Little is known of Robert Crane who seems to have been a local artist and engraver.
Braintree which lies in North Essex was used, in the 12th century, as a stopover by Pilgrims on their way to the shrines of St Edmund in Bury and Our Lady of Walsingham in Norfolk. As the size of the town increased many inns such as The Horn Inn and lodging houses were being built for them. In 1190 the Bishop of London obtained a market charter from King John. The market which always took place on Wednesdays was well supplied with corn, eggs, poultry, cattle and live stock. By the 19th century, at the time of this engraving, Braintree had become a thriving agricultural and textile centre, the wealthy Courtauld silk manufacturing family having a strong influence on the town.
The Horn Inn, which is now situated at 68/70 High Street, is an ancient coaching inn which has played a major part in the town’s history. It was in existence by 1730 when soldiers were billeted there, and was described as ‘very clean and civil’in the 1760s. It received further recognition in a romantic novel of 1808. It has also been known as the ‘Bugle Horn’ doubtless from the sign, which eventually became the logo for the Horn Motor Coach Company operating from the premises in the 1920s and 30s. It is quite possible that the courtyard was overlooked by open galleries, since enclosed. However, it is doubtful that it was ever a proper courtyard inn since a thoroughfare has and still exists through the site today. In 1902 a luncheon was held to celebrate the opening of Braintree Market Place. In the last quarter of the 19th century it adopted the title ‘Hotel’ when Wells & Perry owned it and in the 1950s it was a Truman House with a bar on both sides of the archway. In 1998 the building housed an Imperial Cancer Research Fund shop, now, in 2010, it is occupied by Costa Coffee.
All the people in the engraving were identifiable at the time and Edward Bawden (q.v.) did a drawing on the same subject in the 1930’s inspired by this engraving which is well known.
- BAKER, Michael, The Book of Braintree & Bocking, Barracuda Books, 1981 and Baron Books 1992
- CUNNINGTON, Mary & WARNER, Stephen, Braintree & Bocking, 1906
- QUINN, W. F., A History of Braintree & Bocking, Lavenham Press,1981
Information on the Horn Inn provided by Claire Willetts, Collections Manager, Braintree District Museum Service, Braintree, Essex