History and Information on Jamaica Row in Birmingham in the County of Warwickshire.


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Jamaica Row Pubs

Some history of Jamaica Row

Unlike London, Liverpool, Glasgow, Bristol and Lancaster, Birmingham's buildings and street names have few references to the slave trade. Research has, however, shown that the town's manufacturers profited from commerce connected with the trade. It may seem a little more benign but the trade in fruit, particularly in bananas, originated from plantations in which slaves were used to plant and harvest the crop. Jamaica Row was part of the main markets area of Birmingham and I cannot think of another reason for the name emerging here. The 'top end of Jamaica Row' is thought to have been called Black Boy Yard with the Black Boy being on Saint Martin's Lane. Some have linked this tavern name with that of Jamaica but the signboard can be traced back to the days of King Charles II.

Birmingham : Map showing locations of public-houses in Jamaica Row

A continuation of Spiceal Street, the thoroughfare ran from the junction of Edgbaston Street and Saint Martin's Lane southwards to Cheapside and Sherlock Street. Well, that is in later years. It originally finished at Moat Row. The section of road between Moat Row and Cheapside was formerly known as Balsall Street. I have another detailed map of that section. On this plan I have marked many of the public-houses that fronted Jamaica Row, along with the site of a major fire in March 1906. The Black Boy formed part of the site of the St. Martin's Hotel and officially was listed in St. Martin's Lane. Incidentally, the public-house shown in the photograph below is the Farmers' Arms on Moat Row.

Birmingham : Destruction of Messrs. Hyndman's on the corner of Jamaica Row and Moat Row [March 1906]

This newspaper article was printed in the Birmingham Mail on Saturday 24th March 1906, the day following the fire .... "For a city its size and of such varied industrial activity, Birmingham has of late years enjoyed rather remarkable immunity from extensive fires. The one which occurred last night in Jamaica Row, and which, though alarming, and astonishingly complete in destructiveness so far as it went, was happily confined to a comparatively small area, ranks among the biggest for some six or seven years past. That this gratifying circumstance is due very largely to the outstanding efficiency of our local fire-fighters there can be no doubt, although last night's outbreak will probably raise the question as to whether the strength of the brigade which Superintendent Tozer commands is adequate to the work which may at any time be imposed upon it. Every available man, it would seem, was drafted to the scene of operations, only one "sick" fireman being left to take charge of the station and attend to any fresh calls which might come in. As a matter of fact, two call were received, fortunately unimportant, but in one case men had actually to be sent from the fire in Jamaica Row, while in the other, men from sub-stations who had looked in at the Central Station on their way there, were called upon to deal with the new call. The public will be rather surprised, we fancy, to learn that Superintendent Tozer has only at hand at the Central Station some twenty-one officers and men, and that the total strength of 75, engaged in Jamaica Row last night, was only secured by all the sub-stations which are scattered through the city. That force, although adequate, was none too great to deal with the conflagration, and it is conceivable that, any time, the brigade may have a far more extensive outbreak to subdue. Indeed, it is practically certain that an emergency will arise, as time goes on, compared with which last night's conflagration will become almost insignificant. Then, possibly, the chief of the brigade will find himself seriously handicapped, and considerable avoidable loss of property may result. Despite the fact that the destruction of Messrs. Hyndman's premises cannot be ranked as amongst the most disastrous events in the fire annals of the city, there were certain factors in connection therewith which render the occurrence unique. In the first place there was the astonishingly rapid spread of the flames and their remarkable fury. Within a few minutes of the discovery of an unusual light in the second storey at the building, the whole block was blazing furiously, and the flames were surging through the gutted windows, leaping the somewhat narrow thoroughfare, and licking the fronts of the buildings opposite. Very soon the whole interior of the place was an inferno of roaring flame, raging so fiercely that any attempt at suppression was utterly futile. Ceilings, roof, and walls collapsed, one after the other, and in an incredibly short space of time nothing was left but a heap of tangled ruins of wooden beams, iron girders, and brick-work lying upon the ground. Why the destruction should have been so rapid no one can adequately explain, for the stock was of anything but an inflammable character. Most of the walls, it is said, were lined with matchboard, while iron girders, which are, of course, very susceptible to the action of heat, were freely used in the construction of the building, and there was also a strong wind blowing. But even taking these circumstances into account, the fury of the conflagration was remarkable. Another extraordinary circumstance which must strike everyone who views the ruins this morning, is the self-contained character of the outbreak. The block of buildings destroyed is cut out from those of each side of it as if some giant had been at work with a Brobdingnagian hatchet. The walls which flank the gaping space where the demolished building stood are strangely intact, scarce a brick displaced. This salvage of contiguous property is, of course, in the highest degree complimentary to the fire brigade, but it is none the less an astonishing circumstance, and one which, together with those others referred to, seems to make the outbreak notable."

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Street Scenes in Jamaica Row

Birmingham : Jamaica Row with Saint Martin's Church by Phyllis Nicklin [1960]

Birmingham : Wholesale Fish Market in Jamaica Row by Phyllis Nicklin [1968]

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Genealogy Connections

If you have a genealogy story or query regarding Jamaica Row 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 Jamaica Row - perhaps your ancestors drank in one of the pubs in the past? Or maybe they knew a previous publican running one of the boozers? Whatever the reason it would be great to hear of your stories or gossip. Simply send a message and I will post it here.

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Related Newspaper Articles

"Yesterday forenoon, a Sheriff's Court, over which the Under-Sheriff presided, was held in the Grand Jury Room, at the Public Office, to assess the damages upon a writ of enquiry issued in an action in which a young man named Edwin Taylor, by his father William Taylor, a tobacconist, living in Broad Street, as his next friend, sued James Barnett, a chemist and druggist, in Jamaica Row, for damages for the injury he had sustained in the total loss of his eye sight. The declaration stated "that the defendant was a chemist and druggist, and that the plaintiff was of under years [to wit] the age of fifteen. He was an apprentice and servant to the defendant, who carelessly caused large quantities of gunpowder to be stored in a careless and negligent manner in improper and insufficient cases, and in a place improper for the storing of gunpowder, [to wit] a collar in which the defendant stored other articles which it was the duty of the plaintiff to fetch from the cellar, and improperly and dangerously near to a certain light which the defendant kept burning in the cellar, and by reason of the careless and negligent conduct of the defendant the gunpowder exploded while the plaintiff in obedience to the orders of the defendant, and in performanc& of his duty, with due care and caution was fetching some of the article from the cellar, and by such explosion the plaintiff was grievously burnt and injured. Great expenses were incurred in and about his medical and surgical treatment, and his eye-sight was totally destroyed." There was a second count in the declaration substantially the same as the first, only it alleged that the explosion was caused by the defendant carelessly throwing a piece of lighted paper in such a manner as to fall upon the gunpowder, and to explode the same. The defendant had not pleaded to the action, and judgment was signed on the 26th of July. Mr. Motteram of the Oxford circuit [instructed by Messrs. Ryland and Martineau] appeared on behalf of the plaintiff, and Mr. H. W. West, of the. Northern circuit [instructed by Mr. W. Cotterill] was retained by the defendant. The damages were laid in the declaration at £500. Mr. Motteram, in addressing the Jury, said that the case into which they were about to enquire, or rather were summoned to enquire, was of a very painful character, but after the negotiations which probably they had seen going on between himself and his learned friend Mr. West, who appeared on behalf of the defendant, he was glad to inform them that they would be saved from an anxious enquiry and from further trouble in the matter. He then went on to say that no doubt it would be in the recollection of the Jury [for unhappily for Birmingham such serious loss of life had recently resulted from explosions in the town] that on the 7th of December last an explosion of a very serious nature, though not so terrible in its consequences as those to which he had alluded, took place at the shop of the defendant in Jamaica Row. The consequence of that melancholy catastrophe was that the plaintiff, a very promising young man of fifteen or sixteen was for ever deprived of his sight, and rendered totally blind through the negligence of Mr. Barnett, his master. The negligence consisted in improperly stowing the gunpowder in improper vessels and in an improper place. The case, though so sad and serious in its consequences, had engendered no vindictive feeling on Mr. Taylor's part, nor, he was happy to say, any desire on the part of Mr. West's client to deal unfairly or illiberally with the young man. Great sympathy had been manifested by the defendant for the misfortune the young man had sustained, and a corresponding desire was felt by his father that the compensation sought should not press with too much severity on the defendant; for the loss of sight no money could be a sufficient compensation, but while this was felt, and some recompense was required for the injuries sustained, the plaintiff had been moderate in his demand, and had consented to take a sum of two hundred guineas by way of compensation, and this being so, they would not be further troubled with the case, but under the direction of the Under Sheriff would return a verdict for that amount. Mr. West said he agreed entirely with the observations that had fallen from Mr. Motteram in relation to this painful case, He could not deny that his client had been guilty of that amount of legal negligence that rendered him liable to make compensation to the plaintiff for the injuries occasioned by the explosion, but hoped that if the case had gone on to have shown that he was free from what, for the want of a better phrase, might be called moral negligence. He said that the defendant had from the first eyinced great sympathy for the boy's misfortune. He felt that he had been deprived of one of the greatest blessings of life, and was willing to make such compensation as his circumstances permitted. The parties on both sides had, through their counsel, approached each other in a commendable spirit and the result the Jury had already heard from his learned friend. It only therefore remained for him to say on the part of the defendant, that he assented to the terms proposed, and was willing that the Jury should record their verdict accordingly. Mr. Motteram hoped to be permitted to say one word with regard to the office in which Mr. Barnett was insured. The District Fire Office had behaved most handsomely in the matter, for whilst denying any legal liability under the policy, it had nevertheless presented to Mr. Barnett the sum of £500., in consequence of the loss he had sustained. He made this statement with much pleasure, since it was greatly to the credit of the office, and he thought deserved to be publicly noticed. After a few words from Mr. West to the same effect, the Jury gave a verdict for the plaintiff. Damages £210."
"The Explosion in Jamaica Row"
Birmingham Daily Post : August 26th 1862 Page 2.

Brummagem Boozers

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