History of the Bell and Candlestick at Ann Street in Birmingham in the county of Warwickshire

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Some history of the Bell and Candlestick in Ann Street

The Bell and Candlestick on Ann Street in Birmingham [c.1868]

In a position where today's Council House stands, the Bell and Candlestick was located within the earliest development of Ann Street. This means that the tavern was probably one of those recorded in Sketchley's Trade Directory for Birmingham published in 1767. This was the earliest listing of trades conducted in the town, and both John Reeves and William Barret are recorded as a publicans at Mount Pleasant, an early name for Ann Street. One public house is mentioned by name in this directory - that of the Great Goat run by Job Philips. Sketchley's directory published three years later again lists Job Phillips [an extra L appears in his surname] at the Great Goat. It is possible that this was an early name for the Bell and Candlestick, the name changing following the construction of Christ Church between 1805-13. I must stress, however, that this is conjecture as I have not seen any primary source to confirm this. I do not like conjecture when it comes to documenting history but, in this case, it seems to make some sort of sense. The sign of The Bell often appears on public houses close to places of worship. The Candlestick may be a reference to a small brass foundry that was established behind the tavern in Court 6.

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An extract from an early plan for the Newhall Estate indicates that the Bell and Candlestick was part of a corner block that formed one lease agreement with the Colmore family. This was probably was signed by the Allin family who are thought to have constructed the castellated building on the corner of Congreve Street and Ann Street. Occupying this corner position, the family probably sub-let the other buildings to tenants. The block of leasehold buildings were offered at auction in June 1832. This included three properties in Congreve Street held by Mr. Billington, along with retail premises including the Bell and Candlestick. There was an unexpired term of 35 years remaining on the public house.

William and Sophia Westwood were mine hosts at the Bell and Candlestick during the reign of King George III. Sophia succeeded her husband as licensee and was helped in the tavern by her daughters Sophia, Ann and Martha. Sophia was able to retire and, together with her daughters, moved to Hunter's Lane. She lived there for more than a decade before her death in January 1855 in her 78th year.

Advertisement for the Bell and Candlestick on Ann Street in Birmingham [1845]

Sophia Westwood was succeeded by Benjamin Jones in the 1830s. His stay was fairly brief and he handed over to Charles Godfrey who was granted the licence in May 1839. Relatively young for a victualler and publican, the 25 year-old kept the Bell and Candlestick with Harriett and Elizabeth Godfrey. He employed Henry Keeton as a brewer but soon learned the skills needed to make the house beers himself. Charles Godfrey hailed from Kettering and remained at the Bell and Candlestick for many years. Though, as can be seen from the above advertisement dated April 1845, he did consider selling up, perhaps due to a bereavement. For one reason or another he remained at the pub. He married his housekeeper Jane Hortin in November 1876 and the couple continued as hosts of the popular tavern. Maybe taking up with the housekeeper was the "domestic affliction" mentioned in the advertisement.

A description of the Bell and Candlestick is included in the 1845 advertisement which also has "Nottingham House" within the trading name. One curiosity of the Bell and Candlestick is that the pub is listed as the Coal Hole in 1855 and 1858. One entry could be discounted as an error but two makes one wonder if this was an unofficial nickname for the pub. On further investigation I have found a possible source of this name. It was in the recollections of Old Birmingham and submitted by a reader to the Daily Gazette for publication in October 1865. The author's name is not known but he or she provided a fascinating glimpse of this part of Birmingham that started with a discussion of a piece of land called the "Lawyers' Piece," bounded by Bennett's Hill, New Street, and Ann Street, Christ Church forming the point. But, before Christ Church was built, the wall forming that boundary ran to a point further towards Paradise Street, leaving only a carriage road from Congreve Street to Pinfold Street, which was the great highway from Dudley and all the Black Country districts. The left side of Ann Street, towards Newhall Street from the Town Hall, there were straggling houses and little shops all the way, but on the right side of the Street, the dead wall ran from Congreve Street to about opposite where the Bell and Candlestick now stands, where there was large hay and straw warehouse, called "Old Badger's," in front of which the hay and straw markets used to be held. Between this and Bennett's Hill there stood five little houses, one at the corner, which Mr. Payne, the architect, occupied, was a little shop, and the only building between there and New Street, excepting the Old Post Office, a miserable-looking hole that stood about twenty yards from New Street. The room - if it may be called a room - where the half-dozen postmen arranged their letters, little better than a coal-hole, but the foundation for a permanent post-office was being being laid at the corner of New Street, where Mr. Osborne's cutlery shop now stands, and a good roomy substantial edifice was erected, but, before the penny postage came into use, it was found altogether too circumscribed for the vast increase of business, and removed opposite to what had been built as the New Royal Hotel. The Lawyers' Piece was a favourite resort of the boys, playing hide and seek, rolling down the sand banks, tip-cat, etc., but occasionally the Lawyer's Piece was required for something more important; political and other meetings have been held there, along with festive gatherings. The last festive gathering on Lawyers' Place was when one of the younger branches of Messrs. Taylor and Perry, silversmiths, of Newhall Street, came of age. A bull was baited, killed, roasted, and eaten on the Lawyers' Piece by the workmen, their friends, and anyone who liked to go for a slice. Some time after an attempt was made to cultivate it, but to very little purpose, owing to the sandy nature of the soil, and depredations of boys and youths; but many now alive can remember a plough and horses at work where Christ Church now stands, which was the first building erected; after that, the Reading Rooms, on the site of the County Court, followed by others, until it has become the very heart of commerce."

Even taking into account distance decay or a shortfall of memory, these first-hand accounts of Birmingham are priceless and afford a glimpse of what life was like before social history started to be documented properly. The reference to the postal coal-hole is interesting and its close proximity to the tavern suggests that the pub was frequented by postal workers and/or perhaps some of their work was conducted on the premises before the facilities were improved.

The term "Coal-Hole' appeared as early as 1848 within Aris's Birmingham Gazette when the newspaper reported a robbery at the Bell and Candlestick. It was early on a December morning that thieves entered the property and stole a quantity of cigars, several bottles of sherry wine, an eight-day timepiece set within a mahogany frame, and other articles. The Gazette reported that "the robbers effected their entrance through a cellar window in the yard, and after passing the spirit and porter stores, got into the "Cole-Hole," or liquor vault, and stole the items." This article suggests that the Coal-Hole was a name applied to one room within the building, perhaps subterranean. This is corroborated within another newspaper report in which Charles Godfrey was trying to eject a prostitute by pushing her up the stairs. This article is also interesting in that the magistrates virtually established a legal precedent for allowing prostitutes to tout for business within the taverns of Birmingham.

Christ Church on New Street and Victoria Square in Birmingham [c.1899]

This photograph of Christ Church was taken towards the end of the 1890s by which time the church had closed for services. Notice how a row of shops had been incorporated within the wall leading around to New Street. The most notable trader here was Arthur Moore who operated his Oyster Rooms which appear to occupy two of the original shop units, though the confectioner Arthur Reeves is listed at No.78 New Street. In the mid-1840s the premises later used as Oyster Rooms was occupied by the cooper James Crump who traded next to the fruiterer William Newman. The latter traded here for many years and was still occupying the premises towards the end of the 1860s. The cooperage also remained and was operated by widow Charlotte Crump. She was helped by her son Charles who had trained as a cooper and, together, they employed two other men in their busy enterprise.

Christ Church was built on land donated by William Inge, whose family had married into the Phillips lineage. The church was to be largely free to accommodate the growing working-class population who could not afford to attend existing buildings. In the late 18th century one had to pay for a pew in order to attend services. Moreover, it is likely that the middle classes were disturbed by the morality of the 'lower orders.' King George III offered to lay the foundation stone in addition to donating £1,000 towards the cost of the building. This acted as an impetus for other dignitaries to dig into their pockets to stump up the cash. Even so, it proved difficult to fund the project and this is one possible reason for the incorporation of business premises to raise rents. In the end it was the Earl of Dartmouth who was to perform the shiny trowel ceremony after Royal Assent was given in June 1803. However, even he pulled a sickie and so the High Bailiff Richard Pratchett was the man who actually dolloped a bit of cement for the foundation stone.

Rather like today's construction projects, the building took years to complete and was way behind schedule. The original designs of William Hollins were changed during construction. It was originally supposed to have a dome and cupola similar to that of the nearby Saint Philip's Church. However, Charles Norton, a Birmingham builder and surveyor, seems to have modified it to include what was called an ugly spire even when it was being raised. Critics slammed the Gothic spire added to a Classical body. The heavy stone structure featured a lofty portico, supported on columns of the Doric order. The church was consecrated on July 6th, 1813, and cost about £26,000. The free seats for the poor were on the ground floor with galleries for those who could afford to rent space. This embodied an unpopular 'us and them' environment, further compounded by the vicar's wife insisting that the working-class men sat on one side of the building and the women on the opposite rows, thus dividing families during worship. This doctrine, coupled with the dreadful architecture, resulted in a church being reviled rather than cherished. The dwindling number of parishioners who had moved to the growing suburbs of Birmingham was perhaps the excuse to rid the place from the landscape. Consequently, Christ Church was demolished in 1899. If you ever wondered why the Church of St. Agatha in Sparkbrook is such a substantial building, it was erected to replace Christ Church. The foundation stone, font, clock and bell of Christ Church were all transferred to St. Agatha's. The bodies lying in the vaults, including that of the printer John Baskerville, were removed to the cemetery at Warstone Lane.

The closure of the Bell and Candlestick on Ann Street in Birmingham [c.1872]

The shops and businesses on the north side of Ann Street were boarded up by the time of this photograph. Indeed, it seems that some people are removing their possessions from the former Bell and Candlestick. The statue to the left of the photograph is that of Sir Robert Peel. The second public statue to be placed in Birmingham, it was erected in 1855 to the memory of the statesman who, as Prime Minister, accepted the town's validity of the Charter of Incorporation in 1842.

Having received notice to quit, the life of the Bell and Candlestick ended on June 24th 1873 when Charles Godfrey delivered up the premises to the Corporation of Birmingham. Demolition of the property commenced during the following month. On September 12th, 1873 Charles Godfrey went to the Police Court to seek a new full licence for a house situated on the corner of New Edmund Street and Congreve Street, a property that had been occupied by Thomas Henry Gem. The former publican of the Bell and Candlestick proposed to convert the building into a hotel. However, there was an anomaly due to the licence of the Bell and Candlestick being in the name of Ann Humphreys, his nominee. She was, in fact, his sister who had come from Kettering to work in the pub, along with her daughter Louisa. Consequently, as the licence was in her name no transfer could be made. Charles Godfrey's solicitor asked the magistrates to consider the matter for a future application. However, the Bench demonstrated great reticence and stated that it would be more prudent to wait until the new Council House was completed before they considered any new licences in close proximity.

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Ann Humphreys [spelt Humphries in some records] was left to run the Bell and Candlestick towards the end of its days whilst Charles Godfrey established himself at the Swan With Two Necks on Aston Street, a public house that his son would later run. Charles Godfrey was also involved with the Garrick's Head at Lower Temple Street. Indeed, after moving to the Bristol Road, he became quite an entrepreneur and was known as a wine and spirits merchant. In later years he and his family moved out to leafy Shirley and lived near to the Saracen's Head.

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Licensees of this pub

1819 - William Westwood
1825 - William Westwood
1828 - Sophia Westwood
1835 - 1839 Benjamin Jones
1841 - 1873 Charles Godfrey
1873 - 1873 Ann Humphreys
Note : this is not a complete list of licensees for this pub.

Genealogy Connections

If you have a genealogy story or query regarding the Bell and Candlestick you can contact me and I will post it here in addition to including your message within the website pages for Birmingham Genealogy.

Newspaper Articles

"William Durn and John Thomas were charged with violently Mr. E. Bolter, of Birmingham, and stealing from his person a watch, his property. Mr. Adams conducted the prosecution, and Mr. O'Brien appeared for the prisoners. From the evidence of the Prosecutor and other witnesses it appeared that early on the morning of the 21st of February, Mr. Bolter was returning home along Tennant Street, when he was suddenly attacked by two men, one of whom put his arm violently round his throat, and endeavoured to throw him down. A struggle ensued, and they both fell to the ground, when the other party tore open his coat and dragged his watch from his waistcoat pocket. They then decamped together, leaving part of the watch-chain which had been broken off at the swivel. He immediately gave information to the police, and shortly afterwards saw the two prisoners in custody, whom he recognised as the parties who had robbed him. When the police officer searched Durn at the station, a piece of guard, with the swivel, was found in his possession, which corresponded exactly with the other part of the chain. A short time before the robbery the two prisoners entered the Exhibition public house, in Tennant Street, and had glass of ale each, and they were also seen drinking together at the Bell and Candlestick public house, in Ann Street. When the prisoners were taken into custody and informed of the charge against them, they denied all knowledge of the robbery. Prosecutor had no doubt the prisoners were the men who attacked him. He recognised them by their voices and appearances; but on cross-examination he admitted had not seen their faces before they attacked and threw him down. Mr. O'Brien, for the prisoners, contended that the evidence of identity was not sufficiently strong to warrant a conviction. The jury, however, after remaining some time in deliberation, returned a verdict of "guilty" and the prisoners were sentenced each to five years' penal servitude."
"Warwickshire Lent Assizes"
Aris's Birmingham Gazette : April 2nd 1855 Page 1.

"A pale genteel-looking girl, named Elizabeth Perry, one of the unfortunates, was charged with assaulting a licensed victualler. Mr. C. Godfrey, landlord of the Coal Hole, Bell and Candlestick, Ann Street, stated that for some time past this girl coming to his liquor vaults, made a disturbance, and insulted the customers and the barmaid. Determined to put a stop to the annoyance, he on the preceding Saturday night, on her making her appearance, took hold of her, as she refused to leave when desired do so, and was pushing her upstairs when she struck him in the right eye, and great pain and inflammation had been the result. The defendant said she merely put out her hand to keep Mr. Godfrey from her, and it accidentally hit his eye. She had no intention at all to strike him; but she thought Mr. Godfrey should serve all of her class alike. Some he allowed to remain. Mr. Kynnersley said he thought it an accident, and besides it was clear that before any bad conduct was shown the girl had been forcibly ejected from the tavern. Mr. Godfrey himself admitted that the blow might be accidental, and as to putting the girl out, he really did wish to be free from the visits of this class of women. The Magistrates dismissed the summons, and the Stipendiary did not see, whilst unfortunate women properly conducted themselves, that they could be forcibly ejected from houses of public entertainment and resort."
"A Prostitute Charged With Assaulting a Licensed Victualler"
Birmingham Journal : January 24th 1857 Page 6.

"Some misconception exists amongst that class of licensed victuallers who have no stables to accommodate cavalry on the march billeted upon them. Today Mr. Charles Godfrey, landlord of the Bell and Candlestick Inn, Ann Street, was summoned on charge, under the 22nd Victoria, cap. 4, of refusing to receive a soldier [5th Dragoon Guards] billeted upon him. Mr. Godfrey refused because he had no stable accommodation. However, the case did not come to a hearing, being compromised. But on Friday last, before W. James, Esq., Mr. W. Simmons, landlord of the King's Arms, Baggott Street, similarly situated as Mr. Godfrey, having been also summoned, was, after hearing, fined 40s. and costs. We quote below the point in the clause of the Act referred to, to show licensed victuallers that they must indirectly, where not able directly, provide for the billeting of cavalry when called upon "And when any cavalry shall be billeted upon the occupiers of houses in which soldiers may be quartered, who shall have no stables, then upon the requisition of the proper officer, the constable is required to billet the men and horses on some other persons who has stables. And upon complaint by this person, to whose house such soldier was removed, to two Justices, it shall be lawful for such Justices to order a proper allowance to be paid to the person thus relieved to the person receiving such cavalry soldier, and furnishing the requisite accommodation."
"Billeting of Cavalry Soldiers"
Birmingham Journal : June 18th 1859 Page 11.

"Thomas Swaine and Christopher Ward, policemen in the borough force, and James Ford, barman, were summoned for assaulting Mr. Adams, soda water manufacturer. Mr. Cheston appeared for the complainant, and Mr. Cutler defended the two policemen. On the 8th inst. the complainant visited the Prince of Wales Theatre, and after leaving there, he called Mr. Godfrey's house, the Bell and Candlestick, Ann Street. Whilst he was drinking some beer, the defendant Ford stopped him, and ordered him to go out of the house. The complainant refusing to do so, Ford went for a policeman, and shortly afterwards the two other defendants walked into the house, and they, with Ford, commenced pushing and pulling Mr. Adams about, and tore his clothes. They did not, however, put him of the house, but left him standing at the bar. For the defence, it was contended that the time Mr. Godfrey closes his house is twelve o'clock, and when the complainant was there it was twenty-five minutes past. He was requested to leave, and on refusing was told that if he did not do so he would have to be put out. Mr. Kynnersley considered that each of the defendants had committed an assault, and fined them each 1s. and costs."
"Alleged Assault by Policemen"
Birmingham Daily Gazette : March 14th 1867 Page 7.

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Newspaper Articles

"The inquest on the body of Mr. S. Rodway, who was found dead under the circumstances mentioned in yesterday's Daily Post, was held before Dr. Birt Davies, at the Bell and Candlestick, Ann Street, yesterday afternoon. A large number of the acquaintances of the deceased were present, both In the room where the inquest was held and around the doors and windows. The first witness called was George Osler, residing In George Street, Handsworth, who said he knew the deceased, having been in his employment as a clerk. The deceased lived at the Villa Cross Inn, Handsworth, and was by occupation a licensed victualler and auctioneer. He was about fifty years of age, was married, and had three children. The last time witness saw him alive was at about half-past two o'clock in the afternoon of Friday. That was in his office in Ann Street. On leaving, the deceased said if he was wanted he should he below, meaning at the Bell and Candlestick, a house he frequented. At this time his horse and gig, in which he had come to the office from Handsworth, was standing in the street at the office door. His horse and gig remained there, with the exception of a few minutes, till nine o'clock, deceased not returning to remove it. The office was usually closed at five o'clock, but as the deceased did not come back witness waited there. Shortly after nine o'clock, judging that the deceased had gone home in a cab, witness took the horse and gig to Handsworth. Deceased was not there, but as he was in the habit of staying out late, witness was not surprised. He, however, remained, and sat up all night with Mrs. Rodway. At about nine or ten o'clock in the morning witness returned into town with the trap, expecting to find deceased at the office, but heard shortly afterwards that he had been found dead at the back of the Bell and Candlestick. Deceased had been unwell for some two or three months, and had a very bad cough. His habits were irregular, and in a general way witness believed he drank hard. About a month back deceased was taken bad in a water closet at his own house, and called to witness, who was passing, to bring him some water. Witness took him some; he drank, and seemed better. Police Constable Adams [64] deposed that in consequence of a message received at the New Street Police Station at a little before ten o'clock on Saturday morning from the landlord of the Bell and Candlestick, he went to that house. He was shown to a convenience in the back yard, and finding the door closed and something behind it, he prised it at the top. Inside he found the deceased on the floor, quite dead in a sitting posture, with his head hanging forward between his legs. There was a little blood lying near him, as if it came from his mouth or his nose. There was a small mark over his left eye, a little whited, as if he had fallen against the wall. Witness saw nothing to indicate that anyone had interfered with him, or that he had taken anything to destroy his own life. Witness searched the body and found three and fourpence in money and several trifling articles. Mr. Burdett, surgeon, Temple Row, stated the result of a post-mortem examination he had made of the deceased, under the Coroner's precept, he found the face remarkably congested and empurpled in appearance, a slight confusion over the left eye, the remains of blood that had been discharged from the nose, and the upper lip very much contused and ecchymosed. He also found that a blister had lately been applied to the pit of the stomach. He also found a plaster on his back. On removing the bone of the head he found the whole of the sinuses entirely empty, and the membranes of the brain remarkably pale. The substance of the brain was also pale, and fine in structure. On opening the chest he found the lungs engorged with blood, and adherent on the pleural surfaces to the entire extent. The pericardium was very much distended, and on opening it, he found the heart completely encased in coagulated blood. The heart was flabby in its structure, and pale. The stomach contained about four ounces of granous fluid, which smelt of beer, and some particles of cheese undigested. That and all the other organs were healthy. There was no trace of deceased having taken anything to destroy his own life. Witness was of opinion that the deceased died from syncope, or fainting caused by a sudden effusion of blood into the pericardium. The jury returned a verdict that the deceased died by the visitation or God."
"The Death of Mr. S. Rodway"
Birmingham Daily Post : October 8th 1861 Page 2.