Some history of the Thatched House Tavern on Duddeston Row in Birmingham in Warwickshire


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For much of the 19th century this public-house traded as the Thatched House Tavern. However, the tavern, located on the corner of Duddeston Row and Fox Street, was formerly known as the Unicorn Inn.

The earliest victualler I have found for this tavern is Jonathan Wainwright. Born in 1773, he married Sarah Francis in May 1793. Four years later he is listed in Pye's directory as a victualler in Jennens Street. The 1801 licence register shows that he and his wife were here at the Unicorn Inn. He remained at the tavern until his death in March 1823 when the licence was transferred to his wife Sarah.

Sarah Wainwright remained as licensee until 1827. Her daughter Emma married John Fellows in August 1838. He went on to become a maltster at the Hockley Brewery whilst living at Villa Street from where Emma worked as a school-mistress. Sarah Wainwright lived with the couple in her retirement years.

Birmingham : Notice for the death of Thomas Jones of the Thatched House Tavern on Duddeston Row [1836]

It was Thomas Jones who changed the inn sign to that of the Thatched House Tavern when he took over the pub in 1832. It is an odd name for an urban house close to the centre of Birmingham. The sign is not unique - there were two notable taverns of this name in London, in particular the one in St. James's Street where many influential figures of the Georgian period met. Perhaps Thomas Jones hoped that his house would be patronised by the movers-and-shakers of Birmingham. Or perhaps the town's impending transport link influenced him. Train services to and from London would commence in 1837, though initially the station was at Vauxhall.

Birmingham : Sales of the Thatched House Tavern on Duddeston Row [1837]

Following the death of Thomas Jones [see above notice], his family decided to put the Thatched House Tavern up for sale. In the advertisement the agent was keen to stress the forthcoming opening of Curzon Street Railway Station which would boost trade for the tavern.

Henry Hewson, victualler at the Red Lion at Deritend, responded to the advertisement and took over the Thatched House Tavern, the licence being transferred to him in 1838. homebrewed ales were sold at the Thatched House Tavern as the victualler's eldest son was a brewer. Allen Hewson, along his wife Sarah, later kept the Stag and Pheasant on Bromsgrove Street.

Birmingham : Sale of the Thatched House Tavern on Duddeston Row [1852]

Henry Hewson died, aged 58, on the first day of February in 1852. A notice in the newspaper reported that his passing was "much regretted by a large circle of friends by whom he was highly esteemed." The Hewson family opted to sell the remaining lease of 17 years. The advertisement for an auction shows that the tavern had developed into a busy public-house and had a number of clubs and societies that brought in additional patronage. As it turned out, Henry Hewson's son continued to run the tavern for another few years. However, William Hewson did not enjoy the same fortunes of his father and he was forced to sell by his creditors [see below notice].

Birmingham : Notice detailing the creditors of William Hewson [1855]

This notice is interesting in that it shows the creditors of William Hewson were those engaged in the licensed trade and likely to have been suppliers of spirits sold in the house, along with malt for brewing on the premises. It would seem that the business unravelled somewhat and, not being bailed out by other members of the family, William Hewson's creditors forced the liquidation of assets. A little over a week later an auction was to be held on the premises whereby there was to be separate sales of the the contents, furniture and brewing plant from the licence, goodwill etc. However, the latter were to be offered first so any prospective bidder could follow-up by retaining the contents. Whether this happened or not is uncertain.

Birmingham : Sale of the contents and furniture of the Thatched House Tavern on Duddeston Row [1855]

After a long period of the house being operated by the Hewson family, the Thatched House Tavern went through an unstable period in which there was a high turnover of licensees.

Birmingham : Housewarming by John Cook at the Thatched House Tavern on Duddeston Row [1858]

John Cook was one of the people who came and went quickly, despite making a splash in November 1858 with a housewarming party and a proclamation that his homebrewed ales could not be surpassed. I imagine that if this was the case he would have lasted longer at the helm of the Thatched House Tavern. On his departure the licence of the pub was transferred to Robert Gibbs at the beginning of March 1860. The new incumbent lasted little over six months before he became insolvent.

Fillongley-born Charles Graynorth held the licence for a very brief spell. The former butcher and potato salesman was once summoned for pelting visitors to the market with rotten vegetables. Not the sort of temperament required for running a busy public-house. The licence of the Thatched House Tavern was transferred from him to Matthew Collinson on January 3rd 1861.

Birmingham : Housewarming by John Cook at the Thatched House Tavern on Duddeston Row [1858]

Matthew Collinson was born in the Hampshire town of Andover in January 1818. He trained as a bootmaker and moved to London where he married Eliza Riley at Hackney in October 1841. Coincidentally, the couple lived in another ecclesiastical district of Saint Bartholomew in the City of London. They had six children living with them when they moved to Birmingham to run the Thatched House Tavern. Part of the advertisement for the sale of the tavern suggested that "the beds realise more than the rent." However, Matthew and Eliza were using many of them to accommodate their family. In the census of 1861 only three people were lodging at the house and one of them was working in the pub.

Matthew and Eliza Collinson enjoyed some extra custom by the house become an intelligence centre for horse racing betting, probably due to its close proximity to the railway station. The results of races were posted here first. Whether any form of illegal betting took place on Duddeston Row is another thing.

Matthew Collinson was something of a dodgy dealer. In May 1863 he was summoned for failing to complete the forms required from the Excise to declare the amount of malt used in brewing. He was lucky to escape with a light sentence as this could have brought his time in the licensed trade to an abrupt halt. Given that he was involved with racing intelligence he is probably the same Matthew Collinson who was later a bookmaker living on the Bristol Road. He was brought up on remand in February 1884, charged with having stolen £84 cash and several articles of jewellery, the property of Mr. Newey, of the Blue Ball Inn, at Wood End in Shenstone, on the 19th September 1876 - yes, 8 years earlier. It was alleged that he had, whilst staying at the Blue Ball Inn for the Lichfield Races, broke into the bedroom, stole the money and articles, and afterwards absconded to America. It was reported that he had received a considerable fortune, and having returned to England, was arrested at a race meeting held at Four Oaks. The publican named Newey was called but he failed to identify the prisoner. Collinson was accordingly discharged. This is either the former licensee of the Thatched House Tavern or his son, also named Matthew. The latter was married in Massachusetts in 1877 when he was recorded as an actor. His sister, daughter of Matthew and Eliza, also died in Massachusetts.

In addition to horse-racing, Matthew Collinson was also involved in the local boxing scene. A number of pugilists trained and sparred under J. Parkinson at the tavern in the 1860s.

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Matthew Collinson issued Tavern Checks at the Thatched House Tavern before his departure in 1865. The licence of the tavern was transferred to John Roe in October 1865. Within a month the former blacksmith had a bit of excitement at the pub when a flue in the brewhouse overheated and started a fire in the stable. Fire engines were called out but the fire was extinguished before they arrived.

Birmingham : Advertisement/Notice placed by Lois Roe of the Thatched House Tavern on Duddeston Row [1867]

John Roe, along with his wife Lois, hailed from the Gloucestershire town of Dursley. The couple married in their hometown in 1841 and later settled in Gloucester where he plied his trade as a blacksmith. They moved north by 1861 where they were recorded in Great Francis Street. After a couple of years running the Thatched House Tavern the former blacksmith died in May 1867. The licence of the tavern was transferred to his wife Lois in the following sessions held in October. However, she was only the licensee for a matter of months and the licence was again transferred in December 1867 to Thomas Raynes.

Thomas Raynes was another publican to be gone in a matter of months, the licence being transferred to Thomas Wallis in May 1868. This ushered in a much-needed period of stability at the Thatched House Tavern. Thomas Wallis would remain for over two decades as host of this hostelry on Duddeston Row.

Born in Birmingham in 1818, Thomas Wallis had formerly worked as a silversmith. However, his wife Ann hailed from Whitby in Yorkshire. After living in Hockley, the couple moved north to Sheffield where they ran a grocery store and beer shop for a period before returning to Birmingham. Helped by their daughter Mary Ann, they ran a busy tavern and lodging house. In the census of 1871 the family had seven lodgers living on the premises, six of whom were masons so I imagine that they were working on a large building project. The were probably more honest and industrious guests than the bunch of thieves living at the tavern in 1870. Michael Lawley, Robert Dogherty, Godfrey Hurst and Emma Harris were all arrested whilst lodging at the Thatched House Tavern. The quartet were known for visiting Birmingham at holiday times and pick-pocketing amid the crowds. Robert Dogherty, in particular, had a police record as long as Lionel Street.

"Card-sharpers by Candlelight" by Feliks Pȩczarski [1845 Courtesy of the National Museum in Warsaw]

The Thatched House Tavern was at the centre of a elaborate scam in February 1869. The perpetrators were Edward Gee, a 55 year-old porter living in Lionel Street, George Simpson, a 28 year-old hawker of Great Hampton Row, Francis Fox, a 23 year-old slater residing in Moseley Street, and Frederick Cox of Thorp Street. The four men were charged with conspiring together and defrauding John Archibald Heastie, a railway clerk, living at Lodge Road, by means of card-sharping.

The scam started at the Red Lion on the High Street where the four men scoped the joint hoping to lure a gullible sap into their web of deceit. They were stood around the servery of pub kept by John Clements when Edward Gee spotted a potential sap. He separated from the others and engaged in conversation with John Heastie, remarking upon the good qualities of the pipe he was smoking at the time. As the conversation continued Edward Gee learned a little more about his prey. John Heastie, relaxed and in a good mood, intimated that he was not a native of Birmingham, but originated from Wolverhampton, upon which Gee replied that he himself had come from the same neighbourhood, having been born at Willenhall. Mutual congratulations on the happiness of meeting each other so unexpectedly having been freely indulged in, Francis Fox invited John Heastie to join him for a drink or two at the Thatched House Tavern. Eager to continue his new-found friendship away from his hometown, John Heastie agreed and the two men made their way to Duddeston Row.

The other men, on entering the second phase of their sting operation, took a different route to the Thatched House Tavern. Consequently, when John Heastie, along with Fox, entered the smoke-room of the Thatched House Tavern, he was surprised to see the other three whom he had so lately seen in the Red Lion. They were standing around a bagatelle table in Thomas Wallis's tavern. Soon after they had entered the room, Fox took a meerschaum cigar holder from his pocket, and asked if anyone would buy it. Gee offered a price for it, but Fox said, "No, we won't have it that way," and thereupon pulled out three cards, one of them being a "king," and a little sham betting took place between Gee and Fox, the former remarking that he was anxious to win the cigar holder, as he wanted to give it to "this young gentleman," pointing at the same time to John Heastie. The cigar-holder, however, was not won, and of course the presentation not made. Ultimately the cards were shown by Fox to Gee, then put upon the table and to bet a shilling that Gee could not point out the king. The bet was made and of course Gee won.

Following this little charade, the playing cards were then held up to the company, and after having been subjected to a little further manipulation, the same challenge was thrown out, which was eagerly accepted by John Heastie, who of course lost. Edward Gee then said he would "go in for 4 shilling," which he did, and was again successful. George Simpson then bet 8 shillings that he could name the king, and won the bet. These series of "successes proved" proved too great a temptation for John Heastie, and the cards having been put through the usual ordeal, he bet five other shillings, all of which he lost. He gradually lost confidence in his friend Edward Gee, and after mature deliberation came to the conclusion that he was in the company of a pack of card-sharpers. Having satisfied himself upon this point, he proceeded to the police station, where he unfolded his tale to Superintendent Sheppard, who sent Police-Constables Cooper and Harvey [in plain clothes] in search of the sharpers, and in a short lime Gee, Fox, and Simpson were in the safe-keeping of the vigilant officers. Having taken their three prisoners to the police station, they set out in search of the other delinquent, with whom they returned to the police station in a remarkably short space of time. Gee and Simpson, who had been previously convicted, were sent to prison for three months, at hard labour, and Fox and Cox to two months each.

After his experience at the Thatched House Tavern John Heastie made a career change and headed to Yorkshire to become a master of the workhouse at Crosland Moor near Huddersfield, before his appointment as governor of the Sheffield Union Workhouse.

Continual incidents in and around the Thatched House Tavern during the mid-Victorian period does created the impression that it was a fairly dangerous locale in which to venture. Buttoned-up pockets and a stab vest seem to be a prerequisite for those wanting a beer on Duddeston Row, maybe even a snub-nose revolver strapped to the ankle in case of emergency! Thomas Wallis, during his long stint at the house, seemingly made it a more respectable house as the pub was mentioned less frequently during his tenure. The pub also became a venue for political agitation and, in particular, a platform for meetings of early trade unionism. Miners from the Black Country came to the Thatched House Tavern to pledge their adherence to the Birmingham agreement and fight against a reduction in wages. Stonemasons also met here to discuss wages in the Building Trades Dispute of the late 1880s.

A widower since 1882, Thomas Wallis hung up his apron in 1890 and went to live with his daughter Caroline in Princes Street. She had been born in Sheffield when the publican and his wife kept the grocery store and beer shop. In his retirement years he had three young grandchildren running around his knees. The licence of the Thatched House Tavern was transferred to William Leat. This may have marked the pub's ownership by a larger brewery as William Leat was recorded as a brewer's cellar man in the census conducted during the following year. He was licensee for a short period in 1890 before the licence was transferred early in December to John Horne. William Leat later kept the Liverpool Tavern down the road at Curzon Street before moving to the Bull's Head on Pritchett Street, a pub operated by Rushton's Brewery Limited.

John Horne was licensee for just 10 months but he was there when the cenus enumerator called in 1891 and the entry shows that he was a percussioner in the gun trade. He lived on the premises with his Wolverhampton-born wife Jane.

Edward and Elizabeth Cashmore had a short spell at the Thatched House Tavern. The couple had previously kept the White Swan Tavern on Church Street.

In the late 1890s the Thatched House Tavern was kept by Charles Gregory, a publican who had moved from the Colmore Arms on Grosvenor Street West.

Birmingham : Advertisement Notice by James Farrell of the Thatched House Tavern on Duddeston Row [1899]

This advertisement by James Farrell shows that the Thatched House Tavern was selling beers from the nearby firm of Holder's Brewery Ltd. A rate book of 1901 shoes them as the leaseholders so I imagine they had been operating the house since the early 1890s.

Birmingham : Advertisement by John Willard of the Thatched House Tavern on Duddeston Row [1901]

The aforementioned rate book also shows that John Willard was the proprietor of the Thatched House Tavern. As licensee of the neighbouring Golden Horse, he appointed Robert "Bob" Pettigrew as manager. The above advertisement reveals that he had previously run the Bricklayers' Arms on Cheapside. John Willard also owned the properties between the Thatched House Tavern and the Golden Horse.

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Irish-born Robert Pettigrew had been running licensed houses for a number of years before managing the Thatched House Tavern for John Willard. In the early 1890s he kept the Britannia Stores on Parade. However, after his spell at Duddeston Row, he and his wife Lillian went into retailing of another kind by running a shop on Sheep Street.

In the mid-Edwardian period the stars aligned in the wrong fashion and it was bad news for the Thatched House Tavern. We will never know if the house would have survived as a tavern had John Willard been around to fight his corner. The publican died in November 1905. He was an influential figure in the trade as he held the post of Secretary of the Birmingham and District Beer, Spirit and Wine Trade Association. The problem was that the Justices had already listed this house as one to be closed on the grounds of redundancy. In 1904 the Conservative government had passed an act in which licensing compensation authorities were established, enabling justices to decide whether or not a liquor licence should be renewed and ordered payment of compensation in cases of non-renewal. Both the Thatched House Tavern and the Carriers's Arms across the road were closed at 23.00hrs on the same day, June 22nd, 1906. The compensation awarded was £1,845, divided up as follows: freeholder £58, leaseholder £1,612, and licensee £175. A ratebook compiled at the time of closure shows that the property had been taken over by Showell's Brewery. George Smith had succeeded John Willard as licensee of both pubs and remained at the Golden Horse. And so, it was the end of the road for the Thatched House Tavern, though not for the building itself.

Licensees of the Unicorn Inn
and Thatched House Tavern

1801 - 1823 Jonathan Wainwright
1823 - 1827 Sarah Wainwright
1827 - 1831 John Willetts
1831 - 1832 William Preston
1832 - 1836 Thomas Jones
1836 - 1838 William Jones
1838 - 1852 Henry Hewson
1852 - 1856 William Hewson
1856 - 1857 Sarah Williams
1857 - 1859 William Gibbs
1858 - 1860 John Cook
1860 - 1860 Robert Gibbs
1860 - 1861 Charles Graynorth
1861 - 1865 Matthew Collinson
1865 - 1867 John Roe
1867 - 1867 Louis Roe
1867 - 1868 Thomas Raynes
1868 - 1890 Thomas Wallis
1890 - 1890 William Thomas Leat
1890 - 1891 John Horne
1891 - 1893 A. Rutter
1893 - 1894 William H. Howell
1894 - 1895 Edward William Cashmore
1895 - 1896 John Banks
1896 - 1899 Charles John Gregory
1899 - 1899 Edwin Redfern
1899 - 1900 James Farrell
1900 - 1904 John Willard
1904 - 1906 George Smith
Note : this is not a complete list of licensees for this pub.

An early use of the unlicensed premises was a pawnbroker's shop run by Beatrice Evans. She had moved a few doors as she had previously occupied the property next to the Golden Horse.

Birmingham : Former Thatched House Tavern as a Men's Hostel on Duddeston Row [c.1949]

By the end of the Edwardian period the property had become a lodging house run by Robert Burden. He was still listed at the premises during the Second World War. The lodging house was a stepping stone for many Italian immigrants, the locality having become known as the Italian Quarter.

Birmingham : Former Thatched House Tavern as a Rosa's Café on Duddeston Row [2008]

In more recent times the building was home to Rosa's Café. In th 1960s the proprietor of this business had a fleet of carts in the back yard which were used to sell hot dogs and baked potatoes on the streets of Birmingham. To encourage those operating the carts to maximise income, sales were divided fairly evenly so that the sales person could earn as much as they were prepared to put into it.

I took the photograph of Rosa's Café in January 2008. The building was demolished during the following year.

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Holder's Ales & Stout

Related Newspaper Articles

"William Powers, a boiler-maker, living at Smethwick, who appeared in the dock with his head and face bandaged, was charged with stabbing Edmund Kemp, a gold-beater, living in Park Street, early on the morning of Saturday last. The prosecutor was at the Thatched House Tavern, in Duddeston Row, about one o'clock on the morning named; the prisoner was also in the house; and after a few remarks, to which the prosecutor did not reply, challenged him to fight. Nothing further took place in the house, and the two men shortly afterwards left. Several persons were with them, and the prisoner was a few yards in advance. Prosecutor called him back again, and made some allusion to the challenge given in the house. The prisoner immediately drew a knife, rushed at Kemp, and made several desperate stabs at him. Two of the stabs inflicted severe wounds, one in the neck and another on the nose. Prosecutor's coat, waistcoat, and neckerchief were also cut through. A struggle took place, and Kemp got the prisoner down, and kicked him about the head. Police-Constable Bird [200], came up at the moment, and not knowing what had occurred, drew his staff and struck Kemp twice with it, in order to make him desist from beating the prisoner. Kemp soon afterwards fainted. A girl, names Mary Arm Bowler, saw the prisoner with the knife in his hand, and also distinctly saw him stab the prosecutor, After the struggle was over, she picked up a pocket-knife near where the prisoner had lain on the ground. It was covered with blood. Both Prosecutor and prisoner were so much injured that they had to be removed to the General Hospital, where their wounds were dressed. Prisoner said that he was going quietly home, until the prosecutor called him back and insulted him. What he did afterwards was in self-defence. He was committed for trial at the Assizes."
"Brutal Case of Stabbing"
Birmingham Daily Post : July 20th 1858 Page 2

"A man named William Healey, a pearl cutter, residing in Hospital Street, was charged with having stolen a watch from the Thatched House Tavern, Duddeston Row, the property of Mr. Matthew Collinson, the landlord. From the evidence of the wife of the prosecutor, it appeared that at about ten o'clock on the previous evening the prisoner and his wife entered the bar parlour, and had a glass of ale, and also requested to be accommodated with a bed for the night. The application was granted, and they retired to rest at about twelve o'clock. Almost immediately afterwards, Mrs. Collinson missed her watch, which she had some time previously placed on the mantlepiece in the bar parlour. Having enquired of her children and other persons in the house whether they had seen or removed the article with no satisfactory result, she called in Police-Constable Veasey [172], and went up to the prisoner's bedroom. She knocked at Healey's bedroom door, and the prisoner's wife called out, "Come in, I'm not afraid." "Afraid of what?" said Mrs. Collinson; upon which the prisoner's wife shook her husband, and on awaking him, said, "Bill, have you done anything wrong?" The witness said that she had lost her watch, and asked him if he had got it, Prisoner then said, "Oh, it's all right; it's in my pocket." Having found the watch, in the trousers pocket of the prisoner, Mrs. Collinson asked him what he had taken her watch for, and he replied, "What business have you to leave your watch about," and began to abuse her. The witness then gave the prisoner into the custody of the police-constable [Veasey], to whom ho said, "I didn't mean to steal the watch; I only took it to take care of." Prisoner was committed to the Sessions for trial."
"A Thief's Justification for Stealing a Watch"
Birmingham Daily Post : October 14th 1863 Page 2

William Healey was found guilty and sentenced to two months' imprisonment with hard labour.

"Thomas Jones, alias Martin, Barford Street, chandelier dipper, and John Cosgrove, Buck Street, hawker, were charged with violently assaulting and stealing a silver watch, value £2., from William Timbrell about half-past one o'clock on Saturday morning. The prosecutor said he was a blacksmith, and resided at 2 Court, Saltley Street. On Friday night he had been to the Thatched House Tavern and had something to drink. On leaving three men came to him and knocked him down. One of his assailants took his watch from his pocket. One of the men kicked him. He believed Cosgrove was one of the men who attacked him. In cross-examination Mr. Powell, who appeared for the prisoner Cosgrove, the prosecutor said he was going towards the burial-ground when he was knocked down. He had had something to drink. John Richardson, residing at 48 Duddeston Row, said, on Saturday morning, about one o'clock, he was going to bed, when he heard someone cry out in the street. He went to the window, and saw the elder prisoner Cosgrove standing over prosecutor, holding him down by the throat. There were two other men, and witness saw one take the prosecutor's watch. Witness called out, "Don't murder the man in the street." The three men then ran down an opening into a yard. Witness partly dressed himself and went down into the street, and found prosecutor lying on the ground with blood flowing from his mouth and nostrils. The prosecutor had been ill-used, and could not stand without assistance. The policeman shortly after came up, and witness left the prosecutor in the care of the officer. On going upstairs witness again looked through the window, and saw the prisoner Cosgrove in the street, and another man came out of the opening with a young woman. The latter went up the street, and the other man tried get Cosgrove away. In reply to Mr. Powell, the witness said that the robbery took place within twelve or thirteen yards of his window, and there was a lamp nearly opposite. Police-Constable 190, H. Rowe, said he was on duty at a quarter-past one Sunday morning, at the corner of New Canal Street, and heard a noise in Duddeston Row, and saw the prosecutor standing on the pavement. He said, "I have been robbed of my watch," and a woman who was standing by said, "They have gone down the yard." Witness went down the entry below, and, having searched the yard, came up the gateway, when he found Martin lying on the ground. There were two hats on the ground by the side of the prisoner, and there were two pools of blood. Prosecutor came up, and witness asked him, "Whose hats are these?" Prosecutor replied, "This is my hat," and then, pointing to Martin, said the latter had robbed him. Witness took the latter the station. Cosgrove was apprehended at a quarter to eleven on Sunday night, at the Fox Inn, Fox Street. On the way to the station Cosgrove said he was in Duddeston Row on the morning of the robbery, but was drunk. On the application of Detective-Inspector Kelly, the prisoners were remanded till Thursday."
"Highway Robbery"
Aris's Birmingham Gazette : September 8th 1866 Page 7

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