John Hancock – an innkeeper with big ideas

John Hancock worked for Mr Fynes who lived in Cross Tree House at the end of the 18th century.  After the death of his master he took the house with the intention of setting up an inn there.  Treleaven’s Chronicle tells us that he thinks went well at first, but perhaps he was too ambitious, and in 1809 he was forced to flee from his debts.   See the Dancing Tree for more of its history.

1799 Wed. May 15th.  Mr John Hancock has taken his late Master Mr. Fyne’s House for an Inn, ’tis to be The Courtenay Arms, and he enters on it at Midsummer next.

1799 Tue. Sep. 17th.  The Victuallers of this Town went to Newton to renew their licences and Mr. Hancock for a licence for the late Mr. Fynes’s House (London Inn and not the Courtenay Arms) but was refused.  The Justices reason was ‘We will not increase the No. of Public Houses in Moreton’.  Mr. Hancock was greatly disappointed.

1799 Tue. Oct. 22nd.   Mr. Wm. Smale hath taken the House at Pound now occupied by Mr John Hancock, the latter is going to live in his late Master’s (Mr.Fynes) House at Cross and talks of opening a Coffee House, run a Chaise, and take in the London papers &c!!!

1800 Tue. Sep. 9th.  Mr Hancock got a Licence for his House ‘The London Inn and Tavern’.  The other Public Houses Licensed as usual. 

1801 Fri. Aug. 28th.  Cross-Tree, floored and seated round with a platform railed on each side, from the top of Mr. Hancock’s Garden wall to the Tree, and a flight of steps in the Garden, for the Company to ascend, after passing the platform they enter under a grand arch formed with boughs – there is sufficient room for thirty persons to sit round and six couple to dance, besides the Orchestra. From the novelty of this rural apartment, it is expected much company will resort there during the summer.

1802 Wed. Jan. 6th.  Mr. Hancock, at the London Inn, injudiciously drying about 6 ounces of  Gunpowder, in a fire-pan that had been heated for that purpose, but heated too hot, it soon took fire and blew directly in his face and scald him in a shocking manner, his child (a little boy about 2 years old) standing by his side was carried by its force eight feet, and very much scald, it forced out a window into the street, but did no other material damage.

1804  Wed. Sep. 12th.  Mr. John Snow of Lowton, served with an Exchequer Writ, for selling spirituous liquors to Mr. John Hancock of the London Inn, to appear in London Novr 6th personally or by Attorney.

1804 Tue. Sep. 18th.  Lord Courtenay and two of his Sisters arrived here, about 12 noon, walked to North Bovey, returned and dined at the London Inn, and for the great attention paid them, his Lordship very politely proposed giving Mr. Hancock a New Sign (His Arms) which was accepted by the latter.

1806 Wed. July 23rd.  The Courtenay Arms, a new handsome painted sign, and a present from Lord Courtenay to Mr. John Hancock, hung up in the room of the London Inn

1809 Mon. Sep. 4th.  Mr John Hancock of the Courtenay Arms, from the embarassment of his affairs, is obliged to disappear and left Moreton this day.

1809  Tue. Sep. 12th.  Sale for Mr. Hancock’s Household Goods and Furniture.

1809  Thur. Oct. 5th.  Survey for letting Mr Hancock’s House & Ground.