Past and Present Pubs

Until more recent times most people’s social activities centred around the public house, of which Walsall had many.

Since the early 18th century around 600 public houses have served the local community, although only a small number survive today.

Below is a list of Walsall’s past and present pubs, but because this is very large I have divided the town into several areas.

If anyone can add to the list, or make corrections, please send me an email.


The Black Country Arms in High Street.

A list of the town's pubs:
Select and click on the area of your choice to view a list of past and present pubs.
The Evolution of the public house

The British public house can be traced back to the Roman tavern or tabernae, and later the Anglo-Saxon alehouse, which became so popular that in 965 King Edgar decreed that each village should have no more than one alehouse. As long ago as 1393, King Richard II compelled all landlords to erect a sign outside their premises, which allowed people to identify the alehouse by the picture on the sign, and also make it obvious to the borough ale tasters, who inspected, and tasted the ale.

Pub licensing began in 1552 when magistrates were given the power to license alehouses, due to concerns about drunkenness and public disorder. In the 18th century, gin replaced ale as the most popular drink, after the Dutch brought it here in the late 1680s. It was cheaper, more alcoholic, and readily available. Drunkenness became commonplace, and on several occasions the government introduced legislation in an attempt to reduce the problem. It was in this atmosphere that the modem public house was born.

The Woolpack Inn which stood in Digbeth.

From an old postcard.

The 1830 Beer House Act

Beer was considered to be a harmless, nutritious alternative to gin, the consumption of which should be actively encouraged. This idea led to the Passing of the 1830 Beer House Act that introduced new and radical changes in the law. It allowed any householder and tax payer to obtain a license to sell beer on their premises, in exchange for a 2 guinea licence fee. Licensees were not allowed to sell spirits or fortified wines. Anyone doing so would be closed down, and heavily fined.

The new legislation led to a rapid rise in the number of public houses, and the introduction of a new class of licensed premises, the beer house. Beer houses were family homes, in which beer was usually sold in the front room, and dispensed from a jug, or directly from the barrel. Often the room was simply furnished with bare floorboards, wooden benches, and trestle tables. By the 1850s beerhouses greatly outnumbered pubs.

Some of the early beer houses carried names, just like pubs. They included the Why Not in Western Street, Pleck, the White Rose in Lower Rushall Street, the Saracen’s Head in Stafford Street, and The Wheel in Catshill Road, Walsall Wood. Some of the more successful beer houses eventually became pubs, such as the Walsall Arms in Bank Street, and the Turf Tavern in Wolverhampton Road, Bloxwich.

The White Hart in Caldmore Green.

From an old postcard.


The Black Boy, New Street. From the 1899 Walsall Red Book.

Beer houses flourished until the introduction of the Wine and Beer House Act of 1869, which prevented the opening of new beer houses, and tightened local magistrates' control of the industry. By the early years of the 20th century they had all gone.

Pubs in the 18th century included The Woolpack Inn in Digbeth, The Vine in Lower Hall Lane, and the Black Country Arms in High Street which was originally part of the Guild Hall, and later called the Green Dragon.

Many of the early pubs were coaching inns, so called because horse-drawn coaches or omnibuses would stop there for a change of horses, and to pick-up, and drop-off passengers, and sometimes mail.

Travellers would be provided with food, refreshments, and often accommodation. Stables were provided for the horses.

Coaching Inns relied on the regular coaching traffic, which in turn relied upon the state of the roads. In the 18th century, road improvements and maintenance were carried out under the terms of Turnpike Acts, which allowed authorised Trustees, usually local businessmen, to collect tolls for 21 years in return for repairing a particular road, or section of a road. The tolls were collected at gates or barriers which were known as turnpikes. The New Inn in Park Street opened in 1774 to take advantage of the newly turnpiked roads to Wolverhampton, Lichfield and Churchbridge.

Licensees of coaching Inns often did what they could to assist in improving local roads in order to increase the number of coaches calling at their establishment. In 1784, Mr. Fletcher, the licensee of the George Hotel, obtained an Act of Parliament for the building of the road from Walsall to Stafford, and the widening of the Birmingham Road as far as Hampstead Bridge.

Horse-drawn coaches and omnibuses quickly disappeared after the coming of the railways, and the appearance of trams, so coaching inns had to evolve or disappear.

The George Hotel on The Bridge.

From an old postcard.

Many landlords brewed their own beer, and sometimes supplied it to other pubs and beer houses. Some of the more successful licensees became extremely affluent, and invested their money in land and property.

The Evolution of the Traditional English Pub

The traditional English pub evolved into several separate rooms, each with its own purpose. The bar, with a counter, was copied from gin houses, where the idea was to serve customers quickly, and keep an eye on them. The saloon bar, or lounge, appeared in the latter part of the 18th century, as a comfortable, carpeted, and well furnished room with an admission fee, or higher priced drinks. It catered for more affluent people. Often entertainment would be provided, and drinks were served at the table.

The tap room, or public bar, was developed for the working classes. It had simple wooden bench seats, cheap drink, and bare floorboards, or tiles, that were often covered in sawdust to absorb spillages, and spit.

Another room, the snug, sometimes called the smoke room, was a small, private room where people could drink without being observed. The windows were made of frosted glass, and the room had a separate entrance to the bar, so that people could enter and leave without being seen. There was usually access to a separate section of the bar, where a higher price would be paid for drinks. The snug was often used by ladies, at a time when the pub was perceived to be for men only, and also by courting couples, who liked their privacy.

There was often an off licence, where beer, wine, or spirits could be purchased for home consumption. It was a small room with a counter, or often just an open window facing the back of the bar, through which people were served. Customers, including children, sent on an errand by their parents, could take bottles to be filled with beer. A paper seal would often be stuck over the stopper to ensure that the children didn't sample the contents.

The derelict Market Tavern.

As seen from the Black Country Arms.


The Market Tavern in July 2017.

 

Two views of St. Matthew's Hall in Lichfield Street.

The Public House Today

Sadly many pubs have disappeared within the last few years, and still continue to do so at an alarming rate. The pub was used mainly by working class communities, and factory workers. Most of the factories are now gone, and working class communities have largely disappeared. Worries are expressed about binge drinking amongst the young, and alcohol related crime. Many youngsters prefer drinking in clubs which often open throughout the night. People now drink at home, taking advantage of the cheap beer, wines and spirits that can be found in the local supermarket. The smoking ban, and tougher drink-drive regulations have also had an impact, as has the downturn in the economy.


Part of the interior of St. Matthew's Hall in Lichfield Street.

 

Four views of The Imperial in Darwall Street (now closed).

 


The Grade II listed Turf Tavern in Wolverhampton Road, Bloxwich.

The pub always has been, and still continues to be part of community life. Most pubs are now also restaurants, which cater for the young and elderly alike. Large sums of money are spent on converting traditional pubs into eating establishments, which have become very popular.

Some of the town’s pubs are now listed buildings, so their future is secure, even if they are put to other uses. Grade II listed pubs include:

The Rose & Crown in Birchills Street.
The White Hart on Caldmore Green.
The Old Irish Harp in Chester Road.
The Romping Cat in Elmore Green.
The Black Country Arms in High Street. The Royal Exchange, in Stafford Road, Bloxwich.
The Turf Tavern in Wolverhampton Road, Bloxwich.


The derelict Bulls Head in Park Road, Bloxwich. As seen in December 2012.

The New Inn, which stood on the corner of Green Lane and Hospital Street, Birchills, can now be seen at Blists Hill Museum in Telford. Between 1981 and 1982 it was carefully dismantled and rebuilt as number 11 High Street, Blists Hill.


The New Inn at Blists Hill.

Luckily a number of the more traditional pubs have survived, and are very profitable. So hopefully they will still be a part of community life for many years to come.

 

The Prince in Stafford Street.

 

The Victoria in Lower Rushall Street.

The derelict Orange Tree in Wolverhampton Street.

As seen in April 2013.

The derelict Hatherton Arms in Lichfield Street.

As seen in February 2013.


An old view of the Red Lion in Park Street. Taken by Richard Ashmore, Courtesy of John & Christine Ashmore.
The Royal Oak, Lord Street, Palfrey
The Royal Oak in Lord Street closed its doors for the last time some years ago and has been empty ever since. In the 1920s it was owned by James Fletcher, and after his death was auctioned at the Grand Hotel, Birmingham on 28th November, 1928. The plan opposite is from the sale catalogue.

At the time the pub was leased to W. Butler & Company Limited for an annual rent of £100. The Licensee was Mr. Thomas Hawkins.

The ground floor consisted of an outdoor, a front smoke room with a corner bar, a large back smoke room, a sitting room, a kitchen, and a larder.

On the first floor was a club room and three bedrooms. There were two brick-paved beer cellars with brick stillaging.

The paved yard at the back contained a wash-house, a coal place, and three toilets, with a pleasure green behind.

   
Read about Walsall's once well-known brewery - Highgate Brewery
   

   
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