Following her comments here, reader and local history enthusiast Ann Cross recently accepted my invitation to write about her family history at the Royal Exchange pub in Walsall Wood. When I suggested that she might like to write up her work, I could tell that Ann had a great story to tell, and would tell it very well indeed. I wasn’t disappointed, and the first instalment was incredibly popular with readers of the blog.
I now have great pleasure in presenting the second part of Ann’s story, which, just like the first, is a real gem. I thank Ann for her wonderful work, and will hereby declare that if she would like to write any further material, I’d be most privileged to publish it here.
The best thing about curating this odd little site is the range of great writers who’ve contributed to it; David Evans, Peter Cutler, Andy Dennis, Ann Cross and others make curating this blog a constant pleasure. Long may it continue.
The 1901 census shows William Cross at the Royal Exchange as publican assisted by two cousins, Jennie Jackson housekeeper and Florrie Jackson barmaid, and Alice Painter, already mentioned by staffordshirebred.
In the 1911 census he is calling himself a licensed victualler, assisted by Florrie Jackson and a second cousin, Florrie Griffiths. Alice Painter is not listed, she must have moved on by then.
On May 13th 1915 when he was 37 years old Grandfather Cross married Mary Emily Williams at St Pauls Church in Walsall. She was almost 25. At the time she was a live-in barmaid at the Freemasons Arms in Park Street Walsall. The 1911 census shows Thomas Watson as the licensed victualler, his wife Elizabeth, two sons and two workers, Lizzie Kensington a domestic and Emily Williams a barmaid.
My photo shows Mary Emily on the right outside the Freemasons Arms. I still have the silver and leather belt she is wearing. It used to fit me… I don’t know who the lady on the left is, maybe Elizabeth or Lizzie?
The following year my father was born on 10 th June 1916. He was their only child, the third William Cross, known as Bill. He attended the local school and was a choir boy at St Johns church.
My father left school in 1930 when he became 14 (school leaving age didn’t change to 15 until 1947) and went straight to work at G C Dean the Tailor at 32 Digbeth Walsall. In December 1931 he went to work for Montague Burton Ltd at the Bridge Walsall where he was paid 10 shillings per week, rising to 15 shillings after a three month period. In the mid thirties he was promoted to Manager of the branch in Christchurch Hampshire (now Dorset) and that is where he met my mother.
In 1935 Ind Coope and Allsopp merged, having acquired Lichfield Brewery earlier, and in 1936 became the new owners of the Royal Exchange. My grandfather of course was still the tenant and license holder.
Sadly Mary Emily died on 26 th March 1939 age 48 and so was not present at the marriage of her son to Gladys Violet Scott in Christchurch Priory on 24 th February 1940.
The war years intervened and my father was not back in Walsall Wood permanently until 1946 although my mother was, having moved there when she became pregnant with me. Previously she had been in Paisley where my father was stationed before he was moved to Gosport in readiness for D Day.
My brothers were born in 1947 and 1951.
This picture of the Royal Exchange is how we knew it. The floor plan shows the ground floor layout at that time. Many thanks to my brother for drawing this.
Times were hard in the years after the war, and my father took a part time job with his old company Montague Burton in the Lichfield branch.
They tried lots of ideas to generate income in the pub; wedding receptions, hot dogs outside in the garden in the summer and chicken suppers by the coach load! These were held in the Clubroom, there was a piano at the front and a raised platform which made that door unusable so everyone had to use the main entrance. At the other end was the bar and a window opening onto the garden. Customers could be served through this with their drinks and bottles of ‘pop’ for the children, with a straw of course.
The car park was large and often there would be two coaches parked there. Later on the upstairs room was also made available for functions.
Grandpa Cross died 26 th September 1955 age 78, he had been ill for a number of years and my father had already become the licensee.
Around 1960 there was another change of ownership as Ansells Brewery merged with Ind Coope & Allsopp and the Ansells sign went up. They of course together with Tetley Walker in 1961 became the mighty Allied Breweries and my father, in search of a better future for his family, became a Manager.
In May 1961 my parents took on The Werrington Hotel in Bucknall, Stoke -on-Trent, and we moved to the Potteries for two and a half years.
That is another story.