John Ely, the
innkeeper, was killed falling off his horse in Halstead High Street,
leaving his widow to bring up their 10 children, including Joseph
Bird Ely (thought to have been christened after the pub). In 1860, at
the age of 16, Joseph Bird Ely left Halstead with a friend to seek
his future in London.
After walking a few days they parted at Islington, and Joseph Bird Ely continued where, after a few years working for a drapery shop in Camberwell, he saw that it was becoming fashionable for the ladies of London to take day trips on the train to do their shopping, so he moved to Wimbledon where in 1876 he opened a small shop near the station selling hats. This grew over the years and in 1910 Joseph Bird Ely died a confirmed teetotaller, when my father was 10. The shop is still there, although not run by an Ely.
A great-uncle of mine took an interest in tracing the family tree, and about 45 years ago visited the Bird in Hand in Halstead, where, over a pint, he did a deal with the landlord. In exchange for the old square piano sitting in the corner of the bar he arranged for the bar to have a new carpet. The old piano now resides in my lounge!
Provided by Simon Ely