Public Houses

The Bell, the town's oldest pub.

For hundreds of years the public house has been at the centre of Willenhall’s social life. In the early 1800s there were mainly ale houses, and coaching inns, where mail coaches called for a change of horses, and to pick-up, and drop-off passengers and mail.

Willenhall had several successful coaching inns, which were very popular with the local community.

In the 1830s they began to decline due to increased competition, the arrival of the railways, and the subsequent demise of the mail coach.

In the late 17th century, and early 18th century, spirits, mainly gin, were available very cheaply. This led to a lot of drunkenness throughout the country, and so parliament decided to pass the 1830 Beer House Act as a way of providing the population with a less intoxicating drink, at an affordable price. Under the terms of the act, any householder who paid tax could apply for a licence, which would be given on the payment of 2 guineas. Anyone possessing a licence could open a public house or a beer house, and sell beer, but not spirits, or fortified wines.

The King's Head in Stafford Street. From an old postcard.

The Bull's Head in Wolverhampton Street.

An extra licence to sell cider cost just 1 guinea. Anyone selling spirits or fortified wines would loose their licence. Beer houses were usually family homes, where beer was sold in the front room, or sometimes shops. They were scattered throughout the town.

By 1842 Willenhall had 21 beer houses and 29 pubs. Ten years later the number of pubs had increased to 38. The pubs became an essential part of the working man’s life, especially after a hard day in the factory.

Some of Willenhall’s prominent families, such as the Tildesleys owned pubs. The Bull's Head stood on the corner of Wolverhampton Street and Peel Street, at right angles to the road, with a large open yard in front. It was used by mail coaches to pick-up and drop-off passengers, and to load and unload mail at the post office, a single storey building at the back of the yard. For many years the pub and the post office were run by members of the Tildesley family.

In 1731 Jeffery Tildesley married Elizabeth Thomas, whose father William, ran the Bell Inn in Market Place. Soon afterwards he purchased the Bull’s Head, which he ran for the rest of his life. He appears to have been a friendly, jovial landlord who was popular with his customers. He died on the 11th February, 1792 at the age of 86.

Joseph Hammersley, a lockmaker, married into the Tildesley family. He was married three times, twice to members of the Tildesley family. In 1815 he inherited the Bull’s Head after the death of his second wife, and ran the pub until his death in 1830. After his death, the pub was left to Joseph’s niece, Hannah Tildesley, who had been his housekeeper. In 1834 the landlord was John Riley Hincks, and in 1841 Jeffery Tildesley took over. In the early 1860s he was followed by John Tildesley, who in turn was followed by Mary Ann Tildesley. In the early 1890s the Tildesley family sold the pub to a local brewery, and it was then run by Reuben Holland, and later John Hill.

The Tumbledown Bridge in Railway Lane. Standing by the door is the licensee Arthur Wheatley and his granddaughter. He was known for breeding fox terriers. From an old postcard.

The bowling green at the Old Oak Inn in Walsall Road. From an old postcard.

The Royal George in Walsall Street. From an old postcard.

The pub was extremely successful during the era of the mail coaches, when Wolverhampton Street was on the main route through the town. In the 1820s the business rapidly declined as a result of the building of New Road, which bypassed Wolverhampton Street. The decline continued due to extra competition from new pubs and beer houses, the introduction of the 1830 Beer House Act, and the coming of the Grand Junction Railway in 1837, which put an end to mail coaches. The pub closed around the end of the First World War and was demolished in 1920.

Another member of the Tildesley family, Richard Tildesley, is listed in Pigot & Company’s Directory of 1842 as a beer seller.

Another important and successful coaching inn was the Neptune, which stood almost opposite St. Giles’ Church in Walsall Street, and played a significant part in local life. Like the Bull’s Head it was owned by a prominent local family, the Hartills.

The coach to Lichfield from Wolverhampton called at the inn every morning except Sunday, at twenty minutes past nine. The coach to Wolverhampton from Lichfield called at the Neptune every afternoon except Sunday, at five p.m.

Omnibuses also called at the Neptune. There were two omnibuses daily, except on Sundays, to Birmingham, and two daily to Wolverhampton. There were also omnibuses from the Three Crowns and the Queen's Arms.

Isaac Hartill, a genial, friendly, and popular man, ran the Neptune Inn in Walsall Street for many years. On his death in 1820, at the age of 90, he was succeeded by his son Isaac Hartill junior, whose son Jeremiah, a prosperous doctor, was born at the Neptune.

The Neptune Inn.

The Neptune was an important venue on Wakes Day, the first Sunday after the Feast of St. Giles on the 11th of September. During Willenhall Wake, friendly societies processed through the town, attended a brief service at St. Giles’ Church, then spent the rest of the day feasting in the Neptune.

For many years the magistrates court, and the manorial court of the Manor of Stowheath were held in the room behind the balcony on the first floor.

The balcony over the entrance was used by Charles P. Villiers when he made his first address to the electors of Wolverhampton, and subsequently for many of his speeches. On Sundays the stable yard behind the pub was a hive of activity when used by the Stowheath farmers, who rode into town to attend church.

Sadly attendance at the pub started to decline when the Grand Junction Railway opened its station in 1837 and put an end to the mail coaches. By the Second World War the pub had fallen into dereliction and the license was transferred to the Neptune in Bilston Lane. Sometime later the original Neptune was demolished.

The Plough Inn.

Unquestionably the oldest pub in the town is the Bell Inn in Market Place, which possibly dates back to 1660, the date which it carried for many years on a sign at the front. Although the front part of the building appears to be more modern, the back part is much older, and may have been built immediately after the town’s disastrous fire in 1659.

For many years it was owned by members of the Wakelam family. The landlord in 1830 was Thomas Wakelam, whereas in 1892 it was run by Sampson Wakelam. In later years the Bell became a Mitchells and Butlers pub, and afterwards an Enterprise Inn.

After years of dereliction, the property has been acquired by the Willenhall Heritage Trust, which hopes to restore the building to its former glory.

A more modern pub, the Plough Inn in Stafford Street, now ‘The Market Shop’ had a strange claim to fame. Before modern transport, prisoners who were sentenced to a term in Stafford Gaol had to walk to Stafford. On the way they were allowed to stop at the Plough Inn for a final drink. The Plough Inn closed in the 1970s.

Over the last few years it has become increasingly difficult to keep up with pub closures, and demolitions, as pubs disappear at an alarming rate. They are an ideal target for property developers, because most pubs have a reasonably sized car park, which with the pub, occupies a sizeable piece of land. Luckily some of our old and lovely public houses will survive. Some are now shops or food stores, such as the Plough Inn, now the Market Shop, and the Lion Hotel, now Domino’s Pizza shop. Others are on the Statutory List, or the Local List, and so are protected. They are an important part of the local landscape, and hopefully many of them will survive, with a long and prosperous future ahead.

Past and Present Willenhall Pubs:

Acorn Street The Woodman   Market Place The Bell Inn
Alma Street The Talbot   Market Place The Talbot Hotel
Ann Street The George   Mill Street, corner of Birmingham Street The Rising Sun
Ashmore Lake Road  The Cross Keys   Monmer Lane   The Black Lion
Aston Road The Windmill   Monmer Lane   The Swan  
Bentley Lane The Bridge Tavern   Moseley Road The Grapes
Bilston Lane The Neptune   New Road The Black Boy Inn
Bilston Road  The George and Crown   New Road The Brook Tavern
Bilston Street  The Railway Tavern   New Road The Castle
Bilston Street  The Waterglade   New Road The Malthouse
Bloxwich Road South The Cat (formerly
The White Swan)
  New Road The Royal George
Bloxwich Road South The Black Lion   New Road The True Briton
Bloxwich Road South The Hope and Anchor   New Road The West End Tavern
Bloxwich Road South The Saracen’s Head   New Street    The Beehive
Bloxwich Road North  The United Kingdom   New Street    The Royal Oak
Brick Kiln Street, Portobello The Albion   New Street    The Star  
Brick Kiln Street, Portobello The Red Lion   Newhall Street The Holly Bush
Brick Kiln Street, Portobello The Seven Stars   New Invention  The Board
Bridge Street The Red Lion   New Invention  The Crown
Cannock Road The New Inn   New Invention  The Fighting Cocks
Cannon Street The Cross inn   New Invention  The First and Last
Cannon Street The Royal Oak
(formerly The Royal Exchange, and
The Sinker’s Arms)
  New Invention  The New Inn 
Cannon Street The Barrel   New Invention  The Prince of Wales
Chapel Green The Acorn   Pool Hayes Lane   The Pool Hayes
Chapel Green The Fountain   Raglan Street   The British Queen
Chapel Green  The George and Dragon   Railway Lane The Tumbledown Bridge Inn
Chapel Green The Junction   Russell Street   The Cross
Charles Street  King Charles in the Oak   St. Annes Road    The Forge Tavern
Cheapside The Albion   St. Annes Road    The Rushbrooke Farthing (formerly The Spring Vale Tavern)
Cheapside The Crown   Sandbeds The Royal Exchange
Church Street The Barrel   Sandbeds Road   The Brown Jug
Church Street The Crown   Somerford Place The Shakespeare
Church Street The New Inn   Springvale Street The Bird In Hand
Church Street The Swan   Stafford Street  The King's Head
Clarke’s Lane The Noah's Ark   Stafford Street  The Three Crowns
Clemson Street The Summer House   Stafford Street  The Tiger
Coltham Road  The Duke of Cambridge   Stafford Street   The Old Crown 
Coltham Road  The Lame Dog   Stafford Street  The Plough
Coltham Road  The Swan   Stringes Lane The Balaclava
Coltham Road  The Woolpack   Stringes Lane Elm Park Tavern
Cross Street The Albion   Stringes Lane The Three Furnaces 
Cross Street The Angel    Stroud Avenue The Cavalcade
Cross Street The Bird in Hand   Stroud Avenue The Homestead
Cross Street The Bush    Temple Bar   The Dog and Partridge
Cross Street The Crown   Temple Bar   The Temple Bar Inn
Cross Street The Swan Hotel   The Crescent The Albion  
Cross Street The Talbot   The Crescent The Crescent
Dilloways Lane  The Longacres   The Crescent  The Junction
Doctor’s Piece The British Oak   The Crescent The Robin Hood
Doctor’s Piece The Minerva   Union Street The Albion
Doctor’s Piece The Seven Stars   Union Street The Old Crown 
Dudley Street The Shakespeare   Union Street The Shakespeare 
Essington Road  The Jolly Collier   Upper Lichfield Street The Chamberlain
Essington Road  The Milestone   Upper Lichfield Street The Lion Hotel
Ezekiel Lane The Swan   Upper Lichfield Street

The Kipper House (formerly Dartmouth Conservative Club and The Green Pig)

Field Street Gilberts   Upper Lichfield Street The Red Lion
Fibbersley The Navigation Inn   Upper Lichfield Street The Workers Rest
Fletchers Lane, Shepwell Green The Junction (formerly The Crescent Tavern)   Vaughan Rd The Royal Oak
Froysell Street The Lamp   Walsall Road  The Acorn 
Gomer Street The Falcon Inn   Walsall Road  The Old Oak
Hall Street The Coach and Horses   Walsall Road  The Queen’s Head
Hall Street The Free Trade Inn   Walsall Road  The Spread Eagle
Harper Street The Manor Club   Walsall Road  The Three Tuns
High Road   The British Oak   Walsall Road  The Waggon and Horses 
High Road   The Lodge Tavern   Walsall Street The Cock Inn
High Road   The Whimsey   Walsall Street The County (formerly The New Inn)
High Street, now Willenhall Road The Bird in Hand   Walsall Street The Harp And Fiddle
High Street, now Willenhall Road The Bridge Tavern   Walsall Street The King's Arms 
High Street, now Willenhall Road The Cock   Walsall Street The Neptune 
High Street, now Willenhall Road The General Havelock   Walsall Street The Old Bush
High Street, now Willenhall Road The Gough Arms    Walsall Street The Park
High Street, now Willenhall Road The Grove Arms   Walsall Street The Prince of Wales
High Street, now Willenhall Road The Malt Shovel   Walsall Street The Queen’s Arms
High Street, now Willenhall Road The Mezeppa    Walsall Street The Royal Artillery  
High Street, now Willenhall Road The New Inns   Walsall Street  The Royal George
High Street, now Willenhall Road The Abyssinian   Walsall Street  The Spread Eagle
John Street The Ring O' Bells   Walsall Street  The Stores
Keats Rd    The Poets Corner   Walsall Street  The Swan
King Street    The Three Tuns   Walsall Street  The Turk's Head
Lane Head The Blacksmith   Walsall Street  The Windmill
Lane Head The Engine   Waterglade The Engine House
Lane Head The Jolly Boat    Wednesfield Road The Beehive
Lane Head The Lodge Tavern    Wednesfield Road The Navigation
Lane Head The United Kingdom   Wednesfield Road The Waggon and Horses
Lane Head The Whimsey   Wednesfield Road The Windsor Castle
Lichfield Road The Broadway   Willenhall Road The Bird in Hand
Lichfield Road The Crown   Willenhall Road The Cleveland Arms
Lichfield Road The Crown and Sceptre   Willenhall Road The George and Crown
Lichfield Road The First And Last   Willenhall Road The Neachells
Lichfield Road The Gate   Wolverhampton Road The Broadway
Lichfield Road The Prince Consort   Wolverhampton Road The Cleveland Arms
Lower Lichfield Street The Miners Arms   Wolverhampton Road The Lane Arms
Lower Lichfield Street The Royal Artillery    Wolverhampton Road West The Red Lion
Lower Lichfield Street The Royal Oak   Wolverhampton Street The Angel
Lower Lichfield Street The Shakespeare   Wolverhampton Street The Bell
Lower Lichfield Street The Star Inn   Wolverhampton Street The Brewers Droop
Lower Lichfield Street The Three Furnaces   Wolverhampton Street The Bull's Head
Lower Lichfield Street The Vulcan and Miners’ Arms     Wolverhampton Street The Butchers’ Arms
Lower Lichfield Street The White Lion   Wolverhampton Street The Hand and Bottle
Little London  The Beehive   Wolverhampton Street The Horse and Jockey
Little London  The Noah's Ark    Wolverhampton Street The King's Head
Lucknow Road  The Jolly Collier   Wolverhampton Street The Rose and Crown
Lucknow Road  The Old House at Home    Wolverhampton Street The Royal Exchange
Manor Farm Drive  The Saracen’s Head   Wolverhampton Street The Vine
Market Place     The Angel   Wood Street The Grapes
Market Place The Barrel and Shive (formerly The Market Tavern)   Wood Street The Vine
The Turk's Head in Walsall Street.

The bar at the Turk's Head.

The Star Inn in Lower Lichfield Street. Courtesy of John Hughes.

The Bell Inn in Market Place, which now has a secure future thanks to its new owner, the Willenhall Heritage Trust.
The County in Walsall Street.

An earlier view of 'The County' from the 1930s when it was the New Inn.

J. D. Wetherspoon's Malthouse in New Road.
The Worker's Rest in Upper Lichfield Street.
The old Lion Hotel, once a coaching inn for coaches to and from Birmingham.
The Three Crowns in Stafford Street.
The Royal George in Walsall Street.

Willenhall's 'tropical oasis', the Waterglade Inn in Bilston Street. From an old postcard.

The Swan in Ezekiel Lane. Courtesy of Christine and John Ashmore.

The Elm Park Tavern in Stringes Lane.

The Neachells in Willenhall Road, awaiting demolition in 2014.

Another view of The Neachells in 2014, a few months later than the one above.

A final view of The Neachells, as it neared its end.

The Neachells pub in the 1930s.

The derelict Rushbrooke Farthing pub in St. Annes Road, as seen in 2014.

Another view of the Rushbrooke Farthing pub.

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