History of the Round Oak Inn at Wombourne 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.



 

Round Oak Inn
Round Oak Inn

Some History of this Pub
The Round Oak Inn is located at Ounsdale, once a separate hamlet on the edge of Wombourne. In the mid-19th century it was fairly quiet and the settlement only had a few dwellings. Some cottage industry existed in the Victorian period, along with sand extraction, but it was not until the post-war years that larger industrial buildings appeared on the landscape. Today, the Round Oak Inn is surrounded by modern housing.

Wombourne - Round Oak Inn and Canal Bridge [2006]

Located next to oddly-named Houndel Bridge [thought to be an error] with well-worn steps down to the waterside, the Round Oak Inn almost certainly owes its existence to the construction of the canal. Authorised by an Act of Parliament in May 1766, the 46 mile Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal was completed in 1772 and connected Great Haywood on the Trent and Mersey Canal with Stourport on the River Severn. Designed by James Brindley, it took six years to complete. The canal formed part of Brindley's 'Grand Cross' plan in which he proposed to link the Mersey with the Thames and the Trent with the Severn. The Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal is a 'first generation' canal in that it takes the easiest contour route around the landscape. Consequently, locks were only constructed where absolutely necessary and there are very few tunnels. As a waterside hostelry, the Round Oak Inn would date from the late 18th century.

Wombourne - Round Oak Inn [2006]

In what has become a markedly different Ounsdale, the canal and the Round Oak Inn remain as enduring vestiges of continuity. The Round Oak's early customers were typically boatmen, agricultural labourers, nailers and those toiling in the nearby sand pits. The sand around this locale and, in particular, at Bumble Hole to the north [see map] was from Upper Mottled Sandstone, a soft grain that was used in making moulds for castings and iron pigs. A wharf nearby was used to ship the sand to the Black Country where it was used in many a foundry. The sand extracted further south near Botterham Lock was sharper and used in the construction industry. The Bumble Hole name is curious though not unique - other examples being at Netherton and near Bromsgrove.

Wombourne - Bumblehole Lock and Cottage [2006]

Wander a little to the north along the canal and it is quite easy to immerse oneself in the halcyon days of the inland waterways. Little has changed around Bumblehole Lock and it remains a fine example of early canal engineering. Both the bridge and former lock-keeper's cottage are listed structures, the latter being considered one of the best-preserved houses on the canal. The steep angle of the bridge's parapet is quite unusual and it features a bricked-up arch on the offside. The lock-keeper in the early 1840's was William Jukes whilst the sand pit close to the Round Oak Inn was operated by Richard Deans. Almost every other man living close to the pub were listed as boatmen, including Edward Baker, Benjamin Moor, Thomas Jackson, Robert Bromley and William Cresswell.

Oliver Richards was the licensee of the Round Oak Inn by 1834. The son of Isaac Richards and Sarah Foley, he was born in Wombourne in March 1796. He and his wife Mary had three children, Sarah, Emma and John, living on the premises when the census enumerator called in 1841. Oliver Richards was recorded as a farmer and victualler. He employed a couple of local men and a boy to help on the farming side of the business.

Oliver Richards was the nephew of W. Foley, gamekeeper for five successive Lords Dudley and Ward. This may be a connection for the naming of the hostelry. The gamekeeper died at the Round Oak Inn on February 28th, 1841, aged 83.

The Round Oak Inn may have been used as the centre for the local harvest festival. In 1845 the heaviest gooseberry ever known was displayed at the pub by a Mr. Elliott. It weighed over 36 dwts.

Wombourne - Etched Glass Window Pane at the Round Oak Inn [2006]

The licence register for 1872 records Oliver Richards as both licensee and owner of the building. The farmer and publican died in 1876 and the pub was taken over by Edward and Letitia Hall. The couple had previously kept the Old Bush Inn on the Bilston Road at Monmore Green, Wolverhampton. Edward Hall was born in Shropshire and Letitia hailed from Bridgnorth but they had married at Aston in 1871. Letitia Hall was very experienced in the pub trade as she had worked in the White Hart on Bridgnorth's Cartway, a tavern kept by her father William.

Edward and Letitia Hall had one daughter named Lucy. She probably helped her mother run the Round Oak following the death of Edward Hall in 1879. The licence of the house passed to Letitia Hall who remained until her death in 1894. Daughter Lucy, who had married a coal dealer named Albert Harley, died in the following year. I suspect that Albert and Lucy courted in Monmore Green as they both lived on Bilston Road at one time. Albert's father, Titus, had a coal business close to Lucy's home at the Old Bush Inn.

Henry Harley was recorded as licensee in 1896. He was the brother of Albert. Perhaps he was more suited to the licensed trade as his brother remained in the coal business. Henry Harley was listed as publican of the Round Oak Inn and also a shopkeeper, suggesting that he was retailing general goods and provisions to boatmen. The pub had stabling for those working on the canal and there is some evidence of additional accommodation being used in the past.

William Trowbridge was also recorded as a shopkeeper and publican in a trade directory published towards the end of the Victorian period. William had grown up on a farm in the Dorset village of Hilton. His wife Louisa however hailed from Pencombe in Herefordshire. The couple's three children, Walter, Ann and Frank, lived on the premises along with Florence Turner who was hired as a domestic servant.

By the end of the Edwardian period Matthew and Florence Greaves were running the Round Oak Inn. The couple originated from Birmingham.
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Related Newspaper Articles
"At Wolverhampton County Licensing Sessions yesterday Superintendent Price reported that there were 285 licensed houses in the division, being a license to every 169 of the inhabitants. Three licensed victuallers and one beer house keeper had been proceeded against, two of the licensed victuallers being convicted. Opposition to the renewal of their licenses had been served on Hiram Jones, of the King Charles in the Oak Inn, Short Heath, and William Trowbridge, of the Round Oak Inn, Wombourne, on the ground of convictions. Since last August 395 males and 38 females had been proceeded against for drunkenness, 382 males and 33 females being convicted. Mr. Willcock [borough coroner), at the request of a jury who investigated the death of a carter named Crowther, wrote calling the attention of the justices to the conduct of Mrs. Morres. wife of the landlord of the Royal Oak Inn, The Scotlands, Cannock Road, it being alleged that she refused shelter and assistance to a dying man. The Bench renewed the application with reluctance, and adjourned the consideration of the licences objected to by the police until the adjourned licensing sessions.”
"Brewster Sessions : Wolverhampton County"
Birmingham Daily Post : August 24th 1900 Page 8.

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Licensees of this Pub
1834 - 1876 Oliver Richards
1876 - 1879 Edward Hall
1879 - Letitia Hall
1896 - Henry Harley
1900 - William Trowbridge
1912 - Matthew Albert Greaves
1936 - James McGregor Spark

Banks's Imperial Mild Ale [1960's]

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

Fide et Fortitudine 1875

Banks's Mild Ale [1959]

Map
Map Showing the Round Oak Inn at Ounsdale [1882]
The industrialisation of Ounsdale had not started when this map was drawn up in 1882. The only industrial activity indicated is that of a Sand Pit. The lane heading to the west was to Woodford Cottage at Clap Gate. Note Bumblehole Lock to the north of the pub on the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal.

Inn Sign
Inn Sign for the Round Oak Inn at Wombourne [2004]
There is a temptation to link this pub name with that of Round Oak, an area near Brierley Hill, particularly as the founder of the steel works at Round Oak, William, 11th Baron of Dudley, lived at Himley, a short distance away from the Round Oak at Wombourne. The uncle of an early landlord here was a gamekeeper for five successive Lords Dudley and Ward.

Links to other Websites
Wombourne Net

Quotation
Thomas Carlyle
“When the oak is felled the whole forest echoes with it fall, but a hundred acorns are sown in silence by an unnoticed breeze.”
Thomas Carlyle

Work in Progress

Drinkers by Adriaen Brouwer

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Newspaper Articles
Wombourne - Mandy Pitt with Smasher near the Round Oak Inn [2006]
"A swan dubbed "Smasher”  stunned drinkers by crashing in through the window of a pub near Wolverhampton. Shards of glass were sent flying through the air when the giant bird burst in unannounced and bounced across a table in the Round Oak Inn in Ounsdale Road, Wombourne. It miraculously escaped from the ordeal with just a bruised chest, minor cuts on its webbed feet and the equivalent of a nosebleed. None of the around 20 people inside the pub was hurt and many tended to the bird or helped tidy up the bar afterwards. It is thought the swan was spooked while on the nearby canal, and that this had made it take flight in such a dramatic fashion on Monday evening. It may have then mistaken the reflection of the glass of the window for water and crashed into the pub at around 8.30pm. The swan is now swimming again on the nearby canal after an RSPCA inspector from Chester drove down to examine it. Mandy Pitt, the pub's assistant manager, was filling  in for the pub managers, who were away on holiday. She said: "It was a bit bewildering really and this is the first time I have done relief in a pub so it has been quite an exciting week for me. The swan is fine and was released back to the canal, but we want to get a picture of it to put up in the pub." She added that "he was quite calm which was a bit surprising - I think he was shocked but he started to liven up. We were trying to think of a name and Smasher seemed appropriate." Sharron Edwards, who was in the pub at the time, said: "It came flying in through the window, across a table and landed on the floor. We kept it calm with advice from the RSPCA over the phone because it tried to get up and couldn't. It was a fairly busy night and there was a feeling of disbelief really, it is not something that you expect."
"Drinkers stunned as swan crashes now"
by Andy Rea in
Express and Star
March 2nd 2006 P.25
© Copyright. Image supplied by Express and Star

Wombourne - Jason Dobbs of the Round Oak Inn [2006]
"Landlords across the Black Country today gave a mixed response to the news big screen football could be removed from scores of pubs in the region. Wolverhampton and Dudley Breweries is considering axing live football at up to two-thirds of its pubs as it looks to attract more families ahead of the smoking ban next year. The brewery ditched Sky Sports at 100 venues earlier this year and have reported more than half have been "performing better" as food is attracting more and more punters. Robert Morton, from the British Oak, a Wolverhampton and Dudley Breweries' pub, in Stallings Lane, Kingswinford, said live football was becoming less of a draw for punters. "The old-fashioned bar is becoming a thing of the past," he said. " A lot of the pubs that have already put in the smoking ban are doing better. We do get people coming in to watch football but things are changing as we get closer to the ban coming in. It costs us £25,000 a year for Sky, so that's a big part of our revenue. These days, pubs are relying more and more on food." Bryan Wilson, who runs the Corn Exchange in Amblecote Road, Brierley Hill, said that as his was not a Wolverhampton and Dudley Breweries pub, he was happy with the move. "Hopefully it will mean more people coming in here to watch the football," he said. "It is bad how much they charge for Sky Sports nowadays, it is a lot of money. But I think they are trying to work out how to make money in different ways as the smoking ban comes in." Kelly Harper from the Saracen's Head, in Stone Street, Dudley, which is not a Wolverhampton and Dudley Breweries pub, said most of their trade came from food anyway. "When we show the England games it would bring people in," she said. Sian Dobbs, from the Round Oak Inn, in Wombourne, said the plan was to take Sky out of pubs that did well with food revenue. "I don't know if this is going to work," she said.
"Mixed response for ban on football"
by Richard Williams in
Express and Star
October 24th 2006 Page 5
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Banks's Beer Mat [1970's]

Biere le Nectar des Dieux

Banks's Imperial Mild Ale [c.1948]

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Pub Drinkers between the Wars

Rural Drinkers outside the Pub

The Young Barmaid by Charles Sillem Lidderdale

Drinking Celebrations

Le Bock by Picasso [1901]

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Best Room and Snug

Edwardian Barman

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