Some history of The Gothic on Great Hampton Street
There is a lot of piffle written about The Gothic on Great Hampton Street so hopefully this page will provide some level-headed information regarding this imposing building. At least it may debunk some of the myths. For a start, the structure is far more substantial than that required for a public house opened in the mid-Victorian era. Indeed, at the time of its construction the "big" Birmingham breweries weren't quite that big and, without the share capital they would later accumulate, did not have the resources to erect such bold 'statement buildings' that would appear on the landscape in successive decades.
The commanding pile of bricks that everyone knows as The Gothic was a mixed development on a corner plot used for a factory, offices, shops and some luncheon rooms. It was the luncheon rooms that would become the Gothic Stores. More about the pub's development in a while ... first, let us consider the building itself, a colossal assertion of economic accomplishment at the top of a slope out of Birmingham heading along the old turnpike on the fringe of the Jewellery Quarter.
The factory was first occupied in 1869-70 by Messrs. Philip Vaughton and Sons, a firm listed as goldsmiths and jewellers. I suspect that this company were largely responsible for the capital expenditure required for the construction of the substantial edifice. Building registers and planning applications were a little more 'relaxed' in the early-mid 19th century, administrative layers that the late Victorian bureaucrats embraced with abandon. There does not appear to be an accurate record of the building's inception but 1869 is the year in which commercial activity within the building got going. Therefore, I would estimate that the foundations were started around 1867-8.
The architect responsible for the building was possibly working to a fairly stringent budget yet, without the use of terracotta and other emerging fashionable materials, triumphed with a decorative brick structure. The combination of red, white and blue bricks were used to remarkable effect. The project's budget did allow for some stone dressings, particularly well deployed within the ground and first floor windows featuring stiff leaf capped shafts and quatrefoil panels to decorative tympana. The first floor corner features a very good oriel window, perhaps the factory manager's office. The building was crowned with a superb octagonal turret incorporating gablets and a leaded finial. Below I have featured a close-up of the building's upper floors so that you can appreciate some of the architectural detail of this fine building. Some of the stone and brick has crumbled somewhat but it remains in very good condition considering very little has been spent on the place in recent times.
The Vaughton family may have been responsible for the Gothic Works but, although a rate book for 1871 shows that Thomas and Oliver Vaughton owned their property, the corner plot also formed part of the estate of Sir Josiah Mason. It is possible that the mixed development was initiated by the wealthy benefactor in order to bring in valuable rents on what was partly an empty plot. Sir Josiah Mason was one of the most important figures in Victorian Birmingham. Born in Kidderminster in 1795, he was the son of a carpet weaver. He started out as a journeyman shoemaker before becoming a hawker of teacakes. He first found work in Birmingham as a labourer, a post in which he wheeled coal and ashes at the Bagot Street Glass Works. He married the daughter of the firm's book-keepers. After a dispute, and with being thrown out of employment, he became a steel toymaker. He became acquainted with Samuel Harrison, the man responsible for the first steel pen in Birmingham, and thereby founded one its principal industries, succeeded Harrison's business of split ring manufacturing, of which he was the inventor. Mason immediately devoted his attention to the supply of steel pens, of which only a few were then in existence, and succeeded in producing superior pens by mechanical means instead of by hand. In 1823, James Perry, the reformer in educational appliances, adopted the pens, found Mason capital for their manufacture, and the famous pen-making firm Perry and Co. was established. Production of pens in Birmingham rose to 100,000 per week.
The other businesses in which Josiah Mason embarked equally prospered and the electro-plating patents of Elkington were immensely developed by him when he became Elkington's partner. Another successful undertaking was the working of a patent for vulcanised India rubber articles, which was ultimately disposed to Macintosh, of Manchester, for £80,000. He became immensely rich, and being childless, he spent enormous sums in benevolent projects, receiving the honour of a knighthood for his philanthropy. His principal gifts were the foundation of the Erdington Orphanage, at an expense of £60,000 for buildings, and £200,000 for endowment, and the erection and endowment of the Science College in Birmingham for practical instruction in the industrial pursuits in the Midlands, at a cost of £170,000. During the ensuing years nearly every Birmingham institution benefited from Sir Josiah Mason's munificence.
I mention that the Gothic Works was built on an empty plot. It is remarkable that such a corner position should remain undeveloped until 1867-8. However, there were older buildings within the triangular site and I am pleased to report that there is a beer connection here. The corner site was formerly owned by Benjamin Haynes who operated a malthouse [see map]. A rate book dated 1834 shows that the plot included a house, retail shop, kiln, malthouse and stabling at Nos.1 and 3. Adjacent to him was the casting mould maker Joseph Haywood.
Following the redevelopment of the site, the majority of the building was occupied by Philip Vaughton and Sons, a company founded in 1819 and originally based at 127 Little Hampton Street. An 1860's advertisement for the firm shows that they were manufacturers of every variety and standard of bright and coloured gold, signet and diamond rings, along with a range of other metal goods. The business was enhanced by a property outpost at London's Hatton Garden.
Philip Vaughton was born in Birmingham in 1802. It is thought that he was from a branch of the Vaughton family, the most powerful of whom was probably Roger Vaughton of Hampstead Hall and Ashfurlong, Sutton Coldfield, who was High Sheriff of Warwickshire in 1801. However, Philip Vaughton seems to have been a man of modest means who forged his own successful career in Hockley. He and his family were living on the business premises in the 1850's before the company's founder moved to the tranquillity of Lozells Road. He died in June 1863 and his sons took over the business - seemingly very successfully.
Although keeping a finger in many pies, the firm would eventually specialise in sporting medals and trophies, a strategy attributed to Oliver Howard Vaughton, grandson of the company's founder. He had enjoyed a successful all-round sporting career, though it was his Aston Villa days for which he is most remembered. He was a member of the Villa side that won the F.A. Cup in 1887. His record of five goals during an England International game still stands. Always better known as Howard rather than Oliver, he was also a first-class cricketer, skating champion, hockey player, impressive cyclist and a keen swimmer. Injury cut short his career but he had made so many sporting connections it was almost inevitable that he would utilise these links to further the family business. The company were responsible for producing the replacement F.A. Cup which had been stolen from William Shillcock's shop on Newtown Row in 1894. Increased production and sales forced a move to a purpose-built factory in Livery Street in 1902. It was from those premises that Vaughton's manufactured the medals for the 1908 London Olympics.
One man who worked at the Gothic Works must be mentioned for he no doubt worked almost every day at the Gothic Works on the corner of Great Hampton Street. Isaiah Warom worked for Vaughton's for 69 years before his retirement in 1916. He first became connected with the firm as a boy of 10, in the time of the founder Philip Vaughton, and afterwards became foreman and time-keeper. This period of unbroken service probably constitutes a record in the Birmingham jewellery trade, and during this time Isaiah Warom saw completed in the shops under him presentation pieces to Queen Victoria, King Edward VII., Queen Alexandra, King George V., Queen Mary, Czar Nicholas II, the King and Queen of Denmark, the Shah of Iran, William Gladstone, Joseph Chamberlain, Earl Roberts, and many others.
So what about the pub on the ground floor of the premises? In a business partnership with William Pallett, the first licensee of the Gothic Stores was Edward Marigold who obtained a beer house licence for what were luncheon rooms in 1869. He was just in time to secure his licence before changes to legislation later in the year made it extremely difficult to open a new boozer. After going alone [see above] he was unsuccessful with an application for a wine licence during January 1870. Incidentally, the name was not unique to Birmingham as there was another Gothic Stores on Stratford Road. However, at times the Great Hampton Street business was listed as the Gothic Porter Stores.
Edward Marigold had previously worked as a barman at Parrott's Stores in Worcester Street. Born in Oaken, Staffordshire, around 1839 he had moved to Birmingham at an early age. He grew up in William Street where his parents, John and Jane, operated a confectioner's shop. His early working life was as a lithographic printer. 1869 was a big year for him. Not only had he gone into business and moved into new premises as a licensee, but he also married Louisa Mountford. In addition to running the luncheon rooms he also operated a bar for special events. In July 1870 he operated a booth at Sutton Coldfield races. Barman John Hathey helped him at the event but was caught with his fingers in the till, an offence for which he was sentenced to six months' imprisonment with hard labour.
On March 2nd, 1871 the licence of the Gothic Stores was transferred from Edward Marigold to William Frost, though his spell was brief. Edward and Louisa Marigold moved to White Swan at Upper Priory. The licence was held for a few years by Henry Cumberland Jr. There were plenty of other pubs in the locale so it was probably a fight for custom, though having a factory within the same building was no doubt a bonus. These were, of course, the days when manual labour and drinking ale went hand-in-hand, particularly during the warm months. In addition, one presumes that a luncheon stores offered lunch to workers in the vicinity providing they could afford to dine out - perhaps the Gothic Stores catered for white collar workers during the day.
On October 1st, 1874 the licence of the Gothic Stores was transferred from Henry Cumberland to Sarah Ann Bushell. Henry Cumberland moved to the Bell Inn on the corner of Great Lister Street and Cromwell Street where a few months later, in December 1874, he was badly injured in a gas explosion. A leaking gas main caused a tremendous explosion in the neighbourhood and the publican, who had been stood outside his pub, was blown violently backwards in the blast. He got up and rushed into his house where he found that he had been badly burned. His recovery period was extensive.
Sarah Ann Bushell had previously kept the Exchange Stores, a beer house on Newtown's High Street. Her stay at the Gothic Stores was brief and, in December 1875, she moved to the Nag's Head at Deritend handing over to William Baker. He was recorded as a retail brewer, suggesting that at one time the Gothic Stores was selling homebrewed ales.
By 1877 Herefordshire-born former draper Tudor Davis was in charge of the Gothic Stores. He kept the a beer house with his Scottish-born wife Mary. It was during their tenure that the building was altered. There is a record card for a building plan in Birmingham Library but the plan has been lost - one of many I have requested to view but have suffered the same fate! Tudor and Mary Davis would later move to the Warwick Arms on Bradford Street.
The high turnover of licensees during the late 1870's suggests that business conditions were difficult. Walter Tomlinson stayed for short spell before the maltster Frederick Bower attempted to turn things around. He had earlier kept the Gate Inn on Icknield Street East and the George and Dragon Inn at Albion Street.
A continental flavour was introduced to the Gothic Stores in the early 1880's when Anton Yager took over the licence. He was from Bregenz, the capital of Vorarlberg, the westernmost federal state of Austria. After suffering from a long and painful illness, Anton Yager died on September 22nd 1886. The licence for the Gothic Stores was transferred to Jane Elizabeth Yager on December 2nd, 1886. In September of the following year she applied for a victualler's licence for the Gothic Stores. Her solicitor told the magistrates at the Public Office that her husband, who had died about twelve months previously, was landlord of the house for some years, and no complaint was ever made against him. A memorial, signed by a large number of customers, in favour of the application was put in. However, a local publican put the mockers on the application. Mr. Ashford, landlord of the Shakespeare's Head on Constitution Hill, opposed the application, on the ground that an additional licence was not required in the neighbourhood. Jane Yager re-married in 1988 to the jeweller Joseph Bird.
Towards the end of the 19th century the Gothic Stores was being run by Mrs. Emily Kirmse. Well, that's what trade directories would suggest, though it may be a typographical error. A surviving rate book for 1896 records Emil Kirmse at the Gothic Stores. I would lean towards the latter as the Leipzig-born publican kept a few other boozers in Birmingham around this period. By this time the mustard manufacturers J. & J. Colman were occupying the greatest part of building. Robert Utting was the manager representing the interests of the Norwich-based company. Their occupation of the premises was short-lived and the former Vaughton's factory was leased by the more traditional jeweller John William Caldicott.
The prominent corner position of the Gothic Stores would inevitably make it attractive to the Birmingham brewers who, by becoming public companies, started to develop their empires in the late 19th century. This building would form part of the Mitchell's and Butler's estate. However, the property was leased in the year preceding the merger of Henry Mitchell and William Butler's business interests. I am not certain if this property was leased by the Broad Street operation or the Cape Hill brewery as surviving documentation from later years does not seem to indicate this detail. It was on September 13th, 1897 that a lease was signed for the property, the freehold being held by the Trustees of Josiah Mason's Orphanage. The company would later acquire the freehold when, on December 8th, 1927, the brewery paid £7,500 for the Gothic Stores and shops adjoining at No.197 Great Hampton Row plus Chambers fronting Great Hampton Street. The factory, along with Nos. 192-6 Great Hampton Row, was acquired from Alfred England in December 1936 at a cost of £1,250. At the same time Mitchell's and Butler's wrapped up the whole corner by paying £1,250 to P. W. Allday for two adjoining shops at Nos. 2 and 3 Great Hampton Street. A bit like playing Monopoly - but with real money!
Mitchell's and Butler's secured a full licence for the Gothic Stores on November 5th, 1906, when Martin Priestley was the manager. The elevated status for the Gothic Stores marked a boom period for the public house. The brewery invested in the business and the sales register behind the servery was rattling away at full tilt. The Gothic Stores had a small army running affairs. In 1911 when Frederick and Kate Barker were managing the pub there were six servants living on the premises. There were two full-time bar men : George Mead and Henry Taize.
The pub's name had changed to the Gothic Inn before the start of World War One, probably a reflection of its elevated status. This was at a time when William and Ada Sutton were the management team. The couple had previously kept the White Swan in Weaman Street. They were succeeded by Charles and Rachel Walton, a couple who kept the Gothic Inn throughout the First World War. The couple had married at Birchfield Holy Trinity Church in April 1903. They had three children by the time they moved to the Gothic Inn. Charles Walton had previously worked as a barman for Mitchell's and Butler's whilst he and his wife lived in Handsworth at the end of the Edwardian period. The move to Great Hampton Street possibly marked a promotion within M&B for Charles Walton. During their time at the Gothic Inn, the Walton's were dedicated to raising money for the war effort, particularly for Christmas boxes sent to troops on the front line. At the end of World War One Charles Walton transferred to the Belgrave Hotel on Moseley Road where he and his family seemed to find contentment as they remained there until the mid-1930's.
Frederick Stansbie was mine host of the Gothic Inn during the early 1930's. His parents, Henry and Elizabeth, kept the Dolphin Inn on Unett Street during the Edwardian period. The former electro-plate worker would later run the Crown Inn on Snow Hill. He lived into his eighties by which time he was living in Bromsgrove. William Maxwell was the publican during the early years of the Second World War having been granted his licence on May 20th, 1940. However, he may have been called up for active service as his wife Cicely took over as licensee until the war ended.
The Gothic Inn was very prominent in Birmingham's post-war darts scene. Indeed, in the late 1940's the pub was the headquarters of the City Women's Darts League, a group that sponsored the Ladies' All-Midlands Open Darts Team Championship. This competition was open to all Ladies' Darts Clubs within a 35-mile radius of Birmingham. On the football front, during the reign of King George V, the pub hosted meetings of the North Birmingham and District Amateur Football League.
The Gothic Inn has had a very high number of licensees over the years - normally the sign of a difficult house to manage. Apart from a spell in the 1980's by Linda Highland, there was almost one every year from the 1960's. The last licensee as far as I know was Jennifer Lowbridge. At this time Bass had sold off the pub to Davinder Singh Aulak who was a director of the Glasgow-based Noble Imports Wholesale. The Gothic closed down around 2001-2. The pub may have been showing signs of faded glamour but in its day this certainly seems to be a fondly-remembered Birmingham boozer.
Licensees of this pub
1869 - 1871 Edward Marigold
1871 - 1871 William Frost
1871 - 1874 Henry Cumberland Jr.
1874 - 1875 Sarah Ann Bushell
1875 - 1875 William Thomas Baker
1875 - Stanley Punley Baker
1877 - Tudor Davis
1879 - Walter Tomlinson
1880 - Frederick Bower
1881 - 1886 Anton Yager
1886 - Jane Elizabeth Yager
1897 - Emil Kirmse
1900 - Charles Pitchford
1901 - Frederick Gates
1902 - Arthur Swift
1904 - Martin Priestley
1911 - Frederick William Barker
1913 - William Henry Sutton
1915 - Charles Edward Walton
1919 - William Henry Garbett
1925 - John Henry Brookes
1933 - Frederick Thomas Stansbie
1935 - 1939 Harry Brookes
1939 - 1940 Frederick Albert Warwick
1940 - 1941 William Harvey Maxwell
1941 - 1946 Mrs. Cicely Maxwell
1946 - 1954 William Harvey Maxwell
1954 - 1955 George Webb
1955 - 1956 Colin Arthur Fawlk
1956 - 1957 John Alec Price
1957 - 1958 Alfred William Freer
1958 - 1960 Joseph Witton
1960 - 1960 James Richardson
1960 - 1962 James Blair Graham
1962 - 1963 Michael Nash
1963 - 1965 David John Elliott
1965 - 1966 John Lee Leonard
1966 - 1967 Dennis Joseph Redmond
1967 - 1967 Clive Frederick Harris
1967 - 1968 James Henry Mitchell
1968 - 1971 Thomas Leslie Evans
1971 - 1973 Raymond McDonagh
1973 - 1979 John Albert Taylor
1979 - 1981 Oliver James Tracey
1981 - 1988 Linda Florence Highland
1988 - 1989 Catherine Bridget Vaughan
1989 - 1990 Rosemary O'Connor
1990 - 1992 Jennifer Lowbridge
Note : this is not a complete list of licensees for this pub.
This Pigott Smith plan dated 1855 shows the corner of Great Hampton Street and Great Hampton Row with the former properties occupying the triangular plot before the construction of the Gothic Works. The plan shows the malthouse and buildings owned and operated by Benjamin Haynes.
This is one public house that would not have to look too far to find a die-sinker to manufacture a quantity of tavern checks. No publican's name is featured on this 3d. check so I am not sure of the dates that this check would be valid.
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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.
"Most buildings, whether they're Gothic cathedrals or Romanesque ones, were high tech for their time."
"Two men, Edward Horton, brassfounder, Great Hampton Street, and Michael Finey, Lower Windmill Street, were charged with robbing Mr. James
Lancaster, spectacle maker, Bell Barn Road, of a sum of 10s. Mr. Kimberley appeared for the accused Finey. A long and quite uninterested hearing showed that the prosecutor
went to two or three public houses with these men, and that having become intoxicated they plundered him at some convenient spot of his money. After a careful investigation,
Mr. Thornton and Mr. Sharp decided upon committing the two men to the Sessions for trial."
"Robbery in the Streets"
Birmingham Daily Post : July 1st 1858.