David Evans, reader, writer and commentaire extraordinary, recently sent me this rather excellent musing on the long lost beer houses of Walsall Wood. It shows how studying census records, and analysing not just what they say, but how they were written, can give huge clues to local history.
If anyone has the link or can point me at Peter Cutler’s original list referenced by David here, please comment it and I’ll add it in. It’s late, and google is no help tonight…
Cheers to David for all his hard work. Always, always appreciated.
Anyway, over to David:
Fellow blog contributor par excellence, Peter ‘Pedro’ Cutler, kindly give details of these Beer Houses in Walsall Wood, in the White’s 1834 directory… Board Beer House, Black Lion Beer House, King William Beer House. But where exactly were they? They have all been demolished and lost in the mists of time, but they played an important part in the history of the pre-Coppice Pit era. Time to trawl through the census of 1841, which, in itself is quite a challenge. This was the first national census of modern times and was hand written in ledgers from notes taken by the enumerator as he walked along the roads. So we have details of the residents and their homes, and the occupation ‘Publicn’ is shown… but not on which side of the road they lived! Fortunately for this part of Walsall Wood we have some reference points.
Starting from the Shelfield part of the Main Road A461 and heading in the direction of Lichfield… This was the Turnpike Road. In Walsall Wood the first listed house is that of John Cooper, a farmer with his family and workers (was this the Horse and Jockey pub?). The next listed house is that of John Rock, publican. This, from the White directory, was the Boot Inn, which stood on the corner with Boatman’s Lane , opposite Baron’s Court Hotel. Unlike the White’s directory which names the Horse and Jockey Inn, there is no mention of that building at all. Yet in 1851 the census shows a farm whose owner is a farmer and publican. Perhaps the first casualty of the 1830 Beer Act which enabled homes to brew and sell their own beer, was the loss of the Horse and Jockey as an inn, at least for a while.
The census lists the Yew Tree Cottage in Walsall Wood High Street, by the former Why Not fishbar, near the Wesley Chapel. In today’s terms, more or less half way along the High Street and opposite the Medical Centre. The 23rd building listed is the parsonage, (so we have crossed the road) and the 24th building has a Thomas Stokes, publican and 13 other people there (the Red Lion, mentioned in White’s directory). The 29th building has a John Wigley, bricklayer living there. This is the only John Wigley in Walsall Wood at that time and was the Black Lion Beer House mentioned in White’s directory. The 32nd dwelling, where a Richard Jackson, marketer, lived was the King William Beer House (same side of the road as the church. There were a few Jackson families in the High Street then). However, the Board Beer House, run by John Latham, has gone out of business. Well, at least there is no John Latham anywhere in the village in 1841.
The Turnpike Road, from the Shelfield end of the village, up to Streets Corner, had 44 dwellings, and near to Streets Corner there was a James (illegible), publican, too. I think this was the Royal Exchange pub, which in later years also had a large workers’ hostel.
The Horse and Jockey pub is somewhat of a mystery. It was out of business as an inn in 1841, and the publican, a Sarah Stokes, is shown in the census as living with her husband Benjamin, a victualler and plater, in Walsall. On the other hand, she might be the Sarah Stokes shown as living with her farmer husband John, in Rushall.
This raises the possibility that the Horse and Jockey Inn, listed in White’s directory in 1834, was also a farm. Certainly the Highfields farmhouse of a few years ago looked to be much more modern than the 1834. The Horse and Jockey Pub original building is shown in Oakparkrunners blog article, ‘Walsall Wood Past and Present’.
There is no mention, in the 1841 census, of any other publican in Walsall Wood. The Traveller’s Rest, Coach and Horses, Beehive, Wheel and the Hawthorn Tree pubs were not yet built, and the Royal Oak Beer House in Bullings Heath had yet to come into existence.
I would like to thank Pedro for his investigations in this topic, without which this article would not have been possible, and this part of local history may not have been revealed and explored.