Thanks to the eagle eyes and determined mining of the newspaper archives by reader and contributor Peter ‘Pedro’ Cutler, I can bring readers of the Brownhills Blog the final instalment of the Ogley Square story, which ended in an unexpected way.
The slum was indeed cleared – and as can be seen today – the area of Catshill and Ogley Hay around it became the site of huge social housing development. However, the site of the Square itself? It became the location of a new pub.
The Wheatsheaf is now long gone, demolished in the 90s for more housing, but was a popular house in it’s day, typical of the period. Sadly, few photos exist, and if anyone has any, I’d love to share them here.
Of course, the competing pub mentioned – The Railway Tavern in Lichfield Road – befell the same fate, and there are similarly few images in existence.
This article shows a number of things – the parochial humour and machinations of a Council that was relatively well-to-do for the day, and bullish in it’s plans to improve Brownhills. It shows the waning influence of the Temperance Movement, and also the huge importance placed on the local pub and beer in general for the working class. It’s a microcosm of social mores of the day. The allusion to the site being ‘In the countryside’ is also somewhat telling.
In case it’s not clear here, what the landlords are attempting to do is transfer a licence from the original Wheatsheaf (about where Silver Court is now) and the Woodman, and combine them to a new building to be the Wheatsheaf. Essentially, the Council could not refuse.
As ever, my thanks to Richard Burnell for the transcription, without readers like him prepared to type these huge articles up I’d be lost. It takes me hours to do them.
BENCH APPROVES NEW INN FOR OGLEY SQUARE SITE.
Local Residents Support New License Site.
NEW AREA CREATED BY BROWNHILLS DEMOLITION.
Ogley Square which was the subject of a recent demolition order by the Brownhills Urban District Council was inspected by the Lichfield Country Magistrates, Mr. T. Richard, Major C. L. Longstaff, and Mr. R. H. L. Groutage on Wednesday, in the course of the hearing of the application by John Insull for a provisional grant of order of removal of the beer on licence from the Wheat Sheaf, High Street, Brownhills, to promises proposed to be erected at the junction of Ogley Road and Mill Road, Brownhills.
The application came before the Adjourned Licensing Sessions and the site of the proposed new house – The Wheatsheaf and Woodman – is Ogley Square.
It was stated that this site is the centre of an area which will see great development in the near future as the result of the Brownhills Urban District Council building scheme, and after a lengthy hearing, during which they made an adjournment to inspect the site, the Licensing Bench granted the application.
Mr. Frank Cooper appeared for Insull, while Mr. C. L. Hodgkinson opposed the application on behalf of Mr. George Humphries of the Railway Tavern.
Submitting the plan, Mr. Cooper said he nominally did so on behalf of Insull, but obviously indirectly on behalf of the owners of the proposed house, Messrs Butler and Co., of Springfield Brewery, Wolverhampton.
Before Calling evidence in support of the application Mr. Cooper gave the history of the application. As they would recollect, about the middle of last year, the Brownhills Urban District Council – the local authority who controlled that particular area – commenced a very large development in Vicarage Road and Great Charles Street in the Ogley Hay District.
In connection with the operations there they went to the Ministry and obtained a demolition order in respect of the collection of houses known as Ogley Square. Included in the old Ogley Square buildings was an ‘off’ licence which belonged to Messrs. Butler, who in truth, were the applicants in that case.
The position was, continued Mr. Cooper, that when that demolition order was made, Messrs. Butler had the automatic right under the Licensing Act to remove that ‘off’ licence after making application for a special removal.
RIGHT OF REMOVAL
In that case, where a licensed house was being demolished by the local authority, the owners of that licence had the right to ask for the removal of the that licence to any building which they might select in that particular licensing area, and the only ground that they (the magistrates) had to refuse such an application would be that the proposed building was not suitable for the trade. They would have no choice to say ‘We don’t want one in this particular area.’
Messrs. Butler had a conference with the local authority (Brownhills U.D.C) and it was felt that they had an area which was being very rapidly developed, where the local authority was spending a good deal of money, and where it was obvious that the very great building developments were going to take place.
Messrs. Butler felt- particularly in view of the fact that there were already three clubs in that immediate vicinity, and it was not every workingman who wanted to belong to a club – that that was a perfectly good reason for that application.
In those circumstances Messrs. Butler felt that the better course, and the one which would commend itself to the magistrates, was that instead of forcing their (the magistrates) hands over the question of the ‘off’ licence removal they should ask them to allow the removal of the ‘beer on’ – the ‘Wheat Sheaf’ – and surrender the existing ‘off’ licence – the ‘Woodman.’
The result of the application would be that from the High Street they would have a licence removed with no inconvenience to the residents in that immediate locality, to a spot where there was a demand for such a licence, and at the same time would automatically get rid of the old ‘off’ license.
‘NOBODY COULD STOP IT.’
That there was going to be a licensed house in that district was certain; nobody could stop it – not even the Bench. There was going to be either an ‘on’ or an ‘off’ licence and that they should put up that building there as they were prepared to do.
It was obvious from the development that was taking place there that the ultimate results of that application might be that in the course of a year or two they would have three licences instead of one. The position would be if they granted the application, however, that the licence register would be one less that it was before.
The Railway Tavern was the only opposition they had there that morning. There was no opposition from the Temperance Party, and it was obvious that if that applicant had not been in the interests of true temperance they would have had that party there, for he added, ‘they are not slow in coming forward.’
‘The only person to oppose it is the licensee of the Railway Tavern,’ continued Mr. Cooper; ‘now if there was one licensed in your district that would have come and opposed this application I should not have expected it to be the Railway Tavern. They have the impertinence to come here to-day to oppose the grant of a licence, and yet they have had to come here on their hands and knees to crave your indulgence in the past.’
He submitted that the Railway Tavern could not supply that area, and he thought it was obvious that they had no interest in that area at all. He asked the quite sincerely to grant that application which was in the interests of a very large body of inhabitants.
Richard James Barnes, an architect, of Lichfield, produced plans of the new building and gave an opinion that house would be a definite asset to the district.
During the past twelve months 100 houses had gone up there and contracts were already in existence for about 100 more houses, some of which were actually in course of erection by the Brownhills U.D.C. The proposed site was the very best possible for that developing area, for it was situated right in the centre.
Mr. Hodgkinson: I suppose the people in this area could manage to stagger to Warriner’s Arms? – Mr. Cooper: They wouldn’t stagger to, it would be on the way back. (Laughter).
‘DON’T LIKE THAT BEER!’
Samuel Insull, the applicant said, in answer to Mr. Hodgkinson, that his barrelage at the Wheat Sheaf was about three and a half per week. He had beer at the house for eighteen months, and it was certainly not a case of taking a derelict house and wanting to put it in a good district.
John Hill, a banksman collier, of 60, Ogley Road, Brownhills, said the proposed house would be a good thing for the district, for it would be out in the country a bit. In answer to Mr. Cooper, he said it would be round about a mile walk for him to the Railway Tavern.
Mr.Hodgkinson: It would be – round about. (Laughter).
Mr. Hodgkinson: What house do you use now? – The Wheat Sheaf.
There are other houses nearer than the Wheat Sheaf? – Yes, but I don’t want to walk far; I’m getting old and lame.
Mr.Cooper; Do you want the Railway Tavern beer? – I don’t want to go that far – I don’t like that beer. (Laughter).
Tom Jarvis, a miner, of 73 Great Charles Street, Brownhills, thought the proposed house would be very convenient to the people living there, and he knew of no objections to it.
Samuel Heath, a miner, of 16, Brickkiln Street, Brownhills, thought they needed the house very much indeed in that area.
Mr. Cooper: I take it you, as a workman, like to take your beer occasionally on the countryside? – It depends what kind you can catch hold of. (Laughter).
Mr.Hodgkinson, in opposing the application on behalf of the Railway Tavern pointed out that Mr. Cooper had suggested that they were giving up a licence. He submitted that that was not the case: they were amalgamating two licences into one house.
As to the need of the house, Mr. Hodkinson said the applicants had very ingeniously chosen a 400-yard area on the map they had submitted to the Bench, and had selected that area so that they just left out the numerous houses that existed. The other houses were all quite close to the proposed site, but with the exception of the Railway Tavern they were all Butler’s Houses.
The site of Ogley Square and the Wheatsheaf today.
District Adequately Served?
All the witnesses for the application were customers of the Wheat Sheaf or Shoulder of Mutton, and every one of them had said that they were quite satisfied with present conditions. He submitted that at the present time a further house was not needed for that district. Messers. Butler’s had the monopoly in that district at the present time, and now they were asking the magistrates to give them a new house, and in so doing make them a present of very considerable value. He submitted that they were giving up nothing and that the district was quite adequately served already.
Before the magistrates retired Mr. Cooper added that the main difficulty about the application was that if it was refused they had got to move that ‘off’ licence and go to the expense of erecting another building; they were under an obligation to do so or rebuild the premises.
After a short retirement the chairman announced that the hearing would be adjourned until the afternoon and that in the meantime some of the members of the Bench would like to inspect the proposed site.
When the court assembled again before Mr. Richard and Major Longstaff, the Chairman asked for an undertaking from Mr. Cooper with regard to the old Wheat Sheaf premises.
Mr. Cooper said they were prepared to give a definite undertaking in writing to the effect that in any future dealings with the Wheat Sheaf, by way of selling or letting, there would be a restrictive covenant preventing the sale or supply of intoxicating liquor from those premises.
The Bench then granted the transfer, with the proviso that a definite undertaking that the premises would not be used for trading, clubs, or anything of that description.
The Bench also announced that they wished to have slight structural alterations made to the proposed plans, and these will be submitted to the Chairman.