History of the West Midland Arms at Worcester in the county of Worcestershire

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Some history of the West Midland Arms at Worcester

In recent years, this pub, located in Worcester's Lowesmoor Place, has traded as the West Midland Tavern. However, in the 19th century it was known as the West Midland Arms. The census of 1851 records only one beer house in Lowesmoor Place and this was the Sun kept by Henry and Hannah Harwood. Henry Harwood later kept another Worcester pub - the Boar's Head Inn at Newport Street.

The wonderful photograph below dates from the Edwardian period between 1903-12 when Cotheridge-born George Brighton was the licensee. The hand-painted wall sign details him as the pub's proprietor. The bargeboard advertising and lettering in the front window advertises that the pub sold Charrington's 'Noted Ales and Stout.' The man stood outside with the white shirt is possibly George Brighton. He had previously kept the Royal Oak in York Place. A couple of men in uniform are stood outside the building, no doubt employees of the railway who were the bread-and-butter customers of the West Midland Arms. Other large businesses nearby that would have had employees piling into this pub were the City Flour Mills, West Central Wagon Works, Vulcan Works, Gas Works, Hide and Skin Market plus, of course, the canal wharf.

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The West Midland Arms was originally a beer house and was trading by the early 1860's. This was the years when the nearby railway station at Shrub Hill would have been operated by the West Midland Railway. Succeeding the Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton Railway, the West Midland Railway was formed in July 1860 and comprised of older railway companies such as the Worcester and Hereford Railway, the Coleford, Monmouth, Usk and Pontypool Railway and the Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton Railway. The company amalgamated with the Great Western Railway in August 1863. The pub, however, dogmatically stuck to the West Midland name.

The West Midland Arms at Lowesmoor Place in Worcester [c.1907]

Charles Williams, along with his wife Ellen, moved into the West Midland Arms during the Spring of 1862. The couple had previously kept the Cross Keys in Friar Street. Required to wait until the brewster's sessions, he took over with a temporary licence. He was eventually granted a licence in September 1862 which, given his track record during his early months at the pub, is something of a surprise. In April 1862 he was caught in the act of serving ale during the prohibited hours of Divine service and when a police officer entered the premises to investigate a terrible assault was committed. The publican was also found guilty of allowing the playing of cards in his previous house, the Cross Keys, the offence being that of gambling when playing the game of Don Pedro. However, when Charles Williams attended the magistrates court to hear his application, his solicitor was keen to point out that the West Midland Arms was a well-built house and that there were not enough pubs in Lowesmoor! The magistrates were told that Charles Williams "had been employed at the China Works for many years, and was well recommended." After deliberation the bench warned Charles Williams that he should be very careful in running the pub and granted him a licence.

The West Midland Tavern at Lowesmoor in Worcester [2010]

The record of Charles Williams running the West Midland Arms was blighted again when, in August 1863, a fight broke out in the skittles alley of the pub. Two men, named Jones and Bevington, squared up to each other and fought for four rounds before hostilities subsided. However, two other men who had seconded the pugilists, fought again in the street and this led to the death of the railway labourer George Griffiths [see newspaper article]. There was another ugly incident inside the pub three years later when Henry Conroy assaulted the publican after he tried to eject him from the house for using extreme bad language. The customer's attack on Charles Williams was so severe it took four men to eject him from the premises.

Charles Williams died on November 29th 1869, aged 38. His wife succeeded him as licensee. She re-married four years later on April 14th 1873 when she tied the knot with George Edward Seville. The freehold of the West Midland Arms was offered for auction on May 26th, 1875 whilst in the occupation of George Seville. He and his wife Ellen later kept the Talbot Hotel at Sidbury.

The Bar of the West Midland Tavern at Lowesmoor in Worcester [2014]

Noah Dayus was recorded as licensee for a brief spell when the West Midland Arms was still owned by Ellen Williams. Noah, who had previously worked as a boatman, would later run the Lamp Inn on Pheasant Street. He had plied his trade on the Birmingham and Worcester Canal and his wife Elizabeth also lived on the boat. Noah often landed himself in hot water and was hauled before the magistrates on several occasions for some sort of violent altercation on the waterways. There are many tales of tough boatmen who would fight over almost anything that delayed their progress on the canals - Noah seems to have been a barge owner with a short fuse. The local newspapers even described Noah as "a powerful young boatman,"" when he was hauled before the magistrates in 1858 after fighting inside the Boat Inn at Lowesmoor. It would seem that you didn't want to spill any pint of Noah Dayus!

Powick-born George Griffiths was publican of the West Midland Arms between 1879-86 when he was quite an elderly man. More commonly known as Henry, he and his wife Elizabeth had previously kept a beer house in Kempsey. However, he was a widower when running the Lowesmoor boozer.

George Griffiths was succeeded by Martha Hill who had been behind the bar of a couple of nearby pubs for much of her working life. She was married to Thomas Smith and, together, they kept the Old Greyhound in the early 1860's. They handed over the keys to William Lea during July 1865 and moved to the Express Inn at Lowesmoor where they succeeded Mrs. Ann Banner.

Interior of the West Midland Tavern at Lowesmoor in Worcester [2014]

Edward Tanser held the licence during his final years. He died at the West Midland Arms in April 1900. Other family members continued until the arrival of Herbert Webb.

The West Midland Arms was owned by Charrington's until February 1926 when the company ceased production at Burton-on-Trent and sold its tied estate of 87 public houses in the Midlands. The pub was later operated by Flower's of Stratford-on-Avon. As a result of brewery takeovers, the pub was later a Whitbread house.

Licensees of the West Midland Arms tended to stick around during the 20th century. Many pubs are known for their revolving doors when it comes to publicans but here there were a couple of long spells behind the counter. Arthur Candlin held the licence for 26 years and Fred and Nellie Vale also spend two decades at the pub.

Newspaper Articles

"There were seven applications for new licenses, four of which Mr. Clutterbuck appeared for the applicants, and in one of them Mr. John Stallard appeared to oppose. Charles Williams, West Midland Arms, Lowesmoor : This was the first application heard, and it was supported by Mr. Clutterbuck, who said the magistrates ought not, he considered, to go the jog-trot system of refusing new licenses and keeping the trade closed. If they turned to the records of Parliament, they would find that the tendency of modern legislation was to upset monopoly of every kind, and to throw open all trades to competition. Discretion was left to the magistrates to grant new licenses or not, as seemed to them desirable, and he would suggest that the more licenses they granted the more likely they would upset the evils attending inebriety. From his own observation he was certain that very few persons got drunk simply for the love of drink, but they assembled together in large companies, and then they induced each other to take a glass more than sometimes did them good. The more the magistrates, by granting new licenses, dispersed such companies of persons who met for the purpose of drink, the less likely those persons would be to be led away by the seductiveness of their neighbours. With respect to the West Midland Arms, for which the license was now applied, the house was built in a superior manner by the late Mr. Hobro, and the neighbourhood was not yet fairly represented by licensed houses. The nearest licensed house to where the West Midland stood was the Navigation, which was on the other side of the road. There was stabling attached to the house, and five bedrooms. Mr. Williams had been employed at the China Works for many years, and was well recommended. A testimonial as to his character from Messrs. Kerr and Binns was read, and petition in favour of the license being granted, signed by A. C. Sherriff, Esq., W. T. Adcock, Esq., Messrs. Kerr and Binns, and other gentlemen. No opposition was offered, and it was stated that the overseer of the parish was favourable to the application, decision upon which was adjourned by the magistrates till Friday next."
"Applications for New Licences"
Worcestershire Chronicle : September 3rd 1862 Page 4.

"Re. West Midland Arms, Lowesmoor : This was an application for new license, the case having been gone into at the previous meeting and adjourned for the decision of the magistrates. Mr. Josiah Jones sought to oppose, on the grounds that there was otherwise plenty of such accommodation in the neighbourhood; that the applicant, when landlord the Cross Keys, was fined for permitting card playing in his house; and that within the last three months, the West Midland Arms, a brutal assault had been committed on the police in the house, while they were in the execution of their duty, by persons who were there at illegal hours on a Sunday. Mr. Clutterbuck, who supported the application, objected to any opposition at that stage of the case. The proper notices had been given, and the case was gone into on the previous occasion, the application only being adjourned till that day for the decision of the magistrates. Licence granted."
"Adjourned Licensing Day"
Worcester Journal : September 10th 1862 Page 2.

"John Brace and William Jones, two boatmen, were charged with assaulting Police Constable Vine at the West Midland Arms beer house, Lowesmoor, on the afternoon of the 13th instant, during the hours of Divine service. The constable went to the house at about half-past four o'clock, having previously looked through the window and seen jugs on the table. He found the defendants and other men in the kitchen, and fancying that Brace had put some beer behind him he put his hand upon that prisoner's shoulder, and requested him civilly to move. Brace thereupon jumped up and struck Vine violently in the mouth, and a similar blow was also struck by Jones. Vine, as soon as possible, retreated into the street, where he was kicked about his legs and body several times by Brace, Jones standing by at the time. They both got away for that time, and Brace had to be fetched from Birmingham, where he was arrested under a warrant. The magistrates considered that the assault was an aggravated one, and fined Brace 5/., including costs, or twenty-one days' hard labour, and Jones 2/., or fourteen days' hard labour. Both men were committed. The landlord of the above house, Mr. Charles Williams, was summoned for having his house open during prohibited hours on the day of the assault, but as he gave evidence in favour of Vine in the case against Brace and Jones, Mr. Power withdrew the charge."
"Assaulting a Policeman"
Worcestershire Chronicle : April 23rd 1862 Page 2.

"Last evening, about, half-past seven o'clock, a police officer was at Lowesmoor canal bridge, when his attention was called, by the screams of a child, to a woman up to her neck in the water. He at first attempted to get her out, but, seeing that there was no immediate danger, he ran to the West Midland Arms just by, and the landlord, Mr. Williams, assisted him to get the woman out, and she was taken to the public house. It was then ascertained that the woman's husband had been tried at the Sessions for some offence, and that this had preyed on her mind so much that she had determined to destroy herself It was also further stated that the unnatural husband had told his wife to drown herself. The husband shortly afterwards arrived and on being told what had happened expressed his regret that he had not been present at the time as he would have given his wife "an extra shove under." Mr. Wightman, went in search of a police officer, but in the meantime the man and wife left the city by train."
"Attempted Suicide"
Worcestershire Chronicle : July 3rd 1862 Page 3.

"Mr. R. T. Rea, the city coroner, held an inquest on Saturday, to enquire into the circumstances attending the death of George Griffiths, railway labourer, who died on Wednesday from the injuries he received during a fight that he had with a seaman belonging to H.M.S. Sphinx, named Joseph Pulley. The facts of the case have been stated in our police report. On the previous Saturday the deceased and Pulley, together with other persons, were at the bowling alley of the West Midland Arms, Lowesmoor, when a quarrel arose between two men named Jones and Bevington. The deceased, who it was stated in evidence wanted to get up a fight, backed Jones, whilst Pulley took the side of Bevington. After four rounds the combat ceased, but between seven and eight o'clock the same day, deceased, who was in drink, and Pulley, who, as one of the witnesses stated, was "market pert," met again in the street, when they commenced sparring. John Hussell, a whitesmith, living in Commandery Street, deposed to seeing Griffiths and Pulley standing up and sparring at each other as in a fight. He heard some one say, "Stand still, Pulley, and let him come up to you." Pulley did so; Griffiths made a dash at him to butt him with his head; Pulley stepped aside, and they exchanged blows. A great many persons were present in the street. They then squared again, and some one called out, "Pulley, let him come up to you." He did so; Griffiths kept working round him, and made a feint with his head, as if he was going to butt Pulley in a dangerous place. At last Griffiths got on the highest ground, and butted with his head against the lower part of Pulley's belly, and seized him round the thighs, trying to throw him over. Pulley struck at him to keep him from coming in at him, but the blow went over his head. Griffiths then caught hold of Pulley's thighs, and tried to lift him off his legs and throw him, but Pulley was too heavy, and Griffiths's foot slipped under Pulley, and he fell on his back and pulled Pulley upon him. Pulley's knee was on deceased's abdomen, his right hand on his face, and his left on the ground beyond him. Griffiths held Pulley until they had come to the ground. They got up, and commenced sparring again, and Griffiths made a butt at Pulley, who struck at him, and caught him in the eye, and made it bleed. They didn't fight again after that. Griffiths's wife was there during the fight. After it was over Griffiths stood against the wall in Windsor Place; his wife and children were crying by him. He stood there about five minutes, and the people round were saying what a shame it was that Griffiths didn't know better than to fight, and that he hadn't got half as much as he asked for. Griffiths walked home with his wife. There were no seconds to the fight, as they wouldn't have any. The evidence of the surgeon, Mr. Everett, proved that the deceased died on Wednesday from a rapture of the bladder. Deceased told Mr. Everett that the person he had fought with had fallen upon him with his knees upon his abdomen. After an enquiry of some hours' duration, the jury returned a verdict of manslaughter against Pulley, who was then committed for trial at the assizes, bail for his appearance being accepted."
"The Fatal Fight"
Worcester Journal : August 22nd 1863 Page 3.

"An inquest was held on Saturday evening, at the West Midland Arms, Lowesmoor, before R. T. Rea, Esq., city coroner, on the body of an unknown male child, who had been found on the previous evening at the canal side by John Collins, a labourer employed at the Gas Works. John Collins, gas-stoker, of Rainbow Hill, said that on the previous evening, about ten o'clock, he was walking from the Tallow Hill bridge along the towing-path of the Worcester and Birmingham Canal, and, when under the arch of the bridge, saw something white on the path. He went to Mr. Williams, of the West Midland Arms, and accompanied witness with candle and lantern to the place. He then saw that it was a child and went for a policeman, and returned almost immediately. He pointed out the child to P.C. Gibbons, who took it up and brought it to the house. Witness saw no person about when he first found the child. P.C. Abraham Gibbons having spoken to finding the child, as stated by the previous witness, said the after-birth was partly wrapped in a piece of newspaper. He conveyed it to the house. J. D. Jeffery, Esq., of Pierpoint Street, surgeon, said that by direction of the coroner he had made a post-mortem examination of the body of the child. The after-birth was attached, and the umbilical cord had not been tied. He considered, from the size of the child and the imperfect development of the nails, that it had not been born at the full period of time. It appeared to have been an eight months' child. There were no marks of violence on the body. The head had suffered severe compression, which was probably occasioned in the delivery. There was no effusion of blood under the scalp or on the surface of the brain. He opened the body, and found the lungs partially distended with air, but complete inspiration had not taken place. The probabilities were that the child had died during birth. Witness's opinion was that the child had not breathed after it was born; if it had, and the umbilical cord had not been tied, the child would have died from haemorrhage. Witness considered that the child had been born within twenty-four hours of the time at which it was found. The Coroner told the jury that they had heard the evidence, and he did not think they would find it necessary to protract the enquiry. It was clear from the medical testimony that the child had not lived. If they accepted the probable explanation that the child was born dead, the best verdict they could return was that the child was found dead, but how it came there there was no evidence to show. The jury thereupon returned a verdict in accordance with the coroner's direction."
"Child Desertion"
Worcestershire Chronicle : September 16th 1863 Page 2.

"On Friday evening an inquest was held before Mr. R. T. Rea, coroner, on the body of a female child, at the West Midland Arms, Lowesmoor. The body of the child was discovered floating in the canal at six o'clock that morning by George Hanson, a labourer at the gas-works, which adjoin the Worcester and Birmingham Canal. He, got the body out of the water with a coke-hook, and it was afterwards taken to the West Midland Arms. Marianne, wife of William Ricketts, of Pheasant Street, deposed that shortly after eleven o'clock that morning she saw the body of the child in the public house. She noticed a little blood issuing from its mouth; its eyes were open, and had a staring appearance; the tongue was slightly out of its mouth, though it had just loosed the breast. She undressed the child first taking off a long whitey-brown gown, then another white one nearly the same length, two long flannels, and a short open shirt, also a cotton belly-band and a napkin. There was an embroidered hood and border upon its head. She washed the body, but did not see any marks of violence on the body. Mr. J. D. Jeffery, surgeon, stated that he had that afternoon made a post-mortem examination of the body by direction of the coroner. The body was that of a female child of about four months old. There were no marks of injury externally except perhaps some slight discolouration in the front part of the neck. The eyes were distended and starting from the head. The conjunctivae [or lining of the lids of the eyes] were highly injected with blood. There was also a dark appearance on the lids outside. The tongue projected from the mouth so fully to fill the lips. The hands were not grasped. The face was much distended. A great portion the scalp was separated from the skull by confined air. On opening the body he found that the lungs were healthy, but very much distended with air. There was no mucous froth either in the mouth or windpipe. The right side of the heart was much distended with dark blood. The stomach was quite empty, containing neither food nor water. He should think the body had been eight or ten days immersed in the water. His opinion was that the child was not alive when thrown into the canal but that by means of pressure of the front of the neck the child was rendered at least insensible or suffocated, and afterwards thrown into the water. The general appearance of the child was healthy and well-nurtured. The inquiry was adjourned until Thursday."
"Supposed Case of Child Murder"
Worcestershire Chronicle : December 7th 1870 Page 2.

"The adjourned inquest on the body of the child found on Friday week in the canal, near the gas works, was held before Mr. Rea, coroner, at the West Midland Arms, on Thursday. Detective Underwood said, in company with Serjeant Croft, he searched the canal on Monday, from the railway viaduct bridge to the Blockhouse bridge, but could not find anything. There was no fresh evidence, and the Coroner said the case was one in which the circumstances indicated a verdict of wilful murder. The medical evidence clearly showed that the child did not die a natural death, but was suffocated and thrown into the water. The jury immediately returned a verdict of "wilful murder against some person or persons unknown."" It has transpired that several persons were prepared to swear that the child belonged to a woman named Hopkins, and was born in the Workhouse, and that the clothes found on it were the same as Hopkins's child had. Diligent search was consequently made for Hopkins, who was apprehended, and was found to have her own child with her."
"Child Murder"
Worcestershire Chronicle : December 14th 1870 Page 2.

Licensees of this pub

1862 - 1869 Charles Williams
1869 - 1874 Ellen Williams
1874 - 1875 Noah Dayus
1875 - 1879 Mary Pollard
1879 - 1886 George Griffiths
1886 - 1897 Martha Hill
1897 - 1900 Edward Tanser
1900 - 1901 Elizabeth & William Tanser
1901 - 1903 Herbert Webb
1903 - 1906 George Baker
1903 - 1912 George Brighton
1913 - 1926 Ernest E. Hughes
1926 - 1932 Walter T. Biddle
1932 - 1958 Arthur Candlin
1958 - 1958 George White
1958 - 1978 Frederick Vale
1978 - 1979 Nellie Vale
1979 - 1979 Robert Brown
1979 - 1980 Morstan Fryer
1980 - 1985 John Woodward
1985 - 1989 Mary Field
1989 - 1989 William Hodges
1992 - 2006 Mike Stevens
2013 - Mary Elizabeth Jeynes
Note : this is not a complete list of licensees for this pub.
Post-1873 list compiled by Bob Backenforth

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Map

Town Plan showing the West Midland Arms [1886]

This extract from a town plan drawn up in 1886 shows the West Midland Arms on the corner of Padmore Street. The pub was only a short distance from Lowesmoor Bridge so it was both popular with boatmen, but also a place where bodies were brought, awaiting the Coroner, after an accident or suicide on the canal.

Inn Sign

Inn Sign of the West Midland Tavern at Worcester [2014]

This sign was produced by Marston's for the pub and shows a train driver working inside a locomotive numbered 1661.

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Newspaper Articles

"George Bayley, a man employed at the Engine Works, was charged with threatening to shoot John Kennedy. The prosecutor said he was a watchman at Shrub Hill Station. He knew the prisoner, who used to work at the station. About 12 o'clock prosecutor went with another person to the West Midland Arms. They saw the prisoner there, who did not say anything while they were there, but as they left the room they heard the prisoner say "Blow his bloody brains out." Prosecutor once gave evidence against the prisoner. There was no pistol found upon the prisoner when he was apprehended. James Mitchell, a tailor, said he was all the time in the house with the prisoner, and he never spoke a word, or produced a pistol. The landlord, Mr. Williams, also said that the prisoner did not say or do anything, and that all four of the other men were drunk. Prisoner was discharged on promising to come up if wanted."
"Threatening to Shoot a Railway Watchman"
Worcester Journal : March 17th 1866 Page 8.

"Henry Griffiths, landlord of the West Midland Arms, Lowesmoor, was summoned to show cause why he should net contribute towards the maintenance of his son, George Griffiths, 39 years of age, who was an inmate of the Worcester Workhouse. Mr. A. W. Knott, clerk to the Guardians, appeared in support of the action. The defendant said said he was 70 years old, and was not able to pay more than 2s.6d. per week towards the maintenance of his son. Mr.  Knott : If he will pay that the guardians will be satisfied. Mr. C. H. Lane, relieving officer, said that the defendant's son was both mentally and physically unable to fully maintain himself, and therefore had become chargeable. The Bench made a formal order upon defendant for the payment of 2s. 6d. per week."
"The Maintainance of a Son"
Worcester Journal : January 24th 1885 Page 2.