History of the Wheatsheaf Inn at Walsall 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.



 

Wheatsheaf Inn
Wheatsheaf Inn

Some History of this Pub
Located on the corner of Birmingham Street and Grove Terrace, the Wheatsheaf Inn is an historic building and was certainly trading in 1801 when it was known by the sign of The Greyhound. John Westley was the publican and he remained until at least 1818. The pub was formerly listed in King Street, a thoroughfare that was once known as Hains Lane. Birmingham Street, which runs from the southern end of Ablewell Street to New Street, was mentioned in 1535. The street once had three Wheatsheaf pubs at different periods and this is probably the reason why this building opened as The Greyhound.

The original Wheatsheaf Inn was located on the same south side of the thoroughfare but further towards New Street. This hostelry was still shown on a map dated 1812 so it seems that the two pubs were trading at the same time - hence the different name at this building. The older structure was once the home of Captain Henry Stone, who fought in the English Civil War. He rebuilt the house in the 1660's and by the 18th century it was known by the sign of the Wheat Sheaff.

Within the "History and Directory of Walsall", published in 1813, Thomas Pearce wrote "at the Wheatsheaf there is a bowling green in the occupation of Joseph Cooper situate in Birmingham Street commanding a view of Barr Beacon and the country towards Birmingham." Joseph Cowley, who later served as the Mayor of Walsall between 1836-7, bought the property in 1813. It was possibly when the timber-framed building was demolished soon after this date that the name of the Wheatsheaf emerged on the corner of Grove Terrace.

A beer house cheekily called the Old Wheatsheaf opened soon after the Parliamentary Act of 1830. This was located on the north side of the street towards the Duke of Wellington. This pub lasted until March 1904 when the licence became redundant. So, with the ancient Wheatsheaf demolished [the timbers are thought to have been used in the construction of Grove House] and the short life of the beer house, this is the surviving Wheatsheaf in Birmingham Street.

John Hopkins was mine host for a period - he is listed in White's 1834 trade directory at the Wheatsheaf so the name of the pub had changed from the Greyhound by this date. John Edkins was the licensee in the mid-1830's. Brass harness manufacturer Samuel Whistance kept the pub in the early 1840's. Born in Walsall in 1811 he married Lydia Heath who also hailed from the local area. When the couple were at the pub they had three young children: Mary, James and Elizabeth.

It is not certain what process Samuel Whistance deployed in the production of his brass harnesses. Cast brasses did not emerge until the mid-1820's so perhaps he produced hand-hammered brasses made from latten. The Wheatsheaf design may have appeared on his brasses. The sign of The Wheatsheaf has been popular since the 17th century. Indeed, a sheaf of wheat appears in several coats-of-arms, including those of the Worshipful Company of Bakers [1486]. Moreover, it appears in the arms of the Brewers' Company.

Samuel Whistance died at a relatively young age in the mid-1840's. By the end of the decade Shrewsbury-born licensed victualler Richard Evans was in charge of the Wheatsheaf Inn. He kept the pub with his locally-born wife Eleanor.

By 1860 the Wheatsheaf Inn was kept by William and Mira Reynolds. Born in Aldridge in 1825, William Reynolds had moved to Birmingham to find work. Both he and his Stourbridge-born wife were in the employ of the chemist Abel Peyton and lived at his large residence at Edgbaston. The age and birthplaces of their children, Mira, Elizabeth and Lydia, suggest that they moved to Walsall around 1858. The eldest daughter, Mira, worked as a dressmaker in the early 1870's by which time William Reynolds had diversified. He was recorded as both victualler and a farmer of forty acres. It was the latter occupation that William Reynolds followed. He and his family moved to the 65 acre Brook House Farm which, although part of the Walsall Foreign, was only a short distance away near Old Park Hall.

William Reynolds later moved to Broadside Farm close to the Malt Shovel Inn on the Birmingham Road. His successor at the Wheatsheaf Inn was former grocer Moses Dolman, Born in Fradley in 1828, he kept the pub with his wife Elizabeth. The couple were seemingly running a busy house as they employed George Ward as a stable servant and Alice Brown as a general servant. The couple's stay at the Wheatsheaf Inn lasted until the early 1880's. However, they may have found themselves in financial difficulties as they later moved to Winson Green where Moses Dolman found work first as a packer, and later as a warehouseman in the iron trade.

Moving from the aforementioned Malt Shovel Inn, John and Rosanah Griffiths were in charge of the Wheatsheaf Inn during the early 1890's. John was a Walsall man but Rosanah hailed from Stirchley in Shropshire. The couple employed Lottey Merricks as a general servant at the Wheatsheaf Inn.

At the end of the Victorian era the Wheatsheaf Tavern, as it was then known, was run by former colliery clerk William Slater. Born in New Invention around 1866, he kept the pub with his wife Catherine who hailed from the Worcestershire village of Hallow.

In 1904 the Wheatsheaf was acquired by the Langley-based Showell's Brewery who installed Mrs Mary Winkle as the manager of the house. The widow was formerly the publican of the New Station Hotel in Park Street, the thoroughfare she had lived in for many years with her husband Frederick who worked as a watchmaker. Interestingly, a William Slater was recorded at the New Station Hotel in 1908; this could be the same man who kept the Wheatsheaf - in which case it would seem he'd swapped places with Mary Winkle who remained at the Wheatsheaf until World War One.

Samuel Allsopp and Sons Ltd. of Burton-on-Trent acquired Showell's Brewery and its estate of 194 tied houses in 1914. This brought the Wheatsheaf under the ownership of a truly historic brewery. Allsopp's were the first to export Burton Pale Ale to India in 1822. By 1890 their output had reached 460,000 barrels and they had a workforce of 1,750. However, the company, founded in the 1740s, went through a difficult period before merging with Ind Coope & Co. Ltd in June 1934.

It was in 1961 that Ansell's merged with Ind Coope & Allsopp and Tetley Walker to form Allied Breweries in 1961. It was after this date that the pub would have sold the Aston brews of Ansell's.

The headquarters of Walsall Rugby Club was based at the Wheatsheaf in 1922 when Thomas Pedley was the manager. Formerly of the Derby Arms in Raleigh Street, the tenant was paying 130.0s.0d. per annum rent. The pub became a noted jazz venue in the genre's boom years of the 1950's.

It was Allied Breweries who altered the property during the 1960's. This was much of the old interior layout was lost. The lovely bay windows were replaced in 1984. It was after Allied bought the Firkin pubs brand that they converted the Wheatsheaf into the Flock and Firkin. Much of this Allied Domecq tied estate was taken over by Punch Taverns.

The Wheatsheaf name was restored in 2007. I believe the pub is currently owned by Trust Inns and the new tenants in 2008 were Carrie Cooke and Jean James. Within a very short space of time they revived the fortunes of the Wheatsheaf Inn. As committed members of Walsall CAMRA, they established the pub as a real ale outlet and staged regular beer festivals at the Wheatsheaf Inn. Combined with a number of other themed events and engaging the local community, they made the Wheatsheaf an award-winning tavern. With plans to move to Devon, they moved out of The Wheatsheaf in the autumn of 2010.
Copyright. Images supplied by Digital Photographic Images.

 

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Licensees of this Pub
1801 - John Westley
1834 - John Hopkins
1835 - John Edkins
1841 - Samuel Whistance
1850 - Richard Evans
1860 - William Reynolds
1873 - Moses Dolman
1891 - John Griffiths
1901 - William Slater
1904 - Mary Winkle
1921 - Fred Akenhead
1922 - Thomas Pedley
1940 - James Woodfun

 

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Genealogy Connections
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Inn Sign
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Map
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Links to other Websites
Walsall Council

 

Not One to Mix with the Riff-Raff in the Bar

 

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Quotation
"The English beer is best in all Europe... it was necessary to drink two or three pots of beer during our parley; for no kind of business is transacted in England without the intervention of pots of beer.
Jarevin de Rochefort

Newspaper Articles
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