There was already a brewery next to Waveney House at the beginning of the 18th century. We learn this from a deed which shows that problems of debt in the 18th century were not very difficult to those of today. John Stockwood, brewer, who owned Waveney House, had lent Jonathan Jordan of the White Hart Inn (where Clatworthy’s was – No 2 Hungate) £70 to settle a debt on condition that Jordan would buy all his beer from him.
But all was not well. John Stockwood had given Jonathan “beer indifferent and bad” and his trade fell off, so he decided that in future he would buy John Crisp’s beer. He paid off his debt to Stockwood by making a lease of some pubs and other buildings to John Crisp. These had belonged to his wife Margaret. This was her third marriage, and the pubs were inherited from her first husband. However on marriage all property came into the possession of the husband – married women could not own property. Here the hapless wife saw her seven or eight properties, including the Black Boy in Blyburgate being lost through debt and mismanagement.
John Stockwood died at the age of 42. The average expectation of life was 37, so he did not die young. It is surprising to learn that in the beginning of the 18th century more than half the population in the country was under 21 years of age.
Margaret Stockwood, when widowed, married Robert Le Grys, a surgeon and they continued living in Beccles, in Waveney House. As a surgeon he was called upon to publicise, with other doctors, the appearance, spread and disappearance of smallpox in the town. In 1728 and again ten years later he is listed in Norwich papers saying that Beccles was free of smallpox, but in 1756 he stated that 13 houses had smallpox within them, and seven years later there was another outbreak of smallpox and 6 houses were affected.
He was a Member of the Corporation of Beccles Fen, and Portreeve also a member of Feoffees and the Collector for one year, besides being a Magistrate. He was a Captain in Militia. By his two marriages he succeeded to a considerable amount of property and also bought more himself, besides eight properties in Beccles he also owned estates at Worlingham, North Cove, Ellough, Oulton Broad, Bungay, Homersfield, Alburgh and Denton.
Six months after Le Gry’s death his widow married the widower next door, who lived in St Peter’s House, William Crowfoot, who was a tanner and the organist of St Michael’s. They also carried on living in Waveney House, selling St Peter’s House to another doctor, William Chambers. At this stage William Crowfoot appears to have changed his trade from tanner to brewer, because there was a brewery in the garden.