Restored ghost sign unveiled
THE ghost sign on the right for Darby’s Ales was part of Lombard Street West for over 80 years, and, when that part of Lombard Street West was demolished last year, the Friends of Dartmouth Park saved the sign just before it disappeared with the other bricks from the demolished wall.
The contractors very kindly stacked the bricks separately, but not in any particular order or numbered. The Friends became the proud owners of 90 house bricks and successfully applied for Heritage Lottery funding. We were able to find a very skilled builder, Russell Bowen, who built a frame for the bricks and then, with the help of Mark Barrett, our historian, and great patience, fitted the sign back together. Following a painstaking sympathetic restoration the sign was ready to be unveiled in its new location on the perimeter wall of Dartmouth Park, close to the main entrance to the park, together with a interpretation board explaining its significance.
Charles Darby CBE, agreed to unveil the sign for the Friends of Dartmouth Park on Friday, October 26. He is the great-grandson of George Darby who started brewing at the Bush Inn in Wood Lane, West Bromwich, in the late 1880s, and the grandson of Charles Darby, who in 1902 built the Dunkirk Brewery in Greets Green, West Bromwich.
Charles’s sons, George and Charles, joined the family business, and Darby’s became the most successful brewers in West Bromwich, purchasing Dartmouth Park Brewery and many other West Bromwich brewers. They had 100 pubs in their estate and the majority were managed.
Unfortunately, due to having to pay death duties when their father died, George and Charles decided to sell the brewery and pubs to Mitchells and Butlers, who closed Darby’s Brewery in 1952. George and Charles were invited to join M&B.
Darby’s Pale Ale (DPA) was a very popular brand in the Black Country, and M&B continued brewing it, but unfortunately it didn’t taste the same and was discontinued.
Charles’s son, another Charles, who unveiled the sign for us, attended Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh and qualified as a brewer. He joined M&B and eventually became chairman and chief executive of Bass M&B.
At the luncheon, following the unveiling, the Mayor of Sandwell, Councillor Joy Edis, gave a speech about the history of Darby’s and Charles Darby responded, telling us about his grandfather, who was a self-made man with very progressive ideas, for the time, on pub management. He then engaged in conversation with people whose parents or grand-parents had worked for Darby’s.
Margaret Evans’s parents ran the Steam Packet in Spon Lane for many years, and she was delighted to present Charles with a photograph of his grandfather. John Imm, who had been a sign writer for Darby’s, brought along several items relating to his work for them to show him. Local artist, Chris Holloway, presented an oil painting of Darby’s Brewery.
Charles Darby CBE unveils the sign
The ghost sign’s original location in Lombard Street West, West Bromwich
The partly restored sign
From left Carol Hartill, Friends of Dartmouth Park, Charles Darby, Mayor of Sandwell Cllr Joy Edis, and Michael Darby