Some history of the Hydraulic Inn on Lodge Road
The Hydraulic is one of Hockley's fondly-remembered taverns, particularly with those who worked across the road at Scribbans's Bakery. Built in the middle of the 19th century, the Hydraulic Inn stood on the eastern corner of Lodge Road and All Saints' Street. The former was named because the old lane led up to a lodge on the edge of Birmingham Heath. All Saints' Street was named after the church erected a short distance to the south-west of the Hydraulic Inn. I imagine that the name of the tavern derives from a local engineering company involved in the improvement of hydraulic technology, or perhaps an improved drainage or sewage scheme in the area of Hockley Brook, a key issue in the Victorian era when Birmingham's rapidly growing population created problems for existing infrastructure - or, in many cases, the non-infrastructure. The supply of fresh water and the removal of waste was a constant concern for the local authorities.
It has been suggested that the name is related to the Tangye Brothers who operated the Cornwall Works at Clement Street. However, this was not so close to the pub so I am not so sure. Mind you, the firm did produce hydraulic rams and these were used to launch the SS Great Eastern, a vessel designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Another theory put forward for the name of this tavern was the use of hydraulic lifts used in the nearby railway goods yard. The close proximity of this lends more credence to the naming of the Hydraulic Inn.
This photograph of the Hydraulic Inn is lovely because it is representative of the original beer house that opened on this corner in the mid-19th century. The simple hostelry only occupied a small corner plot and the drinking space would have been very limited. The pub would later be extended into the neighbouring houses on both Lodge Road and All Saints' Street. These were probably part of the same bundle of properties that Atkinson's Brewery acquired when they took over the Hydraulic Inn. As you can see the Aston-based brewery had already taken over the beer house by this date and within a few years they set about improving the facilities for patrons. Accordingly, the tenants of No.2 All Saints' Street and No.357 Lodge Road would have been turfed out so that the builders could get to work on transforming the The Hydraulic - the 'inn' element of the name seemed to disappear at this stage in its history. The former name can still be seen here in the lovely etched-glass window fronting All Saints' Street. What resident of Hockley would not want such a feature in their home today? Unfortunately, such a lovely pane of glass was removed long before the advent of online auction sites and probably ended up in the skip.
This second view of The Hydraulic dates from the mid-1920s and shows the extended and improved public house. Personally, I think they made a rather good job of the exterior. It was a neat-looking building with its uniform fenestration. Note that the accommodation above was also changed and the upper windows tied in nicely with the ground floor's appearance. Subtle stone dressings and faience tiles were used to enhance the visual appeal. The leaded windows were particularly good. The corner entrance was still used for the main bar whilst the entrance to All Saints' Street served as access to the outdoor. Just approaching that entrance a man carrying a briefcase is possibly on his way to work. Many Brummies know that trams ran along Lodge Road but this photograph confirms that there was also a tram line along All Saints' Street - a lesser-known route perhaps?
In the early 1870s there was a right bunch of rogues living next door to the Hydraulic Inn at No.357 Lodge Road. In April 1870 two young brothers, Joseph and William Whitmore, along with Joseph Wainwright, a 43 year-old sawdust dealer from Fazeley Street, were committed to the Sessions for stealing a quantity of sherry and whisky from Messrs, George, Hawkins and Dain, wine and spirits merchants based in Temple Row. In December of the same year their father, Charles Whitmore, a wheelwright by trade, was brought before the magistrates charged with stealing a large quantity of wearing apparel valued at £500 from a shop on Bull Street belonging to Frederick Messent. He was sentenced to 12 months' imprisonment. Born in the Warwickshire village of Cubbington, Charles Whitmore and his wife Maria had previously kept a public house in Warwick. However, it does not appear that he was involved with the Hydraulic Inn. Indeed, in the 1871 census the corner house was seemingly unoccupied.
The beer house was recorded in the 1860s with George Brown and John Venables serving as licensees. The latter was in charge of the Hydraulic Inn when a particularly nasty incident occurred in the pub. On September 10th, 1870, Richard Scott, a builder from across the road in Goode Street and James Reading, an electro-plate worker of Rookery Road in Handsworth, were drinking in the tavern. The men were conducting a conversation respecting some work Scott had done for Reading which got a little heated. A dispute quickly escalated into violence when Richard Scott rushed at Reading and knocked him down. To the horror of the customers, the builder then proceeded to gouge out Reading's left eye. One man went to his assistance and was reportedly successful in pressing his eye into its proper position. Richard Scott was subsequently sent to gaol for two months, without the option of paying a fine. Richard Scott hailed from Stourbridge. His wife Jane died two years after this incident. In 1879 he emigrated to the United States and became a farmer in Nebraska.
Benjamin Gaunt was granted the licence of the Hydraulic Inn during August 1871. Born in Halesowen in 1811, the former lapidary kept the beer house with his wife Catherine, a Brummie by birth. The couple had previously lived in Bridge Street West from where Benjamin worked in the jewellery trade. Earlier he had plied his craft in Cambridge Street where he employed four girls, along with the help of his daughters, Catherine and Emma. The couple had six other children.
Oswestry-born William Arnsley Roberts took over the licence of the Hydraulic Inn on December 3rd, 1885. He kept the beer house with his wife Alice. The couple had a daughter named Alice. Around this time the West Birmingham Liberal Unionist Club was established a few doors away with Henry Clements appointed secretary. Alice Roberts succeeded her husband as licensee of the Hydraulic Inn but, by the end of the Edwardian period, the public house was run by Martin Smith.
I am most grateful to Stephen Turner who sent me this image of The Hydraulic. The photograph is dated 1925 and shows Stephen's grandfather Walter Turner when he was the licensee of the pub. Standing next to him is Norman Arthur Turner, Stephen's father who was eight years-old at the time. This was not long after the pub had been extended and modernised by Atkinson's Brewery.
Trams continued to pass in front of The Hydraulic until the Second World War. It was the closure of another tram line that was to seal the fate of the Lodge Road route. In January 1939 it was decided to close the Dudley Road tramways between Edmund Street and the city boundary at Grove Lane, together with the Heath Street or Soho tramway, which also operated beyond the city boundary. The closure of this 'main line' tramway had serious consequences for the Ladywood tramway and the Lodge Road tramway. It was considered that, if these routes remained open after the Dudley Road route closed, it would be necessary to maintain 2,794 yards of tramway track to enable the vehicles to run into the Rosebery Street depot, and also, in the case of the Lodge Road tramway, to complete their journey into the city. This was deemed to be an uneconomical proposition, and the committee recommended that the Ladywood and Lodge Road tramways be abandoned at the same time as the main Dudley Road tramway.
Another issue of economics stacked against the Lodge Road route was that the cars operating along the line were small and of an obsolete type and, owing to a number of curves of small radius, it was impossible to substitute larger cars of more modern design without a considerable amount of money being spent in realigning the curves. This resulted in a decision to replace the trams with buses.
For the last decade of its life, The Hydraulic was operated by Mitchell's and Butler's as the Cape Hill Brewery had acquired Atkinson's Brewery in 1959. Mrs. Ida Jenking, wife of the licensee, met the Duke of Edinburgh on May 1st 1968, during his visit to Birmingham to present the Council of Industrial Design Awards. He toured the College of Food where he was greeted by hundreds of students and staff and shown the many aspects of the college's life. It was here that he spoke to Ida Jenking, a student at the college. She was asked by the Duke "if they specialised in those sandwiches that turn up at the end." Mrs. Jenking replied that "she did not and that the Duke would have to pay a visit to her public house," adding "we have some nice sausage rolls as well." The Duke replied : "That's good. No one seems to know how to make good sausage rolls any more."
Licensees of the Hydraulic Inn
1867 - George Brown
1870 - John Venables
1871 - Benjamin Gaunt
1885 - William Arnsley Roberts
1901 - Mrs. Alice Elizabeth Roberts
1912 - Martin Smith
1925 - Walter Edward Turner
1940 - Joseph Cooper
Note : this is not a complete list of licensees for this pub. Most dates are taken from trade directories and census data.
This map extract shows the location of the Hydraulic Inn on the corner of Lodge Road and All Saints' Street.
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.
All Saints' Church
All Saints' Church was designed by Thomas Rickman and Henry Hutchinson and built of red brick in the Gothic style, with pinnacles and stone dressings. The Church was consecrated by the Lord Bishop of the Diocese on Saturday, September 28th, 1883, during which a sermon was preached by the Rev. T. Moseley, M.A. Rector of St. Martin's. A parish was assigned out of St. Martin's and was later divided to create new parishes of St. Cuthbert's in 1872, St. Chrysostom's in 1890, and St. Peter, Birmingham in 1902. A pipe organ by the local firm of J. C. Banfield and Son was installed in 1843. The decaying church, attended by only a small congregation, was demolished in the mid-1960's. The organ was saved and transferred to Lyndon Methodist Church.
Related Newspaper Articles
"An inquest was held yesterday, before Dr. J. Birt Davies, Borough Coroner, at the Wheel Tavern, Kenion Street, on the body of the supposed
child of Elizabeth Fitter , warehousewoman, Clifford Place, Wheeler Street, who was brought before the magistrates at Moor Street, on Tuesday. Mr. Kobinson
[from Mr. Parry's] watched the case on behalf the prisoner. A witness named James Hare stated that on Monday, about twelve o'clock, he and another youth,
named Charles Daley, were standing on an embankment of the canal, near Crabtree Road, Winson Green, when he [Hare] saw the prisoner, Elizabeth Fitter, throw a
parcel into the canal, underneath a bridge. She then ran up the embankment and went towards Crabtree Road. Witness followed her, in consequence of having suspicions, and
overtook her in Crabtree Road. A man came up at the time, and she was taken into the Hydraulic Inn, on the corner of Lodge Road, until several policemen came. Police
Constable Butler stated that he went and dragged the canal at the place where the prisoner Fitter was seen to throw the parcel in, and he found the infant in a paper box,
which was tied with a cord, to which were attached a clock weight and part of a fender kettle-stand. He at once took it the Kenion Street Police Station. Mr. Solomon,
surgeon, had examined the body, and stated that it was very probable that the child was stillborn. The jury returned a verdict to the effect that the male infant found in
the canal, believed to be the son of Elizabeth Fitter, was stil born."
"The Alleged Child Murder"
Birmingham Daily Gazette : May 27th 1869 Page 4