Some history of the Carpenters' Arms on Adelaide Street at Highgate in Birmingham in the County of Warwickshire


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The building that once housed the Carpenters' Arms is typical of the public-houses built in the 1920s. The crisp clean lines of the exterior and general understatement were exactly what the magistrates demanded of the architects working for the large breweries during the inter-war years. In this case, the rebuilding was undertaken by Mitchell's and Butler's. The building was erected in the era of pub reform - architectural sobriety was the order of the day.

Birmingham : The Carpenters' Arms on the corner of Adelaide Street and Lower Darwin Street in Highgate [2002]

I took this photograph in March 2002 when the Carpenters' Arms was still ticking over as a traditional pub. I particularly like the close arrangement of the doorways to the left, all boasting scroll supports to the canopy. The flat-layered terracotta-tiled corners furnished the building with the appearance of quoins. The windows featured a simply keystone in the brickwork. With traditional sash-windows, it is all very 1920s. Pubs of this size built in the next decade would have even cleaner lines, incorporating elements of art deco. This is a lovely period piece and, consequently, it is a terrible shame that subsequent tenants or owners decided to completely paint over the brickwork.

Although the surrounding streets were lined with public-houses, the Carpenters' Arms enjoyed a monopoly of beer sales in Adelaide Street. In later years, the pub enjoyed a monopoly of a different kind, for it is one of the few old buildings left in this locality. The housing that once surrounded the pub has disappeared.

The Carpenters' Arms was rebuilt in 1924-5 but I have not established if a photograph of the original tavern has survived. I have not seen an image of the older property. The pub has always stood on the corner of Adelaide Street and Lower Darwin Street. One change, however, is the name. The Carpenters' Arms was formerly called The Red House so I assume that it was constructed with red bricks or painted red. There was a pub called The White House only a few hundred metres away so perhaps a trend was set here.

Birmingham : Site of Carpenters' Arms on Adelaide Street projected onto Hunt's Map of Birmingham [1834]

The only documented reference I have found for The Red House name is in the 1851 census, compiled a few years after the public-house opened. Adelaide Street was not laid out until the late 1840s. Hunts map of 1834 [see above] shows the early development of this part of Deritend and Highgate. I have marked the future location of the pub on this map extract. It is close to the water channel for Birch's Hole. A path leading to Long Bridge Lane would later become Lower Darwin Street, named after Robert Darwin Vaughton. The legacy of the Vaughton family can be found in many of the street names in Highgate and Bordesley. Robert Darwin Vaughton married Mary Ann Dymoke and their son Robert Dymoke Vaughton married Emily Boultbee - hence Vaughton Street, Dymoke Street, Darwin Street and Emily Street.

Birmingham : Adelaide Street on Rapkin and Tallis plan [1851]

The Carpenters' Arms actually marked the boundary of the Vaughton estate and that of the Gooch family. The early development of Adelaide Street, Mary Street [the original name of the top end of Charles Henry Street] and Darwin Street was first marked on the Rapkin and Tallis Plan of 1851 [see above]. Brewery Street led to Richards' Brewery, later the Deritend and Bordesley Brewery.

The outward sprawl of the town undermined or scuppered an advert that appeared in 1816 for the sale of a "delightful garden" in the avenue from Deritend Brewery to Vaughton's Hole "with no probability of ever being disturbed for building." I wonder if the author of the advertisement lived to see the area in the mid-19th century as green fields made way for industry and housing.

Newly-built properties fronting Adelaide Street were being advertised in 1848 and offered with 95 year leases. Early occupants of the thoroughfare were named Underhill and Harrison.

The first licensee of The Red House, as far as I can determine, was Joseph Hart. However, beer was not in his blood and he went on to work as a Jeweller's Tool Maker in Hockley. Joseph Newick was in charge of the house in the new decade. In the 1851 census he was recorded as a 26 year-old Bristol-born retail brewer, suggesting that homebrewed ales were being made on the premises. Indeed, a rate book dated 1851 details a house, stable and maltroom on the corner site [see below] which shows the name of Joseph Newick pencilled in and the name of Joseph Hart crossed out. Note that the owner of the property at this time was Thomas Kemp.

Birmingham : The Red House on Adelaide Street within a rate book for Deritend and Bordesley [1851]

Joseph Newick lived at The Red House with his sister Mary Ann Cram. Ten years older, she hailed from Newcastle-upon-Tyne. This invites speculation that their father was possibly a sailor. However, he seemingly moved the family to Birmingham where he worked in the glass trade whilst his son became a tailor. Joseph Newick's 14 year-old niece also lived on the premises. 20 year-old Emily Parker was employed as a live-in domestic servant. The census also shows that William Mundon, a Police Officer, lived just a few doors away. A little further down the street lived another person known to knock on people's doors. John Charles Gillard was listed as a Collector of Debts and must have been a busy but unpopular person.

Charlotte Eades had taken over the licence by 1854. She moved here from 192 Cheapside where in Slater's Trade Directory for 1852 she was listed as a furniture broker, a business in which she had earlier worked with her husband. It is likely that she had dealings with the local carpenters and joiners who were clustered around this area. John Gilelint, Robert Headley, William Abbott, John Kendall, Henry Arthur and John Henry were all carpenters living in Adelaide Street when Charlotte Eades took over as publican. It was quite common for different trades to be clustered in particular areas of Birmingham and many pubs were named to celebrate this. This not only helped to foster a local identity but encouraged customer loyalty from the local residents - a sound economic decision for many a publican. However, the main reason for the pub changing its name to the Carpenters Arms' was that it was taken over by Thomas Mills.

Inn Sign of the Carpenters' Arms [1973]

In the 1861 census Thomas Mills was documented as a 46 year-old licensed victualler from Bedworth. Three years older, his wife Nancy hailed from Feckenham. Trade Directories for Birmingham listed Thomas Mills as both a builder and carpenter so the pub's name change was inevitable, particularly as the family established a joiner's workshop behind the building. 17 year-old son William was a carpenter, as was 18 year-old nephew William Mills who lived on the premises. Also living above the pub was 54 year-old widow William Bacon. Hailing from Uttoxeter, he also worked as a carpenter for the family. Younger son Henry, 14, also entered the construction industry by working as an architect's clerk. Thomas and Nancy Mills also had two daughters. 12 year-old Sarah Jane was still a scholar but Harriet Jane, three years older, worked as a barmaid at the Carpenters' Arms.

I must stress that the above signboard is NOT from this particular Carpenters' Arms. It was one of a collection of inn sign images I purchased some time ago. This image is dated 1973 but, frustratingly, the location was not included. I have included it here as it is a fine example of the signboard featuring the coat-of-arms of the Carpenters' Company, a City of London Livery Company. The first written reference to this body dates back to the City of London's records of 1271. The Company received its coat-of-arms in 1466. Credo Sed Caveo translates to "I believe but I beware" and the Patron Saint of Carpenters is indeed Joseph of Nazareth.

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Thomas Mills was a man of great entrepreneurial flair and throughout the 1860s consolidated his many business interests. He relinquished the Carpenters' Arms in 1865 to concentrate on a three-floor factory he owned in Adelaide Street. In the 1869 Trade Directory for Birmingham he was listed as a builder, contractor and brick-maker based in both Leopold Street and Adelaide Street. He took up residence at Broome House in Highgate.

Birmingham : Sale of the lease for the Carpenters' Arms on Adelaide Street [1867]

In addition to developing his other business interests, Thomas Mills evidently improved the status of the Carpenters' Arms. The above advertisement for the lease of the property shows an incoming of £500, an incredible sum in those times. The advertisement also shows that the house now had a large concert or assembly room and that it was licensed for music. Thomas Mills had obtained this licence in September 1864.

With the high incoming fee, anybody taking on the Carpenters' Arms would have to maintain a high level of sales to stay afloat. Moses Owen operated the business but it would seem he failed in the enterprise because John Cottrill appeared at the Petty Sessions to renew the music licence in August 1868. The census conducted three years later recorded him as a 45 year-old Birmingham-born licensed victualler. His wife Louisa was also born locally. Also living on the premises was niece Louisa Armfield. Next door at No.2 was a tobacconist's and newsagent's. Thomas Broadhurst owned the shop at No.3. He traded as a grocer and hay dealer.

Birmingham : Adelaide Street on Pigott-Smith Plan [1875]

The layout of Adelaide Street can be seen on this Pigott-Smith plan produced prior to the implementation of the Borough Improvement Scheme of 1875.

Birmingham : Advertisement for the Carpenters' Arms and Bell Hotel operated by George Rotton [1886]

George Rooker was the landlord of the Carpenters' Arms for a short spell before moving on to the St. Luke's Tavern on St. Luke's Road. George Rotton arrived at the Carpenters' Arms in 1874. All Brummies, he and his family stayed at the pub for fifteen years. The census enumerator caught up with them in 1881. George Rotton and his wife Julia were born in 1843. They had three children - Nellie, Lizzie and George. The Rotton's employed widow Jane Wagstaff as a general servant. She was born in the Black Country town of Tipton in 1820. 26 year-old Charles Plumb was also employed as a live-in servant. He hailed from Hornsey in Middlesex. The owner of the pub during George Rotton's tenancy was Martin Lloyd of Trafalgar Road, Moseley. He also owned Nos.3-10 along with the courts behind.

As can be seen in the above advertisement, George Rotton was operating both the Carpenters' Arms and Bell Hotel on James Watt Street in 1886, suggesting that he was pretty good at running taverns and music venues. He had grown up in pubs for his parents kept the Vine Inn on St. George's Street where his father brewed the beers. He also provided refreshments for the Warwickshire Cadet Battalion at Moseley and a canteen at The Reddings. George Rotton was also a member and hosted meetings of the Caledonia Corks Lodge.

Birmingham : The Carpenters' Arms on Adelaide Street within a rate book for Deritend and Bordesley [1886]

This image is taken from the 1886 rate book for Deritend and Bordesley where the Carpenters' Arms is listed as a licensed public-house, music hall, brewhouse, maltroom, stable, loft and premises. The annual ground rent for what had become a substantial property was £60.0s.0d. The inventory is interesting in that it suggests the Carpenters' Arms, despite its close proximity to the Deritend and Bordesley Brewery, was still producing its own ale. However, the listing of a Music Hall is very illuminating. For a lively night out it sounds like the Carpenters' Arms was the place to be in Highgate and Deritend in the 1880s.

George Rotton's brother also worked in the licensed trade. Hammond Rotton was principally a jeweller but also kept the Mug House Tavern in Chapel Street. He died in February 1890 by which time George Rotton was a retail brewer at 30 Lennox Street. He and his wife Julia would later run the Peacock Inn on Darwin Street. George Rotton died in June 1906 but his son, also named George, continued in the licensed trade and kept the Swan With Two Necks on Lawley Street.

Birmingham : Adelaide Street and the Carpenters' Arms on a plan of Birmingham [1888]

This extract from a plan dated 1888 is interesting as it shows considerable development on the site of the Carpenters' Arms since the 1870s, suggesting there was significant investment during the interim years. Note the nail works on the corner of Lower Darwin Street and Charles Henry Street. I wonder if this, combined with the tools of a carpenter's trade, was the reason why the pub picked up the colloquial name of the Bag of Nails? The nail, screw and rivet manufactory was owned by Henry Cox and known as the Albion Works. I think this business may have moved to this location from Great Hampton Street. The factory had been the premises of Martin Lloyd [see below].

Thomas Tay kept the Carpenters' Arms and music hall for a brief period up until his death in September 1890. Succeeding him, Thomas Sharp was an interim manager for a few months before he moved to the Greyhound Inn on Navigation Street. The licence of the Carpenters' Arms was transferred to him in January 1891. Born in Northumberland, he was recorded as a 55 year-old public-house manager. This status suggests that the Carpenters' Arms had become part of a larger concern and that he was an employee rather than tenant. He kept the pub with his 39 year-old wife Elizabeth who was a Brummie. The ages and birthplaces of the children suggests that this was Thomas Sharp's second marriage. 18 year-old Edward was born in Leeds. Harriet, John and Calere all hailed from Durham. However, the two youngest children, William and Frederick, were born in Birmingham. By the time the rates were collected later in 1891 Thomas Sharp had departed and Thomas Baynam was the licensee.

A good number of the neighbouring pubs were taken over by Birmingham's large breweries during the late Victorian period but the Carpenters' Arms retained its independent status. The rate book for 1901 shows that Martin Lloyd still owned the building, along with other property in Adelaide Street. Born in 1828, he was also a nail manufacturer but lived out in leafy Moseley with his wife Dinah at No.85 Trafalgar Road. The nail factory was the aforementioned works on the corner of Lower Darwin Street and Charles Henry Street.

Birmingham : North Side of Adelaide Street in Kelly's Trade Directory [1900]

Moving from the White House in nearby Vaughton Street, Charles Henry James was the licensee of the Carpenters' Arms at the fag end of the 19th century. The 1901 rate book lists him as the licensee but he was succeeded by William Dutton by the time of the census for the same year. The latter was born in Northfield in 1842. Four years younger, his wife Mary was born in Birmingham. Born in Cambridgeshire in 1862, John Whittlesey was hired as a barman and potman.

Ask For Ind Coope Ales and Stout

The retired nail manufacturer Martin Lloyd died in June 1902 and this is possibly when the lease of the Carpenters' Arms was taken over by Ind Coope & Co. Ltd.. Certainly, they are listed as the operators in the Birmingham licensing register, though no exact date is given. The building may have been sub-let to the company before this date. With occupants listed as managers I suspect that this was the case.

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Former blacksmith at the B.S.A. factory, John Truman was running the pub with his wife Elizabeth when they suffered a terrible loss. Their eight year-old son Percy drowned in August 1905 in the canal near Sandy Lane at Small Heath. The young boy was playing with others in the vicinity of the locks when he fell into the water.

Ind Coope seemingly had a job persuading a manager to stick around for more than a year and there was a high turnover of licensees in the early Edwardian period. Things were stabilised with the arrival of Joseph Groome. The Dublin-born publican remained in charge for the remainder of King Edward VII's reign, and a few years after. He married Kathleen Flanagan whilst running the pub.

Advertisement for Cheshire's Brewery Ltd.

During the Edwardian period there was an unusual arrangement regarding the Carpenters' Arms as, although the lease remained with Ind Coope, they had handed over the management of the house to Cheshire's Brewery Ltd. Registered in 1896, this company was based at the Windmill Brewery at Cape Hill, Smethwick. The rate book for 1911 shows that the annual rent for the Carpenters Arms was £90. 0s. 0d. As manager, and representative of the Windmill Brewery, Joseph Patrick Groome paid the rates of £11. 17s. 6d. in full.

Cheshire's Brewery Ltd. was acquired by Mitchell's and Butler's in 1913 and the Carpenters' Arms became part of the Cape Hill Brewery's large empire.

Noah Ride was the landlord of the Carpenters' Arms for much of the First World War. He had previously been the licensee of The Criterion in Spiceal Street, a pub originally called The Spread Eagle. He was also a manager at the Sir Charles Napier on Gooch Street and the King's Arms on Suffolk Street, both pubs being part of The Criterion pub chain operated by Walter Jones. Noah Ride, in his youth, was one of three men who fell victim to the disgraceful conduct of of the publican James William Crombie in 1890.

Birmingham : Building Plan for the rebuilding of the Carpenters' Arms on the corner of Adelaide Street and Lower Darwin Street in Highgate [1924]

Albert and Mabel Owen kept the Carpenters' Arms when, in 1923, Mitchell's and Butler's made the decision to rebuild the property, the Cape Hill brewery commissioning architects James and Lister Lea & Sons to design a new public-house. Based at 19 Cannon Street, this firm also operated an estate agency business and managed the Gooch estate.

Birmingham : Ground Floor Plans of the Carpenters' Arms on Adelaide Street in Highgate [1924]

The plans for the new building were submitted on March 22nd 1924. Sometimes a drawing of the old building is featured on the plans but unfortunately in this case there is no sketches of the former Carpenters' Arms. The builders did not waste much time in completing the project, the pub re-opened for trading on July 20th 1925. Mitchell's and Butler's sub-leased the adjoining properties of 14/15 Lower Darwin Street and 2 Adelaide Street.

The plans show that there were four doors to the left of the building at the time of construction. The third door provided access to an outdoor or jug department but this was subsequently infilled. The left door was a private entrance for the first floor. The second door provided access to a corridor that led to the smoke room. The right door was an entrance to the bar which could also be entered via the corner door.

Birmingham : The Carpenters' Arms on the corner of Adelaide Street and Lower Darwin Street in Highgate [1960]

John and Elsie Thomas were the management team in charge of the new Carpenters' Arms before the pub was handed over to John and Marie Protheroe. Both couples were married whilst running he pub so romance was seemingly in the air within the new house.

Despite rebuilding the house, Mitchell's and Butler's still only held the lease on the property. The company acquired the freehold from John Willmot on June 19th 1933.

During the worst of the bombing of the Second World War the pub was kept by Thomas and Annie Fowler. Adelaide Street and the neighbourhood suffered extensive damage but thankfully the pub survived.

Leonard and Mary Adams ran the place in the latter years of the war, remaining until 1953 before William and Evelyn Kavanagh's nine-year spell in charge. By all accounts, the former coal merchant and his wife were very popular hosts at the Carpenters' Arms. The couple had been married for 33 years before running the pub. Bill and Brenda Penn were another popular couple to run the Carpenters' Arms for over a decade. The longest spell behind the counter was enjoyed by John and Doreen Fayers between March 1977 and April 1997.

Birmingham : Susan Taylor with customer inside the Carpenters' Arms [2002]

Susan Taylor took over the licence on April 20th 2000. She was no stranger to the pubs of Highgate and Deritend. Indeed, she previously worked with her parents, Patricia and Roger Scott, at the Hen and Chickens in Moseley Street. She is pictured above with some of the customers in 2002.

Licensees of the Carpenters' Arms

1849 - Joseph Hart
1851 - Joseph Newick
1854 - Charlotte Eades
1856 - Thomas Mills
1865 - 1868 Moses Owen
1868 - 1871 John Joseph Cottrill
1871 - George Rooker
1874 - George Rotton
1888 - R. Perkins
1889 - Thomas Tobias Tay
1890 - 1891 Thomas Baynham
1891 - Thomas Sharp
1892 - J. Griffiths
1895 - 1901 Charles Henry James
1901 - William Dutton
1903 - Robert Dawson
1904 - Charles Henry Finch
1905 - John Truman
1906 - Joseph Patrick Groome
1914 - Noah Ride
1917 - Albert William Owen
1924 - Joseph Henry Jacques
1925 - John Thomas
1930 - Thomas Frederick Beach
1933 - John Protheroe
1934 - Thomas Henry Fowler
1941 - 1953 Leonard Alfred Adams
1953 - 1962 William James Kavanagh
1962 - 1973 William Keith Penn
1973 - 1977 Brenda Mary Penn
1977 - 1997 John Frederick Fayers
1997 - 1998 Thomas Declan Gibbons
1998 - 1999 Raymond Ignatius Ewing
1999 - 2000 Jadwiga Owen
2000 - 2001 Anna Marie Berry
2001 - Susan Jean Taylor
2004 - Errol Vernon Simmonds
Note : this is not a complete list of licensees for this pub.

Mitchells's and Butler's

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I lost track of the Carpenters' Arms in the early years of the new millennium. The next thing I knew it was trading as Moon Lounge. A few years later it was an e-cigarettes outlet called Moon Vapez. The latter, in particular, looked pretty grotesque in grey paint. The lovely old red brick pub, along with its halcyon days, are but a mere memory.

Birmingham : Moon Lounge on the corner of Adelaide Street and Lower Darwin Street [2010]

Birmingham : Moon Vapez on the corner of Adelaide Street and Lower Darwin Street [2017]

Related Newspaper Articles

Birmingham : Notice by Thomas Mills in Aris's Birmingham Gazette [1862]

"An inquest was held yesterday afternoon, at the Carpenters' Arms Inn, Adelaide Street, concerning the death of a woman named Martha Parker, a widow, who resided in a court in that street, and who, on the morning of Saturday last, was found lying dead in her own house. From the evidence of her only daughter, Elizabeth Parker, who is a dressmaker residing in Cherry Street, it appeared that the deceased was of very intemperate habits. The last time she saw her alive was on Sunday, the 24th of January last. She was then at her cousin's house in Thimble Mill Lane, in a state of intoxication. She left the house between six and seven o'clock, but would not state where she was going, and was not seen again by any of the family until she was found a corpse in the house in Adelaide Street. She had never been sober since the death of her husband at Christmas last. She was then living in Thomas Street, and upon her husband's decease she sold all the furniture in the house and led a most reckless life with the money she realised. She mixed with low society, and was embroiled almost every day. She went to Coventry, and spent a good deal of her money, and afterwards came back to Birmingham, but no one belonging to her knew where she took up her abode, until she was found dead. Margaret Collins, a neighbour of the deceased's, stated that Mrs. Parker came to live near her house about three weeks ago. She was very reserved in her conversation, and was but seldom at home in the day time. The last time she was seen in the neighbourhood was on the evening of Tuesday last, when she went up the yard and into her house with a tea cup in her hand. Feeling somewhat alarmed at not seeing her again until Saturday last, the witness spoke to Police-Constable Price on that evening about the matter, and he went into the house, the door of which he found to be unlocked. On going upstairs he saw the deceased sitting upon the side of the bed, with her head and shoulders leaning backwards towards the pillow, her feet resting upon the floor. She was dressed in her ordinary clothing, and her hands were clenched. She was quite dead. On examining the room he found a number of labels, bearing the words, "Smith's vermin killer. Poison" and "Battle's vermin destroyer. Poison," lying upon the window ledge and upon the floor. Upon the table, beside the bed, he found a breakfast cup, containing a brown sediment, He took possession of these things and now produced them. Dr. Jordan stated that he had carefully examined the external state of the body of the deceased under the Coroner's precept. When he first saw her she was lying on the bed, dressed in her ordinary clothing. Her body was in the shape of a bow, caused by the arching of the back. Her hands were also clenched. In her stomach he found a brown fluid, similar to that which was contained in the breakfast cup. Upon her being undressed he found in her bosom a bag containing the sum of £4. 16s. 7d. He was of opinion that the deceased had died from taking strychnine. Battle's vermin destroyer is said to contain strychnine. The Jury returned a verdict to the effect that the deceased had committed suicide whilst in a state of insanity, and that the insanity was the result of drunkenness."
"Mysterious Death in Adelaide Street"
Birmingham Daily Post : February 17th 1864 Page 3

"Thomas Mills [25], 45 Lombard Street, gas fitter, was charged with stealing a coat, value 22s., from the house of George Rooker, Carpenters' Arms, Adelaide Street. The prisoner wore a soldier's overcoat, and while in the sitting-room of the house he concealed a coat belonging to the prosecutor's son. The landlord, having suspicions of the prisoner, followed him, and apprehended him with the coat in his possession. He pleaded guilty, and sentence against him was deferred until tomorrow, in order that some information might be obtained respecting his character."
"Stealing a Coat"
Birmingham Mail : November 7th 1871 Page 3

"John Jones [66], White Lion Yard, Digbeth, was charged with stealing a silver watch, value £1, from the person of Josiah Baker, scale beam maker, Hollier Street. Both men were the Carpenters' Arms, Adelaide Street, yesterday. The prisoner was the first to leave the house, and a few minutes later the prosecutor found that his watch had gone. James Hartwrlght said he met the prisoner as he was leaving the place. He was carrying Baker's watch in his hand, and witness took it from him and restored it to the prosecutor. Mr. Hebbert [to prisoner]: What have you to say to that£ Prisoner: Well, your worship, I was fighting with the prosecutor in this public-house yesterday, and during the affray I gave him a blow which made his watch fly out of his pocket. [Laughter.] The watch went along the passage - [laughter] - and alighted on the doorstep. [Renewed laughter.] When the fight was over I went to the spot where the watch fell and picked it up. I was returning with it to the prosecutor when I met Hartwright. The witness Hartwright was recalled, and stated that the accused was hurrying from the house when he stopped him, and was not returning the tap-room. Inspector Hall said it was the prisoner's first appearance in dock, and Mr. Kynnersley discharged him, adding that he didn't think the prisoner was a thief."
"A Novel Defence"
Birmingham Mail : June 16th 1886 Page 2

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