History of the Bridge Inn at Cradley Heath in the county of Staffordshire. 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.



 

Bridge Inn
Bridge Inn

Some History of this Pub
The Bridge Inn was located on the corner of Reddal Hill Road and Newtown Street, on the edge of an area known as Plant's Green. The Plant name survives in a street on the other side of Reddal Hill Road, a straight road leading up to the former Bearmore Colliery. And it is the latter mining activity that was probably the basis of this pub's name. A mineral railway once made its way through Reddal Hill and this necessitated a bridge across what would become the goods yard at Spinner's End. The mineral railway originated [or terminated depending on which way you look at it] at the canal by the Fly Colliery, down to Black Waggon Colliery, following a line through Old Hill just north of Holy Trinity Church, across Lawrence Lane and around Bearmore Colliery, skirting around the graveyard of St. Luke's Church and down Corngreaves. The bridge at Spinner's End would have been visible from the pub in the days before the construction of the library on the opposite corner. Having put forward this conjecture on the pub's name, I have to add that there was a large farmhouse at Plant's Green in the mid-19th century and it was occupied by the Bridge family. Coincidence?

The Bridge Inn on Reddal Hill Road at Cradley Heath [c.1908]

Once in a blue moon you have one of those knicker-wetting moments of excitement. And when I came across this old photograph I nearly fell over. Of course, you cannot show the retailer that you are in a state of euphoria because the price will suddenly rocket. This was marked up as a breakfast trip but the location was shown as “unidentified.” In today’s market this means that a juicy photograph like this will set you back around £20-30. If, however, the retailer knows the location you can often treble that amount. And if a photograph of a known location is listed on e-bay and several people want the item badly then, well, you are into triple figures. Anyway, I casually glanced at this image showing mild interest. But deep down I had an inkling that I knew this location, a key clue being the old chain factory windows in the background. So, I handed over the money and set off for home. I couldn’t wait until I got back to compare it with more recent images of the locality. And so it was confirmed that this is, in fact, a trip taken from the Bridge Inn on Reddal Hill Road, a pub that although I never knew it as a public house, was only yards from where I grew up. What a find!

The Bridge Inn was, by this period, owned by Showell's Brewery Co. Ltd. of Langley and would have been one of around 200 outlets operated by the company. In 1914 the firm was acquired by Allsopp's of Burton-on-Trent and, as a result, the Bridge Inn would have sold beers produced at Burton-on-Trent. This brings us to the photograph below which clearly shows the Bridge Inn advertising Allsopp's Burton Ales made in Burton. There is also hand-painted lettering informing passers-by that billiards could be played inside the pub. In fact, the pub's gaffer, Francis Ellis, was a fine player and regularly played in the Birmingham and District Licensed Victuallers' Handicap. He won this competition in 1918, when he beat Harry Higgs, publican of the White Swan in Sherlock Street. The final was held at the Exchange Hotel in Birmingham's Dale End. Francis Ellis also staged Billiards matches at Reddal Hill in aid of the Worcestershire prisoners-of-war. The Lichfield-born publican, along with his wife Alice, had previously kept the Holly Bush at Cradley.

The Bridge Inn on Reddal Hill Road at Cradley Heath [c.1914]

The Bridge Inn looked a very inviting boozer. If I was Dr. Who I'd go back in time to enjoy a pint of Showell's beer before whizzing forward a few years to get the second round in with some ale from Allsopp's. In later years, the pub would have sold beers from Ind Coope. The two breweries merged in 1934.

Cradley Heath - Spinner's End from Reddal Hill [c.1936]

As for the setting around the Bridge Inn, this photograph shows Spinner's End during the mid-1930's. The photographer would have been stood close to the Bridge Inn and pointing the lens towards Cradley Heath. The date is probably 1936 as a billboard for the Royal Cinema is advertising “Melody of my Heart.” a musical starring Derek Oldham, Lorraine La Fosse and Bruce Seton. The cinema was also about to screen a film made in the previous year. “Last of the Pagans,” was shot around Tahiti featuring Mala and Lotus. Quite exotic for a Cradley Heath audience! Hiding part of the old railway goods yard, the billboards were very much in use throughout my childhood. I can also remember using that telephone kiosk next to the library if I wanted to make a call without members of the family listening into my conversation. The shop of the left, on corner of Plant Street, is that of J. N. Cockin, who was a photographer. This makes me wonder if, indeed, he took this photograph? His telephone number was Cradley Heath 6315, not that the town had thousands of telephones during the inter-war years! A poster stuck on the wall of the old works on the corner of Newtown Street is something of an early drink-driving campaign in that it declares “There’s Death on the Road when there’s Drink at the Wheel.” A sign along the Upper High Street frontage advertises a Public Weighing Machine “Up to 20 Tons.” I can remember seeing this old weighbridge when I used to walk past. This was on the site of the Wrought Iron Centre.

Cradley Heath - Reddal Hill Road with Bridge Inn [c.1914]

Benjamin and Mary Harris were mine hosts of the Bridge Inn during the early 1870's. The couple had previously toiled away in the nail trade whilst living in Lawrence Lane. The pub was fully licensed at this time. Mary Harris succeeded her husband as licensee and was helped by her son Thomas.

Henry Watkins was recorded as a public house manager in 1891, suggesting the pub had been bought by a brewery that had installed him as custodian. George Stanton was of a similar status, having taken over the Bridge Inn after operating a fish shop in Cradley Heath High Street. He kept the Bridge Inn with his wife Sarah Harris whom he married in 1885 at St. John's Church in Halesowen.

By the end of the Edwardian period, Thomas and Louisa Lander were running the Bridge Inn. Thomas was from Tardebigge but Louisa hailed from West Bromwich. One assumes that Thomas kept an orderly house for he was once a policeman in Aston Manor.

The former Bridge Inn on Reddal Hill Road at Cradley Heath [c.1969]

Ethel Denbury was the last licensee of the Bridge Inn. The licence was terminated on June 25th 1959, though was not expire until December 31st in the same year.

The photograph above shows the former Bridge Inn and neighbouring properties as I remember them in the late 1960's. The old building is still discernible but the frontage was changed to accommodate some retail outlets. The corner shop was one of my favourites as it sold toys and models. I still have a chess set that my sister bought from here as a present for my 11th birthday!

The other shop established in part of the former Bridge Inn [to the right of the toy shop] was a hairdressing salon called "Francis." As a small boy I could see the women having those big hairdryers stuck on top of their head. It was all a bit curious to me - like a boy would understand anything about women's things, especially in those days. Actually, women are still a mystery to me and I listen to "Woman's Hour" on R4 most days! Anyway, "Francis" had the classic smell of dye or burning hair, perhaps it was even burning flesh Does anyone know who "Francis" was? Did you have a hair-do in here?

There was a butcher's shop just a bit further along? They always seemed to be having a rip-roaring laugh in there but, as they were about 20 years or more older than me, they were too distant to talk to if you know what I mean? Plus, they had big choppers! I can remember being sent up the road though to get some belly draught or something for dinner. We also used to buy weird things for our boxer dog like trotters or lites. Blinkin' 'eck, the smell of lites cooking has come back to haunt me. They used to stink the house out but the dog used to go crazy for them - her name was Sadie by the way, and I still think about her today. What a loyal dog she was. I used to take her over Bearmore Bank but could never wear her out. Anyway, she knew what was coming her way when the smell of lites got going. She would pace up and down the kitchen getting worked up into a state of frenzy.

The former Bridge Inn on Reddal Hill Road at Cradley Heath [c.1970]

Another photograph to feature the former Bridge Inn, this time looking down Newtown Street. Another business to occupy part of the old pub was E. A. Ladd Opticians. The address for this was No.60 Newtown Street rather than Reddal Hill Road. I know little of this business though my mother must have been a customer as she depended on her bins to get through life. Newtown Street was a hive of activity during the day and often at night. Together with the factories in Oak Street, there was a right old noise throughout the night. Looking back, I don't know how I got to sleep at night. And I'm not sure how my mother managed to hang her washing out in the back garden without if getting dirty again. You could even hear the noise of the goods trains on the Surfeit Hill incline during the night. Reddal Hill was only quiet on Sundays. The road surface in Newtown Street and Oak Street was orange in places due to the metal fragments that rusted. I used to walk down there to head off to the speedway or to play in Mousesweet Brook and to inhale a bit of industrial contamination or completely immerse myself in gunge if I fell in the brook.
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Related Newspaper Articles
"The engineer, Benjamin Danks, who recently caused the death of a man named Careless, a doggy and underlooker at the Reddall Hill colliery, by drawing the skip in which the men were being pulled to the top of the pit over the pulley, has been committed for trial on a charge of manslaughter."
"Charge of Manslaughter"
in
Bradford Observer April 23rd 1869.
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Licensees of this Pub
1872 - Benjamin Harris
1880 - Mrs Mary Harris
1891 - Frederick Watkins
1892 - John William Haines
1896 - David Price
1901 - George Frederick Stanton
1903 - George Slimm
1911 - Thomas Lander
1919 - Francis Joseph Ellis
1921 - 1924 Daniel Williams
1924 - 1925 Henry Simian [?]
1925 - 1929 Thomas Edward Thomas
1929 - 1936 William Hall
1936 - 1940 Clifford Carey Lewis
1940 - 1941 John Thomas Garratt
1941 - 1943 Alf John Garratt
1943 - 1946 Rolfe Scott
1946 - 1958 Walter George Heath
1958 - 1959 Ethel Maria Denbury

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Allsopp's Trade Mark Beer Label

A Double Diamond Works Wonders

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

Cradley Heath - Carnegie Library at Reddal Hill [c.1910]
"Standing on the opposite corner to the Bridge Inn, the attractive library building was one of three built by Rowley Regis Urban District Council during the late Edwardian period. Funding for the libraries was provided by the Scottish-American industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. Together with Tividale and Blackheath, the learning facility was opened in November 1909. The library was erected on the corner of Plant Street, a thoroughfare that led up to the mound of Bearmore Colliery and home to a school erected in the mid-19th century by the British Iron Company and enlarged in the late Victorian period. I joined this library as a small boy in 1965. The main desk was then in the centre of the main reading room. The librarians ruled the desk which featured rows upon rows of tickets that were used with a card inside the front jacket of the books. Old blokes used to read the newspapers on the left-hand corner. There was hardly a sound in those days - or else the librarians would chastise offenders with a loud "shooosh."

Cradley Heath - Carnegie Library at Reddal Hill [2011]
"I also have a slight connection with a building around the corner on the left-hand side of Plant Street [just visible in this photograph]. When I was at a loose end in the hot summer of 1976, I did some driving for a bloke who operated as a plastering contractor from a first floor office. He used to live halfway up Furlong Lane but his name escapes me. He had a Bedford van in the yard for the business. I would drive this battered thing to a builder’s merchants between Great Bridge and Ocker Hill [still there as a Travis Perkins these days] and fill up with materials for his gangs working on sites around the Midlands. Now, as many of you will know, bags of plaster are heavy and so too are the plasterboards. The firm should have had a small lorry really. I used to drive with the van on the very bottom of the springs. I can remember driving to Droitwich as he had men working on what was the ‘new’ shopping centre. I would have to carry the bags to the wall on which the men were working. This could involve walking on rough ground for ages, then up a ladder, across some scaffolding, down some steps etc. Having to make many trips backwards and forwards from the van, it would take ages to unload. And the bags were so heavy – the weight of two old sacks of spuds. By the end of that hot summer I was so fit – I dare to add that I was well ripped."
Kieron

Ind Coope Enamel Advertisement [c.1920]

Ind Coope Sparkling Ale

Map
Map showing the Bridge Inn at Reddal Hill [1884]
On this map extract from 1884, the Bridge Inn is marked in red. The Methodist Chapel in Newtown Street is visible at top centre of the map extract. Note a footpath running through scrubland on the site where the library would later be constructed.

Building Plan
Click here for a Plan of the Bridge Inn at Reddal Hill
This is an extract from a building plan drawn up in 1903 by the Cradley Heath surveyor Mr. Bateshall.

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Alex Haley
"In every conceivable manner, the family is the link to our past, and bridge to our future.”
Alex Haley

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Newspaper Articles
“David Hewitt, aged 5 years, whose parents reside at Garratt's Lane, Old Hill, met with a serious accident at Reddal Hill, Old Hill, last night. The lad ran out of the Council school playground into the street, and was knocked down by a passing tramcar. He was picked up in an unconscious condition and removed to his home, where was found be suffering from serious injuries to his head. His condition is critical."
"Old Hill Boy Knocked Down By Tramcar"
in
Birmingham Daily Mail July 18th 1914

Allsopp's Lager - Suitable for Every Climate in the World

"The engineer, Benjamin Danks, who recently caused the death of a man named Careless, a doggy and underlooker at the Reddall Hill colliery, by drawing the skip in which the men were being pulled to the top of the pit over the pulley, has been committed for trial on a charge of manslaughter."
"Charge of Manslaughter"
in
Bradford Observer April 23rd 1869

Allsopp's India Pale [c.1910's]

Allsopp's Amber Ale [c.1930's]

Ind Coope Light Ale [1950's]

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Ind Coope Double Brown Ale

Ind Coope Double Diamond Beer Label

Ind Coope Arctic Barley Wine

Ind Coope Ales and Stouts

Ask for Ind Coope Ales and Stout [c.1930's Playing Card]

A Double Diamond Works Wonders

Ind Coope Double Diamond Advertisement

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