Some history of the Mazeppa Inn on Yates Street at Aston in Birmingham in the County of Warwickshire


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The Mazeppa Inn was located at No.41 Yates Street, on the corner of Thomas Street. It was originally a beer house that did not gain a full licence until 1951. The Mazeppa had a brewery behind the house and sold homebrewed ales to a loyal customer base. Mitchell's and Butler's put a stop to all that nonsense when they acquired the lease at the end of the 19th century. During the pub reforms of the 20th century the Mazeppa Inn doggedly hung in there but finally fell victim to the development of the Aston Expressway, the road connecting Birmingham to the motorway network at Spaghetti Junction, more correctly known as the Gravelly Hill Interchange.

John Yates & Sons Patent Electro Plate Works

Connecting Thomas Street and Aston Road North, Yates Street is said to be named after Edwin Yates who served as Mayor of Birmingham in 1865. The thoroughfare was however listed as Yate Street in the 1851 census. I suspect the thoroughfare commemorated Josiah Robins Yates, the industrialist who owned tracts of land near Yates' Mill in this part of Aston. Whilst Edwin Yates pursued a life in public office, John Yates concentrated on growing the family business which spilled out of Birmingham and was centred around Aston Road and Pritchett Street. There were several branches of the Yates family involved in manufacturing at Aston and Birmingham.

The Mazeppa was named at a time when the romantic legend of Ivan Mazeppa captured the imagination of the public and became a significant part of popular culture in the 19th century. Though not the first account of the tale, Lord Byron published his Mazeppa poem in 1819. The impact of this work resulted in further poetic works, stage plays, paintings and even an opera by Tchaikovsky.

Theatre Poster for Mazeppa or The Wild Horse of Tartary [1853]

The story of Ivan Mazeppa, partly factual, was laced with such fable and romanticism he became a figure of great mystique. Born in the Palatinate of Podolia, he was a page at the Court of King John II Casimir Vasa where he gained some knowledge of the belles lettres. His natural charisma, coupled with the graces of his manners, made the heartbeat of a beautiful Countess skip a beat. She became enamoured of him and they became lovers. On discovering their torrid affair, the Count scourged Mazeppa cruelly, had him strapped onto the back of a wild horse, and beat the animal into a fury. Mazeppa and the frenzied animal were then let loose among the Steppes of the Ukraine. Carried off into the desert, Mazeppa almost died but was rescued and nursed by a Cossack maid. He joined the Russian military and, distinguished by his bravery and intelligence, rose in power. However, he sided with Charles XII of Sweden in the war against Peter the Great, was present with a small troop of Cossacks at the Battle of Poltava, and after that celebrated defeat, retired with the Swedish monarch to the Turkish fortress of Bendery.

Mazeppa and the Wolves by Horace Vernet [1826]

The image of Mazeppa, strapped to a horse, hurtling across the landscape of the Ukraine was the source of inspiration for several paintings, including this work by Horace Vernet. Mazeppa became associated with speed and the name was applied to a celebrated stage coach in the early 19th century. Almost inevitably, a bicycle brand by the name of Mazeppa emerged later in the Victorian era. It is perhaps surprising that only a few public houses used the sign of the Mazeppa. In Birmingham there was another Mazeppa in Navigation Street and one in Lord Street. Incidentally, there was a well-known race horse named Mazeppa that was prominent around the time that this house emerged so perhaps this was the inspiration for the name of this particular boozer.

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Advertisement for the Mazeppa Brewery on Yates Street at Aston in Birmingham [1866]

Thomas Pountney was brewing ales at the Mazeppa Brewery in the 1860s. I am not certain but I suspect that he was the son of Sarah Pountney, a brewster who kept the Sir Robert Peel in Pritchett Street. She could have afforded her help and expertise to ensure a relatively consistent ale. In addition to retailing on the premises, Thomas Pountney was offering his ales in wooden casks. Even by Victorian standards, it would take some serious intake for a family to empty a firkin of beer before oxidation kicked in. Still, no doubt the neighbours would help out!

Across the road a few doors down from the Mazeppa Inn was a Baptist Chapel. Founded in the late 1850s, this was constructed in red brick during 1862. In what sounds like a 21st century scam, the chapel was robbed by an itinerant in August 1868. He first called at the house of William Monton who was the chapel keeper. The rogue told his wife that he needed to check the gas meter in the chapel so she opened the door giving him access to the whole building. He stole the clock and a hymn book, along with some items left over from a recent bazaar. A new larger Baptist Chapel was erected on the corner opposite the Mazeppa Inn during 1898. Designed in the early decorated style by by T. Guest, the building was constructed in brick with Bath stone dressings.

James Sandiford was the licensee of the Mazeppa Inn by 1868. It was in that year that the magistrates fined him for opening during improper hours. Earlier in the decade he was at the Gunmakers' Arms on Gerrard Street. Getting on in years, James Sandiford handed over the running of the Mazeppa Inn to his daughter Sarah Jane Heap. Born in Stalybridge near Manchester, she married Thomas Heap at Ashton-under-Lyne in 1853. Newspaper articles from Ashton suggest that he was a boozer and brawler. However, he died in 1869 and, together with her five children, Sarah Jane Heap moved south to live with her father. She seems to have led something of a nomadic lifestyle within the licensed trade. In 1873 she took over the Lamp Tavern in Scholefield Street but within months she gave it up. In 1876 she was running the Gunmakers' Arms in Cromwell Street.

Sale Notice for the Mazeppa Inn on Yates Street at Aston in Birmingham [1886]

Enoch Malpass was running the Mazeppa Inn by the end of the 1870s. Born at Dursley in Gloucestershire around 1829, he moved to Birmingham some years before and for a good number of years he was a porter and gardener at the Worcester, Lichfield & Hereford Diocesan Training College in Saltley. The above sale notice dating from 1886 suggests that Enoch Malpass was sub-letting the Mazeppa Inn. The lease on the corner plot, including adjacent properties and yards, was being offered as a whole. As can be seen in the advertisement Mr. Taylor was making spring traps in the workshops. This may have been in buildings formerly used for the brewery as there is no indication that Enoch Malpass was producing his own ales. However, the 1891 census records John Ashford as a maltster to the rear of the Mazeppa Inn.

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In July 1889 Enoch Malpass advertised the Mazeppa Inn, along with stabling and shopping, stating that the house was doing good trade and the reason for leaving was ill-health. Indeed, the beer retailer died later in the year.

The Mazeppa Inn on Yates Street at Aston in Birmingham [c.1925]

Mitchell's and Butler's acquired a lease for the Mazeppa Inn from H. Bourne on November 30th 1899. The lease agreement included No.37 Yates Street, a house that the company rented out. In 1901 this house was occupied by the bricklayer's foreman John Morton who narrowly escaped a prison sentence for defrauding his employers.

George and Emily Turner were the first couple to run the Mazeppa Inn for the Cape Hill brewery. They hailed from the Black Country town of Darlaston and were married in April 1868 when George Turner worked as a bolt forger. The couple had moved to Birmingham by 1880 and George found work in the gun trade. He was still engaged in this line of work when he and his family lived in Sycamore Road.

Licensee Plate of the Mazeppa Inn on Yates Street at Aston in Birmingham [c.1925]

Alexandra Tomlin was the licensee of the Mazeppa Inn when this photograph was taken around 1925. Four years later Mitchell's and Butler's acquired the freehold of the beer house by paying Mrs. Catherine Martin the sum of £3,000 on June 20th 1929. Four years later the brewery added £450 to the pub's capital account as a result of them relinquishing the Aston Brook Tavern in nearby Powell Street.

Alexandra Tomlin was succeeded by Ernest Whittock. Managing the Mazeppa Inn with his wife Elsie, he took over the licence of the house on October 8th, 1926. The publican's father, also named Ernest, was a policeman. He and Elsie kept the Mazeppa Inn for a decade before moving to Springthorpe Road at Tyburn from where Ernest worked as an examiner in a tube works. He was also a first-aider at the factory in which he was employed.

Lantern of the Mazeppa Inn on Yates Street at Aston in Birmingham [c.1925]

Granted the licence on February 10th, 1936, Ernest West took over from Ernest Whittock as gaffer of the Mazeppa Inn. However, he only remained for a year when he was succeeded by John Peake. He kept the Mazeppa with his wife Ivy until 1939 when they moved to the Shakespeare Inn on Summer Row. They were succeeded by Walter and Florence Ashley. This couple's term was short and at the start of the Second World War Mrs. Gertrude Merrick took over as manager.

Window of the Mazeppa Inn on Yates Street at Aston in Birmingham [c.1925]

Thomas Beech was the landlord when the Mazeppa Inn was granted a full licence in 1951 - it only took almost a century to elevate the status of the house!

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Related Newspaper Articles

"Thomas Nicholls, of 24, Lancaster Street, and a man named Greening, of 5, Cromwell Street, were charged with breaking into 12, Yates Street, Aston, on Saturday evening, and stealing a lady's silver watch, a gold chain, and a gold ring. About 7.30 on the evening named Police Constable Littlejohn noticed the men striking matches in a front bedroom of No. 12, and calling Police Constable Pettifer, who was on duty in Aston Road, effected an entrance by the back kitchen window. As soon as they were inside, another policeman, Sumner, came headlong down the stairs almost into their arms. Pettifer and Littlejohn went up, and saw the two men on the landing. One shouted "At him, out him," and struck Pettifer on the head with a blunt instrument just as the latter seized him. A struggle ensued in the course of which the constable had to defend himself with his staff, but by giving his antagonist a blow on the head he managed to secure him. The other man, Nicholls, meanwhile jumped out of the bedroom window, but was secured by Sumner and Littlejohn. His companion when brought before the magistrates, had his head bound up, and Police Constable Pettifer also appeared with evidences of the struggle in the shape of surgical bandages. Greening was also charged with unlawfully wounding Pettifer. Deputy Chief-Constable Hannah stated that the prosecution were not ready to proceed at present, and the prisoners were thereupon remanded for a week."
"Struggle With Housebreakers"
Birmingham Mail : February 5th 1941 Page 1

"A character declared to have been hitherto irreproachable saved John Morton from imprisonment. The accused, a bricklayer's foreman, living at 37, Yates Street, Aston, had defrauded his employers. Smith and Pitts, Moseley Road, by falsifying a return of work done, and drawing an excessive sum as wages. Mr. H. Beale, who prosecuted, did not press tho charge. It was stated by Mr. Willison, for the defence, that the prisoner had been formerly a master builder, but had got into difficulties and filed his petition. Lately he had drifted into intemperate habits. A fine of 40s. and costs was imposed."
"Value of a Good Character"
Birmingham Mail : November 20th 1901 Page 2

Licensees of the Mazeppa Inn

1865 - Thomas Pountney
1868 - James Sandiford
1871 - Mrs. Sarah Jane Heap
1879 - Enoch Malpass
1899 - George Turner
1925 - Alexandra Henry Tomlin
1926 - 1936 Ernest Charles Whittock
1936 - 1937 Ernest West
1937 - 1939 John Frederick Peake
1939 - 1939 Walter Ernest Ashley
1939 - 1943 Gertrude Merrick
1943 - 1946 Frank Harold Poulton
1946 - 1948 William Joseph Henry Littlewood
1948 - Thomas Beech
Note : this is not a complete list of licensees for this pub. The dates of early licensees are sourced from trade directories, census data, electoral rolls, rate books and newspaper articles. Names taken from trade directories may be slightly inaccurate as there is some slippage from publication dates and the actual movement of people. The listing for 1940 to 1967 is complete and accurate as these names are sourced from licensing records and brewery property books. These records are hand-written and I have done my best to transcribe them accurately, though some scribbles of the clerks can be hard to determine.

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Mitchells's and Butler's Cape Hill Brewery

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