History of the Anchor Inn on Bradford Street in Digbeth in Birmingham in the county of Warwickshire.


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Some history of the Anchor Inn at Bradford Street and Rea Street

The photograph below shows the imposing character of the Anchor Inn on the corner of Digbeth's Bradford Street and Rea Street. This was the second Anchor Inn to trade here - an older Anchor Inn was replaced in the mid-19th century. The photograph below was taken around 1901 just before this building, the second Anchor, was replaced by a 'new' third pub that was commissioned by Ansell's brewery. The company have adverts for their Aston Ales in the windows of the old inn. The licensee at the time was George Edwin Benwell and he can be seen posing with his wife, Emma, in the doorway. That's one hell of an apron he's wearing. So, the original Anchor lasted for about half a century, the second Anchor for around 50 years and the third is still going strong after more than a century.

Like his father, George Benwell was a brassfounder [the surrounding streets had many brass factories] and he took over The Anchor in 1901 when he retired from that trade. As you can see from the pub's livery, it enjoyed inn status which allowed it to remain open as long as a bed was empty for any visitor to the city. You can also see the tram lines passing in front of the pub and there was a stop right outside the building making it ideal for those wanting to nip in for a quick pint.

The Anchor Inn on the corner of Bradford Street and Rea Street [c.1901]

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Compare the second Anchor in the photograph above with the third and present-day pub in the photograph below. The latter image was taken in the early-mid 1930's when Frederick Shaw was licensee. The building is a member of the city's fine collection of red terracotta buildings erected in the late Victorian and Edwardian age. The Anchor stands in a part of the city, which is steeped in history, much of it, violent. The buildings and events around the site have helped to shape Birmingham. The Anchor is close to the site of the Manor House of Birmingham. Moat Lane serves to remind the visitor that a ditch protected this ancient seat. This was fed by some of Digbeth's natural springs and the watercourse flowed into the Rea via the manorial mill from which Mill Lane takes its name. Indeed, this stream flowed within inches of today's pub, its course ran between the present-day Anchor and Digbeth Coach Station.

The Anchor Inn during the inter-war years

Originally built to grind corn, the mill later produced sword blades for the Parliamentary forces during the English Civil War. However, this led to its destruction by Prince Rupert's forces when they attacked the town in 1643. It was rebuilt and later converted to a slitting mill by Sampson Lloyd II, a descendent of a Quaker family from Leominster whose son would later co-found the famous Lloyd's Bank in Birmingham.

The mill played an influential role in the late development of the immediate area around the site of The Anchor. A map surveyed by Thomas Hanson in 1778 highlighted the Warner Fields estate owned by Henry Bradford. It illustrates how the watercourses restricted building between the river and the city centre. A bridge was built towards the end of the 18th century and later repaired with funds raised from the turnpike along Digbeth and Deritend. This, along with the infilling of the streams [mills by this period were operated by steam power], facilitated the development of Bradford Street up to Moat Lane and Smithfield Street. In fact, Rea Street was originally called Bridge Lane, and later Long Bridge Street. It was only named after the town's river around 1800.

By the time Rea Street's name changed, Digbeth had a large number of inns and taverns, mainly along the ribbon development of Digbeth and Deritend High Street. However, roads leading off the main thoroughfare started to be developed in the 1790's, including Birchall Street and Rea Street. Indeed, it is in the records for Rea Street that I detected the origins of the Anchor Inn. The earliest document to record a transaction for the land where the Anchor Inn would later be erected is dated January 23rd, 1787, and made between Robert Moore and Charles Glover, a builder, painter and decorator based at 51 Snow Hill. This correlates with the rapid sale and development of the surrounding streets, the majority of which were owned by large private estates. The industrial revolution created much speculative development in and around Digbeth and Deritend, particularly following the arrival of the canals.

The land immediately adjoining the Anchor Inn was, and still is, owned by the Gooch family of Suffolk. The site of the pub however formed part of the Granger Estate. William Granger was a noted antiquary of Exeter and his writings were illustrated by Joseph Cole to form the earliest plans of the city. The Granger's home was at Musgrave House - the name of which still exists in Musgrave Row. The family's Birmingham estate included land and property in Bradford Street, Rea Street, Barford Street and Moseley Street.

The Anchor Inn on the corner of Bradford Street and Rea Street in Digbeth [2001]

The first licensee of the Anchor Inn was John Bancroft. He appeared in the 1797 Pye's Trade Directory for Birmingham as a victualler in Rea Street, the original listed address of the pub. However, early rate books for what was then the Foreign and Edgbaston Districts show that he was one of only six people that first occupied the Birmingham section of Bradford Street. In later trade directories John Bancroft is listed as a builder and victualler [1803] or a carpenter and victualler [1808 Thomson and Wrighton] so he almost certainly had a part in the construction of the building. Indeed, a directory for 1791 lists a Joseph Bancroft as a builder in Bradford Street. This was probably John Bancroft's father.

The Bancroft's chose the name of the Anchor for their public house. Surprisingly, although there were others, this is the only surviving pub in the city to display the sign of the Anchor and yet this has been the assay mark for Birmingham since an Act of Parliament of 1773. It was Matthew Boulton, owner of the famous Soho Manufactory at Gib Heath near Handsworth, who successfully petitioned for the establishment of an assay office in both Birmingham and Sheffield. Matthew Boulton, who had many friends in political office, was an acute campaigner and the bill received royal assent in March 1773. The bells of Handsworth Church pealed triumphantly when he returned home to Soho House. During his long stay in London, Matthew Boulton, along with his Sheffield associates, conducted their Parliamentary business in the Crown and Anchor Tavern on The Strand. It was the sign of the pub that was taken for the assay marks of each town. There may have been a coin tossed to decide who adopted which - or maybe even a bar game. However it was decided in the pub, since that time Birmingham's mark has been the Anchor and the mark for Sheffield has been the Crown. Little wonder therefore that many pubs in the town [it was not a city until 1889] should adopt the sign of the Anchor to commemorate Matthew Boulton's furtherance of Birmingham commerce. Ironically, the original assay office was opened in a rented room in another pub - the King's Head Inn on New Street.

The Bradford Street frontage of the Anchor Inn [2008]

John Bancroft was the publican of the Anchor Inn until 1807. He remained however as the leaseholder of the building, opting to sub-let the property to another publican as he also had interests in another public house further along Rea Street. Richard Hadden became the second full licensee of the Anchor Inn though Samuel Oakley stayed for a brief spell. Richard Hadden moved to Navigation Street in 1815 and Samuel Tidmas took over as the publican of the Anchor Inn. He was born in Knowle on November 12th 1756. Following his death, the licence was transferred to his wife Elizabeth and later to son Thomas.

Josiah Cox arrived in 1828 and remained until 1835 by which time the pub faced increased competition from the abundance of beer houses springing up throughout Digbeth. Henry Peake took over the licence of what was then known as the Anchor Tavern in 1838. A Birmingham rate book of that year shows that the annual ground rent for the pub was £39.5s.0d. Henry Peake paid his rates of £2.12s.6d in full. In the 1841 census he is documented as a 55 year-old publican. He lived here with his wife Charlotte, also 55 and their children Henry, 25, Charlotte, 25, and Mary, 20. They also employed Barbara Yates, a 25 year-old servant. The inn was occupied on that night by the farrier Thomas Bothby and the equestrians Joseph Paddington and James Tippen, two men who probably had business to conduct at the nearby markets. A silver plater by trade, Henry Peake Jnr. later kept the Vine Inn at New Town Row with his wife Elizabeth.

The Bar of The Anchor in Bradford Street [2008]

By 1849 the licence of the Anchor Tavern had passed to Benjamin Palmer. The 1851 census recorded him as a 35 year-old licensed victualler. Hailing from Solihull, he lived here with his Baddesley-born wife Mary Ann, 36, and their 2 year-old son Benjamin Richard. The boy helps to track where the Palmer's were previously because the census indicates that he was born in Hampton-in-Arden just before they moved to The Anchor. By the 1861 census, Benjamin Palmer had recruited a barman, his 20 year-old nephew John Tabbener who also originated from Hampton-in-Arden. He also employed Aston-born Ann Weldgoose, 22, as a general servant and a 26 year-old brewer called William Pearson who hailed from Erdington.

Benjamin Palmer was probably the first licensee of the second Anchor Tavern. An advertisement for the sale of the building appeared in the Birmingham Gazette on September 17th 1855 in which it is detailed as the "newly-erected and highly-important wholesale and retail wine and spirit establishment, known as The Anchor." The advertisement advised potential buyers that the pub was "in the occupation of Mr. Benjamin Palmer upon an under lease for nineteen years from the 25th day of March, 1853, at the yearly rent of 50/."

The Saloon Bar of The Anchor in Bradford Street [2008]

The Palmer family moved on after a 19-year spell at the tavern which, by 1856, had become known as the Anchor Wine and Spirit Vaults in Birmingham's Trade Directories. The new incumbent towards the end of 1867 was Thomas Burton, the licence being transferred to him on January 2nd 1868. In the census conducted three years later, he was recorded as a 29 year-old licensed victualler hailing from Radford in Nottinghamshire. He was a man with pubs in his blood as he grew up in his parent's tavern on the Derby Road in Nottingham. He kept the Anchor Vaults with his 29 year-old Birmingham-born wife Mary Ann. They employed three servants, which indicated a busy house. Birmingham-born Sarah Reeves and Mary Thompson were employed as domestic servants whilst Malvern-born William Wilden's duties included porter and barman. As tenant, Thomas Burton paid his annual rent to Edwin Fearn Grimley, an estate agent of Yardley, who acted for the Granger family. In 1871 the rent for the property was £80.0s.0d. To put this into perspective with other pubs in Digbeth, this was some £20 more than the rent of the Spotted Dog in Meriden Street but £28 less than the neighbouring Warwick Arms. Thomas Burton paid the rates of £5.13s.4d for the licensed public house, brewhouse, stable and premises in full.

The number of Birmingham's beer houses reached its peak during the tenure of Thomas Burton. By the end of the 1870's the Anchor Inn had much competition in the immediate area. There were now many more public houses in Bradford Street and there were boozers on two of the opposite corners of this crossroads. Mary Ann Burton died in 1875 and Thomas re-married to a King's Heath woman called Maud. The couple named their daughter after her in 1881; two other children were living on the premises - John and Tom. In the early 1880's the Anchor Inn was seemingly weathering the storm of competition as the staff had increased to four : Mary Foster, a servant and barmaid from Shropshire, local lass Jessica Clarrow and Oxford-born Lily Price were the general servants and a barman, Edward Hemming, who hailed from Leamington Spa.

Thomas and Maud Burton moved to the Beehive Tavern on Soho Hill and were succeeded at the Anchor Inn by Thomas Davies who was provided with a loan of £750.0s.0d. from Ansell's which ensured that he was tied to them for the supply of beer, wines and spirits. This agreement was to remain in force following the auction of the lease, goodwill and possession of the property - as seen in this advertisement that appeared in the Birmingham Daily Post on December 12th 1893.

Auction Notice for the Anchor Inn [1893]

Thomas and Maud Burton's stay was relatively short before the arrival of Jane Ainge in August 1890. Hailing from Forton just outside Newport in Shropshire, the 52 year-old widow had previously kept the White Swan on Bell Barn Road with her husband George. The couple had also run a beer house called the St. Luke's Tavern in St. Luke's Street where they brewed their own ales in the 1860's and 1870's. Jane Ainge also had a spell running the Grand Turk Inn during the late 1880's. At the Anchor Inn Jane Ainge was helped by two of her children; Florie was a bar assistant and Herbert a cellarman. Jane Ainge also employed Alfred Williams as a bar assistant along with servants Wilmot Spitsbury and Maria Swaffield.

Tavern Check issued by Edward Spall at the Anchor Inn

Jane Ainge died in 1895, not long after the licence of the Anchor Inn was granted to Edward Spall on March 1st 1894. Running the pub for five years between 1894-9, he issued his own tavern checks [see image above]. With a workshop based at 36 Tenby Street, diesinker Albert Wise manufactured them for Edward Spall. Benjamin Palmer and Thomas Davies also issued checks at the Anchor Inn and even Ansell's did so at a later date. Further up Bradford Street, the Adam and Eve, issued checks to be spent on their skittle alley and quoits ground.

Emily Grace Walker who married Charles Spall

The son of a goldsmith and born in Birmingham in 1870, Charles Spall gained his first experience of pubs when his parents, Charles and Mary, took over the Vittoria Tavern located in the Jewellery Quarter. The family later moved to the extremely busy Lord Nelson on the High Street. Edward junior married Emily Walker [pictured above] in 1893. After running the Anchor Inn the couple moved to Leicester where they opened a fancy goods shop on Gallowtree Gate.

1898 Lease agreement between the Granger family and Ansell and Sons Ltd.

An indenture dated December 29th 1898 records a lease agreement between the Granger family [comprising of spinster Elizabeth Granger and Frederick Granger, both formerly of Musgrave House in Exeter, spinsters Dora and Emily Granger, both of Higher Summerlands, Exeter, and Henry Granger of Wimbledon] and Ansell and Sons Ltd. With a premium of £200.0s.0d. the term of the lease was set at 99 years from December 25th 1893 with a ground rent of £61.11s.0d. to be paid in four equal quarterly payments. More importantly, Ansell's made a covenant that they would expend a sum of £1,200.0s.0d. within 12 months on alterations and additions to the property. This type of agreement was not unusual - the landowners realised that the brewers were falling over themselves for key locations and forced them to improve the properties on their behalf. The Holt Brewery Company agreed to spend £1,000 rebuilding the nearby Dog and Partridge and in 1899 Ansell's made a similar agreement with Richard William Penn to rebuild the White Swan on the corner of Birchall Street at a cost of £2,000. The sum agreed for the Anchor Inn was some £800.0s.0d. less and was probably viewed as a good deal by the Aston-based company.

Bradford Street - Lounge of the Anchor Inn [c.1980]

The earlier Anchor, the second on this site, was almost taller than it was wide [see photograph at the top of the page] but a new type of establishment was required by the end of the 19th century. The reduction of public houses in the city centre was something of a paradox because they still served large demographic areas - Digbeth was packed to bursting point. The magistrates were granting new licences to the pubs built in the burgeoning suburbs but only at the expense of surrendered licences in the inner city. The response of the brewers was to increase the size of their premises. Birmingham magistrates were more than happy with this policy - Victorian values created a motive among the municipal-minded to improve the condition of the city's drinking houses and they saw "bigger but fewer" pubs as a positive step forward. To create a pub with larger floor space Ansell's signed a lease for the adjoining plot of land that also belonged to the Granger family. When the indenture for this transaction was drawn up Elizabeth Granger, detained at the Holloway Sanatorium Virginia Water in Surrey, was considered a "person of unsound mind" so Frederick acted on her behalf. Interestingly, on the very same day the Granger Estate leased Nos.232-4 Moseley Street on the corner of Rea Street [formerly the Old Plough Inn to Rushton's Brewery Ltd. who agreed to pay an annual rent of £38.0s.0d. Based at The Lion Brewery in Aston, Rushton's had a tied estate of around 100 pubs before they were acquired by Ansell's in 1923.

In 1901 Ansell's commissioned local architects James and Lister Lea and Sons to design a striking new building to replace the original inn. Based at 19 Cannon Street, this firm also operated an estate agents business and managed the Gooch estate. The census of 1901 indicates that the pub was still trading but was soon closed for business. However, the building plan for the 'new' Anchor were not passed until 1902. The pub is typical of James and Lister Lea and Sons' work during this period. Criticised by many architects of the period and indeed later, these "pub palaces" do at least have an important place in the fabric of the city.

Building Plan for the Anchor Inn on Bradford Street [1901]

The most obvious difference between The Anchor and other pubs designed and built by James and Lister Lea is that it only has two floors. However, the building plans include a third floor. This has led to much speculative debate between myself and the building's owner Gerry Keane. The main theories are that it was never built OR that it was constructed but, for some reason, was removed by the time of the earliest known surviving photograph shown above [taken around 1936]. It is possible there was a structural fault and that the attics had to be taken down before this photograph? If we return to the other theory - why would Ansell's not build a third floor? It is true that construction date of The Anchor coincides with the bubble bursting in the estate expansion war. Indeed, this had proved to be the downfall of some brewers because their estate accumulation was often unsustainable. It is possible that Ansell's downgraded the building specifications of The Anchor to a more functional role. If this was the case however, another building plan would have been submitted for approval by the city surveyor. There is no record of such a plan.

Bradford Street - Snug of the Anchor Inn [c.1980]

Joseph Finnemore arrived at The Anchor in 1913. His wife Kate took the licence between 1916 and 1919, which suggests that Joseph served in France during the First World War and then returned to the pub. His father James Finnemore kept the Plough and Harrow on the corner of Moseley Street and Rea Street at the end of the 19th century. This building was converted into a café in recent years. Frederick and Gertrude Shaw who managed the pub until the middle of the Second World War succeeded Joseph and Kate Finnemore. It would seem that two families then ran the pub because records indicate that Thomas and Margaret Chell shared the property with John and Gladys Wade.

Following William Lee's arrival in 1954 the pub was run for just a few years by many of the managers ending in the departure of Scotsman William McKenna in 1973. This marked the beginning of the Keane family's long association with The Anchor. Thomas and Mary Keane hailed from Milltown County Galway, Thomas Keane was better known as Gerry to his friends and customers. His first taste of the licensed trade in Birmingham was at The Ship on Camp Hill. The original Ship Inn was used by Prince Rupert for his headquarters in 1643. Ironically, the pub went through a period of being called The Anchor. It was rebuilt in 1867 and demolished in the 1970's. Gerry Keane went back to Galway to bring his Brownesgrove-born wife Mary and their children over before he took the licence of another famous 'lost' pub - the Salutation Inn. A Birmingham Rhymester mentioned this pub in 1763 : "Ye mortals who never in all you wild trips, With good humming liquor saluted your lips, Give ear to my story, ye stranges to cheer, The pleasure I sing is of Birmingham beer; 'Tis here the salutis of Life's to be found; For merchants who circuit the kingdom around, Declare, on their travels from Thames to the Tweed, That Birmingham stingo all others exceed." Gerry and Mary Keane also kept the Warwick Castle in Great Francis Street.

Thomas and Mary Keane took over the tenancy of The Anchor over the Easter of 1973. This was a period when the area towards the city centre was being redeveloped and the Birmingham Arms and the Drover's Arms were already boarded up ready for demolition. Son Gerry, later the owner of the building, remembers the terrible smog in 1973 and the national power cuts when the pub remained open by candlelight. The Anchor was, at this time, very much a "spit and sawdust" pub and its customers were the hard men who worked in the neighbouring tan yard and slaughterhouse.

When Gerry Keane retired in 1983, son Gerry became the new tenant. When the old lease signed in the late Victorian period came to an end it was surrendered by Ansell's on February 11th 1994. They had merged with Ind Coope & Allsopp and Tetley Walker to form Allied Breweries in 1961. Born in 1960 at Tuam, Co. Galway, Gerry Keane acquired The Anchor on March 16th 1994 and it once again returned to free house status. Owning the building, Gerry was able to sell any beer he wished. He made the decision to establish a pub whose reputation would rest on the products sold over the counter. The drinkers of Birmingham embraced the new philosophy with open arms and The Anchor rapidly gained a reputation that marketing people can only dream about. It was in 1996/7 that the pub was awarded the prestigious CAMRA award of 'Regional Pub of the Year' an honour it would deservedly receive again in 1998/9 and 2007/8.

Newspaper Articles

"On Saturday afternoon, the enquiry into the death of Alfred Smith, a hairdresser, thirty-three years old, and living in Bradford Street, who was found hanging to a balustrade in his own house, was held at the Anchor Inn, Bradford Street, before Dr. Birt Davies. It seemed from the evidence that on the afternoon of Friday, the unfortunate deceased went to bed. His wife placed a pillow on the bed about half-past five o'clock, and he was then fast asleep. In about an hour afterwards Mrs. Smith sent one of her daughters to ask the deceased if he would take tea. The girl hurried back, and stated her father had hung himself, and on examination her statement was found too true. He had it seems on waking up, obtained a piece of cord, made a noose, placed it round his neck, and attached the other end to the balustrade at the top of the stairs, and then swung himself off. Latterly the business had been rather flat, and this, it is believed, had preyed upon his mind. The deceased had for some time complained of pains in the head, and could not sleep well during the night. He had recently taken more drink than usual, but was not considered an intemperate man. After hearing the above evidence, the Jury returned a verdict to the effect that "Deceased committed suicide while in a state of insanity."
"The Suicide of a Barber in Bradford Street"
Birmingham Daily Post : July 23rd 1860.

"Yesterday afternoon an inquest was held at the Anchor Inn, Bradford Street, on the body of a married woman, thirty-two years of age, named Jane Burton, the wife of William S. Burton, retail brewer, residing in Rea Street. It appeared from the evidence of the husband of the deceased that his wife had been very much addicted to drinking spirits, and that for nearly four years she had been in a chronic state of drunkenness. For about twelve months past she had been attended by Mr. Palmer and Mr. Oakes, surgeons, for consumption. About a fortnight ago she became worse and from that time gradually sank and expired on Friday last. The witness had demanded the inquest in consequence of reports that had been set afloat by one of the deceased's relations. His wife's sister had told him that he had ill-used Mrs. Burton. The witness distinctly denied the accusation and wished the truth to be sifted out. Ruth Jones, the sister alluded to by the last witness, who resides in Meriden Street, was then called; but it was with great difficulty that she could be induced by the Coroner to answer any questions. She said that she had only seen her sister once since a short time before last Christmas. On the day in December, Mr. Burton was quarrelling with his wife and pushed her. She refused to say whether she thought the push hurt the deceased, Mrs. Burton had told her that Mr. Burton had several times "munched" her and beaten her. On close questioning, however, she said that the deceased said that treatment had taken place once only. The witness, who had contradicted her own statement several times, now declined to answer the questions put to her, was here admonished by the Coroner, and asked whether she was not ashamed of herself to damage a person's character by making allegations which had no foundation. The witness then stated that she had not stated to Mr. Burton that he had ill-treated her sister; she merely said that he had "munched" her. Her reason for saying that was because her aunt, Jane Jones, had told her that Mr. Burton had pulled her out of bed, and that since then she had always complained of a pain at her side. The witness refused to answer any questions by Jurors. Jane Jones was then called, and stated that one day whilst the deceased was lying ill in bed she visited her. Mrs. Burton then told her that she had a pain on her side, and that her husband had pulled out of bed. She did not say what time he did it. The witness thought at the time that the pain in the side had been caused by being pulled out of bed, but she had no reason for thinking so. Mr. Oakes, surgeon, who had made a post-mortem examination of the body of the deceased, gave it as his opinion that death had resulted from consumption. The Jury returned a verdict of "Died by the visitation of God;" adding that, in their opinion, there was no foundation for the allegation that the deceased had been ill-treated by her husband."
"Alleged Ill-Treatment by a Publican"
Birmingham Daily Post : February 20th 1863.

Ansell's Aston Brewery

Brummagem Boozers

Licensees of this pub

1797 - 1807 John Bancroft
1807 - 1807 Samuel Oakley
1807 - 1815 Richard Hadden
1815 - 1822 Samuel Tidmas
1822 - 1823 Elizabeth Tidmas
1823 - 1828 Thomas Tidmas
1828 - 1835 Josiah Cox
1835 - 1838 Benjamin Hunt
1838 - 1848 Henry Peake
1848 - 1868 Benjamin Palmer
1868 - 1888 Thomas Burton
1888 - 1890 Thomas Joseph Davies
1890 - 1894 Jane Ainge
1894 - 1899 Edward Charles Spall
1899 - 1901 Albert Jeffs
1901 - 1903 George Edwin Benwell
1903 - 1904 Richard Sutton
1904 - 1905 Frank Steans
1905 - 1911 Joseph Huddleston
1911 - 1913 Albert Simmonds
1913 - 1916 Joseph Finnemore
1916 - 1919 Kate Finnemore
1919 - 1932 Joseph Finnemore
1932 - 1942 Frederick James Shaw
1942 - 1943 Thomas Chell
1943 - 1953 John Henry Wade
1953 - 1957 William Henry Lea
1957 - 1957 Donald Gilbert Webber
1957 - 1959 Reginald Stanley Brown
1959 - 1962 Anthony Patrick Kaine
1962 - 1964 Horace Masters
1964 - 1969 George Victor Godwin
1969 - 1971 Finian Edward Gargan
1971 - 1972 Norman Jospeh Egan
1972 - 1973 William B. McKenna
1973 - 1983 Thomas Gerard Keane
1983 - 2016 Gerard Keane
Note : this is not a complete list of licensees for this pub.

Commemorative Plaque for the Keane family

Pub of the Year Award for the Anchor Inn [2007]

Ansell's - The Better Beer

Ansell's - Ah The Better Beer

Genealogy Connections

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

"This is a long shot as I don't know if the people at The Anchor will remember myself and my brother Robert Monahan. My name is Mary Monahan, we used to drink in The Anchor when we lived in Birmingham over fifteen years ago. I am actually looking for a person named Alan Lowe he was a regular in the Anchor and hopefully still is. To cut a long story short Alan's daughter Taylor is looking for him. We lost contact when I moved address and also lost Alan's address."

Mary Monahan - June 15th 2010

"I am researching my family history and have found that my great-great grandfather Charles Wootton, lived at 62 Rea Street according to his father's death certificate and White's Trade Directory of 1850. He was a nail manufacturer. I would really appreciate an electronic copy of the old map on your web site if that would be possible. I am hoping to visit Birmingham this summer to do some further research."

Sandra Jenkinson - April 24th 2010

Inn Sign

Inn Sign of the Why Not Inn at Cradley [2001]

Photographed in 1989, this Ansell's inn sign was positioned outside the only remaining tavern in Birmingham bearing this name. This is rather surprising because the anchor been the assay mark for Birmingham since an Act of Parliament of 1773. It was Matthew Boulton, owner of the famous Soho Manufactory at Gib Heath near Handsworth, who successfully petitioned for the establishment of an assay office in both Birmingham and Sheffield. Boulton, who had many friends in political office, was an acute campaigner and the bill received royal assent in March 1773. The bells of Handsworth Church pealed triumphantly when he returned home to Soho House. During his long stay in London, Matthew Boulton, along with his Sheffield associates, conducted their Parliamentary business in the Crown and Anchor Tavern on The Strand. It was the sign of the pub that was taken for the assay marks of each town. There may have been a coin tossed to decide who adopted which - or maybe even a bar game. However it was decided in the pub, since that time Birmingham's mark has been the Anchor and the mark for Sheffield has been the Crown.


Plan Showing the Anchor Inn on the corner of Bradford Street and Rea Street in Digbeth [1889]

The above plan dates from 1889 and shows the Anchor Inn on the corner of Bradford Street and Rea Street, along with details of property numbers and industrial activity. The plan below is earlier and dates from 1875. This was drawn up to show the Gooch estate but the Anchor Inn was just outside of this area and belonged to the Granger Estate. I have marked the locations of other nearby pubs on this plan.

1875 Plan of Gooch Estate showing Bradford Street Public Houses

Related Websites

Aston Brook through Aston Manor
Birmingham City Council
Birmingham History Forum
Birmingham Places and Place Names
Carl Chinn Archive
Handsworth History
Ladywood Past and Present
Perry Barr and Beyond
Winson Green to Brookfields

Have Your Say

If you would like to share any further information on this pub - perhaps you drank here in the past? Or maybe knew a previous publican? Whatever the reason it would be great to hear of your stories or gossip. Simply send a message and I'll post it here.

Bar Staff

The people detailed below were all working behind the bar at the Anchor Inn during 2008.....

Gerry Keane at the Anchor Inn [2008]

Gerry Keane, the pub's owner, grew up in the Anchor Inn when it was kept by his mum and dad for Ansell's. Gerry bought The Anchor in 1994 and turned the place into a haven for enthusiasts of real ale. Sometimes found behind the counter, Gerry was often behind the scenes masterminding the many beer festivals staged at The Anchor.

Pauline at the Anchor Inn [2008]

Having been at The Anchor since 1999, Pauline was the senior member of the team behind the counter in 2008. She was born in Manchester but has also lived in Ireland. She brought with her a wealth of experience in the licensed trade and had previously worked at the Vauxhall Sports and Social Club. Pauline's favourite tipple was cider so she was happy with the choice at The Anchor.

George at the Anchor Inn [2008]

George was appointed manager of The Anchor by Gerry Keane in November 2005. He remained for around four years and established himself as a popular gaffer with the regular customers. He came to the pub with a lot of experience in the licensed trade. Born in Bournville, the Blues fan later moved to Shirley. When on the opposite side of the counter, he enjoyed drinking Belgian beers.

Rachel at the Anchor Inn [2008]

Rachel started working in The Anchor in 2008. Originally from Newcastle-under-Lyme, she was a keen cricket player. Rachel was captain of the Birmingham Women's team. She moved to the city to read history at Birmingham University.

Rob at the Anchor Inn [2008]

Rob is the brother of George, manager of The Anchor in 2008. He only came in for a pint one day but got roped into helping behind the bar as it was a busy session. He ended up joining the team behind the counter for a period.

Charmaine at the Anchor Inn [2008]

Charmaine started her first shift behind the counter of The Anchor in 2006. Born-and-bred in Birmingham, she told me that she was really into music, fashion and socialising.

Hannah at the Anchor Inn [2008]

I think Hannah was another University student earning a few bob at The Anchor. Unlike the other staff members, I didn't ask her where she was from.

John and Liz McGuinness at the Anchor Inn [2001]

John and Liz McGuinness were jointly managing The Anchor for Gerry Keane in 2001. I'm not sure how long they were running the place on a day-to-day basis and I don't know where they went?

Ansell's Bittermen - You Can't Beat 'Em

Ansell's Mild Playing Card

Ansell's Squirrel

Ansell's Newcrest Stout

Ansell's Bitter - That's Better

Be An Ansell's Bitterman

Ansell's Nut Brown Ale

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Roy Blount Jr.

"A good heavy book holds you down. It's an anchor that keeps you from getting up and having another gin and tonic."
Roy Blount Jr.

Ansell's Bruno Sweet Brown Ale

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Bar Parlour Stained Glass

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Newspaper Articles

"Appearing before Messrs. J. Watson and R. Heaton, were a trio of precocious juveniles, Benjamin Clayton and Thomas Childs, both of Lozells, and James Salt, of Witton, all about 12 years of age, were charged with being unlawfully in possession of a pony, worth £8., belonging to Thomas Burton, Anchor Inn, Bradford Street, Birmingham. On Tuesday night the last the pony was secured in a field belonging to Mr. Quincey, of Perry Barr. During the same evening the boys broke the heavy gate from its hinges and led the horse away. On the following day they alternately rode the animal for amusement, and while thus engaged they were discovered by Police Constable Passey, who was in quest of them. The Magistrates ordered them to be imprisoned for seven days, and to receive twelve strokes each with a birch rod."
"West Bromwich Petty Sessions"
Birmingham Daily Post : February 25th 1873.

"John Joseph Blundell [23], potman, was fined 20s. and costs, with the option of one month's imprisonment, for stealing half a pint of brandy, from his employer, Thomas Burton, licensed victualler, Anchor Inn, Bradford Street. On Wednesday afternoon the prosecutor searched the prisoners pockets, in consequence of having missed a gallon of brandy, and discovered a bottle containing half a pint of liquor, Prisoner pleaded guilty."
"A Dishonest Potman"
Birmingham Daily Post : July 23rd 1860.

"Job Smith, auctioneer, Clarence Chambers, Corporation Street, was summoned for misappropriating a sum of £100. entrusted to him as security for the purchase of a public house for which he was the agent. Some time ago Smith was summoned at the instance of William Henry Nimmo James, licensed victualler, of 47 Queen's Road, Aston, for the offence, but the Stipendiary held that Mr. James had be locus standi to prosecute; the defendant not having acted as his agent, but as the agent of the vendor of the public house in question, the Anchor Inn, Bradford Street - Charles Edward Spall. Mr. James was the intending purchaser, and he deposited the £100. as security with the defendant. The bargain fell through, and Mr. James wanted his deposit back. This he could not get, the defendant having, it was alleged, converted the money to his own use, and stating that was unable to repay it. Mr. Colmore held that Mr. James's remedy lay in a civil action against Mr. Spall, who was the only person, if any, who had any locus standi to prosecute the defendant on the charge. The case was therefore dismissed, and yesterday, Mr. Peet, acting on the Stipendiary's ruling, prosecuted the defendant on behalf of Mr. Spall, under the 76th section of the Larceny Act. Smith was defended by Mr. Stubbins. Mr. James repeated his evidence as to entrusting the £100. deposit with the defendant on the terms of the agreement, which set forth that it was to be returned in the event of certain contingencies, which subsequently happened. He demanded the repayment of the money, and the defendant, after putting him off, intimated that his had used it, and offered his bill. It was further proved that tine defendant had taken Mr. James's cheque to the Aston Street branch of the London and Midland Bank, and, having cashed it there, took £5. himself and paid £95. to his current account. On the 11th January, the date on which the deposit ought to have been repaid, the amount to the defendant's credit has reduced to £65. 19s. 4d.; the day before it was £83. 2s. 10d. It was subsequently further drawn upon until the account was closed. Mr. Stubbins contended, for the defence, that there was nothing in the agreement to show that the defendant was given the £100. to hold as the agent for the vendor. There was nothing to prevent Spall from demanding the money from Smith at once, but he chose to let Smith hold it all that time. There was absolutely nothing said about safe custody on the defendant's part, and the whole question, Mr. Stubbins submitted, was whether the defendant was entrusted with the safe custody of the money. Mr. Cartland thought there was clearly a case to go for trial, and he committed the defendant to the assizes, allowing bail."
"Charge Against an Auctioneer"
Birmingham Daily Post : April 29th 1895.

Gerry Keane of the Anchor Inn at Bradford Street [2016]

"One of Birmingham's most historic and trophy-laden pubs is on the market - after being run by the same family for more than 40 years. A four-time winner of CAMRA's Regional Pub of the Year Award for Birmingham as well as being a regular entry in The Good Beer Guide, the Grade II listed Anchor in Digbeth dates back to 1901. After taking it over from his father, owner Gerry Keane has run the pub since 1983 and bought the freehold in the 1990's. But after bringing up four grown-up children and going through a divorce, Gerry has decided to concentrate on his new family. "I remarried at Christmas to Babs and we now have Olivia, aged two, Aiden who's one and a new baby due in October. So I thought it was time to concentrate more on my family. Especially when you live over a pub it's really hard work - there is literally no respite. I am happier now than I've been for a long time and thought I would go for a lifestyle change." Gerry's father, also called Gerry, first ran The Anchor in 1973, handing it over to his son a decade later. Gerry Senior died in 1999. Gerry said: "The business has been easy for me, because I've always lived in pubs. Dad had The Salutation on Constitution Hill in the 1960's and then we had The Warwick Castle on what is now Aston University Campus. The 70s was tough ... not long after we moved to The Anchor there was the Birmingham Pub Bombings and people wouldn't go out for weeks afterwards. We had the three-day weeks and we also used to have yellow smog at night too, because of all the industry that was still in Digbeth at that time. But The Anchor has always been a steady ship, to use that analogy. We've had the CAMRA awards and a lot of customers travel to us. They like the fact we haven't knocked the pub through or made it chintzy and people like our unusual beers. We also don't cater for idiots and we don't suffer idiots." Gerry said The Anchor also had lots of potential for a new licensee with imagination. "It could do bed and breakfast and it could do food, too," he said. "Nothing fancy, but you could add food. Whoever takes it would probably need about £80,000 capital but that's possible because money is cheap now. I've kept the rent deliberately low and don't necessarily want it to go to the highest bidder. I want someone who will nurture the pub and look after it." The property is being offered on a 'brand new lease' for a minimum term of 10 years, with a premium of £65,000 to include fixtures and fittings. The commencing rental will be £25,000 per annum, and the current rateable value is £18,500. The prevailing licence is for 10am-4am, Monday to Saturday and from noon till 4am on Sunday. According to sales agents Fleurets, The Anchor's turnover for the year ending October 31st, 2015 was £206,835 net of VAT."
"Historic Digbeth pub The Anchor on the market for first time in 40 years"
by Graham Young in Birmingham Mail : April 15th 2016.

Julian Rose-Gibbs of the Anchor Inn at Bradford Street [2016]

"The Anchor pub in Digbeth has found a new owner after being run by the same family for 40 years. Gerry Keane has been in charge of the legendary pub since 1983 but decided to step away to concentrate on his new family early this year. Julian Rose-Gibbs, co-founded Raising the Bar to buy the lease of the pub from Gerry Keane. He said: "So many people have always said 'you've made so much money for other people over the years, just do it yourself. Then I was reminded that this place was still up for sale. So I looked at it, crunched some numbers and thought it was a possibility. I spoke to Gerry and he was looking for somebody to take in on who knew the city rather than a pub chain or large company. We got on rather well and a couple of months later if I want it, it is mine." Julian has experience having worked as general manager and in other roles at TGI Fridays, Bank Restaurant, McKenzie's, Red Bar, Bitter's 'n' Twisted with The Victoria, Jekyll & Hyde and others and, finally, The Botanist. There's a clear contrast with those venues and his latest project. He said: "A traditional pub is a challenge that I haven't done yet. This place has won awards for the beer. So I thought, it's my next challenge but still within the remit of what I know. So I thought we'll take a traditional boozer, keep some of it as traditional as possible, get the real ales back up to scratch, add a bit of craft beer and gin along with whiskey. We'll also slowly, but surely, put a food concept in. We want to keep the traditional side of it but also bring it up to modern drinking culture but still with a serious nod to its heritage." The Anchor is a Grade II listed building meaning a number of things can't be changed. The changes Julian does have planned are minor and, at present, the plan is for the pub to only need to close for a day while the cellar of the pub is renovated. Julian's vision clearly resonated with Gerry Keane who told us in April he would be selective on who took on the pub. He said: "I've kept the rent deliberately low and don't necessarily want it to go to the highest bidder. I want someone who will nurture the pub and look after it."
"Legendary Digbeth pub The Anchor has a new owner - and these are his plans"
by Luke Beardsworth in Birmingham Mail : September 12th 2016.