Some history of the Stag & Pheasant
The Stag & Pheasant can be seen here in the livery of the Holt Brewery Company. The Aston-based brewery were probably responsible for the ground-floor façade of wood and glass. The upper floors were subsequently held up by cast-iron supports behind the faux pilasters. The old structure was simple in style and typical of functional three-storey buildings erected in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
This plan from 1808 may be rather worn and stained but it provides us with a glimpse of this locale during the reign of King George III. What is immediately apparent is that the corner site was one of the first parcels of land to be developed with a structure fronting the northern side of Bromsgrove Street. The Dolphin Inn had already been erected on the corner of Hurst Street. The brass and iron foundry of Mason, Lawley & Jones had also been built. As you can see here, closer to the corner of Pershore Street, there was a property belonging to somebody called Earl. There are two entries for John Earl in Bromsgrove Street within the 1815 Wrightson's Triennial Directory of Birmingham. The first entry is for a jeweller and button maker, the second for a saddle tree maker. Whether these two business activities were based at the same premises is not clear. Due to the low number of properties in Bromsgrove Street at this time there is no numbering.
Built on land belonging to the Gooch estate, the corner site was leased to Thomas Welch, a currier and pattern tie maker. He probably sourced his hides that had been processed at the tan yards around Digbeth before applying his skills in burnishing to sell on to saddlers, cordwainers or those specialising in the glove trade.
The 1808 Plan shows that Pershore Street petered out to the north of the road junction. Flowing from the overspill of the moat near Saint Martin's Church, Dirty Brook and Pudding Brook flowed past the site of Stag and Pheasant. One of the water channels seems to have fed the oyster beds on the Kendall-owned land.
There was a change-of-use of the corner premises at the beginning of the 1830s. The first reference I have seen for the Stag and Pheasant is dated October 1831 when Lewis Williams was charged with robbing the garden of the public-house. However, the publican, Samuel Davis, did not wish to prosecute the man so the case was dropped. I suspect that this was the same Samuel Davis who kept the Fortune of War in Phillip Street for much of the 1820s.
Following the death of Samuel Davis, the licence of the Stag and Pheasant was transferred to his wife Jane. However, following the marriage of daughter Sarah to the brewer Allen Hewson in 1844 the licence passed to him. Allen Hewson was the eldest son of Henry Hewson who kept the Thatched House Tavern on Duddeston Row. A newspaper article suggests that Allen and Sarah Hewson strived to keep an orderly house during the 1840s.
Tragedy struck the house in 1850 when 36 year-old Allen Hewson passed away on Christmas Eve. A short article in Aris's Birmingham Gazette stated that "after a long illness, which he bore with Christian fortitude," he was "beloved by all who knew him." Within a few months, in February 1851, widow Sarah Allen also lost her three year-old daughter Helena. In September of the same year Sarah herself passed away after a long and severe illness. She was also only 36 years of age.
It would appear that, following the deaths of the Hewson's, the Stag and Pheasant was linked to the Sydenham Palace in Edgbaston Street through a partnership between James Nutt and John Painter. The former held the licence of the Stag and Pheasant for a couple of years but was in residence at the Sydenham Palace when the partnership was dissolved in January 1859. By this time William Freeman held the licence, perhaps as manager rather than tenant.
By 1860 George and Jane Hemming were running the Stag and Pheasant. Born in 1831 at Bradley Green in Worcestershire, George Hemming was working as a gold and silver smith after his parents relocated to Birmingham. He and his wife enjoyed a successful spell at Bromsgrove Street where he made many friends, particularly within the local Liberal party. In the summer of 1869 the publican acquired the Bristol Street Brewery of Edward Devis. In January of the following year the Borough Analyst's Laboratory tested the beers produced at George Hemming's brewery and their appearance was graded as "bright and sparkling," their odour "aromatic," and their taste "very agreeable, with a bitter of a transient character." Doing very well for themselves, George and Jane Hemming took up residence at Southdale Lodge and employed ten people at the brewery.
George Hemming was succeeded by Thomas Dicken as licensee of the Stag and Pheasant. Born in Bedworth in Warwickshire in 1829, he came to Birmingham and worked as a railway porter whilst living with his wife Ellen in Skinner Street. In May 1860 he took over licence of the Newhall Hill Tavern on George Street.
This is a good place to slot in an extract from a Gooch Estate Plan dated 1875 which shows the locations of the Stag and Pheasant and Malt Shovel on Bromsgrove Street. The colour coding on the plan shows plots of land that were sold to individuals on long leases. The first customer would then develop the plot in order to maximise the return on their investment. Accordingly, they would pay rent for the plot and then collect rents from businesses and households that occupied the buildings erected within their boundary. This is one of the reasons why buildings were crammed together - some developers simply focused on maximising rents rather than the social conditions that would be endured by the occupants.
The reason for including the plan at this point is because the whole corner plot [coloured in yellow] was sold at auction in April 1873 whilst Thomas Dicken was the licensee of the public-house. Sometimes this type of sale would result in the original plot being broken up because rather than selling as a whole, individual buildings were sold to the highest bidder. However, in this case, the plot was to be sold as one lot.
The sale notice stated that the "Stag and Pheasant Tavern and Liquor Vault, with Brewhouse, Yard, and Premises, being No.96, and the house adjoining being No.95, in Pershore Street" was the jewel of the plot. Thomas Dicken would remain by paying an annual rent of £70. However, the sale notice stressed that the publican had only 18 months remaining on his lease and the buyer could then take possession for themselves.
The plot also included "capital front houses, Nos.94, 93, 92 and 91 in Pershore Street, let to Messrs. Taylor, Burke, Roberts and Hannon, at very low rents, and which are well adapted and ripe for conversion into good retail shops," another way of saying the buyer could turn out the occupants and install a trader that would produce more rent. The lot also included No.34, a shop fronting Bromsgrove Street and occupied by Edward Baker, fruiterer, at a rent of £23. This shop can be seen in the 1924 photograph at the start of this article. The lot also included "shopping to the rear, let to Mr. John Sedgwick and Messrs. Timmins and Son, at a rent of £19.10s., along with the ground rent of £9.1s.5d. most amply secured by the houses Nos.90, 89, 88, and 87, Pershore Street." In total the parcel of land measured 932 square yards and brought in £176.3s.5d. per annum.
The sale notice went on to say that the Stag and Pheasant "occupies a most commanding position at the corner and junction of important central thoroughfares, in near proximity to the markets; and the premises are well-adapted for conversion into a first-rate Retail Wine and Spirit Establishment or into a Brewer's House." The lot was leasehold "for a term having fifty-one years unexpired at Ladyday, 1873, at a ground rent of £23.6s."
Following the sale of the parcel of land, Thomas Dicken and his family were not turfed out at the end of his lease but they did move by 1878. He continued to work as a maltster whilst living in Ryland Road and trading from Lee Bank Road.
Thomas Dicken was succeeded by Rodolph Ward as licensee of the Stag and Pheasant. Born in Birmingham in 1851, he was the son of a small factory owner engaged in shoe-making. His father Samuel hailed from Norfolk but his mother Sarah was Scottish - a good example of how Birmingham became a melting pot in Victorian times. The family had moved to business premises in Hurst Street by the early 1860s. Rodolph's elder brother followed in his father's footsteps within the leather trade but Rodolph found employment as an accountant's clerk. After his brief foray within the licensed trade he returned to his former career working for a building society. The above advertisement shows that the inexperienced Rodolph Ward was in need of professional help when it came to producing homebrewed ales for the Stag and Pheasant.
Thomas Dicken was back as licensee in the early 1880s. And seems to have gained a 's' to his surname. If I had to hazard a guess it would be that he was working for the Bristol Street Brewery and, following a spell working as a maltster in Ryland Road, returned to the house that was leased by the firm. I must stress however that this is conjecture on my part.
The role of the licensee possibly changed in the late 1880s. A newspaper article from June 1887 reported on William Ford whose business had failed at the Stag and Pheasant and a receiving order being made upon him. Former brass founder James White was later recorded as a publican's manager which suggests that the house shifted from being run by a tenant to that of a managed business. James White kept the house with his wife Kate and was assisted by their daughter Rosetta. William Rollins also lived on the premises whilst working as a barman.
Between the failure of William Ford and the installation of James White as manager, the Stag and Pheasant was run by John Ford. A newspaper article from July 1889 reveals that he was not related to the licensee who was arrested in London whilst working as a horse-drawn tram driver.
William Ford started off as a cab driver working for his father before becoming a cab proprietor in 1880. He was relatively successful and managed to accumulate enough capital to buy the Acorn Inn on Friston Street in 1883. He sold this is September 1885 to Mr. Price for £825, of which "£600 was goodwill, and £225 valuation. His wife had the money, and paid it to creditors, with the exception of £130. Meanwhile, Mr. Price brought an action against William Ford for misrepresenting the amount of the takings, and obtained a verdict for £125. and costs. His wife Fanny died the day after the verdict was given, and on searching the money-drawer found only the £130. He took that money, and went away to Hereford for the benefit of his health." He left from the Stag and Pheasant without word and not leaving a forwarding address. However, he maintained that he was not doing a runner. He left Hereford and moved to London where he spent the remainder of his money. Changing his name to William Ratcliff, he found a job as a tram driver before he was eventually arrested.
In 1895 the term "Peaky Blinders" was mentioned in a newspaper article that reported on a disturbance inside the Stag and Pheasant. There are two articles on this incident - what I want to know is ... who turned out 30 Peaky Blinders from the Stag and Pheasant. Did the publican have The Terminator as a bouncer?
The high turnover of licensees contributed to the problems at the Stag and Pheasant. When John and Lucy Bruce took over the place at the end of the Victorian period it marked a period of some stability. They kept the public-house for the Holt Brewery Company. At this time the neighbouring Malt Shovel was a Davenport's house.
The son of a butcher, John Bruce was born in Edinburgh in 1856. He married Lucy Suett at Holy Trinity Church at Bordesley in October 1885. He was already in the licensed trade by this time. Following the death of the publican in April 1908 the brewery did not give Lucy Bruce her customary widow's year, suggesting that she was held in some regard by the company. Helped by her three children, she continued to run the Stag and Pheasant until her death in April 1916.
The Stag and Pheasant, along with the Lord Raglan on Gooch Street, came before the Compensation Authority at the fag end of January 1928. The Justices, dealt with the division of compensation by awarding £3,250 for the Stag and Pheasant and £2,650 for the Lord Raglan. The brewery had sought £6,609 for the Stag and Pheasant so were no doubt disappointed with the final decision. Whatever, it was the end of the road for the public-house. The last licensee of the Stag and Pheasant was Arthur Morris.
The building was converted to new use and by the early 1930s was occupied by Glass, Grove & Co. Ltd., fire grate manufacturers. The premises seem to be serving a similar role in this photograph taken in 1957.
Licensees of this pub
1831 - 1841 Samuel Davis
1841 - 1844 Jane Davis
1844 - 1850 Allen Hewson
1852 - George Webb
1854 - James Nutt
1858 - William Freeman
1860 - George Hemming
1867 - Thomas Dicken
1878 - Rodolph Augustus Ward
1882 - Thomas Dickens
1887 - William Ford
1888 - John Ford
1891 - 1891 James C. White
1891 - 1891 W. Plimmer
1891 - 1892 Thomas Shenton
1892 - 1895 Thomas Peters
1893 - William H. Roberts
1897 - Frederick Probert
1898 - Alfred Wood
1899 - Robert Osmond
1900 - 1908 John Bruce
1908 - 1916 Lucy Bruce
1916 - 1917 William Faulkner
1917 - 1917 Albert Victor Savage
1921 - Mary Marshall Savage
1922 - Arthur James Morris
Note : this is not a complete list of licensees for this pub.
If you have a genealogy story or query regarding the Stag and Pheasant you can contact me and I will post it here in addition to including your message within the website pages for Birmingham Genealogy.
Have Your Say
If you would like to share any further information on this pub - perhaps you drank here in the past? Or maybe knew a previous publican? Whatever the reason it would be great to hear of your stories or gossip. Simply send a message and I will post it here.
Related Newspaper Articles
"On Wednesday afternoon an inquest was held at the Green Man, Dartmouth Street, on the body of a young woman, aged 32, who committed suicide
by drowning herself at the Junction Lock of the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal on the night of the preceding Sunday, under the following circumstances. It appears that for
six months the deceased has been a servant to Mrs. Hewson, of the Stag and Pheasant Inn, Pershore Street, and several times lately had been in the habit going out and
coming home tipsy. This Mrs. Hewson objected to, and cautioned her if the like happened again she should discharge her. On Sunday evening last she went out, and proceeded
to the Junction Inn to see someone there who it was supposed had appointed to meet her. She had one glass of wine and water, and asked the landlady if her
sister-in-law was there. Being answered in the negative she went upstairs, and afterwards came down quite agitated, saying she had seen the person she wanted,
and then precipitately left the house. When she returned home she was quite intoxicated, and her mistress ordered her to leave the house and call again next day. when
she would pay her her wages, etc. A man named Job Stanley, who was at work shortly before eleven o'clock on Sunday night, at Mr. Batson's works, Pritchett Street,
stated that he was in company with a fellow workman named Clarke, and heard some screams proceeding from the Dartmouth Street Bridge, they ran to the spot and found that
a woman was drowning. After a great deal of trouble they succeeded in getting her out, though quite dead. She was taken into the kitchen of the Green Man, and prompt
medical assistance was procured, but to no avail. Shortly after the occurrence took place a man was seen running from the spot; a cry of "murder" was also
heard. The Coroner, in summing up, did not attach any importance to these last facts, and the Jury, after a short deliberation, returned a verdict of "Committed
suicide in a fit of temporary insanity."
Birmingham Journal : October 23rd 1847 Page 5
Related Newspaper Articles
"On Saturday last a Coroner's enquiry took place at the Stag and Pheasant, Bromsgrove Street, upon the body of a girl 13 years of age,
named Mary Smart, whose death occurred under circumstances as follows. The deceased resided in Claybrook Street, and was employed at the manufactory of Mr. Cox, Alcester
Street. On the 4th instant, she was at work as usual, and in a playful humour jumped upon the back of another girl who was working at a press, when her head came in
contact with the press on the adjoining wall, causing concussion of the brain. The unfortunate young creature died on the 18th instant. A verdict of "Accidental
death" was returned."
Birmingham Journal : April 23rd 1856 Page 2
"Patrick Clavey , slater, 7 court, 4 house, Mount Street, was charged with stealing a ladder, value 5s., from the premises of
Mr. Thomas Dickin, licensed victualler, Stag and Pheasant, Pershore Street; and James Nicholson , same trade, 30 court, Summer Lane, was charged with
attempting to rescue Clavey from the custody of complainant. The ladder was hanging in an entry adjoining the house on the previous afternoon, and prosecutor was
looking through his window when he observed Clavey and another man down the entry. Suspecting their intentions, he went out and discovered them in the act of bearing
away the ladder. He instantly closed the door and locked them in, but while he was looking out for a policeman the prisoners got over the top of the door, and walked
away. Prosecutor caught hold of Clavey, when Nicholson came up and attempted to rescue him. Clavey was sent to the Sessions for trial, and Nicholson [his master
giving him a good character] was discharged."
"Stealing a Ladder"
Aris's Birmingham Gazette : November 16th 1867 Page 8
"A Birmingham bankrupt, William Ford, has been arrested and lodged in Winson Green Goal for contempt of court. Ford formerly carried on
business at the Stag and Pheasant Inn, Bromsgrove Street. He got into debt, and an action was brought against him in the High Court, which resulted in judgment being
given for the plaintiff for £125. and £132. costs. This was followed by a bankruptcy notice, which Ford neglected. A receiving order was made against him
by Mr. Registrar Parry in June 1887, and the public examination was fixed for 6th July, 1887. Ford took no notice whatever of the bankruptcy proceedings, but left the
town. As he did not attend the court, the public examination was adjourned. In 1888 another appointment was made for the public examination, but Ford again failed to
attend. On the application of the Official Receiver, a warrant was issued for his apprehension in October last. It was some time before the runaway was found, but
eventually he was discovered driving one of the Atlas Omnibus Company's vehicles in Wandsworth, London. On Monday the high bailiff of the Birmingham County Court
sent an officer to London to fetch the bankrupt, and the officer successfully accomplished his task. He will now be required to furnish accounts. The present proprietor
of the Stag and Pheasant is also named Ford, but his name is John Ford, and he wishes to state that he is in no way implicated by William Ford's transactions."
"Arrest of an Absconding Bankrupt"
Birmingham Daily Post : July 24th 1889 Page 6
"Edwin Harris , iron-brazier, Ryland Street, and Henry Lee , Tyndall Street, brasscaster, were charged with
stealing a watch from the person of Samuel Jukes, a fitter, living at Walsall. On Monday last the prosecutor visited Birmingham, and during the afternoon he went into
the Malt Shovel in Bromsgrove Street, and subsequently visited the Stag and Pheasant, a public-house in the same thoroughfare, where he met the prisoners. When he
left the house he was followed by two men, one of whom caught hold of him, while the other one took his watch. A woman with whom the prosecutor was accompanied said
that when they left the house Harris put his arms round prosecutor and said, "You are not going yet, are you?" at the same time pulling his watch from his
pocket and handing it to Lee, but on being told of it he passed it back to Harris, who walked off with it. Prisoners were subsequently arrested by Detective Goldrick
and Suckling, and when at Moor Street Harris said, "I suppose it will be a remand, as there is no prosecutor. It is no use remanding us to find the watch. It is
miles away from Birmingham now." He told the Stipendiary that he was alone guilty of the offence, and Lee knew nothing about it. They were both sent to the sessions
"Charge of Stealing a Watch"
Birmingham Daily Post : March 17th 1894 Page 6
A follow-up article on this incident reported that Henry Lee was found guilty. Both he and Edwin Harris had been previously convicted. Lee was sentenced to four months' imprisonment, with hard labour. Harris was sent to gaol for nine months, to be followed by a year's police supervision.
"Frederick Onslow , shoemaker, was indicted for stealing a watch and chain from the person of Thomas Williams, a Hopwas farmer,
at the Stag and Pheasant Inn, Bromsgrove Street, on August 1st. Mr. Norris Foster prosecuted. The prosecutor stated that as he was leaving the inn he was hustled by the
prisoner, who snatched his watch from his pocket. This was corroborated by a woman, and there was other evidence which left no doubt as to prisoner's guilt. He was
convicted, and it transpired that he was a ticket-of-leave man, with 274 days of his previous sentence unexpired. He was now sent to gaol for eight months, to
be followed by a year's police supervision."
"Theft From a Person"
Birmingham Daily Post : October 10th 1895 Page 5
"Charles Warner , gold-beater, 22, Edgbaston Street, and Thomas Groves , brass polisher, Hurst Street were
charged with being drunk and disorderly and violently assaulting the police. On Saturday night the prisoners and a gang of rowdies were ejected from the Stag and
Pheasant Inn, at the junction of Bromsgrove and Pershore Streets. Police Constable Bennett arrested Warner, who at once savagely attacked him. One of the roughs
coming to his assistance, Warner got away, but was followed by Police Constable Telfer, and recaptured in an entry in Inge Street. Another desperate encounter ensued,
and Telfer was in danger of being badly handled when Bennett came up. Groves went to the assistance of Warner, and buckled belts were used on the officers' heads
and bodies. Prisoners were eventually arrested. Warner was sentenced to six months, he having a very bad character; and Groves, whose name also appears very
frequently in the police books, was sent to prison for three months' hard labour. Henry Jones, of 2, Lime Lane, Little Green Lane, a witness, was thanked by the
Bench for having come forward and given independent testimony in the case."
"Assaults on the Police"
Birmingham Daily Post : October 29th 1895 Page 7
"James Cuson , labourer, Cheapside, was charged with assaulting Police Constable Bennett while in the execution of his duty.
The assault took place on Saturday night. Bennett and Police Constable Telfer were called to the Stag and Pheasant, at the corner of Pershore and Bromsgrove Streets,
to turn out a gang of between twenty and thirty "peaky blinders," who on getting outside the house created another disturbance. The officers attempted to take
one of them, Warner - who was yesterday sent to prison for six months for assaulting them - into custody, and the gang commenced to kick and beat them. Cuson
kicked Bennett in the stomach and released the prisoner. Cuson got away, but was known and arrested on a warrant. Prisoner, who had been convicted eighteen times, was
sent to prison for six weeks, with hard labour."
"The Bromsgrove Street Disturbance"
Birmingham Daily Post : October 30th 1895 Page 3