Today, I received my very own copy of the excellent work, ‘Brownhills: A Walk Into History with Gerald Reece’. Up to know, I’ve been managing with photocopies and scans of critical parts of the work, and fortunately, a book search service has managed to bag me a copy in good condition. It really is an excellent work and I intent to create one or two articles based on it in future.
Scanning through quickly, I noted the following image, which is notable for being just about the only decent picture of The Sportsman Pub-cum-Club I’m aware of, and secondly, because it features a building I’d forgotten the existence of: Plumbers Paradise. I just have walked past the former coffee house hundreds of times as a child, but never took much notice. It was only when mentioned in the comments to my previous article that I even became conscious of it. Both are gone now, replaced by the Smithy’s Forge pub. I guess the former plumber’s merchants was demolished when the junction was improved.
Gerald has this to say about both buildings. This is gold, and interleaves with my previous article wonderfully:
At the top of the Railway Station Approach stood Brownhills Coffee House. Opened in 1854 it became the cultural centre of the district. It housed a Lending Library and a Reading Room. In 1913 the building became the home of the frrst Working Men’s Club in Brownhills. The ‘Top’ Club as it became known remained there until October 1958 when a modem club was opened next to it. The old club had become too small for the increasing membership. The building took on many guises after the club moved out. These included a refrigerator service centre for R.A. Bennett Ltd. Rabtherm, a Bathroom and Kitchen Fittings Emporium called Plumbers Paradise. The last use for the Brownhills Coffee House was as a Scrap Metal Store. By then it was in a very dilapidated condition. It was demolished in 1987.
Work on the new Working Men’s Club began in February 1956 and work should have been completed and the building opened by Easter 1956. Due to financial problems it was not completed until October 1958. It opened without ceremony. After only a few years in existence the club again ran into financial difficulties and was forced to close. After a complete refurbishment the building was reopened as a public house, The Huntsman. This was later changed to The Sportsman. The Sportsman was demolished in March 1996.