Generally speaking, the further back in time you go, the harder it becomes to draw reliable conclusions about a building’s history. In our book we presented only documented facts, but here we’re making some assumptions about the building's early history which, while not without supporting evidence, remain unverified.
The land now occupied by the Fountain Inn once formed part of a large royal enclosure called Whitemead Park. In 1651 reference is made to one farmhouse and eight cottages on the park, but the cottages were deemed to be illegal encroachments and reportedly not in use by the early-1700s. Their location is now unknown.
The earliest documented evidence for our own building’s existence dates back to c1767, but our sub-basement is certainly older than this (discussed later). As no other dwellings are known to have existed in the locality, between the time of the eight cottages and the earliest confirmed date for our own building, we have concluded that our sub-basement is the remains of one of the mid-1600s dwellings built on Whitemead Park.
In his book, The Story Of Parkend, Ralph Anstis mentions a 1616 reference to ‘the ironworks at Parke End’. This is the earliest known reference to the village's name. Other early references also exist, including this 1661 burial record (where Parkend’s spelt as one word too). It relates to the burial of Margaret, the daughter of Robert Morgan, from Parkend.
We’ve also been given a copy of this 1725 church record, written in Latin. Sadly the corner is missing, but it relates to a child of Guil and Anna Budden, of ‘Park-End’.
While we’re unable to prove that part of our property was occupied before 1767, we like to think these may be people who lived in our house.
There’s also the wider question of whether or not these can be considered legitimate references with which to date the village itself. Clearly both do refer to a specific place called ‘Parkend’, but if it was only occupied by a single dwelling, is it reasonable to take them as the earliest dates for Parkend village’s existence?
Our building features (in embryonic form) on a 1776 map of Whitemead Park. It is specifically referred to in the schedule as being part of the park, and described as a ‘cottage, garden and mead’.
We also have an unbroken chain of deeds, demonstrating that the building has been in private ownership since at least 1785. This raises a dilemma as, theoretically, encroachment plots could not have been purchased from the Crown before an Act of Parliament, passed in 1838, allowed this to happen. We’ve tried to investigate how the property could have passed into private hands by 1785, but have not been able to do so.
In 1787 the building also features in the Driver Brothers’ survey and is described as being 20 years old. We have therefore taken c1767 to be the earliest demonstrable date of construction.