Coach­ing inn of old was a stag­ing post

Black Country Bugle - - NEWS - By JOHN WORK­MAN

IT was in the mid-1960s that one of Dud­ley’s finest build­ings, the Dud­ley Arms in the Mar­ket Place, was de­mol­ished to make way for a mod­ern re­tail premises, de­spite it be­ing a listed build­ing.

Stand­ing as it did close to where the Mar­ket Foun­tain is to­day it had served the peo­ple of Dud­ley and vis­i­tors alike since it was built in 1786. In the late 18th cen­tury the Hawkes fam­ily were as­so­ci­ated with a great num­ber of the town’s in­dus­tries, and when Abiather Hawkes and the ma­jor­ity of the lead­ing men of his ilk de­cided the town needed a new ho­tel they formed the first build­ing so­ci­ety in the coun­try to es­tab­lish the Dud­ley Arms Ho­tel.

When HRH The Prince of Wales paid a visit to Dud­ley in 1923 a pro­gramme was pub­lished that men­tioned the Dud­ley Arms Ho­tel as the old­est and prin­ci­pal ho­tel in Dud­ley. It went on: “From time to time it has been mod­ernised and brought up to date in or­der to meet with the many re­quire­ments made upon its hos­pi­tal­ity.”

It also de­scribed the in­te­rior: “The ho­tel con­tains a fine as­sem­bly room, a large din­ing hall, and suites of pri­vate rooms. The as­sem­bly room which over­looks the Mar­ket Place is fit­ted with an old oak floor and is in much re­quest for balls, par­ties, etc., while it will ac­com­mo­date a com­pany of 120 to din­ner, and makes an ex­cel­lent ban­quet­ing hall. The din­ing room ad­join­ing pro­vides seat­ing ac­com­mo­da­tion for 50 guests, and there are all the con­ve­niences and com­forts of an up-to­date and mod­ern fam­ily and com­mer­cial ho­tel with bed­rooms num­ber­ing twenty-two. An en­trance to the ho­tel is made through the por­tico whch leads into a wide and well-ap­pointed en­trance hall. There is an up-to-date lounge and smoke room lounge. Din­ners are served daily from 12.45 to 2.0pm., and late din­ners are pro­vided to or­der.”

The pro­gramme also men­tioned the fact that in the ‘olden’ days the Dud­ley Arms Ho­tel had been an im­por­tant stage­coach stop for those trav­el­ling to Lon­don via Birm­ing­ham, from Stour­port, Kid­der­min­ster, Stour­bridge and Dud­ley ev­ery day. The Royal Mail coach in par­tic­u­lar stopped at the Dud­ley Arms Ho­tel at 4pm ev­ery af­ter­noon and called in on the way back at 9.45am ev­ery morn­ing. What a won­der­ful sight it must have made, the coach and horses pulling up out­side the ho­tel, its driver and com­pan­ions prob­a­bly spat­tered with mud off the pot-hole rid­den roads, the pas­sen­gers stretch­ing their backs be­fore ven­tur­ing into the ho­tel, and the poor old horses set for a rest and a change of team at the nearby sta­bles.

In its his­tory the Dud­ley Arms was also an im­por­tant meet­ing place for all kinds of peo­ple. In 1834 Dud­ley’s sec­ond mem­ber of par­lia­ment was Thomas Hawkes and he would reg­u­larly hold gath­er­ings of his sup­port­ers in one of the smoke lounges. The ho­tel has also been at the cen­tre of dis­tur­bances dur­ing 19th cen­tury elec­tions. In 1874 the mil­i­tary had to be called dur­ing polling with the mili­tia fir­ing shots into the air and the Riot Act be­ing read from the steps of the build­ing.

The gran­deur of such a build­ing is per­fectly de­scribed af­ter a ban­quet was held on June 8, 1908, to cel­e­brate the suc­cess of the Dud­ley fete, but os­ten­si­bly to cel­e­brate the Earl of Dud­ley’s ap­point­ment as Gov­er­nor-general of Aus­tralia. All the Black Coun­try may­ors at­tended.

Dud­ley Arms Ho­tel in Dud­ley

Thomas Hawkes and his sup­port­ers in one of the ho­tel’s smoke lounges.

The Royal Mail stage­coach

Dud­ley Mar­ket Place show­ing the Dud­ley Arms Ho­tel on the right­hand side

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