History of the Fountain Inn at Lower Gornal 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.


Fountain Inn
Fountain Inn

Some History of this Pub
As Geoffrey Chaucer wrote in the 14th century: "Mighty oaks from little acorns grow," the legend is that the Fountain Inn started out in the mid-19th century as a humble huckster's shop that sold a little beer but eventually developed into an award-winning public house. Under the stewardship of Alan Davis, the Fountain Inn won the Dudley and South Staffordshire 'Pub of the Year' in both 2002 and 2003. The pub was also voted CAMRA West Midlands Pub of the Year in 2003.

Lower Gornal - Frontage of the Fountain Inn [2012]

Located in Temple Street, the origins of the Fountain Inn are thought to go back to 1840's when John Cox opened a huckster's shop almost opposite the Old Bull's Head. He was recorded in the 1851 census aged 31 and lived on the premises with his 26 year-old wife, Mary Ann, and a family of three. The late John Richards once wrote that John Cox converted part of his shop into a beer house in the early 1850's. However, I have not seen his name listed amongst the beer retailers for Lower Gornal during this period. Whatever, John Cox later moved with his family to the Herefordshire village of Kingsland where he worked as a nail seller.

The Fountain Inn certainly has quite a labyrinth of cellars beneath the original section of the building. How much was dug out at the time of construction is not clear - some could have been excavated at a later date. However, it would appear that the building was intended as a public house from the outset.

It was when I stumbled on a newspaper article in which Hannah Raybould applied for a six-day wine and spirit licence for the pub in August 1874 that some history of the building emerged. Her solicitor told the magistrates that "the house had been built some fourteen years back by the applicant's husband." The article stated that Hannah Raybould tenanted and owned the property which, according to these details, was constructed in 1860 by her late husband. This would make Isaac Marsh the first licensee of the Fountain Inn when the house opened to the public.

Lower Gornal - Interior of the Fountain Inn [2012]

Isaac Marsh was also a butcher, a trade in which he was engaged for at least a decade. If a shop was being operated in conjunction with the beer house, this must have created a fierce rivalry with the Old Bull's Head across the road where the Guest family were running a similar operation. Isaac Marsh was a local man; he and his wife Mary Ann had a large family living on the premises. In 1861 Isaac Marsh was listed as butcher and innkeeper so the pub was presumably awarded inn status from the outset.

The Marsh family later moved to Humphrey Street where Isaac concentrated on his trade as a butcher. He was succeeded at the Fountain Inn by the aforementioned widow, Hannah Raybould. She was recorded in the 1871 census aged 44 and lived at the pub with her four children. Her son Job briefly held the licence before the property was sold to another branch of the Marsh family. Hannah Raybould moved into a neighbouring cottage that was part of a terrace traditionally occupied by miners. It is possible that she owned the terrace and this may also have been built by her husband.

Elisha Marsh was 36 when he became licensee of the Fountain Inn. Whilst he was recorded as a licensed victualler in the census of 1871, his wife Emma was listed as a fruiterer, suggesting that the building still served a dual role as a shop and public house. The couple employed Daniel Clarke, a brewer producing homebrewed ales to be sold at the inn. Elisha's son was also a brewer at the Fountain Inn. In 1886 he was blamed by his father when hauled before the magistrates on a charge of concealing wort to avoid paying duty.

The Marsh family remained at the Fountain Inn for the remainder of the century. In 1901 they were succeeded by William Plant. During the same year the Fountain Inn was acquired by Atkinson's Brewery of Aston, a company that had expanded its activities in and around the Gornal and Sedgley areas.

Following the acquisition by Atkinson's Brewery, the Fountain Inn became a managed house. Former limestone miner Eli Flavell and his wife Hannah Jane worked for the brewery during the Edwardian period.

In 1920 the Fountain Inn was sold to Plant's Brewery of Netherton but the pub returned to selling beers produced in Aston when Ansell's took over Plant's in 1936.

Tom Griffiths and Customers of the Fountain Inn [c.1920]

One of the most celebrated licensees of the Fountain Inn was Tom Griffiths. There is a testimonial to this publican framed and mounted on the wall of the bar. It was found in the attic of the building. Presented to his family by his numerous friends and customers it reads: "To Tom Griffiths, as a true sportsman and gentleman, for he showed these qualities in every sphere of his life: in all circumstances and environments. As gentle as a lamb at home and as a lion in the chase, he was interested in every kind of sport and he excelled in the noble art of self defence." In fact, Tom Griffiths aspired to become the Amateur Champion of England in 1892 and he even sparred with the redoubtable World Champion Jack Johnson. He also won a gold medal for entering a Lion's cage at a Fairground at Dudley. The testimonial states that "he held a blameless record as a licensee for fifty years and the iron hand of a velvet glove was the index to a well kept inn. He could be gentle and he could be tough." It sounds like you didn't want to go starting trouble in his boozer.

Tom Griffiths was also the Vice President of the Gornal Branch of the British Legion. Following his death in 1947, his daughter's side of the family continued to run the pub until 1973.

The Fountain Inn closed during the late 1980's but was reopened in 1991 by Peter Rawson, whose sister Jane kept the pub. Peter Rawson may be known to those who used to visit Ye Olde Horseshoe in Belbroughton. Along with his partner, he also turned Oldbury's Waggon and Horses into a real ale house, long before real ale became trendy.

Allan Brookes who was also a keen real ale man. He took over at the Fountain Inn and re-opened the pub as a place where people could once again enjoy good cask ales. He was responsible for the pub's early inclusion in CAMRA's Good Beer Guide.

I am not sure why but the pub closed again in 1998 but it was salvaged by Alan Davis and Amy Knowles. They had previously kept The Waterfall at Old Hill and, in a matter of five years, had turned it into a tremendously popular pub. I used to drink in The Waterfall at this time and it was hard to get a seat on some nights. Alan and Amy however didn't own The Waterfall so the dream of running their own place was realised here in Lower Gornal. However, it was only after a bit of graft. Taking over in November 1998, they set themselves the target of five weeks to completely refurbish the place. The pub had been closed for several months and needed a complete overhaul. Alan and Amy did it all themselves and opened in time for Christmas.

Kidderminster-born Alan was previously a carpet fitter. Amy was Black Country born-and-bred. Hailing from Oldbury, she had worked behind a bar before they took the plunge into the licensed trade by taking over as managers of The Waterfall.

Lower Gornal - The Pen of the Fountain Inn [2012]

Alan and Amy continued to improve the property and in February 2001 they opened an extension to the rear to facilitate a dining area. This was called The Pen. The couple didn't miss the opportunity to celebrate the opening of the new extension because they held a beer festival to mark the occasion. I was there for the opening night and it was brilliant. I still visit the pub from time-to-time and in 2014 Alan was still in charge of the place. He had a mini-army of people running the pub and kitchen.
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Related Newspaper Articles
"At the Sedgley Police Court, yesterday, Elisha Marsh, of the Fountain Inn, Lower Gornal, was fined £20. for concealing 48 gallons of wort. The defendant laid all the blame on his son, who acted as a brewer.”
"Sedgley Police Court"
in Birmingham Daily Post
: November 9th 1886 Page 4.

"On Wednesday evening, Mr. Joseph Kirby, butcher and florist, and Mr. Richard Cartwright, both of Summit Place, Lower Gornal, started for a drive, and on arriving in Temple Street the horse shied and caused the occupants to fall out of the trap, the result being that Mr. Cartwright was crushed about the legs owing to the trap running over them. Mr. Kirby was Injured about the face. Fortunately the injuries were not of a serious nature.”
"Trap Accident in Temple Street"
in Birmingham Daily Gazette
: September 28th 1877 Page 4.

"At Dudley Police Court, yesterday, John Davis [24], 23, Temple Street, Lower Gornal, was charged with obtaining, by false pretences, 5s. 9d., belonging to his employers, Messrs. Bean and Son. Defendant was a machinist employed at the National Factory, and put in clock card representing that he had worked from 6.49pm. on October 9th to 7 o’clock the following morning. He had not worked at all that night, and, therefore, got 5s. 9d. in wages to which he was not entitled. In addition, he received for the week a bonus of 3s. 10d., which he was not entitled to, but in respect of which he was not now charged. Defendant now said he was the factory all the night in question, but was unable to work owing to sciatica, and spent most of night in the cabin. Defendant was fined £5, or month’s imprisonment.”
"Dudley Clocking Fraud"
in Birmingham Daily Post
: October 24th 1916 Page 6.
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Licensees of this Pub
1860 - Isaac Marsh
1871 - Hannah Raybould
1875 - Job Raybould
1877 - 1901 Elisha Marsh
1901 - 1902 William Plant
1902 - 1905 Benjamin Boden
1905 - 1906 Eli Flavell
1906 - 1907 Hannah Jane Flavell
1907 - 1910 Enoch Smart
1910 - 1912 Harley Chamberlain
1912 - 1914 William Nock
1914 - 1947 Thomas Griffiths
1947 - c.1958 Ida Griffiths
1958 - 1973 Arthur Frederick Keaton
1973 - 1974 Leonard Steel
1974 - 1975 Frederick Shorthouse
1975 - 1976 Antonio Cardellino
1976 - 1978 Arthur Cooknell
1978 - 1980 Roy James Hackett
1980 - 1986 Mary Eliza Farrell
1986 - 1990 Gertrude Browne
1990 - 1992 Jane Rawson
1992 - 1998 Allan Brookes
1998 - Alan Davis

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Thomas Plant No.1 Strong Ale

Ansell's Mirror [c.1900]

Tom Griffiths of the Fountain Inn

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

Map of the Fountain Inn [1901]
On this map extract from 1901, I have marked the location of the Fountain Inn. The Old Bull's Head is shown across the road from the pub.

Atkinson's Ales

Atkinson's Punch Stout

Inn Sign
Inn Sign for the Fountain Inn

Inn Sign for the Fountain Inn
The sign of The Fountain is generally found when a water source is located near to a pub. Referring to the crest of the Plumber's Company and also the badge of the Master Mariners, the sign of The Fountain can also be heraldic. However, the images shown here appeared on the sign board here at Lower Gornal. When commissioning a sign for the pub, the owners thought they would like something a little bit special. So, rather than just having a painting of any old fountain, two fountains in nearby Dudley were used. The signboard was painted by a local resident of Gornal, Gary Tilyard, who did a splendid job of illustrating both the Archer's Fountain in the gardens by the Town Hall and the Fountain in the High Street which was built on the site of the original Town Hall.

Links to other Websites
Ancient Manor of Sedgley
Black Country Bugle
Black Country Gob
Black Country Society
Genealogy and Gornal
Gornal and Sedgley Team Ministry
Sedgley Local History Society

"From the very fountain of enchantment there arises a taste of bitterness to spread anguish amongst the flowers.”

Be an Ansell's Bitterman

Work in Progress

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Newspaper Articles
“On Wednesday an inquest was held at the Guest Hospital, Dudley, respecting the death of James Cartwright [17], who resided with his parents in Humphrey Street, Lower Gornal. A young man named Thomas Marsh, of the Fountain Inn, Lower Gornal, said on Thursday afternoon deceased called upon him with a pigeon, which he purchased for four pence. Witness fetched his gun and they went to a shed in the yard, where they released the bird, which was a young one, to see if it could fly. When the pigeon was about to escape from the shed deceased shouted, "Now, Tom, the pigeon's going," whereupon witness fired at the bird, killing it. Immediately after this the deceased said he had received some shot in his leg and caught hold of the witness fur support. The gun was a breach-loader tor No. 6 small shot. In his opinion some of the charge rebounded from a wall and entered deceased's legs. Dr. Biggam stated that on going to see the deceased at his home on the evening of the day of the accident he found him suffering from gun-shot wounds, principally in the back of the left thigh. Some of the pellets had entered the back of the left ankle, and also the back of the right thigh. Deceased died from the effects of blood poisoning caused by the gunshot wounds. Practically the whole of the contents of the cartridge was embedded in the deceased's limbs. He believed it was quite possible for the charge to have rebounded off the wall. Deceased died on Sunday morning. A verdict of "accidental death" was returned. Marsh was subsequently called before the jury, and was censured by the Coroner for the reckless manner in which he had used his gun.”
"The Fatal Gun Accident at Sedgley"
in Worcester Journal
: September 24th 1892

Lower Gornal - Alan Davis of the Fountain Inn [2009]
In 2009 the Express and Star featured the extensive sausage menu cooked up by Alan Davis. Here he is pictured with his chalkboard of bangers to go along with the extensive range of real ales at the pub.
© Copyright. Image supplied by Express and Star

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A Double Diamond Works Wonders

Ansell's - The Better Beer

Ansell's Newcrest Stout

Ansell's Triple Gold Light Ale

Ansell's Aston Ales

Ansell's Bitter

Ansell's - Ah The Better Beer

Ansell's Tomic Stout [c.1950's]

Ansell's Nut Brown Ale

Ansell's Mild

Ansell's - Helps You To Face Life's Little Snags

Ansell's Bittermen - You Can't Beat Em

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Tap Room Etched Glass


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