The Saracen’s Head Inn (Market Place) & the Twentyman family

The Saracen's Head today (2015)

The Saracen’s Head today (2015)

Today a street sign off Lombard Street ‘Saracen’s Head Yard’ is one of the few reminders of this inn, yet there are probably many of the town’s residents who can still remember it, possibly cutting through to the Market Place just as this writer did as a child. Situated on a plot which ran from Lombard Street through to the Market Place, this inn would have been perfect for hosting travellers on the Great North Road, like the White Hart next door to it and not surprisingly there appears to have been some rivalry between the two inns.

??????????The inn closed in 1956 and the building has been transformed into a bank, though a bust of a Saracen’s Head reminds passers-by of the building’s former use.

A white plaque beneath the bust on the present building says it was licensed in the reign of Edward III (1327-1377). There is a rental roll thought to be from the time of Edward IV (1461-70, 1471-83) that records Richard Wakefeld paying the rent of “2d to be paid for placing a post for supporting a sign called ‘Sarasen-heed’ in the Market Place”[1].



??????????The Twentyman Family: John Twentyman the First

The Saracen’s Head was run by the Twentyman family between 1590-1720, i.e. 130 years and it is research into this family which has led to the collection of this information.

It appears likely that it was the John Twentyman who kept the Saracen’s Head who gave a Latin oration to King James I as part of the Corporation’s welcome ceremony when the new king visited the town on 21 April 1603, en route to London for his coronation[2]. Described as ‘a gentleman of Newark’, possibly John could have been a pupil at the Magnus school in order to have learned his Latin. He was rewarded with the office of “purveyor of wax for the royal household” for his oration and in recognition of his many local trade contacts. Whether this was equivalent to receiving the Royal Warrant today or was more of an honorary title than a literal one has not been established but if it actually meant he supplied wax for candles in the royal palaces then the responsibility was surely enormous.

There is a reference that John was an ironmonger and later wills confirm that there was a shop associated with the inn. John was also noted as “Alderman” in parish records of 1609-10, which title equates to “mayor” later. There is also evidence from an online source at Edinburgh University that the playwright Ben Jonson could have visited the inn in July 1618 whilst staying at the neighbouring White Hart and when John Twentyman was innkeeper at the Saracen’s Head[3].


John Twentyman the Second

John appears to have had a son, likewise named John, because there is a burial of ‘John Twentyman jnr’ on 30 Jul 1622, (St M. M. mf. 3). John jnr ‘ironmonger’ had married Marie White in 1608[4] and the couple had two or possibly three daughters baptised in the parish church before Marie was buried in 1620. Presumably John jnr would have inherited the running of the inn if he had lived but the wording of his burial record shows that John snr was still alive at that time.

The next major event is the Civil War when the inn is apparently run by Edward Twentyman. This period has been described by yet another John Twentyman, born at Horncastle, Lincs., and a passage is quoted here because it mentions family relationships:

“One of my uncles having been Ensign to Captain Rossell and an old drum being in the House, but the head broken, my Grandmother ([5]Ed.) charged my uncle Edward Twentyman to take it out and commanded Edward Foster her grandchild to beat an alarm …” (This is before November 1642.)[6]

This makes clear that John has more than one uncle and that these uncles must have had a sister who married a Foster, another of the town’s notable families. There was also another sister, Ellen, who married into the Tresse family as shown by Edward’s will. John’s father must also have been a brother to Edward – perhaps he was even John jnr, who had died in 1622.

Jennings’ book also states that Edward was active during the conflict as either senior or first Captain of a garrison of townsmen. Though he describes himself as ‘gentleman’ in his will, Edward’s burial on 26 Feb 1645/46 quoted his rank as Captain. He died as a result of gangrene in his foot after injuring his toe.[7]


William Twentyman snr & Alexander Twentyman

As Edward’s will of 1645/46 (proved 1648)[8] makes provision for his mother, Elizabeth, but without any mention of a wife, it seems reasonable to suppose that he isn’t currently married. Upon his mother’s death, Edward leaves the inn to Alexander Twentyman, who would seem likely to be a younger brother. He further provides that after Alexander’s death the inn should pass to William Twentyman ‘and his Heirs’. Given that he could have left it to ‘Alexander and his Heirs’, this wording seems to imply that William is not a son of Alexander, but Edward fails to state their exact relationship. Was William possibly the youngest brother of Edward? Or perhaps another nephew or cousin?

Despite the circumstances at the time, we must presume that Edward’s sole executor, his mother Elizabeth, administered his will and that the inn duly passed to Alexander. A burial for ‘Mrs Elizabeth Twentiman the ould woman’ on 29 Jan 1656/57 (St. M. M. mf. 5) would seem likely to be the matriarch of this family and suggests she had survived to a ripe old age for the period.

Next a possible burial for Alexander was recorded on 16 Mar 1663/64 (St. M. M. mf. 7) and if the terms of Edward’s will are fulfilled, the next innkeeper should be William Twentyman. He is named in Hearth Tax records[9] for the town, with 14 hearths in 1664 and noted as occupying the largest house of all, with 16 hearths in 1674. This almost certainly refers to the Saracen’s Head, suggesting that many of the rooms had fire places. The inventory accompanying William’s subsequent will, proved in 1696,[10] corroborates this, listing room by room furnishings including fire irons etc. (I make it 14 hearths). The same source confirms that William was mayor in 1678.

When considering William’s will, the first question must be whether it is the will of Edward & Alexander’s direct heir? Given that there is a parish record of a baptism in 1662 of Alexander, ‘son of William Twentyman jnr’, there would appear to be a William snr alive at the time. If we accept that, then William snr is perhaps more likely to belong to the same generation as Edward and Alexander.

William died in 1695 and in his will describes himself as ‘Alderman and Innholder’. He seems to have been married twice, though neither of these marriages has been traced at St Mary Magdalene. Presumably he married in the bride’s parish as was customary.


WIlliam Twentyman Jnr

A baptism for Henry, on 20 Oct 1660 does not state ‘son of William jnr’ so maybe he is a final son of William snr rather than an elder brother to Alexander? Either way, in 1684 Henry marries Elizabeth Cooling, daughter of Denis Cooling, apothecary and neighbour in Market Place. Also, later William’s widow makes a bequest to three Coolings which perhaps suggests they are her step-grandchildren.

Family names from the 1695 will, proved in 1696, can be matched with baptisms assigned to William and his two wives. Whilst tracing those, other baptisms were found of children who had died young.

William’s first wife was Thomasin and besides those baptisms of (queried) Henry and Alexander already noted, they had daughters Elizabeth, Sarah, Mary and Thomasin before ‘Thomasin wife of William Twentyman’ was buried on 2 Feb 1674/5. Neither Alexander nor little Thomasin lived to adulthood.

William’s second wife was Ann and they had their first child, Ann, in 1677. They then had three more daughters and two sons, of whom William, born 1678, died after less than two weeks. These children could have been two separate families of two separate fathers but the wording of the will suggests that they are all fathered by a single man.

William leaves to his widow all the land he’s purchased from local families such as the Tresses, Hugh & Thomas, John Jewison (another mayor of Newark), Thomas Sumers and Francis Millns, either brother or nephew of John mentioned below, with a proviso that if she remarries they are to go to John when he reaches the age of 24 years. He also leaves all his unmarried daughters £140 which must have been quite an attractive sum if it is intended as a dowry.

William’s daughters all married into local families whose family names appear as aldermen, etc. though only the two eldest were married before their father’s death:
Elizabeth = John Twentyman, vicar of Rolleston[11];
Sarah = Soloman Bettison of S. Muskham;
Mary = Bernard Wilson, (married soon after her father died) ;
Ann = William Welby
Hannah = 1. Richard Redmore; 2. John Millns[12];
Martha = John Herring[13];
Dorothy = Humphrey Holland.
And later wills left by Anne Twentyman, William’s widow, and his daughter, Hannah, the widow of John Millns, also support these familial relationships.

It would appear that the Saracen’s Head therefore eventually passed to John Twentyman, as surviving son, though he was only about 12 when his father died. William’s widow Ann seems likely to have continued to run the inn without having remarried. An establishment of its apparent size and reputation must surely have been a family enterprise, with the help of servants, so no doubt at 12 years John was already contributing his labour and learning the ‘trade’.

This business would appear to have included money-lending because the final item in the Inventory records ‘Bills, Bonds, Mortgages & other debts’ worth £520, which figure is not far from being half of the total value assessed. Nor is this an isolated happening as various wills made by other townsmen, such as that of Hannah’s husband, John Mills, above, also show money lending.


The Saracen’s Head in 1696

However, more interesting to modern eyes are details contained in an Inventory contained in William’s will of 1696 regarding the furnishings of the rooms and the running of the inn. The yard of the inn includes three carriages, a plough, harrows and ‘gears’ (tackle for horses) which suggest that the innkeeper must have also engaged in farming, which is consistent with items ‘In the Barne in Baldertongate’ such as two mares and two geldings, seven beasts, thirteen swine and 106 sheep.

A furnace, ‘malt Milne’ and brewing vessels confirm that the inn brewed its own beer but the wine cellar holds an estimated £30’s worth of sack, white wine and brandy casks.

Six of the named rooms include ‘seeing glasses’ (ie mirrors – expensive items at the time) amongst their furnishings and from the numbers of chairs in most of the rooms, it would suggest that guests could have used these chambers as places to receive visitors during their stay at the inn, e.g. ‘In the Phoenix: two beds and furniture, eight chairs, a grate and fire shovel, tongs and two tables with a seeing glass’. A number of rooms appear to have two beds though they were not necessarily of equal quality but were provided to allow a maid to share her mistress’ bedroom whilst on a journey.

The maids of the inn apparently shared their room with the household’s stock of linen: 60 pairs of sheets, 30 pairs of pillow cases, 24 table cloths, 20 dozen napkins and 3 dozen towels.

It is also fascinating to read the names of the various rooms, or chambers as they were often termed. Just as today, they are clearly intended to suggest quality and comfort, featuring amongst others: the Mitre, the Windsor, the flower de Luce and the Angel.

Given the way it is noted between ‘The White Chamber’ and ‘The Dolphin’, the recording of ‘John’s room’ brings a personal touch to the inventory. Sparsely provided with one bed, four chairs and ‘other necessaries’ to the value of only £1 10 shillings, perhaps it was an attic room? And perhaps the personal touch is thanks to the first of the named appraisers, Solomon Bettison, a son-in-law of William through his marriage to William’s second daughter, Sarah, and thus also brother-in-law to young John


John Twentyman the Third

William’s widow Anne lived through the turn of the century, signing her will on 31 May 1715 and appointing her son John, sole executor. Her inventory recording ‘Purse and apparel’, ‘Moneys out upon bond’ and ‘In Plate’ makes clear that the contents of the inn are not considered part of her property because of course by now John is in his thirties.

So it’s not surprising that less than a year after his mother’s death John got married, to Cassandra ffowler (period spelling) at Harlaxton, Lincs, on 31 Jan 1715/16. They eventually have four sons and two daughters before John died and was buried in 1735/36. His will, dated 20 Dec 1735 and proved 8 Jun 1736, describes himself as ‘mercer’, suggesting that by now he is no longer keeping the Saracen’s Head.

Leaving children under the age of majority, his will is chiefly concerned with planning for their futures and he leaves Cassandra as sole executrix. She presumably sees her children safely grown up before dying in 1755 without having remarried.

Neither of Cassandra and John’s two sons named John lived to adulthood but Childers, (bap. 1719), went to university, taking Holy orders, then later married Ann Lloyd in Lincoln[14]. Samuel, bap. 1721, married Mary Heron at Balderton in July 1745 where he’s described as ‘mercer’.

In 1752, Samuel is one of the executors of Hannah Millns (nee Twentyman)’s will and his signature can be seen on the relevant bond, along with that of Richard Herring, both men being her nephews. Later he can be found as an apprentice master and voter in the 1790 general election, held on 18, 19 & 21st June. His will was dated 18 Feb 1789 and was proved 12 Oct 1790. The accompanying inventory valued at £550, suggests that he and his family maintained a comfortable life-style, perhaps feeling they had ‘moved up’ in the world having left the life of inn-keeping behind. A brass in the parish church of St Mary Magdalene commemorated Samuel’s death on 12 Sept 1790 [15].

But maybe there is someone out there whose family history researches can one day continue the history of the Saracen’s Head Inn closer to the present?

Researched & written by Jenni Dobson (March 2015)



 [1] Brown, Cornelius, A History of Newark, Vol. 1, repr. 1995, Notts C.C. Leisure Services under Notts Historical Reprints, pp. 160, 165.

[2] Jennings, Stuart, These Uncertaine Tymes, pub. Notts County Council, 2009.

[3]  – choose Blog Archive and scroll through, choosing ‘older posts’ as necessary, to post dated July 26 2013; accessed 3 Mar 2015. Content of site based on 7,500 word account of Jonson’s journey discovered in 2009 by James Loxley (Univ. of Edinburgh, Dept. English Literature) among papers of Aldersey family held at Cheshire Archives.

[4] Abstracts of Marriage Licences, Notts.

[5] Presumably Elizabeth who is named in Edward Twentyman’s will.

[6] Jennings, Stuart, op. cit.

[7] John Twentyman’s account of the civil war period, quoted in Jennings, op.cit.

[8] i.e. during the 3rd siege of the town, witnessed by Henry Trewman, vicar of St Mary Magdalene at the time & Edward Standish. Notts Archives, PRNW Newark deanery mf. 1,660.

[9] Historical Geography Research Series, Late C17th Taxation & population: The Notts Hearth Taxes and Compton Census, Tim Unwin, no. 16, August 1985.

[10] PRNW Newark deanery mf. 1,720, at Notts Archives.

[11] Possibly her cousin, and who subsequently conducts several marriages of her sisters & half sisters before his death in office during 1707; source for further information:, Person ID: 104474

[12] John Millns / Milnes was twice mayor of Newark, died 1 Jan 1739, aged 77, and was commemorated in St Mary Magdalene, listed in Brown, Cornelius, op.cit., p.315.

[13] John Herring was twice mayor of Newark and his death on 24 Jun 1741 was commemorated with a slab in the east end of the south chancel aisle of St Mary Magdalene; listed in Brown, Cornelius, op.cit., p. 316.

[14] Source for further information:, Person ID: 77868

[15] Listed in Brown, Cornelius, op.cit., p.318.