The estate we’re in


William Roberts himself. Image from ‘Brownhills: A walk into history’ by Gerald Reece.

Regular readers will know well that I have a very fond regard for entrepreneur, philanthropist and undoubted rogue William Roberts, one of the true fathers of modern Brownhills, who gave the town not only occupation through his brewery and other businesses, but entertainment through his public houses, a fire brigade through his donations of equipment, and countless other things he paid towards or facilitated in his role as councillor.

What happened to this large and valuable empire after William’s death is a bit hazy, and I’m sure there’s more yet to find on the topic; but Andy Dennis spotted the following notices in the Lichfield Mercury archives, which help shed light on the break up of one of the great early economic forces driving Brownhills.

Andy wrote inn his email:

Hello Bob

I came across a couple of news articles about sale of property in Brownhills, part of the estate of Mrs Clara Bagby, adopted daughter of brewing magnate William Roberts. The interesting bit for me is that the notice of auction is followed up by a brief report the values realised – about £191,000 in today’s money, but this was a tiny fraction of her true wealth.


The question of Clara is interesting, and not fully expanded here – I feel sure there’s more to be found on the subject of her life and inheritance.

My thanks, as ever, to Andy for a remarkably diligent bit of research. This is really what local history is about and I thank you profusely.

If anyone has anything to add, comment is welcome, or mail me: BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com. Thanks, all.

Andy Dennis wrote:

clara bagby auction

Lichfield Mercury, 27th August 1943. Click for a larger version.

Lichfield Mercury 27 August 1943
Re Mrs. Clara Bagby, deceased.
By order of the Public Trustee and his co-Executrices.

BELCHER & SON, in conjunction with MR. GERORGE CRADDOCK, have received instructions to offer for Sale by Public Auction at THE STATION HOTEL, BROWNHILLS, on the above date, at 6 o’clock p.m. precisely, subject to conditions, the following IMPORTANT FREEHOLD INVESTMENT PROPERTIES comprising 37 Dwelling Houses all situate at Brownhills and having a gross annual rent-roll of £758 15s. 4d.

Lot 1. – Six Dwelling Houses and Premises, Nos. 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, and 11, Church Road, Ogley Hay, Brownhills

Lot 2. – Six Dwelling Houses and Premises, Nos. 17, 19,21, 23, 25, and 27, Church Road aforesaid.

Lot 3. – The Dwelling House and Premises, No. 29, Church Road aforesaid.

Lot 4. – Six Dwelling Houses and Premises, Nos. 31, 33, 35, 37, 39, and 41, Church Road aforesaid.

Lot 5. – Eight Dwelling Houses and Premises, Nos. 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, and 18, Great Charles Street, Ogley Hay aforesaid.

Lot 6. – Ten Dwelling Houses and Premises known as “Woodbine Terrace” and numbered 3 – 21 (odd numbers), Chester Road, Norton Canes, Brownhills.

Detailed particulars may be obtained from the Office of the Public Trustee, 7, Crosby Square, Bishopgate, London, E.C. 3, (Tel. Ave. 5282); Messrs. Ernest Browns and Co., Solicitors, Victoria Chambers, Wednesbury (Tel 0581); Messrs. Belcher and Son, Darlaston (Tel. 151); or from Mr. George Craddock, 6, Market Place, Brownhills (Tel 3211).

The Public Trustee is a government officer who assists with various situations in law surrounding the assets of the deceased. I imagine in this case that the executrices, the two daughters, required assistance in executing the will. The estate was valued at more than £59,000, so, going on the next report, this sale was of a small fraction of her assets. Her estate brought together the accumulated wealth of her adoptive father William Roberts’ brewing and pub empire and her late husband John Bagby’s Darlaston Bolt and Nut Company, Tower Works, Darlaston, which stood on Bright Street.

clara bagby auction results

Lichfield Mercury, 17th September 1943. Click for a larger version.

Lichfield Mercury 17 September 1943

A successful sale of freehold properties was held at the Station Hotel, Brownhills, on Monday by Messrs. Belcher and Son, Darlaston (in conjunction with Mr George Craddock, of Brownhills). Prices realised were:- Six houses 1 to 11, Church Road, Ogley Hay, £980; six houses 17 to 27, Church Road, £1,285; a house, 29, Church Road, £255; six houses, 31 to 41, Church Road, £935; eight houses, 2 to 18 Great Charles Street, Ogley Hay, £800; ten houses, ‘Woodbine Terrace,’, Chester Road, Norton Canes, £1,300.

The sale was by order of the Public Trustee and his co-executrices, and the solicitors concerned were Messrs. Ernest Brown and Co., of Wednesbury.

The interest here is that the sale values are reported, in contrast to many other sales. But how do these prices compare with today? The total realised was £4,665. The annual rent was £758, or a yield of 16%. I gather these days an average of about 9% would be more likely.

Lot 2 refers to the row of houses still standing next to the Shoulder of Mutton. The average price was about £215. Applying inflation, from for example, suggests this would be worth £8,825 in today’s money, but that would certanly not buy a house, even at 58 years old (the plaque says 1885). The most recent sale prices for these houses were £29,000 (2002) and £35,000 (1999) (Zoopla), but they were twice as old and there has been firther inflation since then. There is what appears to be a similar property on the market in High Street for £99,000.

So, although £4,665 was a tidy sum in 1943, it was probably worth much more than the figure derived from year-on-year inflation of £191,265 and the whole estate much more than £2.4 million.

station hotel

The dying days of the Station Hotel, probably around 1986. Image supplied by Mike Leonard.

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10 Responses to The estate we’re in

  1. lisapoole23 says:

    to you ever post about burglarys etc?

    Sent from Samsung Mobile

    • Lisa, I replied to your comment the other day that your email address was returning an error and to mail me your story on BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com. A quick read of the blog will tell you this is stuff I cover all the time, but it helps if you can drop me details.


  2. Andy Dennis says:

    Thanks, Bob. Thought it would tickle your fancy!
    I don’t have any memorabilia about this, but Mom & Dad had their wedding breakfast at the Station Hotel. That was in 1950. I guess lots of newlyweds did that.

    • Dot Gretton says:

      Andy, what were the names of your father,s parents, also the names of your parents. Did any of them have red hair?
      Regards Dot Gretton

      • Andy Dennis says:

        Hello, Dot. My parents were Derrick Dennis (1926-2009) and Barbara Brown (1928-1982) – no relation to Clara. Red hair and blue eyes are Dennis family traits, and though Dad and his brothers started life as redheads, they all went dark, and bald, relatively young. I have cousins who have red hair. I know that previous generations had red hair and was in touch with someone with whom I share 3 x great grandfather whose children still have the trademark appearance. Dad’s uncle Jack, I’m told, used to say we were all Vikings. Whether he knew any more than me I don’t know (and it’s too late to ask now!), but one origin of the name Dennis is said to be from Danish (the other St Dennis or Denis). This makes sense given that they lived in north west Leicestershire; at the edge of what had been the Danelaw.

        Anyway, if you get in touch via a message to Bob, I might be able to tell you something that might surprise you about your ancestry.


  3. Pedro says:

    Jan 1943…Widow’s Bequest to Servants…

    Mrs Clara Bagby, of Lime Tree Villa, Pelsall, who died on August 9th last, widow of Mr John Bagby, left £55,190 with personality £45,021 (duty paid £14,085).

    She left the income to her companion Clara Arnold, for life, £250 to Joseph Lakin, chauffeur, and £50 to Emma Richardson, cook, if respectively still in her service, and £20 to the other servants.

    • Pedro says:

      November 1939 the daughter of Mrs Clara Bagby married at Brownhills, and interestingly her full name was Clara Ann Roberts Bagley

  4. alvin cox says:

    bob where abouts was “Woodbine Terrace” on the watling st, thanks

    • Andy Dennis says:

      It was on Chester Road west of what is now the miner island on the south side, roughly where the police station is.

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