Some history of the Crown Inn on Broad Street in Birmingham in the County of Warwickshire


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It is believed that the Crown Inn dates from 1781, and that the earliest publican was Joseph Chattin or Chatwin. Certainly, following his death his wife Mary became the landlady. Following her death the leasehold of the premises was offered at auction, the property being described as "new-built." The name of Chattin was featured in the notice for the auction.....

Birmingham : Notice of an auction for the lease of the Crown Inn on Broad Street [1789]

Despite this advert featuring the surname of Chattin, a notice to creditors, following the death of the landlady, printed Chatwin rather than Chattin. I suspect that she was indeed Chatwin. It would appear that her husband died in December 1784.

In its early days, the Crown Inn was listed at King Edward's Place rather than Broad Street, though it was listed in the latter at No.7 by the 1820s. It would become No.26 and, later, No.36. I only mention this detail in case somebody is trying to look up the place in early records. Notice that the location was described as "an open, airy situation, within five minutes walk of the town."

Development of this area, known as Islington, commenced following an Act of Parliament of 1773. The home and works of the printer, John Baskerville, stimulated some early development at Easy Hill, and along what was formerly a track leading to Stourbridge and Bewdley. The construction of the Birmingham Canal Navigation and wharf accelerated commercial activity in the locale. An important building to be built close to the canal and fronting Broad Street was the Brass House, work on which was started around the same time that the Crown Inn was being constructed.

Birmingham : Byngas Hall near Broad Street [c.1830];

Pre-dating the Crown Inn by some two decades was Byngas Hall, a house owned by James Farmer. The house was later the home of Charles Lloyd, son of the banker Sampson Lloyd, who married the daughter of James Farmer. The building, set back from Broad Street, and later known as Bingley House, was demolished when the railway tunnel into New Street was constructed. The grounds would later be occupied by the Bingley Hall Exhibition Centre and the Prince of Wales Theatre.

William Taylor may have been the successful bidder for the lease sold at auction in 1789. He certainly occupied the premises by 1793 when, as publican, further auctions were held in the tavern for other properties in King Edward's Place. One piece of land behind the Crown Inn was known as Bell Rope Croft.

William Taylor's wife died in October 1801 but he remained as publican of the Crown Inn until 1818. He died, aged 77, in December 1837 at Harborne Heath. Following his passing, the local newspapers remarked that "he was a truly honest man."

Moving from the Swan on Navigation Street, the jeweller James Bloore succeeded William Taylor in 1818. During his time at King Edward's Place the licence register, on two occasions, listed the premises as the Three Crowns. Many years later, in the census of 1861, the enumerator also recorded the property as the Three Crowns. This may be because the name pervaded as a colloquialism as other records such as directories list it as the Crown Inn. However, these records suggest that the public-house was known as the Three Crowns for a period.

James Bloore had earlier traded as a jeweller in Vauxhall Lane. At the Crown Inn he had operated a Twenty-Five Pounds Club.

Birmingham : Advertisement for the lease of Crown Inn on Broad Street [1830]

James Bloore died in September 1830 and the remaining term of the lease was advertised in the following month. The freehold, along with other adjacent parcels of land, was owned by the Governors of King Edward's Grammar School. Note that the reference to the lower price for the stock of ale is probably on account of post-Napoleonic Wars legislation in which the government reduced the level of excise duties on beer.

It is likely that John Owen succeeded James Bloore as the victualler running the Crown Inn. He was listed as the publican in Wrightson's Triennial Directory of Birmingham published in 1833. This would place him at the Crown Inn during the previous year. In the same directory Robert Owen is listed at the Malt Shovel on Fordrough Street. This was possibly his father, though I cannot say for certain. John Owen's father was named Robert Owen, his mother being Jemima Goodfellow. Certainly, John Owen was relatively young when becoming the licensee of the Crown Inn so perhaps he was helped financially by his father.

Birmingham : The Crown Inn on Broad Street with Horse Carts and Trough [1837]

The Crown Inn was the venue for many large dinners during the 1830s, gatherings that must have been carried off successfully by John and Mary Ann Owen. The Crown Inn also hosted meetings of the Burgesses of Ladywood Ward on many occasions. John Owen's name can be seen on the building in the above image dated 1837. The print was from a souvenir issued to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria. The horse and cart outside the front door had come from Cradley Heath.

The reputation of the hostelry took a dent in 1840 when John Owen was hauled before the magistrates for "permitting disorderly persons to assemble, and continue in his house." Police-Constable Timothy Morris deposed that he was called into the Crown Inn on November 7th, 1840, by a servant wanting a disturbance to be quelled. The policeman witnessed a general fight in the house. He told the Bench that at least ten men were fighting with one another and that they were "knocking one another about in a dreadful manner." Major Shaw turned up moments later, stating that he had never seen anything like it, apart from Donnybrook fair. He remarked that the men "were worrying each other like bulldogs." It took the police ten minutes to clear the house. John Owen was present throughout and attempting to get some of the men out of the door and, as a result, no charge could be proved that he permitted drunkenness in the Crown Inn. He was warned about the future management of the house but cleared of any charges.

John Owen was born in Birmingham. His wife, Mary Ann Gannon, was a similar age and hailed from Walsall. The couple married at Tipton in June 1831. Ten years later, the census of 1841 shows that they had seven children living at the Crown Inn. They would have two more children by the time of the 1851 census. The couple hired three servants to help keep the place ticking over.

The Owen clan were involved in a number of public-houses around Birmingham. John Owen's son, also named John, became a maltster and hop merchant, with premises nearby at 21 Brasshouse Passage. It is possible that he was sourcing and processing the ingredients for beers being brewed and sold at the Crown Inn.

During the 1860s John Owen took more of a back seat whilst son, George, took over day-to-day management of the Crown Inn. His brother, John Owen Jr., continued as maltster. Their father would retire to a residence on Beaufort Road at Edgbaston. He was recorded as a gentleman on the marriage certificate of George Owen who was described as a licensed victualler. This was on December 8th, 1863, the marriage taking place at Solihull. George's bride was 19 year-old Eliza Ewing, daughter of the Scottish gas works manager Alexander Ewing. This is where parts of a jigsaw come together at the Crown Inn. Alexander Ewing had another daughter who had moved south to live in the Birmingham area. Born in Dumbarton in August 1840, Mary Jane Ewing, was living at Aston with her cousin, the soda water manufacturer, Samuel Goffe at the time of the 1861 census. Following the marriage of her sister to George Owen, she would have spent time at the Crown Inn where she encountered a certain William Butler, a man who would play a vital role in the history of the establishment.

Birmingham : William Butler of the Crown Inn and Brewery on Broad Street

Eliza Owen died at Harborne Hill on August 11th 1877 buried at Key Hill Cemetery


Mitchells's and Butler's

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Birmingham : The Crown Inn on Broad Street [c.1902]

Birmingham : The Crown Inn on Broad Street [c.1928]

Note : Ernest Glenn had previously kept the Bell Inn on Lozells Road.

Note : The Guise's later managed the King's Head at Wellesbourne and the Hen and Chickens at Langley near Oldbury.

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Genealogy Connections

"On the fifth of May 1950 we upped sticks from The Wheatsheaf and moved to the Crown Inn on Broad Street about half a mile away."

Birmingham : The Crown Inn and former brewery on Broad Street [c.1950]

"At the time of our move I was coming up to seven years-old. Here was home until late 1953. The following memories are roughly from the age of seven until past my tenth birthday, in no particularly age order. My bedroom was on the 2nd floor [top] somewhere to the right, could have been at the rear. We had a living room on the second floor, where the last two windows are, below is the private entrance, not the usual hall furniture for us, we had a potato cleaner, a big noisy thing that had a spinning wavy plate with abrasive surfaces on the plate and side walls. It must have been plumbed into the water and waste water pipe. If you put in a large potato and left it, voila, you had a small gleaming spud."

The dark area to the right of the private entrance had large doors to enable the delivery of beer to the cellars below. The entire top floor was used as the manager's private accommodation, save for a stock room that was situated under the clock tower. In my time at the pub there was neon lighting around the clock tower. Rooms to the left elevation, which overlooked the main Broad Street, were unused staff accommodation. The end two rooms were used by my father as store rooms, a lock on the end room ensured that I never gained entry, however there was no lock on the other, just a general ban from going inside. Rummaging through the boxes in the one available room was great fun and I came across some stamp albums, mainly of Indian origin. My father had spent the last couple of the War years stationed in India, so finding lots of interesting things here, I often returned mainly to look at the stamps."

Seen behind and to the right of the clock tower loomed the old brewery, not sure if it was bombed during the war or left to crumble years before, but there appeared to be no entrance not heavily boarded up."

Birmingham : Pip Guise and Cat on the roof of the Crown Inn on Broad Street [c.1951]

"Outside there was a small roof garden, all railed off for safety and access to the very large flat roof. Up here at night you could hear the buzzing of the neon which illuminated most parts. Getting up here was strictly out of bounds but on one occasion I remember my brother John and I making water bombs out of paper, it must have been some grease proof type. We hurled these down onto the pavement below which was great fun. You could also look over the edge and see the people walking along far below. A good time was just before six in the evening. Mom and Dad were downstairs preparing to open and there were lots of men gathered around each door waiting for the pub to open on the dot at six. One day finding a plank from somewhere, I constructed a slide from the big roof down to the small private one. One slide down was all I managed, I ended up with so many large splinters in my backside that I had to be taken to hospital for removal of trousers and said splinters. I remember my dad getting into trouble from the brewery because my brother and I had carved our initials in the soft asphalt of the roof."

Birmingham : Elton Hayes as Allan-a-Dale [c.1952]

"Most Christmases my "Uncle Bish" would come and spend it with us. Not a real uncle, I discovered later, but a good friend of dad's by the name of Elton Hayes who played the lyre in the early Robin Hood films, a throwback from my dad's vaudeville days before the war. Uncle Bish gave me a large toy farm one year, buildings made out of plywood together with many lead farm animals. In the large playroom I set about constructing as big a farm as I could. Moss from the roof was thinly sliced and made perfect-looking hedges, cigarette butts that I had acquired from ashtrays made perfect soil when released from the paper wrapping. A large mirror acted as a duck pond with a few ducks placed on it. I also has some turkeys so on they went as well. The playroom was at the head of the stairs that led down to the entrance of the large function room on the first floor. Knowing that my parents were busy at certain times of the day, I put a notice and an arrow pointing upstairs "To the Farm." Lots of regulars [pub speak for faithful customers] were pleased to come and look at my farm and several gave me the odd coin to buy more animals. Yes, you guessed it, I was caught. Some careless whisper from one customer must have been overheard by my father and I got banned from putting up any more notices. But still, I got the occasional visitor. I suppose this could count as my first business venture."

Birmingham : Pip and John Guise with their mother and Smudge the dog outside the Crown Inn on Broad Street [c.1952]

"This picture shows my brother John and I with our Mom and Smudge the dog at an early age. Before Smudge we had an Alsatian but he jumped through the window of the car one day and was never seen again. About a year after we had Smudge a small brown dog was found hiding in the bar. As her owner never came forward, we now had two dogs, this one we called Bambi. But I must confess to preferring big dogs. She wasn't the fun to play with that Smudge was, possibly mistreated before we had her."
Pip Guise

Many thanks for sending these wonderful memories of the Crown Inn, along with the accompanying photographs - a most precious first-hand record of the pub in days of old. I love the farm story!

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Licensees of the Crown Inn

1781 - 1784 Joseph Chatwin
1784 - 1789 Ann Chatwin
1793 - 1818 William Taylor
1818 - 1830 James Bloore
1833 - John Owen

1949 - 1953 Charles Arthur Guise
1953 - 1955 John Randolph Pollard
1955 - 1964 Ronald Trevor Wagstaff
1964 - 1964 William Freeman
1964 - 1979 John Frederick Peake
1979 - 1988 James Anthony Hainey
1988 - 1989 Gerald Henry Truman
1989 - 1990 Robert Keith Harrod
1990 - 1991 Anthony Francis Washington
1991 - 1992 Andrew Vaughan Smith
1992 - 1993 Timothy Robert Johnson
1993 - 1996 Mark Dennis Barker
1996 - 1998 Nigel Robert Clarke
1998 - 1999 Michael John Mann
1999 - 2001 Christopher James Hall
2001 - 2001 Robert Jones
2001 - 2002 Aimi Leanne Whotton
2002 - 2004 Simon Martyn Brodie
2004 - Geoffrey Bernard Bramley
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 1949 to 2004 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.

Related Newspaper Articles

"Three inquests were held yesterday evening, between seven and eight o'clock, before J. W. Whateley, Esq., at the Crown, in Broad Street. The first was upon the body of a man named Joseph Richardson. Edward Priest, a nailor, of Harborne, was the only witness examined, and he stated that the day before he went to the nail manufactory of Charles Robinson, in Broad Street, with a quantity nails, and when they were weighed in, he asked the deceased for some nail rods. He told him he would give him some, and they both went into the warehouse. The deceased removed a great many bundles of iron, and at last handed him one, which he said would answer. He looked at it, and said it would not suit him, upon which the deceased went again to the heap, when it unfortunately fell against him, and crushed him against the bundles he had removed. Assistance was procured as soon possible, but before he could be extricated he was dead. Verdict - "Accidental death;" the coroner observing, on the suggestion of one of the jurors, that it appeared to to him there ought to have been props divisions against the wall, which would have prevented the accident. Mr. Grey, who represented Mr. Robinson, said he would make known the coroner's observations, and had no doubt means would be adopted to prevent a recurrence of such accidents in the establishment. The deceased has left a wife and four children. The second inquest was on the body a female infant child, five days-old, who died of a convulsion fit. Verdict - "Died by the visitation of God." The third inquiry was touching the death of a boy named Matthew Fenton, whose death was occasioned by burning. The child was playing at the fire in his parent's kitchen, in London Prentice Street, on Saturday last, when his clothes caught fire, and he was so dreadfully burned that died of the injury. Verdict - "Accidental death."
"Coroner's Inquests"
Birmingham Journal : February 9th 1839 Page 4

"On Tuesday last an Irish lad, about eleven years of age, names John McDermott, residing with his parents in Allison Street met with his death through his own imprudence in a most dreadful manner. He was employed by Mr. Deeley, heel tip manufacturer, Brasshouse Passage, to cut the iron in lengths before being bent into shape, and on the day in question the band of the pulley at which he was at work having broken, it was repaired and the lad was told by Mr. Deeley to wait until the mill stopped to put the band on again. McDermott, however, although he had been chastised by his master the previous week for meddling with the band, and had been repeatedly cautioned against doing so, would not wait for the mill to stop, but fetching a small ladder he mounted it with the band, to place the latter on the pulley which was six feet from the ground when the band became entangled, and catching the poor lad's hand between it and the pulley gradually drew him into the machinery. At each successive revolution of the wheel the poor lad was crushed against a large beam, so that in a few seconds nearly every bone in his body was broken, and he was dreadfully mutilated. His death must have been instantaneous. Mr. Sanders, surgeon, was immediately in attendance, but of course nothing could be done. An inquest was held on the body on Wednesday, at the Crown Inn, Broad Street, when the Jury having heard the above facts, returned a verdict of "Accidental Death."
"Frightful Death Of A Lad"
Birmingham Journal : February 17th 1849 Page 4

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