Black Country Bugle
History lesson in old pub names
STEVE JAMES looks at some interesting old watering holes in West Bromwich
FROM the late Middle Ages, pubs (or ale-houses, taverns and inns) needed to identify themselves in some way at a time when most people were illiterate. So simple signs evolved, ranging from a crooked piece of wood, holly bush, tradesman’s sign or a type of heraldic sign borrowed from religion or aristocratic coats of arms. There are probably upwards of 17,000 different signs for pubs, the most popular being the Red Lion, Crown and Royal Oak.
West Bromwich was no different, with 13 pubs called the Crown or Crown and Anchor, Crown and Cushion, Rose and Crown or Three Crowns, six pubs called the Red Lion and five pubs named the Royal Oak. But there were also eight pubs called the Royal Exchange, referring to the trade and exchanges that would take place in pubs. Seven pubs were called the White Swan, six pubs were named after Britannia, with five referring to Albion, and six pubs were called the Roebuck.
There were half-a-dozen pubs with the generic name of Kings Head or Kings Arms. Edward VII was remembered at a pub in Old Meeting Street (1871-2006), while King William was recalled in Swan Village (1849-1930). Six pubs recall King George, including the George in Carter’s Green (1861-1914), Phoenix Street (18712012) and Spon Lane (1880-1912). His saintly relation was recalled at the George and Dragon in Barton Street (1881-1920), originally known as the
The Star and Garter in High Street (1841) recalls the Order of the Garter, first instituted by Edward III in 1348. The Black Boy in Lyndon Street (1818-1932) usually referred to Charles II, known for his jet-black hair and swarthy skin. The Rising Sun in Barton Street (1879-2012) referred to a common heraldic symbol related to Edward IV and Richard III. At Greets Green, the Union Cross homebrew pub (1834-1984) probably refers to the Act of Union in 1707 between England and Scotland. The Royal Oak usually refers to the Boscobel Oak near Shifnal, where Charles II hid to escape from the Roundhead soldiers after the Battle of Worcester in 1651.
Apart from four pubs named the Queens Head, the Victoria in Lyng Lane (1845) recalls the long-reigning monarch. Her consort, Prince Albert, is recalled at pubs in Moor Street (1871-2012) and Sams Lane (1857), while her son, the Prince of Wales, is recalled at pubs in High Street (1868), John Street (1861) and Paradise Street (1879-1912). One of the royal residences, Windsor Castle, was recalled at a pub in Sams Lane (1853-2001).
In Church Lane, the Duke of Wellington (1871-1910) recalled the national hero who defeated Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815. He later became Prime Minister and introduced the Beerhouse Act in 1830. He’s also remembered at the Wellington in Great Bridge Street (18681983) and Newhall Street (1871-1957). The Duke of York in High Street (1870-1878) recalled probably the best remembered holder of that title who commanded the English army in Flanders in 1794-1827. However, the popular song misrepresents the facts, since the Duke was only 31 years old, had 30,000 men, and there were no hills in the area where he was fighting!
Other military figures included the Nelson in New Street (1861-2008), recalling the famous admiral who fought at the Battle of Trafalgar on HMS Victory in 1805. The battles in the Crusades were recalled at the Saracen’s Head in Greets Green (18491870). The Inkerman Cottage at Carter’s Green (1864-1958) recalled the location in Ukraine of important battles during the Crimean War in 1854. The Dunkirk Inn at Greets Green (1860-1977), home to Darby’s Brewery, probably recalled the time when Cromwell captured the French port of Dunkirk from the Spanish in 1658, rather than the events during the Second World War. In Wood Lane, the Oliver Cromwell (1881-2007) recalled the leader during the English Civil War of 1642-1651.
References to the landed gentry included the Dartmouth Arms at Dartmouth Square (1841-1977), one of the town’s leading hotels. It recalls the local Legge family, who became the Earls of Dartmouth and played an
The Dunkirk Inn probably recalled the time Cromwell captured the port in 1658 and not the events of the Second World War
active part in the life of West Bromwich, endowing schools and engaging in other philanthropic activities. The 4th Earl of Dartmouth was the last to live in Sandwell Hall (demolished in 1928, although the gatehouse survives), before the family moved to Patshull Hall, near Wolverhampton. The Lewisham Arms in Hill Top (1881-1920) and High Street (1858-2001), home to Arthur Price’s Lewisham Brewery, recalls Viscount Lewisham, the alternative title used by this family.
Famous local people are remembered at the Asbury Tavern at Grove Vale (1929), recalling Francis Asbury, who lived at Great Barr (in the house now known as Bishop Asbury Cottage). He took to religion and toured the USA on horseback spreading his evangelical message of the Methodists and became a bishop in 1784. The Gough Arms at Hateley Heath (1849) recalls another local landowner, while William “Tipton Slasher” Perry kept the Champion of England pub (1852-1857) in Spon Lane.
Religious references include the Samson and Lion, at pubs in Cooper Street (1864-1915) and Hill Top (18721994), referring to the exploits of this popular biblical figure. Jenny Lind was a popular singer in the 1880s, known as the “Swedish Nightingale”, recalled at a pub in Hateley Heath (1871-1903).
In High Street, the Mazeppa (18681910) recalled a poem by Lord Byron in 1819 about Polish nobleman, Ivan Stepanovitch Mazeppa, who was discovered in embarrassing circumstances with the wife of a local magnate.
Rail and canal transport was important to the development of West Bromwich during the Industrial Revolution. Several pubs called the Boat are located close to canals, including those in Spon Lane (1870), Golds Hill (1871-1937) and Greets Green Road (1870-1963). At Ryders Green, the
Eight Locks (1845) refers to a nearby flight of locks on the Walsall Canal, while the Navigation at Golds Green (1869-1911) and Tame Bridge (18691998) were also close to local canals. In Spon Lane, the Steam Packet (1871-1966) recalled the canal boats which plied between Birmingham and Wolverhampton. Boats also have an Anchor, recalled at pubs in High Street (1840-2007) and Spon Lane (18711965).
Railways are recalled at pubs named the Railway in Harwood Street (1874), St Michael’s Street (1878-1933) and Hill Top (1871-1922). The Great Western Railway was recalled at the Great Western in Chapel Street (1872-1960) and Great Western Hotel in High Street (1858-2006). The London and North Western Railway was recalled at the North Western in Spon Lane (1868-1895). Also in Spon Lane, the Stour Valley (1868-1972), known locally as “Cree’s” after the long-serving family of licensees, referred to the railway line between Birmingham and Wolverhampton.
Older forms of transport are recalled at the Coach and Horses in Hateley Heath (1959), Lyng Lane (1861-1958) and Greets Green (18451919), along with more basic travel at the Waggon and Horses in High Street (1830-2003) and Spon Lane (1868-1927). On Birmingham Road, the Three Mile Oak was a historic coaching inn dating back to 1800, next to the turnpike toll house and close to West Bromwich Albion’s football ground. It was rebuilt in 1900, but demolished in 1990.
West Bromwich had many pubs named after a fascinating range of famous people and places. Few survive today, but those that remain retain many memories.