyancing.
18th DECEMBER 1929
Arthur Joseph Coupland of Gedney Fen, (County of Lincoln Publican), sells The Raven’s Clough Pub to Soames and Company Ltd. of Cowbit Road, Spalding. The property is described in terms of the two different parishes it is situate in: THE FIRST PART “All that Messuage or dwelling house used as a Public House and called or known by the name or sign of “The Raven’s Clough” together with the Outbuildings and grass paddock thereto adjoining and belonging situate on Raven’s Bank in the said parish of GEDNEY being number 269 on the Ordnance Survey map (1888 edition) and containing according thereto TWO ROODS and FIFTEEN PERCHES abutting upon Raven’s Bank aforesaid on the NORTH EAST upon premises described in the SECOND PART hereof on the NORTH WEST by property of James Deans in part on the SOUTH EAST and upon the property of the executors of John Carter Harrisson on all other sides As the same is now in the occupation of the Vendor.
THE SECOND PART All that piece or parcel of land situate in the Parish of FLEET in the said County of Lincoln being number 119 on the Ordnance Survey Map and containing thereto THREE ACRES and TWENTY PERCHES abutting upon the premises described in the first part hereof in part and property of the Executors of John Carter Harrisson in remaining part on the SOUTH EAST and SOUTH upon Raven’s Bank aforesaid on the NORTH and NORTH EAST and upon the drain next property of Charles Lamming on the NORTH WEST as the same is now in the occupation of. Arthur sells the property to Soames Ltd. for the same price as he purchases it, £500!

1929 to 1930
In the aftermath of the First World War, Soames and Company Ltd, experienced a very profitable period of growth, expanding from brewing into producing soft carbonated drinks as well. They bought up many beer houses and public houses during this period, amongst these was The Raven’s Clough Pub.

1929 was their most profitable year and they were considered an ideal company in which to invest offering good returns most years.

Joseph A Coupland b. 24/11/1888 Innkeeper, Agricultural work
Eliza J Coupland b.19/4/1886 Unpaid domestic duties
George H Coupland b. 5/9/1917 Agricultural Work, (born only a few months after the death of his Uncle George at Arras, he was named after him).
Ronald R Coupland b. 25/8/1924 Agricultural Work
Martin J Coupland b. 11/2/1929 At School
Violet Orrey b. 21/9/1922 Agricultural Work
Presumably, Joseph is a tenant publican.

6th SEPT 1956
Eric Kenneth Gore, and his wife Elsie May Gore took over the Pub, after being loaned the money to buy it from Archibald Raymond Alpe. They purchase the Pub from Soames and Company Ltd.

Eric and Elsie had two daughters who lived at the Clough, the following anecdote is from their grandaughter, Sharon:

“They, (Eric and Elsie), had two daughters, both living locally in Holbeach and Fleet, who have fond memories of living at The Clough. Particularly the year the river froze sufficiently hard to go ice skating on!

Coincidently I was talking to my Mum and Aunt only a few weeks ago about their time at The Clough. My Grandad had a few livestock so there were a few stories of animals arriving and then both of them learning the truth about life and death when they realised they’d gone to the butchers! My mum remembers this particularly vividly with some rabbits. There was a family pig, Lucy, who didn’t meet with the butcher that my Aunt can remember being able to sit on the back of. They had calves as well, having to help suckle some. “

The last tenant publicans Mr and Mrs Greenwood, of the Raven’s Clough pulled their final pint. During their tenure they had two children born there, a boy and a girl. Margaret Joy and her brother were both born in what is the present bathroom!

Eric and Elsie Gore sell the Ravens Clough to local farmer,
Mr Waters, (to whom I am endebted for some of the anecdotes)!

9th JULY 1971
Anthony Samuel Deans (mechanic), and his wife Jenny, of Holbeach St Marks, purchased the Pub.The property is described on the legal charge as being “a dwelling house premises and three acres 2 roods 35 perches of land in Holbeach Fen in the County of Lincoln”.
(Note: there are 40 perches in a rood, and a rood is a quarter of an acre)

15th JULY 1980
Anthony Deans tragically died after a short illness, leaving his widow, Jenny, and their three young children. After a few years, she made the decision to put the house on the market and moved into Holbeach.

The Raven’s Clough was purchased by Geoff De Roux and Freya from Bedfordshire, and became home to a new family. Geoff fulfilled his ambition to plant woodland on the plot and include all the native broadleaf trees on most of the three and threequarter acres. It was a labour of love but thirty years on, the trees are mature and provide a wonderful habitat for birds, mammals and a huge diversity of plants from orchids to newts which have all found their way to what is a wild oasis set in farmland.

Outside, in the garden there is a large anomalous chunk of cuboid dressed stone which is covered in moss. I have often speculated as to why it is in the garden. Clearly it originates from a large high status building, and I am certain it comes from Richard De Fleet’s manor house and marks the boundary between Fleet and Gedney.

Another huge moss covered circular stone with a square holed centre was found in the garden. This turned out to be the original grindstone from the blacksmith’s next door, at Raven’s Clough cottage. It is now the centerpiece of a water feature in the garden. Just another piece of the jigsaw and part of the history of the house and garden.

The daffodils from the field planted by the Deans family still flower in spring and have cross pollinated into many different colours and shapes, a bright springtime tribute to Jenny and Anthony.

Indeed, every family who have lived in the house have left their mark.

The house also has one resident who chose not to leave, we never see him, but every so often the smell of the river fills the upstairs rooms (even with the windows closed) and the girls, when they were little, would say “Fish man is here, Mum!” He is a benevolent guardian and after he has been acknowledged, the smell of the river dissipates. It is probably Joseph or Arthur Coupland fishing for “Freshwater Haddock”!

If anyone remembers anything about the old Raven’s Clough, please let me know so I can add it to the story!

Vistor comments

4 Responses

  1. Brilliant and really interesting. I have also researched John Hardy Carter and the Harrisson’s in depth. I really enjoyed reading about the Coupland link too.

    Just one small note regarding the text. The Harrisson’s did not build Mattimore House. I am sure it was built by Joseph Chamberlain Barker who lived there before them.
    I look forward to reading some more of these histories.

  2. My great great grandparents were James & Lavinia Bingham, publican of the Ravens Clough pub 1841 (census). Sadly James died in 1852 aged 45 and Lavinia died 1860 aged 52.
    Interesting to read about the Pub, though.

    1. We’re related! James and Lavinia are my 3x great grandparents through their daughter Sarah. I just found this census record today and decided to see what I could find out about Raven’s Clough. Small world!

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