Some history of the Bricklayers' Arms on Adderley Street at Bordesley in Birmingham in Warwickshire


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The Bricklayers' Arms opened as a beer house and was located on the north side of Adderley Street, on the eastern corner of Liverpool Street.

Birmingham : Map showing the location of the Bricklayers' Arms on the corner of Adderley Street and Liverpool Street in Bordesley [1888]

The tavern can be seen on this extract from a plan dated 1888. The beer house was a short distance from the Waggon and Horses. The gas holders or gasometers of the Birmingham and Staffordshire Gas Company can be seen across other side of the thoroughfare.

The lifespan of the beer house seems to have been fairly short, perhaps not surprising given some of the antics that went on in the place.

Richard Turner was an early publican of the Bricklayers' Arms. The 1851 census records him living on the premises with his wife Ann who hailed from the Warwickshire village of Corley. A daughter named Mary also lived at the tavern with her husband Henry Cartwright who worked as a butcher.

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The auction notice for the Bricklayers' Arms provides some detail on the property, particularly that it was a retail brewery and featured large stables. Not that the house boasted a "steady and respectable trade." The good reputation of the Bricklayers' Arms was to be shattered when publican James Chambers, along with several of his patrons, hatched an audacious plan over some tankards of ale, a scheme that would make them the talk of the town.

Birmingham : Public Apology to Samuel Howe by George Cornforth [1869]

In 1856 James Chambers was sensationally ousted from his position at the Bricklayers' Arms when he and a number of other men were arrested after a robbery at the premises of Henry Burbridge in Bradford Street [see newspaper article]. He was subsequently committed to the Assizes for trial where he, along with John Taylor and Charles Brown, was found guilty and sentenced to 14 years' transportation. Convicted in March 1856 they were put on a ship bound for Western Australia in September 1857.

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James and Clara Mason were mine hosts at the Bricklayers' Arms in the early 1860s. Clara Mason later took over the nearby Waggon and Horses, a pub she kept with her second husband.

Jeremiah Roberts was the licensee in March 1866 when William Moore, a resident of Trinity Street, was central to an impudent robbery. He was acting as a waiter in the tavern and when Thomas Griffin of Little Edward Street called for a pint of beer, he supplied him with his drink. Griffin paid Moore with a sovereign and waited for his change. The landlord, Jeremiah Roberts, handed the waiter the money but instead of taking it to Thomas Griffin he absconded. Clutching the 19s 10d., he wandered off to another public-house where he "squandered the money away in the company of several companions." Information of the robbery was given to the police, and the William Moore was duly apprehended. He acknowledged his guilt, stating that he had been drinking for a week, when he was tempted to steal the money, and spend it all on more drink. The Magistrates were not amused and committed him for trial at the Sessions.

The Scottish-born draper William Douglas was running the Bricklayers' Arms in the late 1860s and early 1870s. He kept the beer house with his wife Agnes, also born in Scotland. However, the couple's paths may not have met until they came to Birmingham as they were married at St. Mark's Church in June 1860. They first set up home in King Edward's Road.

Licensees of the Bricklayers' Arms

1851 - Richard Turner
1856 - James Chambers
1858 - Thomas MacDonald
1861 - James Mason
1866 - Jeremiah Roberts
1869 - John Gittins
1869 - William Douglas
Note : this is not a complete list of licensees for this pub.

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Related Newspaper Articles

"In Saturday's Journal appeared the particulars of a most daring and serious robbery, which had been committed on the previous Thursday morning, on the premises of Mr. Henry Burbridge, corn factor and seedsman, Bradford Street, and we are now happy to add, that through the praiseworthy exertions of Detective-Sergeant Manton three men supposed to be implicated in the transaction have already been taken into custody. Too much credit cannot be awarded to Mr. Manton for the unremitting zeal and attention he has paid this most extraordinary case throughout. The names of the accused are James Chambers, John Knight, and Charles Brown. Chambers is the landlord of a beer house called the Bricklayers' Arms, in Adderley Street, and the others reside at his house. They were brought at the Public Office on Tuesday last for examination before the sitting Magistrates, Thomas Phillips and K. W. Winfield. Esqrs., when Mr. T. Harding appeared on behalf of Mr. Burbidge to support the charge, and Mr. Powell defended the men Chambers and Brown. Knight was undefended. Mr. Harding, in opening the case, observed that the three men at the bar stood charged with committing a burglary of the most daring and extraordinary description, and unless he was deceived in the evidence, so far as it had been brought before his notice, there would be little difficulty in bringing the case home to the accused. It appeared that Mr. Burbidge was a corn factor, etc., having a warehouse, shop, and dwelling house in Bradford Street. On the preceding Wednesday evening he deposited in one the drawers of the safe in his shop about £140., consisting of gold, silver, and notes. This safe, which contained some title deeds, various papers and memorandums, and several ledgers and other business books stood upon a pedestal in one corner of the shop, and was partially fixed in the wall. Between eleven and twelve o'clock at night, having first ascertained that the premises were properly secured, Mr. Burbidge retired to rest. On the following morning Mr. Albert Taylor, a nephew of Mr. Burbidge's, rose shortly after seven o'clock, and proceeded downstairs, and on entering the shop, was astonished by discovering that the chest, which by the way weighed between three and four cwt., had vanished. At once he informed his uncle of the occurrence, and the police authorities were quickly communicated with. The premises had evidently been entered from the street by one of the first-floor windows, which was left open. A pane of glass had been broken, most likely to enable the thief to undo the fastening of the window. The room into which entrance had been thus obtained is used a warehouse and store room, and from thence access to the shop was very easy. The first door, leading into Bradford Street, which had been securely fastened the night before, was found to be merely latched, and other appearances favoured the assumption that one of the gang had climbed through the window, proceeded downstairs, and admitted his confederates by the front entrance. The removal of the safe from its firm position in the shop would be a work of great labour, and it was therefore probable that the men were engaged upon the premises for a period of one or two hours. The management of the case was entrusted to Detective-Sergeant Manton, and well did he perform the arduous duty imposed upon him. He learned at the outset of his enquires that a hand-cart had been seen near the shop about half-past six o'clock, and that it had been taken in the direction of Trinity Church. About eight o'clock a boat which was passing through a lock of the canal near Sandy Lane Bridge, which is situated near the above church, was obstructed by something in the water, which prevented it from proceeding. The water in the lock was drawn off, and William Sharp, the man in charge of the boat, procured a boat shaft and sounded the canal, in order to discover what impeded the progress of the vessel, and after a short search, Mr. Burbidge's safe was found on the bottom. Fortunately, the title deeds, books, and papers were still inside it, and most of them have been recovered, but we need scarcely say the whole of the money was gone. The lock, and the whole of one side of the chest, had been completely battered in. Probably this had been the last resource of the depredators, on finding they were unable to pick the lock, or blow it up with gunpowder, as the work must have been of considerable difficulty, the safe [one of Whitfield's patent,] being a strong wrought-iron one. These facts having come to Manton's knowledge, he pursued his enquiries, and learned that about five o'clock on Thursday morning a man named Edward Neale, residing near the house of the prisoner Chambers, had seen a hand-cart, containing a chest, brought into the yard adjoining the Bricklayers' Arms. It was rather dark at the time, and this prevented Neale recognising the persons who brought the cart. About half an hour afterwards Neele heard a "loud hammering" noise, such would be made by the "doubling up of an iron boiler." Shortly afterwards he went to work, but finding one at the workshop, returned home. This was about half-past six o'clock. He saw Charley Brown in the yard, sweeping away the track-marks of the hand-cart with a broom. Chambers was going towards the stable in the yard, with a small piece of lighted candle in his hand. Neale's wife had also heard the "tremendous hammering" which, according to her statement, was going on continually for two hours. Mrs. Neale was in the habit of procuring water for her own use from a water butt near the stable door in Chambers's yard, and about half-past seven o'clock on the morning in questions she went to the yard for that purpose, but to her surprise she found that all the doors, three in number, leading to the yard, were locked. This was a very unusual occurrence. She "rattled away" the front door for quarter of an hour, and was then admitted by Chambers. When she passed through the house she saw "Charley the Tailor" [the sobriquet by which Knight is known,] tying his shoes on in the tap-room. On entering the yard she observed Charley Brown sweeping away the track marks of the hand-cart with a broom. Chambers called out that she could not get any water from the butt at the stable door as they had made it dirty. The stable door was open, and she noticed a hand-cart with an iron chest upon it inside the building. A man, who is not in custody, was standing in the stable. Chambers entered shortly after, and hastily closed the door behind him, and Mrs. Neale then saw the "tailor" standing at the front door of the public-house "looking up and down the street." Shortly after this a young man named Henry Summerfield saw Brown and two other men wheeling a hand-cart out of Chambers's yard. There was evidently something heavy in the cart, which was covered over with bags. They took the cart up Gas Lane or Bond Street, which leads into Coventry Road. Mr. Richard King, grocer, residing near Sandy Lane Bridge, saw two men taking a hand-cart towards the bridge about a quarter to eight on the morning in question. There appeared to be something heavy in the cart. The men afterwards returned with the empty vehicle. A youth named Henry Savage, employed on a wharf near the spot where the chest was found, saw three men bring a hand-cart to the canal side, and afterwards heard a loud splash, though something heavy had been thrown into the water. The men afterwards went away with the cart. A man named Joseph Homer also saw Brown and the two other persons wheeling the hand-cart towards the canal. In consequence of the above information Manton arrested Brown on Thursday morning, and charged him with the robbery, telling him that he had seen wheeling a hand-cart near Trinity Chapel on the previous morning, and asking him if he chose to say what business he had there. He replied that he was taking a barrel of ale from Jim Chambers's to Small Heath. The officer subsequently found a hand-cart in a field near the house of Chambers's brother, at Small Heath, the tracks of which correspond exactly with those near the side of the canal and in Chambers's yard. Chambers was taken into custody by Manton on Sunday evening, and Tandy apprehended Knight on Monday evening. When charged with the robbery, Chambers made no reply. Knight, on being arrested, said, "I did not get up that morning till twenty-five minutes to eight." Tandy asked, "What morning?" and Knight answered, "Thursday morning," Upwards of a dozen witnesses were called to support the above facts, which ended the case for the prosecution. Mr. Powell said he believed the circumstances of suspicion against his clients were capable of being fully explained by evidence they could produce on a future day. He therefore asked for a remand until Friday. Mr. Harding did not object to this, and the application was granted."
"The Late Burglary in Bradford Street"
Birmingham Journal : January 26th 1856 Page 11

I followed up this story and the names of those convicted at the Assizes are a little different. Licensee and retail brewer James Chambers was one of those on trial. He was charged alongside the brassfounder Charles Brown, a spoon polisher named Samuel Stephens, the labourer Samuel Harris, William Finnemore alias Jones, also a brassfounder, and John Taylor. In summing up, the Judge stated that it was "one of the most daring, dangerous, flagrant robberies of the kind which had ever been under his notice." Chambers, Brown and Taylor were sentenced to 14 years' transportation and Stephens, Finnemore and Harris were sentenced to 18 months in prison.

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