History of the King Arthur at Dudley in the county of Worcestershire


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Some history of the King Arthur at Dudley

The King Arthur was located close to Kettle's Hill on a junction of the Birmingham New Road. It was a flagship pub on what was a flagship road development scheme of the inter-war years. Connecting Wolverhampton with Birmingham. Actually, the road hooked up with another arterial route at Warley but we won't get too pedantic about it. The massive undertaking, similar to a modern motorway being created, was an unemployment relief project - were we ahead of the German road-building schemes? Construction commenced on February 4th, 1924, and was completed in sections. The project provided employment for almost 500 people at a time when the economy was in a parlous state. The Prince Of Wales cut the tape during an opening ceremony on November 2nd, 1927.

It was some time before the King Arthur materialised on the new road. It is one thing having passing trade - not that many people owned a car in those days - but one needs local customers. It took around a decade for the nearby Priory and Wren's Nest housing estates to be built. The foundation stone of the first house at No.9 Oak Road was laid on July 16th 1929. The estates would have two large pubs to serve the local community. The King Arthur would compete for trade with the Wren's Nest and, after the Second World War, another house called The Caves. As I type this in 2016 all three pubs have gone - a sign of the times.

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Erected in 1939 for Mitchell's and Butler's, the building was designed by the Dudley-based architects Webb and Gray, the firm responsible for Dudley Police Station and Cradley Heath's Majestic Cinema. I don't quite know why it took me so long to finally patronise the pub but when I did finally wander inside during 2001 the King Arthur was at the fag end of its life as a Toby Inns Carvery. It was pretty naff to be honest - however, I could appreciate what an impressive place it must have been back in the day. The photograph below dates from March 2013, not too long after the place had closed for good. I can remember seeing the pub in its prime when sat in the back seat of my parent's car in the 'swinging sixties.' The King Arthur always seemed to enjoy good trade back in those days when it sold M&B's 'Good Honest Beer.'

The King Arthur at Dudley [2013]

Mitchell's and Butler's acquired a site for the King Arthur in 1938. The brewery paid Dudley Corporation £4,325 on June 8th 1938 for an area of land measuring one-and-a-half acres. The licence for the new public house was removed from the Three Horseshoes in Dudley's Hall Street. The licence was valued at £1,750 with a further charge of £1,00 to the Dudley Compensation Authority. A temporary licence was issued to Cecil Stanley Best before the first manager, John Rowan, was granted a licence on November 21st 1939, the opening date for the pub. The average weekly takings for the pub were £194.12s.6d. Takings dropped during the following year in the run-up to World War Two. However, during hostilities the till was ringing much more and by September 1942 takings had almost doubled.

When it was announced that the King Arthur was to be demolished The Twentieth Century Society, a campaigning group established to safeguard the heritage of architecture and design in Britain from 1914 onwards, protested that the pub was an "an excellent example of a 1930's roadhouse" and should be protected.

Newspaper Articles

Firefighters at the King Arthur in Dudley [2013]

"A former landmark pub in the Black Country escaped major damage after a fire ripped through it in a suspected arson attack. Firefighters were called to the blaze in the toilets of the King Arthur pub, at the corner of the Birmingham New Road and Priory Road, in Dudley at 10pm yesterday. Five crews tackled the fire and prevented it from spreading into the main building. They continued to dampen the fire into the early hours of today before returning at 6am to check it had gone out. While the toilet area has been left gutted, the main building of the pub, which still contains furniture, had only minor smoke damage. The pub closed in December 2011 and is to be demolished under plans submitted to Dudley Council in October. Dudley fire station manager Nigel Hobby said : "Early indications suggest the fire may have been deliberate and was started in a storage area next to the toilets." The owner of the pub last year secured consent to demolish it, despite calls for it to be preserved. The demolition plans had sparked calls for the building, a 1930's roadhouse, to be preserved."
"Suspected Arson Attack at Former Landmark Pub in Dudley"
Express and Star : January 26th 2013

The King Arthur at Dudley [2014]

"A dilapidated landmark pub has been bought for more than £1.3 million, it emerged today. But uncertainty still hangs over the future of the King Arthur pub in Dudley with its new Jersey-based owner still to publicly announce what will happen to the crumbling site. Documents from the Land Registry reveal a company called Jahorina Limited completed the purchase of the pub, on the corner of Birmingham New Road and Priory Road, for £1,320,000 in April last year. The site was purchased from Wolverhampton-based Goldleaf Leisure, which was dissolved in December. Goldleaf Leisure owner Amrinder Sandhu had been granted permission to turn the pub into a 70-bedroom hotel four years ago but the plan never materialised and a later proposal to knock down the building was lodged. Today ward councillor Ken Finch called on the pub's new owner to come out publicly and announce what is planned for the site, which has been hit with arson and vandalism. He said : "We have had different owners and different plans, but nothing has happened to the pub since it closed and we now have problems with fires and fly-tipping at the site. The council is talking with the owner, but we need to put more pressure on them to do something." Councillor Finch is to meet with officers today to discuss the situation. In October, the pub was overlooked by English Heritage for a listed building status. However, Dudley Council has made an order, called an Article 4 Direction, which means the site cannot be demolished without permission from the council's development control committee. Since the pub was earmarked for a £3.5 million hotel in May 2010, Mr Sandhu then secured consent to demolish the site, but the council has since stepped in to stop it. A proposal to open a car wash operation on the pub car park was refused by the council three years ago. Today, the pub has its windows and doors boarded up. It was also damaged by a fire last year. The pub was built in 1939 by Dudley-based architects Webb and Gray. It closed in 2011."
"Derelict Dudley Pub Bought for £1.3 million"
Express and Star : January 16th 2014

"Fresh calls have been made to preserve a dilapidated landmark pub on a gateway into Dudley which is at risk of demolition. Jahorina Limited, which bought the King Arthur pub on the corner of Birmingham New Road and Priory Road for more than £1.3 million, wants to flatten the building. The firm says the former 1930's building does not have a viable future as a pub and the site could be better used by the community, possibly as a shop. But history enthusiasts have now written to Dudley Council to lodge objections to the proposals, saying the building is worth saving. Chairman of St John's Church Preservation Group, which is working to restore the church in Kate's Hill Dudley, Deb Brownlee has lodged an objection with Dudley Council. In a letter she says: "This building is a significant landmark in Dudley and adds to the character of the town. Surely with the Wren's Nest National Nature Reserve, The Dudley Canal Trust, The Black Country Living Museum, an extensive canal network and Dudley Zoo only minutes away from the site, an imaginative scheme could be found for this magnificent building?" While Christine Buckley, of All Saint's Vicarage in Sedgley, said : "Buildings like the King Arthur are part of residents' personal histories, the history of the borough as a whole and it's distinctive character. When they're gone, they're gone." Other objections have been received including a letter from Martin Day who said : "I used to work there 30 years ago and the place has such possibilities, especially with the new estate being built behind it. It is a facility which is needed." But there has also been letters of support with people saying the site could be better used. The planning statement submitted by agent Steven Simms on behalf the developer said : "Despite efforts to maintain the site and keep it secure, this itself has meant the building being boarded up, creating a negative image at this important gateway site. Despite security, there have been thefts, attempted thefts and an incident of arson. Consequently, it is essential that a viable use for the site be found as soon as possible. The most likely redevelopment is for a local shop or similar. This is unlikely to be open later than 10pm and would be of a different character to a public house. So, there is very likely to be a positive effect on the living conditions of nearby residents." The site was bought for £1,320,000 in April last year from Wolverhampton-based Goldleaf Leisure, which was dissolved in December, documents from the Land Registry showed. The pub now has its windows and doors boarded up. It was also damaged by a fire last year. The pub was built in 1939 by Dudley-based architects Webb and Gray. It closed in 2012. English Heritage decided against giving the building listed status due to the loss of its original features."
"Fresh Calls to Save Landmark Dudley Pub from Bulldozer"
Express and Star : January 16th 2015

"The death knell is sounding for the landmark King Arthur pub with councillors being recommended to approve plans to flatten it to make way for a controversial new supermarket. Aldi has lodged proposals to demolish the former 1920's roadhouse, beside the Birmingham New Road in Dudley, to make way for the store. Supermarket bosses say the new 1,000 sq ft store will create 40 jobs and have a 94-space car park. But the scheme has divided opinion between residents and politicians across the borough. Dudley North MP Ian Austin has supported the proposals and the creation of new jobs saying the building has become an eyesore and did not have future as a pub. More than 160 letters of support have also been lodged with the council. But West Midlands MEP Bill Etheridge collected more than 100 signatures for a petition calling for the building to be preserved and Sedgley Local History Society has also objected to the application. Planning officers at Dudley Council have backed Aldi's proposals to knock down the former pub, saying there is 'no reasonable alternative to its demolition.' Councillors will be asked to approve the scheme at a meeting on Monday next week. A report says : "The viability of continued beneficial use or conversion of the existing building at the site has been fully investigated and it is accepted that there are no reasonable alternatives to its demolition and that the benefits of returning the site to a use which will create jobs and support sustainable economic growth within the borough outweigh the loss to the locality of the heritage asset. "The development will have a positive impact on the character on the area and no adverse effect on residential amenity, highway safety or wildlife species will occur." Mr Etheridge, who has also raised concerns about an increase in traffic from the site, said : "I'm disappointed that other options haven't been properly pursued to get a development more in keeping with the heritage of the King Arthur. I also don't believe that ever more supermarkets are the answer to all our problems. They certainly aren't the answer for local small traders." Mr. Austin said he had surveyed 900 residents and said eight out of every ten people supported plans for a supermarket. "It's clear that the overwhelming majority of local residents consider the King Arthur an eyesore and want it replaced by a new supermarket. I used to go to the King Arthur a lot. My parents in particular liked the carvery on Sundays, so I was sorry to see it close in 2012. It's been a real shame to see it empty ever since. Aldi's plans will provide 40 jobs in an area of high unemployment. Local people who live near the site have told me they support the plans, particularly those very close by who have to put up with the problems the site has caused."
"Death Knell Sounds for Landmark Dudley Pub to be Replaced by Supermarket"
Express and Star : June 24th 2015

Demolition of The King Arthur at Dudley [January 2016]

"A landmark pub in Dudley has finally been demolished bringing an end to years of controversy. The King Arthur pub has been reduced to rubble by demolition teams, paving way for a new Aldi supermarket. Residents have long been split over the fate of the locally-listed building, which closed down as a pub in 2012. It became an eyesore after being left for the area having been left abandoned and was the target of vandals and arsonists. The future of the site was sealed by planning bosses last year. The proposals includes a 94-space supermarket car park : Councillor Alan Finch, who has overseen the planning process, said : "It is a sad time to see the King Arthur pub go, but I think it's fantastic for the local community to have a new outlet to go to. There is nothing like this around the Castle and Priory area. We are looking at new jobs for the local people." Supermarket giant Aldi stepped forward with plans to develop the site last year after no other investors came forward. Bosses claimed 40 new jobs would be created. Dudley North MP Ian Austin asked residents last year living within a mile's radius of the pub whether they backed the plans. Out of more than 900 respondents, 80 per cent said yes. But Councillor and UKIP MEP Bill Etheridge hit back at the plans with a petition of 102 signatures voting against it."
"King Arthur pub finally put to the sword"
by Jamie Brassington
Express and Star : June 24th 2015

Mitchell's and Butler's Cape Hill Brewery [c.1920]

Licensees of this pub

1939 - John Frederick Rowan
1952 - Jack C. Summerton
1994 - Jeremy Thorpe
2004 - Julie Connolly
2010 - Amrinder Sandhu

Genealogy Connections

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

Mitchell's and Butler's Logo

Inn Sign

Inn Sign of the King Arthur at Dudley [1989]

When I was a youngster I can remember this pub having a large model of King Arthur on horseback mounted on an oak post. It was quite a sight. I wonder where this is located now - possibly in somebody's back garden. By the time I got to taking photographs of inn signs this signboard had deteriorated somewhat so I have tidied it up a little. The signboard featured a fine illustration of King Arthur standing on the edge of the lake in which his famous sword is being offered up by the Lady of the Lake. Well, according to Arthurian romantic legend, it was a lady - the artist however seems to have painted a rather masculine hand. There is, of course, another legend that pervaded following Robert de Boron's poem "Merlin," in which Arthur, following in the Nordic tradition, obtained the British throne by drawing a sword from a stone. In this legend it was claimed that the only person who could pull the sword from the stone was indeed the rightful heir to the throne of England.


Map Showing the King Arthur at Dudley [1951]

The location of the King Arthur can be seen on this map extract from 1951. Note the county boundary which has the pub in the extreme corner of Worcestershire. The layout of the Wren's Nest estate can be seen to the bottom left. The GWR railway line to Wolverhampton has long gone.

Related Websites

Black Country Bugle
Black Country Gob
Black Country Society

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.

Mitchell's and Butler's Traditional Cask Ales

Mitchell's and Butler's Black Satin Stout Poster [c.1962]

Mitchell's and Butler's Sam Brown Ale Beer Label

Mitchell's and Butler's Brew XI Beer Mat

Mitchell's and Butler's Good Honest Beer Advertisement

Mitchell's and Butler's Black Satin Sweet Stout

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Gilbert K. Chesterton

"On a lonely sword leaned he, Like Arthur on Excalibur, In the battle by the sea."
Gilbert K. Chesterton

Newspaper Articles

The King Arthur at Dudley [2012]

"A landmark pub on a main route through the Black Country which had been earmarked for a £3.5million revamp could now be demolished under new plans. A planning application to knock down the King Arthur pub, which stands on the corner of the Birmingham New Road and Priory Road in Dudley has been lodged with council chiefs. It comes two years after plans to extend the building to create a hotel were given the go-ahead. A notice has been put up by the site informing people that an application to demolish the pub has been submitted to Dudley Council. Ward councillor Alan Finch said he was "shocked" to hear the pub could now be torn down. "I was very surprised to hear the owner now wants to demolish the pub because I know he had big plans for it and wanted to open a hotel. I contacted the council's planning department to see if he has submitted any other planning applications but they have only received this one. I would like to know what he now has planned for the site and I'm sure many people in Dudley want to know too." Earlier this year Councillor Finch had called for the pub to be cleared up, saying it had become an eyesore due to crumbling paintwork. But he said today he was saddened by the latest development. He said : "It is a shame because it is a very nice building and would have made a great hotel." Owner and landlord Amrinder Sandhu was granted planning permission for the £3.5 million hotel project in April 2010. The scheme for the pub site included extending the building and work had been expected to start that summer. Mr Sandhu said at the time he needed to develop the site to supplement pub income and to prevent the building from falling into disrepair. But in September 2010, the pub was put up for sale for £1,350,000 with estate agent Christie & Co. but it was later withdrawn from their books. Mr Sandhu could not be contacted for comment."
"Landmark King Arthur Pub in line
 for £3.5 million revamp"
Express and Star : October 15th 2012

"The loss of a former 1930's roadhouse, which has been earmarked for demolition, would be "great shame" a councillor said today. Permission was given for the King Arthur pub in Dudley to go. Owner Amrinder Sandhu notified Dudley Council of plans to knock down the building, on the corner of Priory Road and Birmingham New Road. Under planning rules the council had 28 days to object but consent was granted. Legally it can only consider how it is demolished and the site restored. Ward councillor Alan Finch today said that he was disappointed that the council had been "powerless" to stop the building from being knocked down. Two years ago, the pub building, which is locally listed, had been earmarked for a £3.5million revamp. It would have been extended to create a hotel, and planning permission for the scheme was granted in May 2010. It is not yet known what will happen to the site, which had previously been put up for sale and then taken off the market. Mr Sandhu could not be contacted for a comment but his agent Neil Denison said that he did not know what was planned for the site or if the demolition would definitely go ahead. Councillor Finch said : I am shocked that there is not anything the council can do to stop this landmark building from being knocked down. It would have made a fine hotel, especially down the road from the Black Country Living Museum and Dudley Zoo. It is a great shame that this building could disappear forever." Alison Whitehouse, who lives near the pub, said : "It is very sad that yet another part of our local heritage is to disappear and there is nothing that we can do about it." Deputy leader of Dudley Council, Shaukat Ali, said : "The authority received notification of the owner's intent to demolish the King Arthur Public House. "This is a requirement for all buildings in line for demolition prior to consent for any redevelopment proposals being considered."
"Councillor says Dudley Landmark Pub Loss is Great Shame"
Express and Star : December 7th 2012

Mitchell's and Butler's Cape Ale

Mitchell's and Butler's All-Bright Ale

Mitchell's and Butler's Family Ale

Mitchell's and Butler's Nourishing Stout

Mitchell's and Butler's Export Pale Ale

Mitchell's and Butler's Special Ale