History of the Duke of Edinburgh on High Street Aston in Birmingham in the county of Warwickshire.

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Some history of the Duke of Edinburgh

The Duke of Edinburgh is one of the lesser-known beer houses that once traded on High Street Aston. The lifespan of this tavern was short in that it ceased trading in the early 20th century. The authorities were probably glad to be rid of the place as it was, by all accounts, a bit of a rough-hole from which both publican and punters would be hauled in front of the local magistrates on any number of charges ranging from disorder, drunkenness, fighting, gambling and anything else the straight-laced Victorians tried to iron out of the working classes.

Birmingham : Map Showing the Duke of Edinburgh at High Street Aston [1889]

The Duke of Edinburgh stood on the eastern side of High Street Aston, next to Camellia Place, a row of houses set back from the road. These can be seen on the above map extract dated 1889 immediately to the south of the Beaconsfield Building, later the site of Burlington Hall. I have marked other local public-houses on the map extract, including the Scotch House which was then known as the Crown and Cushion.

In 1868 the widower George Morecroft was operating the Duke of Edinburgh. Born in Dudley around 1813, he was assisted by Rosina Deakin, a housekeeper.

In the early 1880s Robert and Kate Hackney were running the beer house. Kate Hackney was a local woman but her husband originated from Gloucestershire. The former French Polisher was living at Sand Pits when he married Catherine Brophey in October 1867. They had two young daughters living with them at the Duke of Edinburgh. The family would later move to No.142 High Street from where Robert Hackney traded as a furniture dealer.

By the early Edwardian period the Duke of Edinburgh was operated by Mitchell's and Butler's. The Cape Hill brewery leased the property from Edwin Haseler of Hamstead Hill in Handsworth. Although the Duke of Edinburgh is listed in a 1908 trade directory with George Shorthouse as the licensee, by 1913 the building was being used by Edward Vyse who traded as a hosier.


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There was a major change to the surroundings of the Duke of Edinburgh and the landscape of this part of the High Street when work on Burlington Hall commenced in 1890. The hall was opened following the refurbishment of the dilapidated hotel known as The Beaconsfield. This building was a few doors from the Duke of Edinburgh and can be seen on the 1889 map extract. Funding for the project was raised through concerts, subscriptions, bazaars and appeals in order to create a permanent home for the Burlington Hall Early Morning Adult School, an educational institution that was founded around 1879 at Thomas Street Council Schools.

Originally the adult school met on Sunday mornings at 07.30hrs where reading and writing was taught by voluntary teachers with the bible used as a text book. With so many people unable to read or write, the school became very popular and it had to be divided between the Burlington Street Schools and the original Thomas Street base. The role of the adult school expanded and later included gospel services, Sunday School, sick club, social club, gymnastics, library, debating society and help for those unemployed.

The funding initiatives enabled the takeover of The Beaconsfield with an entire renovation and furnishing of the building. A commemoration stone was laid by George Dixon M.P. in 1890. The classes and workshops were continued to be provided by volunteers.

There is a case for me to have a page devoted to the Beaconsfield Hotel as it was a licensed house. Naming the hotel in honour of Benjamin Disraeli, the prime minister for whom the title 1st Earl of Beaconsfield was created in 1876, Joseph Fitkin applied for a full licence in August 1881. An application had been made on several occasions before this date. When the case came before the Aston Police Court it was stated that the property, which cost £4,000, had a large number of reception rooms, 20 bedrooms, and accommodation for 50 persons to sleep. The application of 1881 was refused. Joseph Fitkin was listed as a publican in the census so I assume that, although no full licence was granted, he was able to sell beer in the hotel. I find it odd that the building should be regarded as dilapidated by 1890 when it was converted into Burlington Hall.

Birmingham : High Street Aston showing part of the former Duke of Edinburgh [1960]

This is the only photograph I have seen in which part of the former Duke of Edinburgh is featured. Here you can see the old Camellia Place with the houses set back from the road, though the traders have extended the frontages to the pavement. The large advertisement for Ovaltine is on the side wall of Burlington Hall.


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Licensees of this pub

1867 - George Morecroft
1879 - Thomas Fisher
1881 - Robert Hackney
1890 - John Troth
1891 - Mary Ann Smith
1893 - Jane Bazeley
1900 - Francis Watkins
1905 - George Shorthouse
Note : this is not a complete list of licensees for this pub.

Mitchells's and Butler's

Genealogy Connections

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Related Newspaper Articles

"John Troth, landlord of the Duke of Edinburgh, High Street, Aston, was summoned for permitting drunkenness on his licensed premises. On Saturday evening last Inspector Evans, with other police officers, visited the defendant's house, and there found several persons drunk. These were taken into custody, and were fined at the Aston Police Court on Monday last. Defendant, who denied that the persons arrested were supplied with drink in his house, was fined £5. and costs, Superintendent Walker explaining that Troth had been several times cautioned as to the conduct of his house."
"Licensing Prosecution"
Birmingham Daily Post : October 25th 1890 Page 7

"Jane Bazeley, of the Duke of Edinburgh, High Street, Aston, was summoned for selling intoxicating liquor on the 10th February, without having a proper licence. Superintendent Walker said that it was one of a class of cases which were very common in Aston some time ago. The defendant had been in possession of the house for something like a month before she took any steps to obtain the transfer. The papers had been deposited with the police at Aston, but as the defendant's husband still held a licence in Birmingham, it was not within the province of the Bench to grant his wife the license in Aston. Police Constable Raven proved the sale of the beer. He asked the defendant if she had the transfer, and she replied that she did not know, as the matter was in the hands of Mr. Job Smith, of Birmingham. Police Constable Shuttleworth was also with Raven at the time the liquor was supplied. The defendant stated that the house which they held in Birmingham they were leaving that day, and it was intended to apply for a transfer on Wednesday next. She was merely managing the house pending the transfer of the licence. Mr. Job Smith said that he was acting for the mortgagees and the defendant's father, who was the owner of a license in Birmingham which he intended to have transferred to someone else so that he could enter into possession of the Duke of Edinburgh. The late occupier, a man named Reeves, left three weeks ago, and he then put Mrs. Bazeley into possession as his manageress until he could get a transfer. The necessary papers were deposited on the 31st of January, and he had never obtained a transfer much under a fortnight after the papers had been placed. Superintendent Walker said that the papers were ready on the 8th, and the transfer could have been applied for on any day after that time. Mr. Smith: Well, I have had twenty-three years' practice in this court, and I have never got a transfer under two or three weeks. Superintendent Walker: Oh yes. You mean three or four days; The superintendent also explained to the Bench that the house referred to bore a very bad reputation, and it was necessary for the police to have some responsible person in possession. Mr. Hill said the offence for which the defendant had been summoned was one which at one time was very prevalent in Aston. Defendant was fined 40s., and costs."
"Serious Licensing Offence"
Birmingham Daily Post : February 14th 1893 Page 7

"Mary Ann Smith appealed against a for permitting drunkenness at the Duke of Edinburgh public-house, Aston. Mr. Hugo Young and Mr. Parfitt appeared for the appellant, and Mr. Pritchett and Mr. Symonds for the respondents. The ground of objection by the police was that on September 2nd appellant permitted drunkenness. For the defence, Mr. Young urged that the house was a place of meeting for the people of the neighbourhood, who had not money to buy drink. Evidence was given that the amount taken in the house that day was 6s. 6d. The appeal was dismissed unanimously with costs."
"Appeal Case"
Birmingham Mail : October 21st 1891 Page 3

Brummagem Boozers

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