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HAUGHMOND’S NANCY SPRAGG

Owdo me owd butties, thank’ee most kindly for poppin’ in, I am sure many of us have traipsed over HaughMONd Hill at least once but did you know that there used to be an owd cottage atop of it? Well here’s the story of it’s last occupant, are we all sitting comfortably? then I’ll begin:

Nancy was born in 1813 and although she was christened Ann Barnett on the eighteenth of April 1813 in Hadnall, her parents John and Rebecca Barnet alus (always) called her Nancy. On the sixth of February 1842 she married Thomas Spragg (b.12/8/1813), a farm labourer, and moved into Hill Cottage atop of Haughmond Hill. They shared the cottage with Thomas’ feyther (father), William, until his jeth (death) in 1858 aged 98. Nancy and Thomas had six children who were all born upon the hill and baptised in Uffington.

  • William born 8/1/1843
  • John born 17/7/1845
  • Elizabeth born 23/5/1847
  • Thomas born 6/1/1850
  • Leonard born 28/3/1852
  • Louisa born 3/9/1854

Nancy and possibly Thomas outside Hill Cottage

Hill Cottage was built of stone with a green door. To the right of it was a washhouse cum wood store and in the garden was a soil lavatory and a pig cote (pigsty) . The cottage had no electricity, gas or water so Nancy had to collect water frum a nearby spring, under a holly bush, with this she made all the tea and lemonade with which she supplied passing walkers.

The garden was enclosed by a stonewall, was two roods and twenty-four perches in size and they also had a three acre field.

Hill Cottage painted in 1866 by J. Franklyn.

After Thomas’ jeth (death), Nancy shared her whum (home) with her niece (or possibly daughter in-law) (H)Ellen Peplow who was recorded as a sixty year old widow in the 1901 census. During severe winters Nancy was led down the hill when the bad weather struck but she alus (always) returned as soon as possible. Friends and relatives living in the Cherry Orchard and Monkmoor areas of Shrewsbury ‘ould check for smoke coming out of her chimbly (chimney) to know that Nancy was alright. One winter Nancy hadna bin (been) seen in Uffington for a while causing concern and the villagers went up to the cottage where they found Nancy in very poor health, she was brought down the hill in a bath chair and ended her days at the whum of the local blacksmith.

Nancy passed away on the fifth of January 1904 and was buried at Upton Magna on the eighth. Her death certificate wasn’t registered until the fourteenth but they were a bit more lapse with procedures in those days which might explain why the family name changed frum Spragg to Spread on the 1851 census, possibly for ease of spelling.

One rather fanciful bit o’ folklore that has arisen about Nancy is the tale that in her younger days the lord of the manor had a tunnel up to Hill Cottage constructed so that he could sneak away and pay Nancy a visit.

Standing alone and neglected, Hill Cottage which had bin the family whum for over one hundred years, soon began to decay and was not much more than a crumbling ruin by the late 1930s. There is very little to be sin (seen) these days save for a few bits of rubble but Nancy’s spring still trickles away and Damson trees still fruit in her former garden, i like to think that even after all these years, Nancy is still providing some refreshments for modern day ramblers, just as she would’ve wanted, Sleep well Nancy.