A nose for history

Dave Bishop – long time reader and top bloke in these parts, has turned up a wonderful bit of local history. Attentive readers may recall that a while back, I contemplated the fact that the Shire Oak Pub and once had a brewery associated with it called Thomas Boulter and Sons, and it brewed Shire Oak Ales. I’m not sure when the company disappeared, but Dave seems to have found a promotional snuffbox. I think these were made somewhere in the wider midlands area – possibly Birmingham, as I seem to recall seeing one of these boxes before, but embossed with a different legend. I suspect they may have been produced blank and stamped to order. If you know anything about this trinket, please do share it with the readers.

It’s certainly a fascinating thing, and I wonder how many other such local promotional gizmos are laying undiscovered in drawers around the town? Thanks to Dave for his contribution, and to everybody else, get hunting…

Hi Bob
I’ve not posted for a while – I couldn’t remember what your email address was (it could do with adding to your homepage) but I have a bit of Shire Oak history.
From a box of stuff from my mum (who sadly passed away in 1994 at the tender age of 64), I have a metal box which I believe to be a snuff box. The stamped name on the front is that of the Shire Oak and I assume it was a gift or promotional product for customers. It is approximately 3″ diameter and 1″ tall, made out of brass. Does anyone have any ideas about how this item came to be?
Dave Bishop

Shire Oak gold medal Ales - Trade Mark - Shire Oak Brewery, Nr. Walsall. Photo kindly supplied by Dave Bishop.

Photo kindly supplied by Dave Bishop.

Photo kindly supplied by Dave Bishop.

Shire Oak gold medal Ales - Trade Mark - Shire Oak Brewery, Nr. Walsall. Photo kindly supplied by Dave Bishop.

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14 Responses to A nose for history

  1. Roger Jones says:

    Just looked on eBay and there are a number of auctions closing today covering a collection of similar objects whose description includes the words “coal miners snuff box”. Some are plain and others embossed with the colliery stamp. As you mention they were probably turned out blank and then embossed later. No doubt many were lost, damaged or discarded down the mines and if the local pub had a ready supply, they could easily be replaced. As smoking was a no-no down below, snuff or twist were the substitutes.

    • Thanks, Roger, as helpful and diligent as ever. I love your stuff. I had a feeling I’d seen these before, and I’d never made the connection between snuff, twist and not smoking before. Brilliant.



  2. Paul Ford says:

    Hi Bob

    A brief note on quick findings for the Shire Oak Brewery

    It seems that the brewery buildings are not on the 1884 1st Ed OS Map (57.12), but are on the 1902 edition, giving a period of 18 years for their construction.

    In the 1892 Kelly’s Directory, Mrs Ann Boulter is described as Shire Oak PH & Farmer.
    In the 1896 and 1900 Kelly’s Directories George Harold Boulter is of Shire Oak PH and T Boulter & Son Brewers. This would seem to indicate that the brewery was constructed, or extended from a post 1884 smaller brew-house between 1892 and 1896 (consistent with the map evidence).

    The partnership seems to be dissolved in 1900 and by 1901, as Roger says, Joseph Southall and family are living at the Shire Oak Inn on the 1901 census. George H Boulter is living at The Limes, Aldridge and is described as a brewer. Thomas and Ann Boulter are living in Hartlebury – he is a farmer and brewer.

    In 1904, Southall is still at the Shire Oak Hotel. T Boulter & Sons are still brewing and are also described as factors. By 1908, GH Boulter is back at the Shire Oak Hotel and T Boulter & Son are still brewing.

    GH Boulter is last described as of the Hotel in the 1924 Kellys, an Emily Durrant is proprietor in 1928, but the brewery is still operating in 1928. It seems likely, as the Fox Inn website suggests, that the Brewery closed in 1930, after GH Boulter relocated.

    The buildings had gone by the 1960s, as the OS Map shows, but when exactly they went, I can’t say as yet.

  3. Hey Paul

    Again, sterling stuff that’s hugely appreciated. You’re always welcome here. If there’s anything we can do for you, please don’t hesitate to ask. This blog would be bugger all without you and the guys at Walsall Local History Centre, and of course, the wider library service in the borough.



  4. Mark Boulter says:

    Hi Bob!

    I stumbled upon your blog with great interest. This was posted in 2011, just wondering if you have any additional info/news to share about the ‘Boulter’ history of Shire Oak Ales in the last year or so. Or if you have someone I could contact to discuss.

    Anything you can share would be extremely appreciated. As Boulter in Canada, I would love to learn as much as I can about these gentlemen and their role within Shire Oak.


    – Mark

  5. Pedro says:

    March 1911…Boulter’s Ales…awarded Gold medal and Grand Prize Paris & Brussels 1910, and two prizes at London 1909-1910

    May 1911…Alleged embezzlement…Joseph Arrowsmith from George Harold Boulter, Shire Oak Brewery, Brownhills….

    May 1912…The Old Swan to let, Stonnall,…for particulars T Boulter and Son..

    June 1913…George Harold Boulter was sued by Messrs Barnes and Son for professional services rendered…

    Jan 1914…Grains…we have a few left not contracted for the season…T Boulter and Son, Shire oak Brewery

    Feb 1914…R Ferneyhough, Red, WEhite and Blue Inn, Muckley Corner sue GH Boulter for hire of a horse…

    April 1917…Horse Sale..From Messrs Boulton and Son, Shire Oak Brewery, who are acquiring Vehicles for Motor haulage trade: bay Gelding, 16 hands, excellent worker, two Capital Brewer’s Floats, two lorries, carts, tackle, and harness all suitable for farmers.

    Many more I will look for any significant…

  6. Clive says:

    Hello Mark. regarding the Shire Oak pub and the brewery next to it. I have written a book on Shire Oak, should be printed and for sale soon. just sorting the costs out for the printing of the book.
    The book covers the history of the pub and brewery, also the Shire Oak tree and lots more.

    • fred butler says:

      Noting that you are writing a book on the Shire Oak area, my wife and I were returning from Brum last week and we were comming up to the traffic lights and we recalled the roadhouse type cafe that was about 200 yards from the lights , on the left hand side as you approach, can you recall what it was called?

      Fred Butler

  7. David Evans says:

    Hi Bob
    I look forward to Clive’s book with eager anticipation…..are advance orders being taken?
    Well done, Clive

  8. Clive says:

    Hello David, i will put you on the list mate.

  9. Clive says:

    Hello Fred. To be honest i have no idea what cafe was called, maybe some one out there knows.
    I always called it the Transport Cafe and the one further on the 24 hour Transport Cafe.
    Sorry can`t help you there.

  10. Christopher Pingram says:

    I have one of these tins pictured above,I thought snuff tin to start with but snuff tins are usually a snug fit where as mine wouldn’t hold snuff in it very well, mine is made of steel but has the same gold lining inside, I am 62 years old and can remember this tin was around when I was a kid so its pretty old.
    I would love to find out a bit of history as to why the tin was made and where the brewery was.

  11. Clive says:

    Hi Christopher. The Brewery was at the top of Shire Oak Hill, located behind the Shire Oak Pub, on what is now the carpark.
    Cheers Clive

    • Christopher Pingram says:

      Thanks Clive, I was wondering what the tin was all about, it looks like it was made for a special occasion, if I find out anything about it I will let you know.

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