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  • ID: I6795
  • Name: Alexander SHIELS
  • Given Name: Alexander
  • Surname: Shiels
  • Suffix: Farmer & auctioneer
  • Title: Farmer & auctioneer
  • Sex: M
  • Birth: ABT 1818
  • Death: 23 JAN 1868 in Kedslie,Lauder (Berwicks) Scotland of traumatic apoplexy
  • Note:
    His death entry in the book for Lauder 1868 (death 28 Jan, registered 27 Jan 1868 at Lauder) is marked:
    See Reg. of Cor. Entr. Vol I p26 May 13th 1868.

    possibly a descendant of Shiells, Alexander 17 -18 ; overseer for Torloisk estate and factor to Maclean, Marianne 1765-1840; dau. of Lachlan Maclean of Torloisk; later Mrs Clephane; musical background & talents, cleverness, relations with Sir Walter Scott, plants trees at Torloisk, feud with Ranald Macdonald of Staffa, appts Alex.Shiells as factor, fury at the valentine of diarist Lauchlan Maclaine (1771-1847).

    By 1825 the Great August Horse Fair at Horncastle had outstripped Howden in south Yorkshire, and was 'considered of such importance as to establish the prices for all sorts of horses throughout the kingdom'. As early as 1814, it was claimed as 'absolutely the largest held in the British Dominions, and therefore in the world, for no other country has anything like it'. It was no surprise to find a Hungarian at the fair; dealers from many parts of Europe, particularly France and Germany, had been regular attenders for a number of years.

    The original fair had been established in Horncastle for at least 600 years. The charter granted in 1229 referred to the fair which had been held in the manor every year at the Feast of St Lawrence (patron saint of butchers and cooks, celebrated on 10 August). This was confirmed by a further charter in 1230 which fixed the dates as 9-15 August Neither charter mentioned horses, but after the Restoration and the confirmation by Charles II in 1664 of all previous charters, a notice was issued to the effect that 'the first fair for horses begins seven days before the 11th of June. . . and the second horse fair begins 8 days before the 10th August. However, even in its 19th century heyday the August fair never started earlier than 4 August. The confusion over dates was further compounded by the custom of holding a fair for sheep and cattle on 21 August (the Scythe Fair for blacksmiths, with crossed scythes placed over the door of the Fighting Cocks inn) or the last day of the Great Horse Fair if it finished earlier.

    By at least 1306, when Richard II issued a proclamation restricting the price of horses to that which had been determined by previous monarchs, Lincolnshire was the leading horse breeding district Horncastle was conveniently situated to be the main market for horses - with the light-soiled Wolds to the north and vast areas of common grazing Fens to the south. In order to improve horse breeding Henry VII enacted that all entire horses should be kept stalled (hence 'stallion' or 'stalled one') and the prohibition of export continued. Henry VIII decreed that no stallion under 15 hands and no mare under 13 hands should be allowed to run wild, and that at Michaelmas local magistrates were to organise drives to round up and destroy such animals, together with all 'unlikely tits'. These laws were relaxed under Elizabeth I to allow commoners to keep undersize stallions. Wildmore Fen, where about 2,000 horses were grazed in 1640, was intercommoned by villages and towns on the southern edge of the Wolds (including Horncastle) and had its breed of pony, the Wildmore Tit, which was highly regarded. The Lincolnshire fen pony was small; under 13 hands, with large head, straight back, flat bone and large feet. In the 16th century these ponies found their way through the Horncastle fair to the coal mines of Nottinghamshire and the lead mines of Derbyshire.

    In the 16th and 17th centuries most Fenland farmers and commoners were engaged in breeding horses - chiefly the Lincolnshire Black (the progenitor of the shire horse) in the fens around Boston. Indeed Lincolnshire was regarded as the home of the cart horse, being sold as 2-year-olds for ploughing and haulage; some were already 17 hands high at that age. Many were used for ploughing on the Wolds before 1700 and would have passed through the fairs at Swineshead and Horncastle. The lighter and more active blacks became cavalry horses and served in the Civil Wars, although. officers usually rode higher quality mounts which showed the results of breeding with imported Arabian stock. First bred shortly after the Civil Wars was the Lincolnshire Trotter, used to pull coaches. When hackney coaches were licensed in 1694 only horses, geldings or mares over 14 hands were to be used - and most were Lincolnshire Trotters.

    By the end of the 18th century, every farmer in Holland Fen kept cart mares for breeding; good 3-year-old cart horses would fetch 25 at Horncastle, or 30 at 4-year-old when ready for full work. Some were worked until 8-years-old, and then sold to stage waggons. Farmers like Mr Thacker of Langrike (Langrick) Ferry would buy 3-year-olds at the Howden horse fair in September, winter on straw, work a little in spring, graze in summer and sell at Horncastle in August at a profit.

    At the beginning of the 19th century the Wolds grew more oats than any other part of Lincolnshire, no doubt because of the horses which were bred for the Horncastle fair. In fact 'the finest and best horses in the kingdom, chiefly of what are called the blood kind were bred on the Wolds for both saddle and coach. A 4-year-old hunter could fetch 80 guineas and a good coach horse 30-40. Among the breeders who sold for many years at Horncastle was Mr Whitlam of Tows near Ludford (1822-47). He sod five horses for 630 in 1822 and three for 600 guineas in 1836. Other Wold breeders included Betts of Caenby, Grantham of Scamblesby, Nainby of
    Barnoldby le Beck, Brookes of Croxby, Richardson of Rothwell and Child of Market Stainton.

    In the Brocklesbury country of the northern Wolds there was the influence of fox hunting from at least 1714. Many of Lord Yarborough's tenants bred hunters for the Horncastle fair, between them sending 50 in the early years of the 19 th century, one tenant selling six hunters for 1 ;000 in 1832. The Grand National winner of1839, Lottery, was bought at Horncastle Fair. In 1845, W. G. Loft of Healing trained and rode Cure All to victory, having the previous year sold a 'steeplechaise' horse for 300 guineas at Horncastle. By.1897 the breeding of good half-bred horses around Brocklesby had deteriorated, and the Sleaford district was more important.

    The breeder/dealers, like William Potter and later his son John from Ashby de la Zouch (1846- 56), brought their horses to the fair by road in easy stages. The buyers mostly arrived by stage-coach, changing at Boston to the Resolution (1815) or Champion (1826) coach to the Bull Inn, or changing at Lincoln to the Accommodation (1826) or Defiance (1842) coach to the George Inn. There was also a direct service in Thos Fagg's Old Boston coach overnight from the Bell & Crown, Holborn to the George Inn (1'822) the London Perseverance coach, carrying six inside and 12 outside passengers (1829) and the Mail Coach, also through Boston, to the Bull Inn (1842). Among the London buyers who were regular attenders at the fair around the middle of the 19th century, half a dozen had done so for more than 20 years - Collins (1844-66), Anderson (1829-52) (the firm Anderson & Son was still buying in 1896), Cox (1839-66), Dyson (1826-55), Cotterell (1836-66) and Wimbush, for over 42 years (1835- 77), Continental dealers were more erratic, but M Benedict from Paris and M Cremeux from Brussels came every year from 1845 to 1856 and stayed at the Bull. A notable visitor at the Red Lion in 1850 was M Falconet, Agent of the King of the Two Sicilies.

    They employed caddees, or cads, to take their purchases away to London, Oxford, Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham and Bristol, or via the Barton horse boat to Hull for export to the continent (St Petersburg and Rotterdam). The caddees seem to have been a distinct class of improvident, happy-go-lucky men who earned plenty of money and spent it freely at the inns.. The main roads in and out of Horncastle used by horses were from the Fens crossing the Witham at Langrick Ferry and through Wildmore Fen to Leeds Gate (Lea Gate Inn) Coningsby with accommodation for horses; from the west and north (particularly from Yorkshire) crossing the Trent at Littleborough Ferry, along the Roman Tillbridge Lane and through Scothern to join the ramper to Horncastle; and from Barton and the northern Wolds along the ancient ridge-top High Street.

    To accommodate dealers and their horses at a fair which could last up to a fortnight or more, inns with adequate stabling were required, Before the end of the 18th century there were at least 14 - Black Horse, Bull, Cross Keys (High Street), Dolphin, Fighting Cocks, Fleece, Greyhound, Hole in the Wall, King's Head, New, Rodney, Saracen's Head, Three Maids Heads and White Hart. By 1826, when the population of the town was only about 3,500, there were 21 inns with Black Swan, Crown, Punch House, Queen's Head, Red Lion, Reindeer, Ship and Vine Tavern as additions, (There were also the 5s 'bush' licenses whereby a householder could hang a bush or bough outside and sell beer during the period of the fair; these were severely limited by the justices after 1832.) This had increased to 48 licensed inns and beerhouses in 1860 (which was an inn for every 100 of the population) with the addition of the Coach & Horses (South Street) and the Great Northern (with the arrival of the railway in 1855), but the George had become the post office and the Corn Exchange had been built on the site of the Three Maids Heads in 1856. The number had declined to 40 in 1875; the Queen's Head had closed (despite rebuilding in 1863/64, the same year as the Rodney) and the new Punch House had replaced the old, but a number of former beerhouses had acquired names - Alma, Angel, Axe & Cleaver, Boar's Head, Castle (formerly Bridge, and with stabling for 10 horses) Cross Keys and Railway (paradoxically in North Street). Opening hours were extended during the fair from 5 am to midnight, instead of the normal 6 am to 11 pm.

    Accommodation at the inns was stretched beyond the limit during the fair, and many visitors had to sleep out, the innkeepers having regular arrangements with some householders. For a few nights the population of the town could be increased by 10%-15%. Foreign buyers favoured the Red Lion and the Bull but, after 1855, the Great Northern was most used because of proximity to the railway station. From the 1860s lrish dealers centred on the Rodney and New, with some also putting up at the Fighting Cocks. Other inns had a predominance of English dealers from
    . \
    particular counties - the Black Horse and Ship for Cambridgeshire, the Crown for Yorkshire, the Greyhound for Norfolk and the Reindeer for the Midlands. The Reindeer can claim the record for the visitor with the longest continuous attendance at the fair - E. Badderley of Stoke f'rom 1834 to 1889 (55 years), and his son continued the tradition for another seven years. The brothers Patrick and James Shiels of Dublin also favoured the Reindeer from 1860 to 1902 (42 years) and used the inn paddock for their auction sales, sometimes over two or three days, for 26 years. They brought large numbers of bloodstock hunters and carriage horses, and also colts (52 in 1882 which realised an average of 75 each).
  • Change Date: 16 JUL 2006 at 20:09:20

    Father: James SHIELS

    Marriage 1 Elizabeth THOM(P)SON b: ABT 1838 in Swinton (Berwicks) Scotland
    • Married: 26 APR 1858 in Melrose (Roxburgh) Scotland
    1. Has Children Ellen Elizabeth SHIELS b: 17 MAR 1859 in Lauder,Berwick,Scotland
    2. Has Children Thomas SHIELS b: 8 AUG 1861 in Lauder,Berwick,Scotland
    3. Has No Children Robert Thompson SHIELS b: 6 MAY 1863 in Lauder,Berwick,Scotland
    4. Has Children Alexander SHIELS b: 12 SEP 1865 in Lauder (Berwick) Scotland
    5. Has No Children John SHIELS b: 17 APR 1868 in Lauder,Berwick,Scotland

    Marriage 2 Sybella SMITH
      1. Has No Children James SHIELS b: 16 JAN 1851 in Haughead,Earlston (Berwicks) Scotland
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