Shops and Pubs

This article originally appeared in Belbroughton Parish Magazine in June 2012.

In 2012 we consider ourselves fortunate in Belbroughton in having a Post Office, Charlie the Butcher, and McColls general store. This is in sharp contrast to the village in the 1940s and 1950s when there were more than 20 shops catering for every need in the community, from clothing to bicycles. Life in the village at this time was described in Dorothy Cope’s book “Shops and Shopping” (published by Belbroughton History Society 1996).

In the village and close vicinity there are presently six licensed premises: The Talbot, The Queens, The ‘Shoes’, The Bell, The Holly Bush and The Swan. These and many more were described in the 1912 edition of ‘Belbroughton and District Almanac’ which refers to no less than seventeen Pubs and Beerhouses existing at various times over the 19th and 20th centuries. This, along with the above publication, illustrates how much the village has changed over the years – and no doubt will continue to do so!   

Belbroughton Public Houses, Past and Present

The question of public houses and licensing has been much before the public of recent years, and it may be of interest at the present time to recall some of the Belbroughton old public houses, as several of them that have ceased to exist were quite unknown to the present generation.

The Bell Inn at Bell End is one of the oldest public houses in the parish, and was of sufficient importance to be marked on a map published in the year 1577. In an old survey of Belbroughton, made about 1580, the Bell Inn is noted as belonging to Sir John Conway and Roger Wheeler was the landlord.  In the same document only one other inn is mentioned, and that is called the Ale House. It belonged to Thomas Bennett, and was situated in Belbroughton Village.  (This would probably be either the Talbot Inn or the Old Queen’s Head Inn.)  The Bell Inn was again shown on a map published in 1659.  The remarkable epitaph in Belbroughton Churchyard on Mr Phillpots, a former landlord of the Bell Inn, will be known to most of the readers of these lines.

The village of Fairfield in this parish has lost one of its old public houses, the Wagon and Horses Inn.  A Mr Mills was landlord of this inn for a number of years.  For a wayside inn it was in a better position than the present inn, the Swan.  A Daniel Weaver was a noted host of this inn about the middle of the last century.  Within a short distance of the Bell Inn the Half Way beerhouse has been very recently closed.  It was formerly kept by a Mr Hadgkiss, belonging to a well-known old family of that name that has now disappeared from the neighbourhood.

The Holly Bush Inn, adjacent to Hollies Hill, and both evidently deriving their names from the considerable amount of holly growing on the hill, does not call for any special remark.

Coming to Hartle, the Malt Shovel beerhouse, at one time kept by Mr James Farmer, father to the present Mr William Farmer, was closed more than twenty years ago.  In Hartle Lane the house now occupied by Mr Wright was formerly the Cordwainers’ Arms, and kept by a Mr John Taylor, familiarly known as “Batchelor Jack.”  At the entrance to the village, the Talbot Inn and the Horse Shoe Inn were thriving hostelries in the old days.  The Talbot was formerly kept by a Mr Thomas Spilsbury, a family that were more recently butchers in Belbroughton.

The present Workmen’s Club has extensive cellaring which no doubt was largely used in the far distant days, past living memory, when it was a public house with the sign of the Mermaid.  There was likewise a malthouse at the back, where the Club bowling green now is.  In more recent time opposite the Club House was situated the Crown Inn, kept by the late Mr Thomas Bate, and afterwards by a Mr Crump.  In still more recent times, about forty years ago, the old Queen’s Head Inn was pulled down to provide a site for the present Boys’ School.  A few living will remember the portly form of Mr John Stafford, who was a former host of the old Queen until his sudden death on a Whit Monday morning.

The Old Queen’s Head was such a remarkable structure, as can be seen from old photographs, and of such a great age, that it is a pity there is no record of its history.  The present Queen’s Hotel was formerly the New Inn, kept by a Mr John Kingdom until disposed of to a private purchaser.  Mr Kingdom then transferred the name and business to the old Village Workhouse building, which is still kept as the New Inn.  Mr William Farmer, the last host of the Old Queen’s Head, transferred in a like manner the license of that old house to the present Queen’s Hotel.  A few doors below the New Inn, more than fifty years ago, a Mr Henry Jones, who was likewise the village butcher, kept a beer shop.

The present Island House was formerly kept as a public house by Mr Samuel Gollins, who in more recent times will be remembered as a forge carpenter employed at the Belbroughton Scythe Works. Opposite Island House is Brook House, at one time occupied as a public house by a Mr Pearman. This house was built by an old Belbroughton family, the Crane family, now extinct.  This fine house illustrates the preference given in the old days for a low sheltered situation.  A large sum of money was expended in hewing out the rock to provide a site for the building. Had the house been erected on the higher ground it would in these days have doubled its present value.

It has been handed down that the adjoining malthouse, which is a fine specimen of brickwork, was built during a severe frost towards the close of the 18th century, when the bricks had to be drawn warm from the kiln to enable the work to be done.

After this digression these notes may well conclude with the statement that over sixty years ago the corner house at the turn of the road to Brookfield was kept by a Mr James Breakwell as a public house.