Beggars Bush: A Perambulation through the Disciplines of History, Geography, Archaeology, Literature, Philology, Natural History, Botany, Biography & Beggary

Sticky: Dublin, Donnybrook Beggars boush 1573

Current location and earliest record

The name is now used for the area around the redundant Beggars Bush barracks, in use from 1827 for training and as the final station before embarkation for troops going to the Crimea, Flanders and the Empire. In 1929 the barracks area was taken over for housing and the headquarters of the Geological Survey of Ireland, the National Print Museum and Labour Court. There is also modern pub called Ryan’s Beggars Bush.

The earliest record of the name in Dublin is 1573 “at the wood called Beggars boush by Bagotrath” in Fiant 2341 in the Calendar of Fiants of reign of Henry VIII 1510-47 through to Queen Elizabeth 1558-1603. The Irish form Tor an Bhacaigh would have followed the English/Anglicised form Beggars Bush.
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Desford, Leicestershire Beggars Bush Piece 1675

Referred to in several documents dated 1675-1702 as Beggars Bush piece, 3 acres, together with Cooper Close, and in the last document as being in Netherfield.

Sources

Nottinghamshire RO, Staunton Archives, Ref DD/S, Muxlowe Family – ref. DD/S/22

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Warminster, Wiltshire Beggars Bush 1581

EPNS Wiltshire gives this name from papers of Corpus Christi College, Oxford. It also says these included Coldharbour, as Coleharborow, aka Gooseland 1609, which is recorded as La Goslonde as early as 1292,. The name does not appear on any later maps or records. The editors of EPNS describe it as a term of contempt.

The archivist at Corpus Christi College has been unable to trace any relevant papers. The phrase Beggars Bush was certainly known at Corpus Christi by 1609 as it is used in a letter dated 22nd October 1609 from Brian Twyne, a student there.
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James River, Virginia, USA Beggars Bush 1620

This is one of three frontier sites where English settlers arrived in a non English speaking country. Before Virginia English settlers arrived in Philipstown, County Offally, Ireland, and after it, Albany, Cape Province, South Africa. They have many features in common; they were on the very edge of the British Empire, they were remote. the settlers were poorly prepared, may not have been told the whole truth before they emigrated and the natives were not friendly.
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Totternhoe, Bedfordshire Beggers Busshe 1548

The Will of Cristopher Hensman of Toternehoo made 30 Nov. 1548 and proved 13 June 1549 left to his wife his house and copyholding for the term of her life, with reversion to a William Hensman son of John Hensman. He then gives “To George George and to William George 2 ewes and 2 puxes and three acres of tilth above Beggers Busshe, also a head acre beneath Ychling [Icknield?] Way to be sown at her cost, and to remain in the executors’ hands and not to be delivered nor divided until they come to lawful age or are married”. The remaining bequests are a cow and small amounts of grain to be delivered by his wife, “at Michaelmas next coming, if it can be spared, otherwise at Michaelmas twelvemonth”.
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Rye, East Sussex Beggars Bush 1578

Holinshed’s Chronicles were first published in 1578, with a second edition in 1587. It remains a substantial sourcebook for the history and geography of Britain in the late sixteenth century. In Book 6, section 15, the contributor William Harrison lists the principle fairs and markets by date. He says, “On Bartholomew day, at London, at Beggers bush beside Rie, at Teukesburie, at Sudburie, at Rie, at Nantwich, at Pagets, at Bromleie, at Norwich, at Northalerton, at Douer.”

“Rie” must be Rye in East Sussex, but the reference is not without difficulties. It seems unlikely that there would have been a fair “beside” Rye and “at” Rye on the same day.
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Philipstown, County Offaly, Ireland Beggars Bush 1597

This is a “frontier” site in an English plantation or colonial setting. It is not the earliest site in Ireland, which is Dublin, Donnybrook. The setting and background is very similar to the later frontier Beggars Bush sites at Charles River, Virginia and Albany, Cape Province. It must be a name given by the English where settlers faced danger from the original inhabitants and may have felt that the situation they found themselves in what far from what they had been lead to expect. As such the use of the name is entirely consistent with the contemporary literary usage, of being brought to ruin, perhaps by one’s own folly.
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Oscott, Sutton Coldfield, Warwickshire Beggars Bush 1821

The Beggars Bush Inn stands at a crossroads on a main road and there is still a bush. However, neither are the originals, and the name has been applied to several other places, pubs & bushes in the area. It is probably impossible now to fix the original location. It also has a naming story, which cannot be verified. If nothing else the history shows the popularity of the name, and how it can become attached to local features.
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Mollington, Oxfordshire Beggars Bush 1617

Warwickshire Record Office Papers from the Holbech family of Farnborough has a Mortgage of property in Mollington (CR0457/59/4) dated 10 October 1617 including “a messuage and property known as Beggars Bush in Mollington”.

The same property is also referred to in other documents the last of which is 1 May 1743 (CR0457/55/7).
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Godmanchester Huntingdonshire Begersbusshe 1576

This is the best known Beggars Bush site, though for the wrong reason, and through unusual  sources. The site was on Ermine Street, which was the main northern road west of the fens. John Walker’s The Universal Gazetteer (London 1798) lists two Beggars Bushes, including this one and another in Middlesex at Enfield.

It is now the site of the Wood Green Animal Refuge, at King’s Bush Farm.

It is on a summit standing at 138ft above sea level in an area where the average height of the surrounding country is closer to 50ft. From London it is the last of a series of rises, and in both directions the trees on the summit stand out against the skyline. It would be widely visible, not only from the Great North Road, (A1198) but from the roads to Stevenage & London (A1) and the road to Cambridge (A14). It would be passed by travellers from London to the north of England.
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