History of the Wheatsheaf Inn in Dudley Road at Winson Green in Birmingham in the county of Warwickshire.

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Some history of the Wheatsheaf Inn

The Wheatsheaf was erected on the corner of Icknield Port Road. This road junction became one of the busiest in the area. People passing through the traffic lights in recent times might have wondered that the sign of the Wheatsheaf was a curious one for such a heavily built-up district. Sadly such thoughts will not be raised by the next generation because the building was razed to the ground in 2009.

Site of former Wheatsheaf Inn on the corner of Dudley Road and Icknield Port Road at Winson Green in Birmingham [2010]

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The inn sign was apposite when the pub was erected because the locality was still quite rural. Indeed, just up the road was Heath Farm, an agricultural concern run by John and Mary Ann Fawdry. The tragic story [in newspaper articles] also shows that wheat was still being grown in Winson Green in 1861.

Summerfield House at Birmingham Heath [from William Smith's "A New and Compendious History of the County of Warwick" published in 1830]

Another piece of tranquillity close to the Wheatsheaf Inn was the grounds of Summerfield House. The mansion is thought to have been built in the late 17th century by a Dr. Hinckley who owned tracts of land in Rotton Park. This image of the house appears in William Smith's "A New and Compendious History of the County of Warwick" published in 1830, though the illustration is perhaps a little earlier. When William Smith's tome was published Summerfield House was the seat of James Woolley, once the High Sheriff of Warwickshire. He died in 1835 and the house was later occupied by the glass and chemical manufacturer Robert Lucas Chance. The house was demolished some time after the grounds were converted into a park by the Corporation and a drinking fountain was placed on the site by Mrs. Sargent, daughter of Robert Lucas Chance. Summerfield Cottage still stands within the park grounds. In the mid-19th century this was home to the German engineer William Siemens who no doubt worked with the Chance brothers.

Recognising that a green space was required in what was becoming a heavily built-up district, the house and grounds were acquired by the Corporation in the mid-1870s and opened as a public park. The grounds were once magnificent and featured beautiful gardens, tennis courts and other recreational facilities. Even the brick bandstand was a mini-masterpiece. Sadly, the council seem to spend money on projects seen as more worthy whilst places like Summerfield Park fall into decay.

The Wheatsheaf on the corner of Dudley Road and Icknield Port Road at Winson Green in Birmingham [1960]

I believe that the Wheatsheaf Inn was first licensed in 1859. It was in August of that year that William Gamwell applied for a new licence for his house on Oldbury Road, as this old turnpike between Summerfield and The Cape was once known.

The Wheatsheaf Inn was originally a homebrew house. William Gamwell was recorded as a retail brewer in 1861 and an advertisement dating from 1871 shows the pub's sale of "four good coolers, mash tub, and wrought-iron furnace." Whether new equipment was being installed is not clear, though it is more likely that beers were being brought in from a larger concern.

Birmingham-born William Gamwell kept the Wheatsheaf Inn with his wife Hannah [née Scriven] who was from Handsworth. They had met and fallen in love when working together for James Turner here at Winson Green. The couple established a home in nearby Grove Lane from where Willliam worked as a fitter in an iron foundry. When running the pub the couple had two sons and two daughters living on the premises along with brother-in-law Thomas Hallison who worked as a gunmaker.

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It would seem that William Gamwell badgered the magistrates until they granted a full licence for the Wheatsheaf Inn. In his application of August 1860 his solicitor told The Bench that there was "one spare bedroom, a club room measuring 34ft by 15ft, and stabling for two horses. The rent was £30 and the building was 475 yards from the next licensed house." There was no opposition to his application. William Gamwell did not stop there and appeared again during 1862 in order to obtain a music and dancing licence.

The licence of the Wheatsheaf Inn was transferred from William Gamwell to Thomas Jones on April 3rd 1868. Born in Ledbury in 1827, Thomas Jones had earlier run a greengrocer's shop in Lancaster Street with his Gloucestershire-born wife Mary. They stayed at the Wheatsheaf Inn for more than a decade by which time their daughters Clara and Louisa had grown up and were working as barmaids.

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The passing of Thomas Jones resulted in his wife occupying the house for what appears to be a widow's year before the licence passed to Newsome Thwaite. The Birmingham Licence Register indicates that he held the freehold of the Wheatsheaf Inn. Newsome Thwaite was a man with something of a rags-to-riches story. He was born into a poor Yorkshire household in 1837. Supporting four young children, his mother worked as a charwoman. Newsome was put to work as soon as it was possible and he earned a small income as an errand boy. As a young man he moved to Manchester where he worked as a salesman. He married Margaret, a young woman from Liverpool and moved south to Wolverhampton to work in the pub trade.

In the census of 1871 Newsome Thwaite was recorded as a barman. Between 1876 to 1888 he held the licence of the Plough and Harrow in Worcester Street at Wolverhampton. He installed a manager to run that pub and came to Birmingham to make his fortune. The death of his wife may have influenced his decision to move to another place.

By the early 1870s Newsome Thwaite had moved to run the Turf Inn at Monument Road with his second wife Fanny, a former governess from London. Whether this was Newsome Thwaite's source of capital is open to conjecture but he was later recorded as the licensee of The Wheatsheaf, the Old Windmill further down the road and also the Birmingham Arms where Dudley Road meets Spring Hill. Newsome Thwaite was seemingly playing the board game of Monopoly, but in real life! Was he collecting the pubs on one street in order to plonk little green houses and red hotels on them? He also operated the Old Abbey Inn at Lodge Road and The George at Ladypool Lane.


Plan showing the Wheatsheaf Inn on the corner of Dudley Road and Icknield Port Road at Winson Green in Birmingham [1886]

Newsome Thwaite initiated alterations to the Wheatsheaf Inn as soon as he took over the pub. The plans were drawn up by J. S. Davis in June 1883 but have not survived. I tried to view the plans supposedly held by Birmingham Library but, like many of their early plans, they have vanished! The above street plan was drawn up a few years later and shows the pub on the corner of Icknield Port Road. The smithy is a curiosity as I have not seen a reference to this activity at the Wheatsheaf Inn.

Newsome Thwaite installed managers in his pubs whilst he and his family lived in a large house in Edgbaston whilst holding the licence for the aforementioned Birmingham Arms. In 1891, the census enumerator recorded him as a wine merchant. Seemingly, business was good as the family were later recorded in a large mansion in affluent Norfolk Road. Like the Old Windmill, The Wheatsheaf was sold to Peter Walker & Co. Ltd. This explains why the pub can be seen above in the livery of Atkinson's Brewery as the Aston-based brewery acquired Peter Walker & Co. Ltd. in 1925. The firm was founded in 1860 at the Willow Brewery in Wrexham. However, the extensive brewery at Clarence Street in Shobnall, Burton was opened in 1883. There was another company that brewed at Dallam Lane in Warrington. This business was registered as Peter Walker & Sons, Warrington and Burton Ltd. Peter Walker & Co. Ltd. had an outpost in Tipton which was used to supply a number of public houses in Birmingham, the Black Country and South Staffordshire.

Grave of Newome Thwaite former owner of the Wheatsheaf Inn on Dudley Road at Winson Green in Birmingham

One of Newsome Thwaite's sons had a most interesting life. When Harold Thwaite died in 1957 Mr. Leslie Deakins, secretary of Warwickshire Cricket Club said: "his death marks the passing of the man who more than any other was responsible for the resuscitation of Warwickshire cricket from the doldrums of the 1930s to the championship of 1951 and the restoration of Edgbaston as a Test match centre in 1957." Although living with his publican father in his youth, Harold Thwaite's schooldays were spent at Cheltenham College. He returned to his hometown to study medicine at the University of Birmingham and, following qualification, went into general practice at Hampton-in-Arden were he built up a large county practice. During World War One he became officer in charge of the Hampton Auxiliary Hospital.

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Harold Thwaite's obituary stated that "Following the war he sold his practice and, following a course of study in London, returned to take up consultant work in Birmingham. He was appointed to the staff of the Children's Hospital and became an active member of many medical societies in Birmingham, London, and elsewhere. During this period he became increasingly immersed in business. Family interests constrained him to become a director of Mitchell's and Butler's and of other companies. Although much of his tune was thus diverted from medicine, he still continued in consultant practice and when World War Two broke out he undertook the organisation of the blood transfusion service in the Midlands. In this work his excellent knowledge of medicine combined with his sound business training resulted in one of the best of the early centres being established. Apart from blood transfusion, his chief interest in medicine was in the action of the new drugs which modern research was providing for the treatment of disease. Despite his preoccupation with so many other interests, he kept fully abreast of current British and American literature on these subjects, and could always be counted on for sound opinion on the efficacy of any of the new drugs in a particular case."

Throughout his life, his obituary states, Harold Thwaite "was always deeply interested in sport. As a scholar at Cheltenham, cricket was his first choice, and it remained throughout his life his most absorbing interest. He became more and more closely identified with county cricket in Warwickshire. After joining the club in 1909 he was a frequent spectator for some years before becoming honorary treasurer in 1930 and chairman in 1939. On the death of Sir Charles Hyde in 1942, he was appointed president and continued until 1955. As president, Dr. Thwaite was never a mere figurehead. He was rarely absent from a first-class match, and he attended meetings of the committee whenever possible. Whenever a player or spectator suffered injury or was taken ill, he was always ready with his expert advice and help. He also represented Warwickshire cricket on many other similar bodies, and here the considered judgment and the even temper with which he expressed his views made the "Doctor" a very welcome guest. Although cricket remained his primary interest in sport he was also a keen fly-fisherman and used to take any opportunity of fishing trout or salmon with his friends Arthur Mitchell and Stanley Barnes. In the winter he was a regular attendee at the Villa and Albion football grounds and became a keen critic of Association football. In his later years Dr. Thwaite gave generously to many voluntary organisations. As might be expected, the Warwickshire County Cricket Club was the main beneficiary. The two scoreboards which he gave represent but a small part of the gifts he made. His services to the club were recognised by his fellow members when the new gates were erected by public subscription and named after him in 1952. No president has ever done more for the Warwickshire County Cricket Club than Harold Thwaite."

Harold Thwaite and Memorial Scoreboard at Edgbaston Cricket Ground in Birmingham

Walter Clulee was licensee of the Wheatsheaf Inn during the early Edwardian period. He had already been running the pub as a manager. He married Nellie Millward in the same year that he was granted the licence. The couple remained at the pub throughout the reign of King Edward VII and, during this period, they had two children, Leigh and Kathleen. They were probably employees of Peter Walker & Co. Ltd. as they later moved to the Birmingham Arms, another house taken over by the company. In 1922 they moved to the Crown Inn at Wychbold, a busy roadside hotel that they managed until their retirement in 1931. They remained at Droitwich Road, possibly in a brewery-owned cottage. It was reported that Nellie Clulee suffered from sleeplessness and depression in the months leading up to the Second World War. In October 1940 Walter Clulee, returning to Wychbold from a trip to Birmingham, found his wife Nellie lying dead on the floor of a gas-filled room. At the subsequent inquest a verdict of "suicide while of unsound mind" was returned.

Platts Gollings and Phyllis Davis at their wedding at Christ Church Summerfield in Winson Green [1930]

Platts Gollings took over the licence of the Wheatsheaf Inn midway through World War One. The former West Bromwich Albion player took what was a traditional post-playing career by running pubs. In 1912 the former Baggies defender and his wife Elsie were running the Queen's Arms in Highgate Road at Sparkbrook. However, they were soon on the move to the Cottage of Content in Kyrwick's Lane. During their lengthy spell at the Wheatsheaf Inn, their son, also named Platts Gollings married Phyllis Davis at nearby Christ Church in October 1930. The couple were featured in the Birmingham Daily Gazette and their photograph from the paper is featured above. The young couple would late run the Crown Stores, an off-licence in Broad Street at Coventry.


Licensee Plate of the Wheatsheaf Inn on the corner of Dudley Road and Icknield Port Road at Winson Green in Birmingham [1960]

Harry Carter took over from Platts Gollings. He handed over to George and Annie Smith in the mid-1930s. John Peake had recently succeeded George Houghton as licensee of The Wheatsheaf when this photograph was captured on June 1st 1960. The licensee plate was awaiting fresh paint from one of the maintenance team at Cape Hill. John Peake's parents, Fred and Ivy, had once kept the Mazeppa Inn at Yates Street before moving to the Shakespeare Inn on Summer Row at the start of the Second World War. Raymond Goldie was a long-serving publican between 1964 and 1982 - does anyone remember him?

Shop adjacent to the Wheatsheaf Inn on the corner of Dudley Road and Icknield Port Road at Winson Green in Birmingham [1960]

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Licensees of the Wheatsheaf Inn

1859 - William Gamwell
1868 - 1882 Thomas Jones
1882 - 1883 Mrs. Mary Jones
1883 - 1903 Newsome Thwaite
1903 - c.1914 Walter Clulee
1915 - c.1931 Platts Shadrack Gollings
1931 - c.1934 Harry Carter
1935 - George Vernon Smith
1936 - c.1938 Frank Skidmore
1939 - Joseph Smith
1951 - 1957 Kenneth Hyde
1957 - 1959 Ernest Carroll
1959 - 1960 George Houghton
1960 - 1964 John Frederick Peake
1964 - 1982 Raymond Archibald Goldie
1982 - 1984 Nicholas Christopher Pearson Hill
1984 - 1985 Michael David Simms
1985 - 1986 Roger Maurice Curley
1986 - 1886 David Michael Gregory
1986 - 1987 Brian Kenneth Shields
1987 - 1988 John Mohammed [Caine]
1988 - 1989 Henry Jarleth Melody
1989 - 1991 Thomas Stephen Melody
1989 - 1999 Susan Betts
1999 - Elizabeth Gill
Note : this is not a complete list of licensees for this pub.

Etched Glass for Atkinson's Brewery of Aston

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Related Newspaper Articles

"Yesterday afternoon, an inquest was held at the Nelson Tavern, Nelson Street, on the body of a female infant child, that was found in a wheat field in Aberdeen Street. From the evidence it appeared that a man named William Botterell was looking over into a wheat held in Aberdeen Street, belonging to a Mr. Ashford, living in Dudley Road, when he discovered what he thought to be a bundle of clothes lying in the wheat. He entered the field, examined it, and found it contained an infant. He left it where he found it, and went to the 2nd division police station, where he gave information of what he bad seen. Police Constable Willis went in company with Botterell to the field in question, where he found the child wrapped in a piece of calico, and brought it to the station. Mr. Solomon, surgeon, stated that he had made a post-mortem examination, under the Coroner's precept, and found the body in a very decomposed state. There were no marks of violence upon it, and he was of the opinion that the deceased was still born. The Jury returned a verdict to that effect."
"A Dead Child Found In Wheat Field"
Birmingham Daily Post : August 20th 1861 Page 4

"An inquest was held yesterday afternoon, at the Grand Turk, Ludgate Hill, on the body of a man, twenty-four years of age, named George Horton, a labourer, who resided in Icknield Port Road. It appeared from the evidence that on the evening of the 8th of April last, the deceased was in the tap room of the Wheatsheaf Inn, Dudley Road, when he fell asleep near the fireplace. He awoke rather suddenly and finding himself in the act of falling, he put out his hand to catch hold of something for a support. By mistake, however, he happened to rest his hand upon the top of a large boiler containing hot water. The boiler fell on one side and a considerable quantity of its contents were spilled upon him. Being severely scalded, he was at once removed to the General Hospital, where his injuries were dressed. Shortly after his admission into the institution he was attacked by pneumonia, and died on Saturday last. A verdict of "Accidental death" was returned."
"A Man Scalded To Death"
Birmingham Daily Post : May 20th 1863 Page 4


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