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Falcon (Granny Speed’s House)

annie_speedThis is a picture of Annie Speed who lived in Brays Batch who was known as Garnny Speed by everbody in the village. Some people remember how she would sit next to a fireplace that dominated the front room doing her needlework. She used to do sowing and mending for other people and had a sowing machine in front of a window that gave her a plenty of light and a good view of the village. The picture is courtesy of Mike Matthews.
 All that remains of the house she lived in are the memories of the few people who saw it when it was still standing. The house was demolished soon after she died in 1962. The owners tried to bring it up to
modern standards but they could not get permission to install the modern services so it was knocked down.
Everybody who remembers the house say it was an unusual building and the consensus of opinion is that it was older than the late 18th century cottages that still stand. The stones of the chimney protruded outside to form steps so it was possible to climb to the top which was a favourite sport for the local children.
The inside was may be thought  of as a typical ‘two up two down’ but that made it a relatively large place compared to the ‘one up one down’ cottages that were the common until they were converted to more spacious accommodation. There was a settle next to the large fireplace and it was Annie’s wish that the settle was given to Dr Pierson of West Harptree after she died
The house had a cellar which may have been because it was built on a hill steeply sloping in two directions. The cellar was damp and prone to flooding but the age, size and location of the building suggests it may have been a pub, perhaps the Falcon mentioned in the 18th century records.
The Falcon is not mentioned in the  18th century churchwarden accounts, poor law or the 1766 ledgers. The only references to the Falcon found so far is Somerset archive record Q/SR/303/17 dated 1734 when some men were accused of stealing a sheep. A Richard Dowling was the main villain of the piece. There is a reference to the Falcon in the 1740 ledgers which is consistent with the Falcon being in Bray’s Batch.
It is easy to imagine how a pub on a hill overlooking the village was named after a bird of prey peering out of its eyrie. Coles Lane (east) is at the bottom of quite a steep slope with Granny Speed’s house perched on the top.
It may have been the sort of place that would accommodate the less reputable  characters in the village not welcome in nearby Unicorn  or Royal Oak on Lower Street .
What is now the High Street may not have ben the main road until the turnpike road was built in 1754 so the site was well placed to catch passing trade and overlooked the fair ground.
 There were only two pubs in the village recorded by Edmund Rack in the 1780s, the Unicorn and the New Inn which may have been at the top of Chew Hill . This may later have been called ‘The First and Last’. This site is another possibility for the Falcon but the ‘First and Last’ was probably on the turnpike road that was built after 1754.
The 1794 map shows the site was owned by the Kingsmill family which may help to explain why there are so few records of the Falcon.
 The Falcon may never have been a dedicated pup or coaching house but it may have combined hospitality with another function like the Bell Inn.
Granny Speed’s may have been occupied by the village policeman so the cellar may have been the village lock-up conveniently placed next to fair ground and close to the ‘old’ Waldegrave Arms. Theodore Andowe was a 32 a old  police sergeant living in the Folly according to the 1871 census and he may have lived in what was to become Granny Speed’s house.
The site overlooks a rough paddock that slopes steeply and unevenly down to where the Waldegrave Arms used to stand. The village  shop had a large cellar with what may have been individual cells and the row of houses are still known as the old police house but these were built after Granny Speed’s house
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