History of The Beggar's Bush at New Oscott in Birmingham in the county of Warwickshire. Research is augmented with photographs, details of licensees, stories of local folklore, census data, newspaper articles and a genealogy connections section for those studying their family history.


The Beggar's Bush
The Beggar's Bush

Some History of this Pub
The Beggar's Bush is an awkward pub to include within the pages for Birmingham. The building has always stood on the boundary with Sutton Coldfield. As such, it was at a point where Erdington, once part of Staffordshire, met the county of Warwickshire. It is a New Oscott pub so it will be listed in both Birmingham and Sutton Coldfield and readers can fight it out whether they think it is 'their' pub. This will be quite appropriate because folklore has it that the pub's location, and indeed its name, has been a bone of contention since its inception.

This Edwardian photograph shows an earlier Beggars Bush public house in New Oscott. It is thought to be the third pub to stand on the site. Note the hawthorn bush that once stood outside the building. Such was its significance, it was protected by iron railings. However, when the road was widened, the local authorities thought the car was more important than cultural landmarks. Consequently, the bush was removed and a fresh layer of tarmac took its place.

Click here to download The Beggar's Bush at New Oscott [c.1905]

In 2013 the pub was being operated by the John Barras Group. The company had placed a signboard on the pub's wall near the main entrance and I'll quote the words here before discussing the name in more detail. The sign reads: "The original Beggar's Bush coaching inn dates back to 1841. The building as it stands now was created in 1927. The pub takes its name from a 17th century legend. The 'bush' was actually an old hawthorn tree. It stood at the centre of a crossroads marking the Warwickshire/Stafford border. On a cold winter's night a beggar rested underneath the bush, and there he came to the end of his life. The bush was situated on the border of Erdington and Sutton Coldfield parishes but neither wanted to take responsibility for the burial. After many disagreements, they decided to split the cost and the beggar was laid to rest. The bush has long since disappeared, dug up in the 1930's to alter Chester Road. But to this day the legend is still remembered in the name of this public house."

Click here to download The Beggar's Bush at New Oscott [2013]

It is a good story but... there are, or have been, a number of pubs around the country with the name of the Beggar's Bush. It is also interesting to note that this pub, formerly the Bush Inn, was not always known as the Beggar's Bush. It came and went in the 19th century but was reinstated in trade directories from 1908 when George Harding was the licensee. Also of interest is that the apostrophe is at the end - this is quite important when discussing the name of the building.

Parish boundaries were popular meeting places for the poor for they could be 'out of reach' of those who had jurisdiction. The term Beggars' Bush is attributed to Adam Foulweather who used the phrase in an almanac published in 1591. This discusses people ‘who shall never tarry with master, but trudge from post to pillar, till they take up beggars' bush for their lodging.' However, begging on the edge of a parish boundary was not without risk for, in Elizabethan times, a law was passed whereby any ‘rogue, vagabond, or sturdy beggar' found begging should be ‘stripped naked from the middle upwards and openly whipped until his or her body be bloody, and then passed to his or her birthplace or last residence.'

Click here to download The Beggar's Bush at New Oscott [2013]

Whilst it is true that parishes contested the cost of caring for the poor, resulting in disputes at boundary points, it is unlikely that the fee for burying one humble soul would cause such a dispute. Another element of the John Barras signboard is the claim that this was on old coaching inn - in the Edwardian photograph above the building certainly doesn't appear to be large enough to accommodate coaches. Still, like I say, it's a good tale.

A beggars' bush was marked on early maps but the location was to the south-east of the present building and near to the location of where The Yenton would later be constructed. Later maps do mark Beggars' Bush close to the site of the Bush Inn. When compiling his "Notes of Staffordshire Place Names" in 1902, William Henry Duigman recorded that "there is a large hawthorn bush here which stands on the boundary of Sutton Coldfield and Perry Barr, and of the counties of Stafford and Warwick; also on the old road from London to Chester. I know nothing of its history, but the name is common.”

Click here to download The Beggar's Bush at New Oscott [2013]

The old pub was certainly known as the Beggar's Bush in 1896 when John Foden was the publican. He was succeeded by George Harding, a man who kept the pub when the first photograph was taken. Born in 1838 in Birmingham, he kept the Bush Inn with his son George, along with his German-born daughter-in-law Kate. The family employed a number of servants including an ostler but this was probably for single horse travellers rather than large coaches or waggons.

Click here to download The Beggar's Bush at New Oscott [2013]

At the turn of the 20th century, the Bush Inn was recorded in the civil parish of Sutton Coldfield and in the urban district of Boldmere.

George Harding had been in the licensed trade for many years. Along with his wife Henrietta, he had once kept the Rolling Mill Inn on Thimble Mill Lane whilst also working as a brassfounder. By 1891 the widower was running the Justice Inn on Great Russell Street.

In 1912 the Beggar's Bush was run by William Hook. His nearest competitor was Mrs Esther Dolby who kept a beer house called the New Oscott Tavern. There was also The Greyhound in New Oscott which in 1912 was run by William John May.

Click here to download The Beggar's Bush at New Oscott [c.1905]

The Beggar's Bush was later operated by Ansell's Brewery Ltd. The Aston brewery almost certainly rebuilt this property. The pub can be seen here not long after it was constructed and looking great.
© Copyright. Images supplied by Digital Photographic Images.

Brummagem Boozers

Licensees of this Pub
1888 - Mrs Jane Peat
1896 - John Foden
1898 - George Harding
1909 - George Harding
1912 - William Charles Hook
1940 - George Arnold Harling

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

Inn Sign
Click here to download the inn sign of The Beggars' Bush at New Oscott [1990]
This Ansell's signboard dates from 1990. A better sign than the computer generated sticker that adorned the signboard in 2013...
Click here to download the inn sign of The Beggars' Bush at New Oscott [1990]

Links to other 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

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Newspaper Articles

Greenwood's Map showing Beggars' Bush [1821]
A beggars' bush was marked on early maps but the location was to the south-east of the present building and near to the location of where The Yenton would later be constructed. Produced sixty-three years later, the map below records both the Bush Inn and the Beggars' Bush.
Map showing Beggars' Bush [1884]

Ben Hecht
"I know that a man who shows me his wealth is like the beggar who shows me his poverty; they are both looking for alms from me, the rich man for the alms of my envy, the poor man for the alms of my guilt.”
Ben Hecht

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Ansell's World Cup Beer Mat [1966]

Ansell's Special and Nut Brown Beer Mat [1959]

Ansell's Light Knights Beer Mat [1963]

Ansell's Beer Mat [1960]

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

Beer Mat for Good Old Ansell's Mild

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Ansell's Bitter

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