Some history of the Guildford Arms
The Guildford Arms was located on the south side of Farm Street on the western corner of Hospital Street. The address of the pub was No.154 Farm Street. Yes, I'm afraid that is the past tense because the Guildford Arms closed for trading on February 28th 1965. The property was later demolished and the licence transferred to the Man O' War at Wheeler Street.
Thomas Gee was the first publican of the Guildford Arms. He successfully applied for a spirits licence for the public house in September 1853 and soon after this date the pub started to trade. Thomas Gee was a builder and continued in business as a sand merchant whilst running the Guildford Arms. Though not unrealistic, it is perhaps a romantic notion of mine in thinking Thomas Gee may have actually built the pub on the corner of Hospital Street. In September 1853 he was recorded as a brewer and builder. In the following month he married Emily Crompton on October 5th at Yardley. She was the fourth daughter of Mr. Robert Crompton of Aston New Town.
The licence of the Guildford Arms was transferred to William Heron on December 4th 1856. Born in Dumfries in Scotland in 1828, he had earlier worked as an apprentice travelling draper whilst living in George Street. Formerly working for James Moffatt, he later traded from Warstone Lane. He was recorded there in February 1856, not long after his wedding to Sarah Ann Barnett. She was the daughter of the gilder and publican Thomas Barnett who kept the Royal Oak in Charlotte Street.
Earning a living as an itinerant draper was not the easiest of career paths to follow in the Victorian period, particularly when selling to the domestic market. William Heron would have traipsed around the houses of Birmingham taking orders for household linen and cloth or items such as shawls and gowns. The problem was following up on an order and successfully obtaining imbursement for goods delivered because many of the customers would try to evade payment. Often the man would come to the door and deny that he was the husband of the woman who had placed the order. In such cases the man may have had the money but the woman had the goods and no means of payment. The courts were often stretched to cope with cases of this nature. But anyway, William Heron had a get-out clause and, marrying a woman with experience of the licensed trade, he decided to make a go of being a publican. No doubt he would soon discover that running a boozer in the 19th century was not all plain-sailing.
This is a lovely inter-war view of the Guildford Arms and shows a tiny glimpse of the shop across the street. In the late 19th century this was a pawnbroker's shop run by Mrs. Mary Hall. As you can see in the photograph, the Guildford Arms, by this date, formed part of the tied estate of Atkinson's Brewery Ltd. The Aston-based company acquired the property from John Howard Heron. He was working at the Guildford Arms alongside his sister-in-law Clara Heron who took over the licence of the pub on April 2nd 1891. She was widowed in the same year. Clara had taken over the licence following the retirement of William Heron who, along with his wife Sarah, moved to No.71 Whitehead Road. He didn't enjoy a long retirement for he died in the autumn of 1893.
Clara Heron remained at the Guildford Arms for the remainder of the 19th century, after which the long stability of the family-run pub was undermined by revolving door licensees. The publicans came and went in quick succession. Clara Heron first settled in Haughton Road at Birchfield but later moved out to the leafier Wellington Road at Handsworth Wood.
I suspect Atkinson's acquired the Guildford Arms at this point and installed John and Fanny Grindrod as the first management couple. They had married in 1885 and eventually had 13 children. The eldest was named John who travelled around the globe whilst serving in the army. He enlisted in 1901 and one of his first postings was as a guard to General Piet Cronjé, a Boer prisoner held on the island of St. Helena. Training as a telegraphist, John Grindrod later served in Africa, India and Tibet where he met the Dalai Lama. At the outbreak of World War One, he returned to England and was sent to France where he served at the Somme. Four of his brothers also joined the Army - three were killed and the other was wounded on Armistice Day. His final years in the army were in Russia where he and his comrades had to escape from revolutionaries. He certainly had a colourful life before settling down to a career in the post office.
Mitchell's and Butler's took over Atkinson's in 1959 and the Guildford Arms was an M&B outlet for the few remaining years before the house closed in 1965. The last licensee was Rose Edmondson who, together with her husband Joseph, had been at the pub since 1939. The couple had married in 1912. Joseph died in 1955 and Rose spent the next ten years running the pub as a widow. She would have been in charge of the pub when the photograph [below] was taken.
Related Newspaper Articles
"On Wednesday evening last, an enquiry was opened, before the Borough Coroner, at the Guildford Arms, Farm Street, upon the body of a child
named Janet Hilsley, aged one year and ten months, whose death is supposed to have resulted from her eating adulterated sweetmeats. The deceased was the daughter of Mr.
Annerian Hilsley, builder, of Farm Street. On Saturday, she ate a little sugar basket, which was bought for her at the shop of Benjamin Barrett, huckster, and on Sunday
she had a little cup composed of the same kind of sweet material, and purchased at the same place. The latter deceased had only just tasted, when she threw it down, and
it broke into pieces upon the floor. This was about two o'clock, soon after she had partaken of a hearty dinner. She continued well till about ten o'clock in the
evening, when she became very cross, being at the time in bed with her mother. She continued poorly during the night, and in the morning was again attacked with vomiting.
Her mother gave her some castor oil in a little warm tea, and she then revived for time, but in an hour or so she vomited again, and became very pale and faint. About a
quarter to two o'clock Mrs. Hilsley and her mother-in-law set out with the poor child to take her to Mr. Jones, surgeon, Newhall Street. Before starting the
deceased gave a violent struggle in the arms of her grandmother, and reaching Lower Hospital Street she repeated this several times. Mrs. Hilsley in consequence took the
deceased into the house of a man named Joseph Lowe, in that locality, where the unfortunate child expired in less than two minutes. A boy named John Hilsley, about three
years old, cousin to the deceased, was attacked with similar symptoms, after eating a tub of the same sort of confectionery as the basket and cup, but fortunately he is
now recovering. Mrs. Barrett, the person who sold the sweets, was called as a witness, and stated that she purchased the confectionery at the shop of Mr. Hill, Snow Hill.
Her own children had eaten many of the articles, and suffered no harm from it. It appeared that no post mortem examination had been made of the body of the deceased,
and the Coroner, addressing the Jury, said he should have to adjourn the enquiry for that purpose. He also considered it desirable to have a portion of the confectionery
analysed. Much had been said of late respecting adulteration, and though there might not be anything of the kind in this case, still it did seem singular that two children
living in the same house, should be suddenly taken ill, apparently from the same cause, and it was their duty to enquire into the matter. After alluding to the importance
of chemical analysations, exemplified in the great trial pending during the past few days, Dr. Birt Davies explained to the Jury that they might, if they chose to do so,
present to him a requisition, praying that such an analysis he had spoken of might be made. He would prefer this, though he had the power himself, under the Medical
Witnesses Act, to order the examination. The matter was left in the hands of the Coroner, and the inquest stands adjourned till Wednesday next."
"Alleged Death of a Child From Eating Confectionery"
Birmingham Journal : May 31st 1856 Page 7
"John Sperry, a carrier, was charged with stealing a cask of oil, £12. 10s. Mr. Cutler prosecuted, and Mr. Francis defended. The evidence
proved the following facts. The prosecutor was William Heron, landlord of the Guildford Arms, Farm Street, Hockley. On the previous Monday, he had in his possession, a cask
of rape oil, which had been made over to him, with other things, by a man named Farmer, a nail manufacturer [who was about to become bankrupt], in consideration, as
prosecutor said, of money lent. The prisoner was employed on the previous Sunday to fetch the oil from Farmer's premises, and subsequently interested himself, or
pretended to do so, find a customer for the prosecutor, eventually stating that Mr. Williams, of Broad Street, had agreed to buy the oil. The prisoner wished to take the
cask to his own yard, but the prosecutor refused to allow him do so, and on the Tuesday morning they, in company with another man named Bishop, took the oil, in a horse and
cart, to Mr. Williams, who, however, denied that he had agreed to purchase, and said he would not have the stuff on his premises. They then tried to get rid of the oil at
two other places, but did not succeed, and the prosecutor told the prisoner to take the cask back his house. On the way, prisoner called upon Mr. Gilman, Gosta Green, who
purchased the oil for 2s. 9d. a gallon - a fair price, it was shown and paid the prisoner the money. Prisoner afterwards got drunk, spent about 25 shillings of the money,
and when he was found by the prosecutor, said that he had been "nicked" of the money. That statement was not true; for on him being searched at the police station,
six pounds odd were found upon him. The defence was that there had been given to the prisoner a general authority to sell. The Magistrates were unanimously of the opinion
that the charge of stealing the oil could not be sustained, and the prisoner was therefore discharged. Prosecutor applied for an order for the money upon the prisoner be
given up him; but the Bench refused."
"Singular Charge of Felony"
Birmingham Daily Post : April 13th 1868 Page 7
"Edward Brickles , 11, Brewery Street, Newtown Row, police constable, was charged with obtaining 10s., under false pretences, from
William Heron, licensed victualler, 154, Farm Street. Mr. M. Maher appeared to prosecute. On Sunday morning last, the prisoner, who had only been sworn in as a constable
three days, went up to Mr. Heron, as he was standing at the door of his house, about twelve o'clock, and asked where he should find Wheeler Street West. Prosecutor
could not inform him, and the prisoner asked for Aston Hall, saying he was one of five who had come over from Ireland to alter some Snider locks. He then entered the house,
and demanded to look at prosecutor's license. Prosecutor asked what license he wanted, and prisoner replied that he had come from Moor Street, and was a detective sent
from London to look after the Birmingham publicans. Prosecutor protested that his license was quite correct, and had been recently examined by the Excise. There were some
men in the house drinking, and prisoner said prosecutor should hear from him on the morrow. He had been sent particularly from Moor Street. Prosecutor asked the prisoner
not to report him, and offered, half-a-sovereign, which prisoner took, and walked away. At the time prosecutor gave him the half-sovereign he believed the
prisoner was an impostor, but was afraid of being reported. Mr. Gem said that if such was the case there was an end of the false pretence. Mr. Maher said that as it was
believed that there were other cases of false pretence, he should ask for a remand. A remand till Thursday was granted. The prisoner had been brought before the Watch
Committee, and by their direction Mr. Glossop had now brought him before the Court."
Birmingham Journal : December 5th 1868 Page 7
Related Newspaper Articles
"An inquest was held yesterday afternoon at the Guildford Arms, Farm Street, before Dr. Birt Davies, Borough Coroner, touching the death of
William Alto Chambers , who lived with his parents at 174, Farm Street. About four o'clock on Saturday afternoon last, the deceased was warming himself by
the fire in the bedroom, when his pinafore became ignited, and he was seriously burnt before the flames could be extinguished. His injuries were dressed at the General
Hospital, and he was afterwards attended by Mr. Lawson, surgeon, but sunk and died on Thursday from the effects of injuries. Verdict, "Accidental death."
"Shocking Death By Burning"
Birmingham Journal : February 10th 1866 Page 5
"Yesterday afternoon an inquest was held at the Burbury Arms Inn, Burbury Street, on the body of William Coombs, a bricklayer by trade, 34 years
of age, who resided in Currier's Buildings, Farm Street, and who died on Tuesday morning last in consequence of injuries he received on the previous evening, at the hands
of a man named Edwin Deakin, with whom he was fighting. The accused, Edwin Deakin, a gun screwer, living in Lower Windsor Street, Ashted, was present at the enquiry, in the
custody of Police Sergeant McDonald. Superintendent Spear, of the Kenion Street division, was also in attendance. Emma Coombs, the wife of the deceased, was the first
witness called. She stated that at about three o'clock on the afternoon of Monday last, she went out to look for her husband, who had not been home to dinner. She found
him in a public house called the Birmingham Arms, in Summer Lane, in a state of inebriation. She walked towards home with him, as far as the Guildford Arms, Farm Street,
when he intimated his intention of having some more beer. She endeavoured to persuade him not to drink again that evening but he, however, went into that public house, and
sat down in the kitchen. She followed him. He had not been there long before a conversation arose between the deceased and another man in the room, respecting some
disturbance with which her husband had been connected on the previous Wednesday. At length the deceased asked the man to whom he was speaking if he would show him the man
who struck him the other night. Tom Deakin was then called, but as he did not make his appearance, the man said to the deceased, "I'm his brother, and I'll stand
in his shoes." She then asked the man, who appears to be Edwin Deakin, the accused, why, if he was not the man alluded to, he interfered in the matter, and told him to
keep quiet. Edwin Deakin then got up and said that "for two pins he would knock deceased's bloody eyes in." After several angry words had been exchanged between
the parties, peace was restored by the landlord, and they all sat down again. Shortly afterwards Deakin, who had been out of the kitchen, came rushing into the room again,
with another man, and was about to strike the deceased, when she screamed, and the landlord, Mr. Heron, came in "collared" a poker, and said to Deakin, "If you
strike him I'll floor you with this [the poker]. Why, what do you mean? Do you think you are a-going to eat the man alive." They then "settled
down quiet again," and the deceased a short time afterwards left the room and went into the yard. Two or three men followed him, and she went out also. Edwin Deakin
said to her husband, "What was that you were saying just now?" and adding, "I'll knock your bloody brains out," struck her husband a violent blow on
the face. Deceased fell heavily striking his head against the pump. She then said, to the man who had struck her husband, "You vagabond; what did you hit my husband
for?" and struck him with her fist in the face, which he immediately returned with a "knock down blow." A few minutes afterwards the landlord came out, and
dealt Deakin a few hard blows in the face for what he had done to her. After a good deal of quarrelling Edwin Deakin ran up to the deceased again, struck him a savage blow
in the face, and sent him reeling to the ground, where he lay insensible. He was taken up and removed into the house, and subsequently to his home. It was then about half
past six o'clock. He never spoke but once afterwards. Mr. Smith, a druggist, in Summer Lane, was at once fetched, and applied the usual remedies for such a case. The
deceased, however, gradually got worse, and expired at about ten o'clock on the following morning. The witness added that no person struck her husband but Edwin Deakin,
who she now, at the request of the Coroner, pointed out from the rest of the persons in the room. When Deakin struck her, the deceased dealt him a blow or two. She was quite
sober at the time, and she could not say but that Deakin was. By the Prisoner : Her husband did not challenge him [Deakin] to fight in the kitchen, nor did she
hear him say "No, I won't here; I'll go into the street." They both went into the street, but her husband declined to fight, and returned to the kitchen.
William Heron, landlord of the Guildford Arms, Farm Street, said that on the afternoon of the day in question he was informed that a fight was about to take place in the
kitchen. He immediately went thither, and found the deceased stripped for fighting. He said he wanted to fight. A man was going to accept the challenge, when he interfered,
and said that if any man struck the deceased he would knock them down. They, however, seemed inclined to quarrel, and he put them outside the door, but afterwards let them
come in again, on their promising to be quiet. About a quarter of an hour afterwards he was called into the yard, where he saw his brewer, Thomas Cooke, standing between the
deceased and Edwin Deakin. At that moment he also saw Coombs's wife strike Deakin with one of her pattens, which she took from her foot, Deakin struck her again, and he
[the landlord] dealt him a blow. He did not know whether he knocked him down, but he remembered kicking him whilst he was upon the ground. He [the landlord]
then went to close the gates leading to the yard, and whilst doing so saw the deceased rush at Edwin Deakin, and strike him a blow in the face, the force of which caused him
to fall to the ground. Deakin soon got up again and dealt Coombs a blow in the face, which felled him forcibly to the ground. There had been blows, he believed, struck
before he came to them, but that was the last blow. The deceased's wife and a man came and lifted up Coombs, and removed him into the house. They afterwards took him to
the house of a relation, and soon after that conveyed him home in a handcart. By a Juror : The deceased was not served with any beer in his house; he was very much
intoxicated. Deakin was not drunk, and was sitting quiet before Coombs came into the house. Thomas Cooke, a brewer, residing at 54, Howe Street, stated that on Monday last
he was brewing for the last witness, when he heard a noise in the yard. He went out and there saw the deceased with his coat and waistcoat off quarrelling with a man named
Deakin, After the exchange of a few angry words, they began to wrestle, and both fell to the ground. They were soon up again, and were commencing to fight, when he [the
witness] got between them. Coombs's wife then came up, and after striking Deakin several times with her pattens, threw them at him. Deceased then struck Deakin,
after which the latter struck Coombs with his fist on the side of the face, and knocked him down. That was the end of it. Both were very tipsy, but he did not see anything
unfair done between them. He did not believe that the deceased fell against the pump; the men, when struggling together, both fell over a wheelbarrow near the pump. Mr.
Oliver Pemberton, surgeon, who had made a post mortem examination of the deceased stated that the only external mark of injury which the body presented was a contused
wound of slight extent upon the upper part of the head. There was no fracture of the skull. He was of the opinion that the deceased had died from effusion of blood on the
brain, which had been caused in consequence of the rupture of a blood vessel. The rupture must have been the effect of violence, such as a fall or a blow, most probably a
fall. Edwin Deakin was now called, and, after having been cautioned in the usual way, was asked whether he desired to say anything in his defence. He replied in the negative.
The Coroner having summed up, the Jury, after about an hour's deliberation, returned a verdict of "Manslaughter" against Edwin Deakin, who was committed under
the Coroner's warrant, to take his trial at the next Warwick Assizes. The enquiry lasted about four hours and a half."
"The Family Affray in Farm Street"
Birmingham Daily Post : November 6th 1863 Page 4
"An inquest was held on Saturday, at the Guildford Arms, Farm Street, by Mr. H. Hawkes [the Borough Coroner], on the body of Oliver
Roper , brass-knob turner, Macdonald Street, Summer Lane, who was killed on the evening of the 7th inst. in a fight with John Ashford , pistol
maker, court, Wilton Street, Lozells. Ashford, who was brought before the magistrates on Friday, and remanded until Monday to await the results of the inquest, was present
at the Inquiry in the custody of Detective Sergeant Mountford, and was represented by Mr. G. S. Gem. Louis William Perry said that on the evening of Saturday, 7th Inst., he
was in the Acorn Inn, Wheeler Street, when a son of the deceased entered the kitchen, and without asking, drank off pint of beer which he had just ordered for himself. A
scuffle ensued, in which the prisoner, the deceased, and other persons who were there, took part, and finally the landlady turned the whole party out for making a
disturbance. Outside the quarrel was renewed on the prisoner remonstrating with deceased about his son's behaviour. Roper then challenged the prisoner to fight, but the
two men were too drunk to use their fists, and they simply hugged one another until they fell, Ashford being underneath. They were then picked up, and handed over to the
care of their respective wives, who had been attracted to the spot by a report of the quarrel. Rosina Roper, wife of the deceased, said her husband was tipsy when she took
charge of him after the scuffle, and brought him home to the yard in Wilton Street, where the house they then occupied was situated. Ashford, whose house was in the same
yard, was brought home directly afterwards by two of his friends. About half an hour afterwards the deceased went into the yard and met the prisoner, who came towards him,
and, putting his hand to his cheek, said, "Here, Roper, give me another fair punch." Deceased replied, "You struck me first, and I should be a fool not to strike
you. I have lived by you for twenty years, and should never have thought of striking you." Prisoner then gave him a blow in the mouth, which cut his lips and made them
bleed. Witness interfered, and took her husband away, not, however, until after she had also been struck by the prisoner. Deceased complained of feeling unwell, but,
nevertheless, sat up until midnight drinking with a neighbour. In the morning he said he felt very ill, and remarked that his side was very sore from the effects of a kick
which Ashford had given him. He, however, went to work, and continued at his ordinary employment until Friday, the 13th instant. He then was so much worse that he took to
his bed, and died on the 19th inst. No medical aid was called in until the 17th when Mr. Jackson, surgeon, Summer Lane, visited and prescribed for him. A very different
account of the occurrence in the yard was given by the next witness, Mary Chatterley, a woman residing in the same court. When the two men met witness swore that the
deceased spoke first and said, "Ashford, I should never have quarrelled with you, only you struck me first," Prisoner used a foul expression in reply, said he would
take deceased's life, and then struck him a blow in the stomach. Witness upon this went into her house and shut the door. Mr. Jackson said he saw the deceased on the
morning of the 17th inst., and found him suffering from difficult breathing and expectoration. He prescribed an expectorant mixture, and on the following morning saw him
again and found him much worse. He was delirious, and complained of a pain in the side. He died next day. A post mortem examination showed that cause of death had
been pleuro-pneumonia. The lungs were inflamed in a place which is not usually affected by natural causes, and which was directly underneath a large bruise on the chest.
The blow which caused the bruise was most probably the cause of the inflammation. If a medical man had been consulted by the deceased at an earlier period he would have had
a much better chance of recovery. The Coroner in his summing up pointed out that the cause of death was clear, but that there was great discrepancy in the evidence of the
two women who witnessed the occurrence in the yard and there was therefore some doubt as to the manner in which deceased had received the injury to his chest. After
considerable deliberation the jury found "That deceased died of pleuro-pneumonia, the result of a blow; but how that blow was occasioned there was insufficient
evidence to show." The case created much excitement in the neighbourhood."
"The Fatality in Wilton Street"
Birmingham Daily Gazette : July 23rd 1877 Page 6
"William Robotham, zinc worker, 51, Barr Street, and Edward Simmons, pearl button maker, Berners Street, were charged with stealing a gold watch
and chain, and 12s. in money, from the person of Mary Walker, Battenhall Place, Worcester. The prosecutrix said that she met Rowbotham on the 31st ult., and took him into
the Guildford Arms, Farm Street, to "treat him." When she got there she saw Simmons, and paid for a pint of whisky for the two. She did not have anything to drink,
and was perfectly sober. When she was leaving the house one of the prisoners snatched her watch and the other took her purse, containing 12s. When requested to give up the
watch and purse, Rowbotham struck and kicked her. A few days afterwards a woman named Herring, with whom Simmons lived, brought the watch to her; but she was now called,
and said that it was left at her house by a woman whom she did not know. The prosecutrix, she stated, was so drunk when she alleged that the robbery took place that she did
not know what she was doing, and was refused more drink by the landlord of the Guildford Arms. The Bench, at this stage, said that the evidence was of such a contradictory
character that no jury could convict. Both prisoners were discharged."
"Alleged Robbery From The Person"
Birmingham Daily Post : November 8th 1882 Page 6
"David Richard Lowe, cab proprietor, Macdonald Street, Summer Lane, was summoned for assaulting William Heron, licensed victualler, the
Guildford Arms Inn, Farm Street. Mr. Hemmant appeared for the complainant, and Mr. Fallows defended. On Saturday night, about eleven o'clock, as complainant was closing
his house, the defendant and a companion drove up in a trap, and defendant, using a filthy expression, asked complainant for the £10. he owed him. Complainant denied
that he owed him any money, when defendant, who was drunk, attempted to strike him, but complainant pushed him down. Defendant created a great disturbance, and struck at
complainant several tunes, also using bad language. It transpired that this was third time within twelve months that complainant had summoned defendant, because
whenever the latter got drunk he always annoyed the complainant. The magistrates fined the defendant 5s. and costs, or fourteen days' hard labour."
"Assaulting a Publican"
Birmingham Daily Post : July 15th 1880 Page 6
Licensees of this pub
1853 - 1856 Thomas Gee
1856 - 1891 William Heron
1891 - 1900 Clara Alice Heron
1901 - John Grindrod
1902 - G. Coombes
1903 - George Humphreys
1907 - George Humphreys
1908 - George Peters
1909 - Thomas Welch
1910 - John James Grindrod
1912 - William Wilson
1913 - Alfred Fox
1914 - George Rueben Francis
1916 - Harry Charman
1921 - Harry Charman
1922 - James Cooper
1926 - James Cooper
1927 - George Keay
1928 - 1939 Hy. Lewis
1939 - 1955 Joseph Edmondson
1955 - 1965 Rose Edmondson
Note : this is not a complete list of licensees for this pub.
This map shows the locations of the Guildford Arms and the Eagle Tavern in Farm Street. I have also marked the location of the Birmingham House but that pub is officially a Summer Lane property. The southern buildings surrounding the yard of the Guildford Arms backed onto the Britannia Cut Nail Works, the employees of which would have enjoyed a pint or two in the pub.
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'll post it here.