Back to Earth

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Interesting graphic design. Original period poster from the PennyCliffe Club kindly supplied by Terry Basford via Clive Roberts.

One of the more bizarre episodes in the history of Brownhills that’s always interested me is the use of long-gone Coombe House on Coppice Lane as a music/night club.

Coombe House was a large place and can be seen in the opening sequence of the early 1960s Brownhills Cincefilm Club footage below – a dark, foreboding, red-brick pile, it was once the home of a mine agent, then at least two local doctors before being used as Engineer’s Offices by Brownhills Urban District Council before it’s merger with Aldridge.

Not a natural candidate for music club, it nonetheless became one for a short period on the cusp of the 1960s and 70s, before closing under a bit of a cloud. After the Pennycliffe shut down, Coombe house became derelict and was demolished soon afterwards, and very little evidence of the place now remains.

Noted local historian and author Clive Roberts has investigated the history of the Pennycliffe and found out a whole bunch of great info about the place, including the fact that the precursor band to Black Sabbath – Earth – played there.

This is somewhat prescient as Ozzy and the lads played their last ever gigs last weekend.

Clive was good enough to write up all he knows about this curious musical venture for the blog – and my thanks to him for yet another great point of interest. For more of his detailed and thoroughly enjoyable work, Clive’s latest book ‘The Public Houses of Brownhills Part One’ is still on sale and details can be found here.

Clive Roberts wrote:

Pennycliffe Club

The Club was located at Coombe House, Coppice Road, Brownhills.

These premises were owned, and at one time used by Aldridge and Brownhills Urban District Council, and originally occupied and named after Dr. John Coombe Maddever a doctor looking after health and well being of the folk of the Brownhills and local area.

The Pennycliffe Club was locally known as the Pen.

Known bands that have played at the Club:

The band called Earth (Black Sabbath) were booked to play at the Pennycliffe, on 11th May 1969 Earth were paid £15 (cash) for 1 ½ hour performance. They had to be at the venue by 7pm. (Courtesy Norman Hood).

Below are a few of the known bands that performed there in 1969:

Bakerloo Blue Line
Prospekt
Dog House blue band
Tea & Symphoney
Evolution
Earth (Later Black Sabbath)

In 1970 the registered owner of the Pennycliffe was fined 13 times for serving alcohol to non-members, there are no more entries after this date, so I have to assume that is would have closed down soon after this date, as I would of thought they would not tolerate this abuses of the regulations!

I do have the information on who was registered as the owner of the club, but seeing as it was only 46 years ago I thought it would be best not to say.

If you would like to see the original document containing the Pennycliffe Club application for a license for your self, they are archive at Walsall Local History Centre, Ref Number: 492/4/7; Register to sell intoxicating liquor; date 1959 to 1974.

Attached are two very rare posters covering performances at the Pennycliffe Club, they are not in very good condition, but considering their age, its amazing they have survived. I believe these posters may be from the year 1969!

When doing the research on the Pennycliffe I found some information on the group Ambrose Slade, later known as just Slade, in January 1969 they performed at Brownhills Memorial Club.

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Again, remarkably stark design. Original period poster from the PennyCliffe Club kindly supplied by Terry Basford via Clive Roberts.

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4 Responses to Back to Earth

  1. I remember getting in the Pennycliff when I was just 14. So that would be 1966. You wouldn’t be allowed in unless as part of a couple, so people just paired up with anyone in the queue outside. The last time I was there, I remember dancing to a heavy rock band, doing that headbanging stuff. I don’t know what went on upstairs, as often that’s where some people went.It had really wide stair will gilded ironwork and wood banister, Victorian I would guess.
    Regards C Holbrook

  2. mick c says:

    I remember going to the Pennycliff a few times, never really liked the place much, I can remember one of the croupier/ bouncer’s name though, quite a well known local character having been a licencee himself.

  3. Home of Metal would probably be very interested in the Black Sabbath connection as they’re putting on an exhibition that will tour the UK before getting to Brum in 2018/19…can’t quite remember the actual dates

  4. Julia Willett says:

    Yes that’s correct. Ambrose Slade did play at The Memo and I believe they were booked by Glyn Holloway. I used to go as a young girl with my father Frank Poxon who was a committee member at The Memo. He used to take the admission monies on a night when the live bands played.
    I myself am treasurer at The Memo now, and my grand father Charlie Lydall used to be caretaker there as well.😀

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