You are in [People] [Norman Hidden]

Norman Hidden (24 Oct 1913- 17 Apr 2006) has contributed an enormous amount to our knowledge of the early history of Hungerford, as can be seen from the extensive amount of his material that is now available on the Virtual Museum. His widow Joyce died in December 2020.

Norman Hidden was born in Portsmouth and educated at Porthcawl, Hereford Cathedral School, and Brasenose College, Oxford, from which University he obtained an M.A. degree and a Diploma in Education.

Teacher and Lecturer: He has taught in this country in Macclesfield, Goole (Yorkshire) and Hornchurch, where he was head of the English department. He spent three years as a lecturer in English at Adrian College, Michigan, USA. From 1964-1975 he was Senior Lecturer in English at the College of All Saints, London.

Poetry Activities: In later years he has devoted himself to helping poets and poetry, founding "New Poetry" magazine, originating "Poets' Picnic", and launching a series of publications by Workshop Press. In 1968 he was elected Chairman of the General Council of the Poetry Society of Great Britain (National Poetry Centre), was re-elected in 1969 and 1970 and became a Vice-President. For many years he was a member of the Executive Committee of the English Association, of the Council of the National Book League and of the Advisory Council of the English Speaking Board. Adjudicator, Martin Luther King Memorial Literary Award. (1972-9 ).

Publications: His short stories appeared in Pick of the Year's Short Stories as well as in various magazines. Articles on literature have been published in many national and international journals. He was joint editor (1968) of the National Anthology of Student Poetry, and edited two poetry anthologies used in schools: Say It Aloud (Hutchinson, 1972) and Over To You (English Speaking Board, 1975), as well as preparing A Study-tape Guide to 'Under Milk Wood' (Study-tapes Ltd., 1974). He has also published Dr, Kink and His Old Style Boarding School Autobiography (Workshop Press, 1973). His poems appeared in a variety of magazines, and some were broadcast on the BBC Third programme, and were included in the Exposition Spatialiste Internationale (Paris, 1967).

Readings: He has read his own poems at the Little Theatre (London), Phoenix Theatre (Leicester), Hornsey Town Hall, Birmingham and Midland Arts Institute, International Students House, etc. He has also read twice in Poets' Corner, Westminster Abbey.

Photo Gallery:

Norman Hidden
Norman Hidden

Norman Hidden, 1913-2006

Norman Hidden
Norman Hidden Norman Hidden
Norman Hidden
Norman Hidden

Col Donald Macey, Constable, and Norman Hidden, Hocktide, 1989

Norman Hidden
Norman Hidden Norman Hidden

- Norman Hidden, 1913-2006

- Col Donald Macey, Constable, and Norman Hidden, Hocktide, 1989

Lectures and Talks: His lectures on contemporary poetry included those to Oxford University Institute of Education, London University Institute of Education, the English Association, staff and students of Goldsmiths College, London; York Poetry Society, Suffolk Poetry Centre, Nottingham Centre, Leicester Poetry Society, Wolverhampton College of Art, etc. and many schools of all kinds. He spoke to the Hungerford Historical Association on many occasions.

Broadcasting: He broadcast on Radio 3, Radio 4 ('Kaleidoscope')/BBC Overseas Service, London Broadcasting, etc, and also appeared in BBC TV.

History of Hungerford: His interest in the history of Hungerford came about in 1979 whilst researching his family history, which brought him to the manor of Hidden, just north of Hungerford. The Hidden family had many contacts in Hungerford itself, and Norman spent very many years researching the early history of Hungerford in the primary sources of the Public records Offices (now National Archives), Berkshire and Wiltshire Records Offices, and a host of other sources.

Norman spoke to the Hungerford Historical Association on several occasions, and was Guest of Honour, with his wife Joyce, at Hocktide, Tuesday 4 Apr 1989:

"On behalf of the guests, I thank you, Mr Constable, and your officers, for inviting us as your guests to this ancient ceremony.

This luncheon, held continuously on Hock Tuesday for centuries, along with the other events of this week, is not part of a series of empty or meaningless ceremonies, of quaint or perhaps antiquarian interest. It's not just dressing up in odd costumes and doing strange things with poles and ribands, with oranges and pennies, with ale and horseshoes, etc, etc. It is an affirmation of our debt to the past, to our heritage, to our roots.

My own interest in Hungerford began when I discovered that my family, my ancestors, derived from this town as far back as I could trace them. And I could trace them back to 1454. When Harold Wilson was leader of the Labour Party he found himself campaigning against Sir Alec Douglas Home. Home had referred to himself as the 14th Earl of Home and Wilson said "Yes, and I'm the 14th Mr Wilson". Now I can say "I'm the 16th Mr Hidden" and of those sixteen, all except the last four or five, were Hungerford men and women, born and bred.

The First Constable of Hungerford that we know of existed in 1458. My earliest ancestor was alive in 1454. It seems to me a remarkable thing, it's like a wheel that has come full circle, that he not only knew the first Constable (their joint signatures are on the same document), but very likely attended the Hocktide luncheon then, as I am attending this today. I would like to tell you about this first Constable …. His name was John Tukhyll, pronounced Tuggill by the locals. His REEVE was John Haywood and his BAILIFF was Richard Lang/Long. I mention their names because they should be held in honour too. We may have a Haywood or a Long present, but I don't think it likely we have a Tuggill. John Tuggill had one attribute which probably helped him as Constable. He was a wealthy local merchant. It was not so much that Tuggill might find himself out of pocket after a year's service to his fellow townsmen, but that having a few money bags stored away it gave him a certain leverage in getting things done.

I'm talking of 1458. Tuggill had made enough money from trade to help ransom Sir Robert Hungerford when he has taken prisoner in the French wars, and he received in exchange from the Hungerford family their Manor of Hopgrass, which in those days included the whole of Charnham Street.   3 or 4 years later Tuggill was involved in perhaps the most remarkable incident in the town's history of local government, which was the forcible removal from office of all the town officers. I discovered the document among many thousands of uncatalogued records in London.

In the year 1461 the Wars of the Roses had resulted in the dethronement of the weak Lancastrian king Henry VI and the accession of the Yorkist monarch Edward IV. This national civil conflict seems to have set the pattern for the locals to do likewise. At any rate John Tuggill, still Constable, Thomas Hoskins bailiff, and John Dighton, tithing man, complained to the King that various local personages "rebels to our liege lord the King.. .to the number of four score and more in the month of September last past entered into the said town of Hungerford and there robbed and spoiled divers persons that owed faith and goodwill to our said liege lord the King and also brake open the common chest of the town and spoiled and bore away such goods as they found therein. And put the kings officers, your Complainants forcibly from their offices nor suffered them to occupy [the same] nor to execute the King's laws in their offices as they [had done] beforetime but put in such as were of their [own] affinity and some against their wills who dare do none other for dread of the said rebels but occupy the office or stand in dread of their lives. And so yet the said rebels continue their riots so that neither justice nor law may be executed nor good rule kept to the great hurt of the well disposed men of the town, and also of the country thereabouts who would resort to their market there and dare not for the said rebels."

So Tuggill asked for a royal commission, not to investigate the matter, but to come with armed forces to crack down on the insurrectionists, "so that", I quote again, "the King's true liegemen may do their occupations and keep their markets as they have been accustomed [to do] in time past, and your said complainants with their neighbours and all other well disposed persons there shall the more especially pray for your [majesty's] honourable estate in felicity long to endure."

I've mentioned this incident, partly because it is unknown, having been gathering the dust of centuries undisturbed until I came upon it, and partly because it gives us all some idea of the problems and pressures which our ancestors faced, whether townsmen or officers. Tuggill was probably a Lancastrian, if his willingness to help Sir Robert Hungerford is anything to go by, and yet when a Yorkist monarch came to the throne, he realised that the interests of the town were best served by accepting the constitutional position and that local trade and prosperous municipal life could continue only if the King's authority remained firm and extremist factions were subdued.

I hope you, Mr Constable, and your officers are not going to have any similar problems. I am sure that you have enough pressures and problems in your great office as it is. My wife and I, who are your guests at this friendly and historic occasion, thank you for your kindness in inviting us to share it with you all."

The town owes him a huge debt of gratitude for all his work, and that of his wife Joyce, who has so generously allowed the Hungerford Historical Association and the Virtual Museum permission to share his works.

In 2009 the HHA published Norman Hidden's "Aspects of the Early History of Hungerford", a compilation of 28 chapters of local historical topics.

See also:

- Virtual Museum Archives - for many of Norman Hidden's papers

From a letter from Norman Hidden to Eileen Bunt, 23 May 1994:

Many thanks for the photocopy of John Hidden's mark. It is distinctive  enough to be identified  with that on his will in 1736. There  were two John Hiddens active in public life in Hungerford during the  period 1692-1710 when one of them died. This was the John Hidden who  appears in the Constable's Accounts  between 1706 and 1710. He was a  victualler by trade. The other J.H. was the man who paid his ingress  money or "income" when he became a Commoner in 1731 by virtue of  acquiring some freehold property in the town and  whose mark we have. He was a  buttonmaker.

My reference to Johnathan Hidden (the elder) being one of two water  bailiffs was sheer carelessness on my part; I should have written "one  of two water  lessees". By trade he also was a  buttonmaker. Walter Tuttle junior, who succeeded his father as a water  lessee, was a baker by trade, so the fishing must have been a second  occupation with them.

As to your problem concerning the innholders and their inns, there is  documentary evidence that in April 1677 "Mr Bell's house" was the Three  Swans. (This  correlates, incidentally, with the Quit  Rent Roll entry of 1676 and the Commoners Lists 1680-1700). There is  also evidence that Sarah Bell, widow, was the innholder of the Three  Swans in 1710. William died in 1693.

Jim Davis's history of The Bear is such a labour of love that I would not  wish to dispute the dates he gives on page 31 of 1674-1691 as the period when William Bell may have been the innholder of The Bear, nor of course his quotation on page 11 from the Constable's Accounts in 1685. Tokens issued by Bell show that he was "at the Bear" even earlier, in 1668.

It seems, therefore, that he may have held both inns, though he would not necessarily have managed both of them  himself.

As to William Burcombe, the inventory at his death specifically relates to his property in Charnham Street. He does not appear, to the best of my  recollection, in Hungerford town  documents such as the Quit Rent Rolls, Commoners Lists etc, though in  one document he is shown as renting from the town some acres of land in  Charnham Street.

There were three inns (as well as various taverns) in Charnham Street.  Clearly from the inventory of 1684, Brurcombe's premises were an inn.  These three inns  were The Bear, The White Hart, and The  Bell. All three were distinguished; the oldest was not, as is generally  thought, The Bear, but the Bell, which is mentioned as early as 1472 and again in 1494. In 1668 it was  sold to Alexander Popham, presumably as  an investment. Both the White Hart and the Bell ceased existence as inns in the 19th century. On the dorse of the deed of conveyance  to Popham in 1668 is the signature of William Burcombe. I suspect that  he became Popham's lessee and that the excellent inventory of 1684  refers to the Bell.

It's a problem, isn't it? They are both such splendid inventories it's a pity not to be absolutely sure of their location.