Some history of the Union Inn on Berners Street at Lozells in Birmingham in the County of Warwickshire

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The Union Inn traded on the eastern side of Berners Street, on the corner of Gerrard Street. The last time I checked the building was still there but it was being converted into flats. Well, I think that was the plan though whoever was doing the work was making a bit of a pig's ear of it. Rather sad really, given that it was once a fine-looking edifice on this corner.

Birmingham : Corner entrance to the bar of the Union Inn on the corner of Berners Street and Gerrard Street at Lozells [c.1930]

When I bought this photograph of the Union Inn I wanted to zoom in on the plate bearing the licensee's name as it would provide a rough date for the image. The trouble is that the lantern hides most of the name. And, being as it still had the status of beer house prior to the Second World War, it is not so easy to dig through trade directories in search of a possible name. However, I could see what seemed to be 'Cres' as part of the first name, along with the letters 'Kin' towards the end of the surname. I found the name of the publican in the electoral roll for 1930. And what a name! If I had rocked up to my grammar school at the age of 11 with this name I know exactly what would have happened. As the teacher called out the name from the register every boy and girl would have turned around and stared at me. Some would have sniggered. Moreover, I would have gained some hilarious [to them] nickname that I would have borne until the day I left school. So, you ask, what the heck is the name. Well, I present to you, the publican named Caesar Augustus Jenkins or, more correctly Jenkyns.

I cannot say this is a real one-off name because he was the son of, yes, Caesar Augustus Jenkyns. Now, I have to admit that, hailing from the Black Country, I had not heard this name before. Almost everybody in my area supported the Albion or the Wolves. I only knew one person who had a thing for The Blues. Still, I wonder how many people who pile into the Tilton Road these days have heard of Caesar Augustus Jenkyns. By all accounts, however, he was something of a legend for what would become Birmingham City. In his playing days the club was known as Small Heath F.C. The Welsh international and former police officer was the captain of the side in the 1890s and known for being something of a hard case. In the days when it was extremely hard to get sent off and almost anything went during muddy slogs on the pitch, Jenkyns was sent off on four occasions. He was the original Birmingham Zulu Warrior. Bearing in mind his name, he would have fared pretty well in The Colosseum at Rome. Even the lions would be afraid of facing him. Birmingham finally got rid of Jenkyns when he was ordered from the field of play in a game against Derby in March 1895. It was on his way to an early bath that he attempted to assault two Derby spectators. He subsequently became a star player for Woolwich Arsenal before signing for Manchester United when they were known as Newton Heath. At the end of the 19th century he played for Walsall before joining Coventry. Like a boxer who doesn't know when to call it a day, he turned out for some minor clubs before realising the game was up.

Caesar Augustus Jenkyns in Woolwich Arsenal kit [1895]

In the 21st century, superstar footballers retire with their bank account full of dosh and driving off into the sunset with an Italian sports car. In the days of Caesar Augustus Jenkyns football players would have to find alternative employment. A good number of them became publicans. Indeed, some large breweries would covet the star players as they would be an attraction in the public-houses that they managed. Punters would come just to see their heroes, perhaps have a beer poured by them. It would seem that Caesar Augustus Jenkyns pre-empted his footy retirement and in 1898 he and his wife Elizabeth were running the Walsall Arms on Dudley Street in Walsall. After a few months they had moved to the New Inn, a lovely pub known as The Pretty Bricks on account of the external glazed brickwork. From there, they moved to the Black Horse on Butts Street before running the Birchills Tavern, two more Walsall watering-holes. Between 1901-2 they were at the Old Oak, a beer house on Upper Hall Lane. They were certainly getting around a bit. Given his track record on the pitch, a number of undesirable customers were probably ejected from the premises by Caesar Augustus Jenkyns.

All of the above mentioned boozers were kept by Caesar and Elizabeth Jenkyns whilst he was turning out for The Saddlers. However, he signed for Coventry in 1902 but seemingly commuted to his new club as he was running the Horse and Groom on Digbeth in 1905. By this time the Caesar Augustus Jenkins who kept this pub on Berners Street was born. His recorded birthplace in June 1903 was Birmingham. The family did eventually move to Coventry and by the end of the Edwardian period they were running the Black Dog on White Friars Street. Always seemingly on the move, they were back in the Black Country during World War One when Caesar Augustus Jenkins was licensee of the George at Moxley near Darlaston.

Caesar Augustus Jenkins, having grown up in a number of public-houses, opted to follow a career in the licensed trade himself. Probably his last spell helping his parents was at the Coach and Horses at Bordesley Green in the early 1920s. He married Ethel Mansell at Newcastle-under-Lyme in 1925. They were running the Union Inn by 1930. The couple remained for a few years but by the end of the decade they were managing The Shaftmoor at Hall Green.

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The Union Inn remained a beer house until 1950. John Lowe applied for a full licence as early as August 1867. He told the Bench at the Erdington Licensing Session that the house was "in a populous and improving neighbourhood, and some distance from any licensed house." The magistrates refused the application but advised John Lowe to apply again in the following year. I wonder what he would have said if he had any inkling that it would take almost a century before a full licence was granted to the building.

John Lowe did apply again for his licence. His solicitor, Mr. Cutler, appeared in support of his application in August 1869. Mr. Cutler urged that a "great deal of property had been built in the neighbourhood of the applicant's house since the time of his former application." He presented a memorial to the Bench signed by Mr. T. Avery, Alderman Brinsley, and Mr. Hayes [Town Clerk of Birmingham], and 60 others, recommending the applicant as a person fit and proper to receive a licence. However, Mr. Ansell opposed the application on behalf of Frederick Taylor of the New Inn further up Berners Street, and Mrs. Bennett of the Gunmakers' Arms on Gerrard Street. The distance of Frederick Taylor's house, he admitted, was 73 yards, and Mrs. Bennett's 100 yards from the applicant's. The decision was deferred but ultimately failed.

Birmingham : Union Inn on the corner of Berners Street and Gerrard Street at Lozells [c.1930]

Here is the Union Inn looking at its best during the inter-war years. The upgraded windows and corner entrance were almost certainly the work of Holder's Brewery Ltd. The company operated this house in the Edwardian period and up until they were acquired by Mitchell's and Butler's in 1919. The value of the Union Inn during the takeover was set at £4,399. This figure included the valuation of three adjoining houses which were let out to individuals. These were Nos.147-9 Gerrard Street and No.148 Berners Street.

Birmingham : Bakery Van of Bradford's Bakery of Hockley parked in Berners Street at Lozells [c.1930]

Here we see a bakery van from Bradford's Bakery of Hockley parked outside the Union Inn. Perhaps the Jenkins family were taking a delivery in order to flog sandwiches in the pub. The lettering on the vehicle roof shows that the van operated out of the Norton Street Bakery. This was a decent-sized bakery owned by S. Bradford & Sons Ltd. I have looked backwards and found that Samuel Bradford had earlier traded at 139 Great King Street. Born in 1851, he was the son of the flour dealer and baker Julius Bradford who operated from premises on Dartmouth Street in the mid-19th century. So, now the Union Inn has a link to people named Julius and Caesar. You couldn't make it up! Samuel Bradford left the family home and headed to Great King Street to work at the bakery operated by James Bradford, presumably his uncle. By the early 1880s Samuel had established his own business and was employing four men and a boy. Together with his wife Ann Marie, he had two sons named Alfred and Horace. The bread and cakes baked at Bradford's must have proved very popular for the business grew steadily. Samuel accumulated some wealth by the time of his death in January 1927. The family home, complete with coach house for his carriage, still stands in Handsworth.

The Norton Street premises of S. Bradford & Sons Ltd. was taken over by McDougall's. Even when the company became part of the Allied Bakeries Group, the name of Samuel Bradford & Sons Ltd. was retained for reasons of continuity and customer loyalty. The name was emblazoned on the new bakery erected opposite the West Bromwich Albion football ground in 1953. Designed by the architect Keith P. Roberts, this plant was deemed to be the most modern and best-equipped in the country. The managing director at that time was S. A. Barker but soon succeeded by Philip Sutton. Even I worked at this place for around two years. The stories I could tell you about the fiddling that went on!

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Licensees of the Union Inn

1868 - John Lowe
1904 - John Charles Bridger
1930 - Caesar Augustus Jenkins
1933 - 1939 Leslie V. Stevenson
1939 - 1939 J. Davis
1939 - Elsie Davis
1949 - William King
1953 - John Davis
Note : this is not a complete list of licensees for this pub.

Holder's Ales & Stout

Mitchells's and Butler's : Traditional Cask Ales

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Related Newspaper Articles

"Frederick George Walton, publican, Union Inn, Berners Street, was charged with being drunk on the 20th ult. Police-Constable Frank said defendant made a noise in the street for about half an hour. Defendant said there was a benefit concert at his house on the date in question, and when the people went out he went outside to have a smoke and see that they cleared away quietly. The magistrates took defendant's view of the case and dismissed it. Defendant left the Court, but immediately he was brought back, and Police-Constable Frank said defendant had threatened to be a copper on him in future. Police-Constable Jackson said he heard the defendant say when he got outside the Court that if he had the previous witness he would break his bloody jaw. Defendant denied making use of the statement mentioned, but admitted he said the officer deserved his head broken. Mr. A. W. Wills said defendant's conduct was like that of an insane man, and it might be that they would take his conduct into consideration when they came to renew his licence. The Chairman said they would let him go. It was a very improper thing to threaten the police when the magistrates had dealt so leniently with him. He advised him to be more careful in future as it might affect his licence."
"Threatening the Police - An Excitable Publican"
Warwickshire Herald : October 4th 1894 Page 5

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