Some history of the Manor Arms at Abberley
Formerly known as the Bromley Arms, the Manor Arms is located in the historic centre of Abberley, the old part of the village clustered around the Norman church of St. Michael. This church fell into disrepair and, in 1852, was replaced by St. Mary's Church, the steeple of which can be seen in the 1968 photograph below. Unusually, however, the chancel of the ancient church was restored in the mid-Edwardian era, thus Abberley is graced by two churches.
The late-1960's photograph [below] shows that the Manor Arms has changed little over the last half-century or so - on the outside at least. A signboard over the entrance shows that the Manor Arms was once operated by William Butler's Springfield Brewery at Wolverhampton. Interestingly, the signboard also features the heraldic argent of Ralph de Toeni who held the land here at the time of the Domesday survey. The manor was later granted to Sir William Walshe by King Henry VIII. His descendant, William Walsh, served as a Member of Parliament during the late 17th and early 18th centuries, though he is best remembered as a poet and critic. A frequent visitor to the Walsh family home at Abberley Lodge was Alexander Pope, a good friend of William Walsh.
Ownership of the Manor of Abberley changed following the death of William Walsh in 1708. He was unmarried so the manor passed to his sister and co-heir Anne, wife of Francis Bromley of Holt. This would suggest that the pub dates from the 18th century as the Bromley family held the manor until the death of Colonel Henry Bromley in 1836. The executors of his will instructed George Robins to sell the house and estate in June 1836. The mansion was acquired by the Birmingham merchant and banker James Lewis Moilliet.
Born in Geneva, Switzerland in 1770, James Lewis Moilliet moved to Birmingham in 1789. He became acquainted with Matthew Boulton and, as a result, met influential industrialists within the Lunar Society, including the Scottish-born inventor and entrepreneur James Keir. Within two years he married Amelia Keir, the only daughter of the magnate who lived at Hill Top near West Bromwich. The couple were residents of Hamstead Hall in Handsworth before their move to Abberley. But not before they had engaged Samuel Whitfield Daukes to replace the old lodge at Abberley with a glorious Italianate edifice. This was a 'breakthrough' commission for the young architect who played an influential role in building design around the Midlands during the mid-19th century.
After expending some £15,000 on the reconstruction, James Lewis Moilliet died within a year of the project's completion. Indeed, the 'new' Abberley Hall lasted only three years before it was destroyed by fire. On Christmas Day in 1845 Amelia Moilliet was entertaining her friends for the festive occasion when a fire broke out in the upper rooms. Standing on an elevated spot, there was little water available to douse the flames so the local populace had to convey buckets of water from a pool in a hand-to-hand operation extending some half-a-mile in distance. Their efforts were in vain and the property blazed for several hours. Amelia Moilliet was removed to the Hundred House Inn. She would later instruct the original architect to build a replacement based on his original plans.
The Jones family were in charge of the Bromley Arms for much of the 19th century. In 1814 the house of widow and publican Mary Jones at the Bromley Arms was mentioned in an article referring to the enclosure of land at Abberley. By 1851 78 year-old John Jones was running the pub along with his son, also named John. John Jones the elder originated from Burford in Shropshire. His son John was born-and-bred in Abberley. His wife Ellen was from Stoke Bliss. They had a son in 1848 and, for sheer continuity, was given the name of John. The family grew during the 1850's with the birth of two daughters, Lucy and Sarah. However, an air of melancholy descended upon the Bromley Arms in December 1858 when Ellen Jones was found drowned in a pool near the pub. The Worcester Journal reported that she had been confined about six weeks prior to her death and that, during that period, she had suffered greatly from "depression of spirits." The coroner was sure that her death had been self-inflicted and at the inquest the jury returned a verdict of "deceased drowned herself, being at the time of unsound mind."
It would seem that there were few quiet nights at the Bromley Arms during the 19th century. A palpable air of malevolence pervaded at the weekends when local labourers piled into the pub to sink some ale. On one November evening in 1865 there was a near riot in the pub when trouble kicked off and most of the customers took part in a mass brawl. In the fallout William Winwood charged William Sheriff with assaulting him. A. Clark also charged T. Slater with assault during what was described as a 'Public House Squabble.' Slater was sentenced to 14 days' hard labour. Thomas Slater was handed down a sentence of one month for assaulting the landlord. William Edwards was bound over for what was called threatening behaviour towards Mr. T. Quartermaster of Pensax.
In the last decade of the 19th century John Jones Jr. was running the Bromley Arms along with his daughter Sarah who had married the farm bailiff Thomas Bishop. John Jones was himself documented as both innkeeper and farmer. However, he also found himself in front of the magistrates for being drunk in charge of the Bromley Arms. Son-in-law Thomas Bishop would eventually succeed John Jones as licensee of the Bromley Arms. Although, he was born in Rock, he had spent many years living at Stockton Field in Abberley. By all accounts Thomas Bishop failed to control the patrons of the Bromley Arms. There were many case of unruly behaviour, fighting and drunkenness at the pub whilst he was the licensee. The magistrates, clearly saddened by the constant trouble at the Bromley Arms, refused an application by Thomas Bishop in March 1894 for a two hour extension to his licence for a supper held by members of the Abberley Young Men's Society. Although it was explained to The Bench that the society's aim was to promote the social and literary improvement of the members, the magistrates probably felt that a large gathering of men in the Bromley Arms would descend into a whole world of trouble!
Thomas Bishop was heading for trouble of another kind. The books weren't adding up and in March 1896 he was declared bankrupt. In a public examination it was stated that he had commenced his business as innkeeper during December 1891, with a capital of £30, which he had borrowed. Up to that time he had been working as a labourer. He had known for two years that he was in financial difficulties, and held a sale of his effects, since which he had been living in a cottage, earning a little money as a labourer. Besides losses in the Bromley Arms, he had lost over £100 dealing in fruit. During the examination Mr. Sharp enquired if the debtor had sustained any loss giving what was called the "long pull," to which Bishop replied that there might have been some loss, for he always gave good measure.
By the end of the Victorian era, farmer Richard Mills had taken over at the Bromley Arms. He had previously operated a cider house in the village. He moved to the pub with his wife Elizabeth and their four children. He also employed a carter and two general labourers on the farm. Like Thomas Bishop before him, Richard Mills had problems in keeping an orderly house in Abberley. In March 1901 Joseph Allen, a labourer from Abberley, was summoned for being drunk and refusing to quite the Bromley Arms. He was fined 15s. at the Hundred House Petty Sessions. In another case Charles Allen and Henry Bonehill, both of Abberley, were charged with being disorderly in the pub and refusing to quit. The publican told the magistrates that both men wanted to fight and would not leave so he sent for P.C. Williams. Richard Mills stated that he had not supplied Bonehill with drink, on account of his condition. He understood that they had been drinking homemade wine. P.C. Williams said that the men were very disorderly and in a quarrelsome condition. The Chairman questioned Inspector Berry as to the way Richard Mills conducted the house, remarking that there had been a great deal of disorder in the Bromley Arms, and several before the Court. However, Inspector Berry said that the house was "very well conducted, considering the class of people he had to deal with."
It is possible that Richard and Elizabeth Mills changed the name of the house. By the end of the Edwardian era it was listed as the Manor Arms in trade directories. However, the pub had been known as the Manor Arms for some time before - the two names appear in an advertisement dated 1894.
The interior photograph above was taken in March 2005. I was visiting the pub about a year after it had been taken over by an agreeable publican called Jay Seldon, who leased the property from Enterprise Inns. He and his partner tried very hard to put the Manor Arms on the map and were operating a ten-bedroom hotel here. A keen real ale fan since the 1980's, the former I.T. man reintroduced cask ales to the bar and staged a beer festival, an event during which I walked across a greasy pole after several beers - a lot of people were impressed!
The Manor Arms was acquired by new owners during May 2013, after which the pub was closed for nine months for extensive renovations. The results of this undertaking can be seen in the photographs dating from August 2016. The interior has changed completely and the pub now combines relaxing drinking areas and restaurant. The Manor Arms has retained a small section of the pub for drinkers and regular clientele. Relatively locally-brewed beers from Wye Valley and Ludlow are stocked. The pub has benefited from a very fine patio and beer garden with the nearby hills forming a lovely backdrop.
"W. S. P. Hughes, Esq., held an inquest at the Bromley Arms, Abberley, on Thursday, on the body of William Lawley, butcher, of Upper Arley, who
was found drowned in a brook on Monday week. It appears that he left his home on the 11th February for the purpose of visiting a brother who resides between Bewdley and
Stourport, but did not reach there, and was not heard of again until found by Mr. Gerrard, of Netherton Farm, lying on his back in a small brook, in a coppice. The deceased
had been in a low state of mind for sometime past. Mr. Greensill, surgeon, of Witley, who had examined the body, stated that there were marks of violence on it, and that, in
his opinion, the deceased had attempted to cross the brook on a tree lying there, when he fell into the stream, which was much swollen by the rains.
Verdict : "Found drowned."
Worcester Chronicle : March 5th 1856 Page 4.
"On Tuesday afternoon an inquest was held at the Bromley Arms before W. S. P. Hughes, Esq., on the body of a labouring man named William Morris,
who met his death in a street row after a haymaking supper at the Bromley Arms, Abberley. It appears that the deceased and several other persons after supping left the house
about two o'clock in the morning, when a fight took place between the deceased and Mr. John Gerrard, the son of a farmer at Netherton. Deceased was knocked down or fell down
in the fight, and died two days after. Mr. Jones, the landlord of the house, described the circumstance as follows : Between eleven and twelve o'clock a quarrel took place
between the deceased and Mr. Gerrard, but there was no blow struck in the house. Deceased began quarrelling with Mr. Gerrard; and, using very abusive language towards him,
challenged Mr. Gerrard to fight. Between one and two o'clock the Friday morning all the party left. Deceased went out with William Lawley, William Greenwood, Thomas Hankins,
James Child, Allen Clarke, William Burton, and John Gerrard. They were not quarrelling when they went out, and seemed to be conducting themselves peacefully, and with no
intention of fighting. About ten minutes after they went out I heard them still there, and I went out to persuade them to go. Mr. Gerrard and deceased were having words
together and deceased was challenging Mr. Gerrard to fight. Greenwood interfered, and he and deceased had a scuffle together, in which both fell to the ground. When deceased
got up he wanted to fight Mr. Gerrard. Mr. Gerrard said he should not fight him unless he struck him. Deceased then struck Mr. Gerrard, and they had three rounds. They had
seconds. Greenwood was Mr. Gerrard's second, and Hankins seconded deceased. They fought together, and the fighting appeared to to fair. Deceased fell each round, and in the
third round he fell and did not get up again. All the party were the worse for drink. Deceased lay for some time on the ground. His second and I tried to raise deceased up.
Greenwood then went to Hankins, and said he was much in fault as Gerrard. The seconds then fought, and both fell. Gerrard assisted me to get deceased up, and we carried him
into the house. Deceased was sensible when we got him into the house. He complained of pain in his head, but there was no mark of blood. Deceased said he should be better if
they would let him alone. Mr. Gerrard and I then removed him on some bags, and put him into another room, and afterwards put him to bed. About nine o'clock on the Friday
morning Mr. Gerrard sent for doctor, and Mr. Merrell [Mr. Greensill's assistant] came about twelve o'clock. Mr. Gerrard remained the whole time. Deceased remained in my
house until about seven o'clock in the evening, and he was then taken home in a cart. I did did not observe any marks or injuries about deceased when left. He was quite
sensible when he left my house. Deceased died shortly afterwards. The medical evidence showed that death was caused by a wound to the head, but whether caused by a blow or
fall there was nothing to show. The Jury found an open verdict."
"A Fatal Fight"
Worcester Chronicle : July 22nd 1863 Page 4.
"At the Hundred House Petty Sessions on Thursday before the Reverends W. F. Raymond and H. J. Hastings, and E. Vernon, Esq., Superintendent
Raby charged T. Edwards and Wm. Allen with being drunk and fighting at the Bromley Arms Inn, Abberley, on the 7th of January. P.C. Crane was called in to clear the house,
and the defendants used very abusive language to him, and began fighting again when in the road. Fined 10s. and costs."
Worcester Chronicle : May 31st 1865 Page 4.
"John Jones, landlord of the Bromley Arms, Abberley, was charged with permitting drunkenness on his licensed premises. P.C. Marshall stated
that shortly after closing time on January 19th he visited the defendant's premises and found a man named Ridge in the yard. He was so drunk that he could not walk, and had
to be locked up, and had since been fined by the magistrates. Defendant denied that Ridge was either on his premises or drunk. Ridge was called, and stated that he was at
defendant's house seven hours on the day in question. During the greater part of that time he was playing a whistle and was frequently treated with drink by the customers.
He was so drunk that he hardly knew how he got out of the house. Defendant said he was sorry for what had happened but he was away from home the greater part of the day. In
reply to the Bench, Superintendent Pugh said the house was not as well conducted as he would wish. The Bench fined defendant 20s. and £1. 6s. 6d. costs."
"Drunkenness on Licensed Premises"
Worcester Journal : February 2nd 1889 Page 7.
"James Clarke, labourer, of Abberley, was charged with being disorderly on the licensed premises of the Bromley Arms, Abberley, and with
refusing to quit when ordered to do so, on October 25th. Thomas Bishop said he was managing the house for Mr. John Jones, who was ill, and had since died, on October 25th
last, when the defendant came to the house and used abusive language to the customers. He requested him to leave the premises, but he refused to do so. Witness then sent
for P.C. Williams, and in his presence requested defendant to leave, but he refused to do so, but went when the officer ordered him out. The Bench fined defendant 10s. and
"Refusing to Quit Licensed Premises"
Worcester Journal : November 28th 1891 Page 6.
"Walter Perks, of Abberley, pleaded guilty to having been disorderly on the licensed premises of the Bromley Arms, Abberley. Mr. Bishop, the
landlord, said that the defendant, with others, was very disorderly and had to be put out. He returned later in the evening and had again to be put out. Witness had refused
to supply them with drink, as he thought they had had enough. The Bench fined defendant 10s., and 8s. costs. Albert Morris was charged with a similar offence. Mr. Bishop
said after being in the house for two hours the defendant became disorderly, and witness refused to let him have more beer. Defendant forced his way into the bar and tried
to draw himself some beer. He also challenged witness to fight. Defendant said he had been in the house from one o'clock to seven, and had had no beer elsewhere. The Bench
fined the defendant 12s. 6d. and costs."
Worcestershire Chronicle : June 2nd 1894 Page 5.
"Richard Mills, farmer, Abberley, was charged with selling intoxicating liquor for retail without a licence. The local policeman said he saw a
man named Bishop on the Sunday morning coming from the cider house of the defendant. He had a wooden bottle and a jar in his possession. The man told the officer that he had
bought the cider which was in the jar and bottle, but that be had not paid for it. The cider had been put out in 4½ gallons. He then went to the defendant's house, but
the defendant was not at home. At a subsequent date he saw the defendant, who said he did not want to sell the cider in small quantities, but that the men would fetch it away
in small quantities. The man was carrying about seven quarts in the two vessels. Edwin Bishop said he went to the defendant's farm and took with him three vessels, and asked
the defendant if he would "spare" him 4½ gallons of cider, and he said he would do so. He did not agree as to what the price would be, and he had since paid
3s. for the cider. He took 2½ gallons away at the time, and on the second visit, when he saw the policeman, he took two gallons away. He took the cider to his
brother-in-law's house, and some of it was drunk there during the morning. He gave the drink to his brother-in-law. The officer, re-called, said he was watching the place
all the morning, and it was quite impossible that the man could have come twice to the house without his seeing him. The defendant said he was sure he only sold 4½
gallons, and he served it out at one time. The Bench said there was a doubt in the mind of the court, and the defendant would be dismissed."
"A Doubt in Case"
Worcester Journal : June 30th 1894 Page 5.
Licensees of this pub
1814 - Mary Jones
1851 - John Jones
1870 - John Jones Jr.
1891 - 1996 - Thomas Bishop
1896 - Richard Mills
1912 - Richard Mills
2005 - Jay Seldon
Note : this is not a complete list of licensees for this pub.
This extract from a plan drawn up in 1884 shows the Bromley Arms, along with the ruins of St. Michael's Church. The chancel of the church had been restored by this time.
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.