Re­stored ghost sign un­veiled

Black Country Bugle - - NEWS - By CAROL HARTILL

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

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