History of the Plough and Harrow on Jamaica Row in Birmingham in the county of Warwickshire.

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Some history of the Plough and Harrow

The Plough and Harrow was located on the western side of Jamaica Row, a few metres to the south of Bromsgrove Street. The old beer house was rebuilt during a period when this section of the Gooch Estate was being improved. The original Plough and Harrow was a little longer and narrower than its successor. The Plough and Harrow was formerly No.4 Balsall Street, a thoroughfare that would later form an extension of Jamaica Row.

Birmingham : The Plough and Harrow on Jamaica Row [c.1930]

This inter-war photograph shows the pub in the livery of Atkinson's Brewery Ltd. Beers from this Aston-based brewery were sold here as a result of acquisitions and mergers, principally by the Horton family who were responsible for the reconstruction. Prior to the Atkinson's brand being placed on the frontage, The Plough and Harrow was operated by Rushton's Brewery Ltd.

The building plans for the new Plough and Harrow left the offices of James & Lister Lea in 1886 and construction would have commenced either in the same year or in 1887. Which of the team at the architectural practice was responsible for this mixed style building I know not but it had some charm. Key features included a Dutch gable to the yard, a tower capped with a dome turret and a façade of timber cladding to instill a little flavour of the Tudor era. The latter feature was similar to the frontage of the New Inn around the corner in Bromsgrove Street.

Birmingham : Plan showing the Plough and Harrow on Jamaica Row and the New Inn on Bromsgrove Street [1889]

Another key characteristic of the two houses was a shared yard. This can be seen on the above plan dated 1889. Note the large stable block with the individual stalls marked out. The stables were an important part of the business and accommodated the horses of traders and patrons of the market across the road. This plan details the new Plough and Harrow with the upper dormer and turret being marked in yellow. A skylight is also shown below the double-RR of Harrow, though I do not know if this was for light to flood a first-floor function or club room or perhaps above a staircase from the ground floor.

Birmingham : Gooch Estate Plan showing the Plough and Harrow and other public-houses on Balsall Street [1875]

An earlier plan for the Gooch Estate shows the original Plough and Harrow in 1875. Note that the shared yard with the New Inn was almost identical though the entrance had been widened by the removal of some properties. This possibly facilitated the parking of carriages or waggons. In an improvement of this part of the Gooch Estate the corner of Bromsgrove Street was also redeveloped. For many years the corner property was occupied by the confectioner Richard Cranmer. Employing several men and boys, he also traded from some of the market stalls. His wife Emma managed the shop. As you can see from the plan there was plenty of competition for trade.

The Plough and Harrow seems to have been opened as a beer house by Thomas Homer as an extension to his business trading in hay. The inn sign was therefore quite apposite. Beoley-born Thomas Homer kept the tavern with his wife Ann, the couple employing two servants.

Birmingham : Notice for an auction of the Plough and Harrow in Balsall Street [1852]

The Plough and Harrow was put up for auction following the death of Ann Homer in 1852. The auction would have been for the lease as the property was erected on the Gooch Estate. Note that the New Inn, Pear Tree Inn and Plough and Harrow were on the same parcel of land [see 1875 Plan]. One individual would have sub-let the buildings and collected rents from all three public-houses. The sale of the Plough and Harrow was for both the beer house and the hay and straw business.


Birmingham : Notice for a sale of the Plough and Harrow in Balsall Street [1860]

The Plough and Harrow was on the market again eight years later when former dairyman Edward Pardoe sought pastures new. The pub was not auctioned by sold by private treaty. The advertisement provides a glimpse of what the old place was like, notably the stabling for 30 horses. This must have been a busy house on market day. Widower William Sale paid the premium of £200 and moved into the Plough and Harrow with his two daughters, Caroline and Sarah, both of whom worked in the pub. George, however, made his own way as a gun maker. The Sale family hired Frederick Oreton as a hostler who, along with Henry Purcock as groom, tended to equine duties in the busy yard.

Swadlincote-born William Sale was highly experienced in the licensed trade. The retail brewer had previously kept the Britannia Inn on Lancaster Street. His wife Marian hailed from Coleorton in Leicestershire but most of their children were born in Swadlincote in Derbyshire. The licence of the Plough and Harrow passed to Caroline Sale when her father concentrated on a new direction as an auctioneer. Caroline married the baker John Benton Earle in June 1864 and moved to a shop in Great Hampton Street. The Sale family had already disposed of the Plough and Harrow in the previous year.

Edward Denis was running the beer house in December 1864 when 19 year-old Angelina Cook, one of his domestic servants, was arrested for robbing the house. It was reported that on a Saturday morning the publican and his wife went out to the vegetable market, leaving Angelina Cook in charge of several children in the house. When they returned they missed £70 from a drawer in their bedroom. One of the childen told them that, whilst they were shopping, the servant had been upstairs for some time before meeting a man on the premises to whom it was supposed she had given the money. They reported the servant to the police and she was taken into custody by Detective Sergeant Seal and placed on remand pending further enquiries.

The frequency with which the Plough and Harrow was placed on the market suggests that it was tough going for publicans to turn a profit here in Balsall Street. A succession of people stumped up their incoming fee of £200 to take over the lease only to find that trade was insufficient to make a go of it. Many of them lost most of their money by investing in the business.

Leicestershire-born Samuel Musson had previously worked as a market gardener in Saltley so would have had experience of Smithfield before taking over the Plough and Harrow in the late 1860s. Indeed, his son John traded next door as a fruiterer. The latter business continued after the publican departed in despair.

The brewer Charles Owen was at the helm in the early 1880s. The former packer from Deritend, kept the Plough and Harrow with his wife Emma. They would later move to the Fountain Inn on Victoria Road at Aston.

It was all change at the Plough and Harrow in the 1880s. The pub was completely rebuilt, the address of the building officially became part of Jamaica Row, the public-house gained a full licence and the business was also granted hotel status. However, the trend for a high turnover of licensees did not come to an end at the new establishment. Indeed, the Plough and Harrow became central to a legal case which affected many other victuallers of the period.

Ownership and tenancy of the Plough and Harrow was, like many a public-house, a web of intrigue. The licensee in 1890 was Henry James Hart who, in August of that year was recorded as a bankrupt. He had also operated livery stables in Moor Street but his failure was attributed to the losses sustained at the Plough and Harrow. A court case in March of the following year, however, shows that he was a manager for Francis Scott the tenant who took over the licence on December 4th 1890. It would appear that he was hood-winked regarding the value of the Plough and Harrow and its weekly takings. Consequently, he took Adam Smith Powell to court over the matter. Powell was his landlord who, himself was a leaseholder with the pub being tied to beers from Atkinson's Brewery Ltd. The legal partners appearing for Francis Scott were successful in securing damages of £400 and the local newspapers were "most satisfied" that the brewery and the Powell were brought to book. Click here for more details on this court case.

Henry Hart managed to sort out his debts and continued as a livery stables keeper. Meanwhile, Francis Scott remained at the Plough and Harrow for a short period. The household reflects the nomadic life a man who worked on the railways. Originating from Westmorland, the publican had worked in Meirionnydd and Birkenhead, married a woman from Worcestershire and his children were born in Wolverhampton, Shrewsbury and Stourport.


Adam Powell was granted the licence himself though it is not clear if he actually worked in the building. He certainly had his licence endorsed for an offence. A newspaper article reveals that Walter Osborne was running the pub in March 1892 and that he was part-proprietor. He appeared in the press following an incident in which he was badly injured by one of the barman. William Lamstead had been working at the Plough and Harrow but, according to Walter Osborne, was discharged for stealing whisky and for drunkenness. He was allowed to remain at the house all night, but instead of going to bed, he went into the kitchen, and spoke abusively of the publican and his daughters to the cook. Osborne, on hearing this, ordered the barman to go to bed at once or leave the house. William Lamstead refused, and threw off his coat to fight his employer. Before the publican could defend himself he reeeived several blows on the neck and body, and the cook, who interfered, was struck by the barman. Walter Osborne turned to see whether the cook was badly hurt, and prisoner then rushed to the coalhole and brought out a hammer. According to the publican he "swung it round like a blacksmith's sledge" and brought it down on his head, inflicting a nasty wound. Fortunately, the publican broke the force of the blow with his arm, or the injury would have been very serious. However, he was knocked violently into the coalhole, and his face was injured. When facing the magistrates the barman claimed that the landlord received his injury by falling against a sink. William Lamstead was sent to gaol for two months, with hard labour.

Birmingham : Notice for Jessie Chambers of the Plough and Harrow on Jamaica Row [1938]

With licensees lasting months rather than years, some stability was restored when the Chambers family arrived in the mid-1890s. Solihull-born John Chambers held the licence until the end of the Edwardian period. His son Claude was also publican during the First World War. Jessie, the publican's wife, and the couple's children hailed from Scotland. The family had previously lived at the Golden Fleece in Edgbaston Street. However, as can be seen in the newspaper notice above it was the Plough and Harrow which was close to the family's hearts.

Licensees of this pub

1845 - Thomas Homer
1859 - Edward Pardoe
1861 - William Sale
1862 - Caroline Sale
1864 - Edward Denis
1868 - Samuel Musson
1882 - Charles Owen
1888 - Donald McLunes
1890 - Henry James Hart
1879 - Francis Scott
1893 - Adam Smith Powell
1896 - Isabel Mayer
1897 - John Chambers
1911 - Frank Jacobs
1914 - James Duffy
1915 - Albert Edwin Turner
1916 - Claude Chambers
1918 - Charles Walter Frith
1925 - Stephen R. Fisher
1930 - Claude Harris Chambers
1935 - Frederick Arthur Cannon
1951 - 1957 Arthur Edward Beasant
1957 - 1961 Reginald George Pull
1961 - 1967 Albert Leach
1967 - 1968 Frances Thomas Keenan
1968 - 1969 Patrick Joseph Williamson
1969 - 1973 Dennis Joseph Redmond
Note : this is not a complete list of licensees for this pub.

Atkinson's Ales - Held Up As The Best!

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Related Newspaper Articles

"Annie Allen [40], and Emma Baker [36], both of Allison Street, were charged with assaulting a man named Thomas Haynes. The prosecutor stated that he saw the prisoners in the Plough and Harrow puhlic-house, Jamaica Row. Allen and he quarrelled, whereupon Baker struck him a violent blow on the forehead with a cup. He was then knocked down by the prisoners, and Allen kicked him. He went the Queen's Hospital, where the wound on his head was dressed. Police Constable Dawson said the prosecutor gave the prisoners into custody as they were walking away from the Plough and Harrow. The prosecutor's head was bleeding very much. They then both admitted that they had assaulted the prosecutor, but stated that he had called them "bad names." The prisoners denied the assault, and stated that prosecutor had called them improper names. Allen was fined 20s. and costs or one month's imprisonment, and Baker was sent to gaol for one month without the option of a fine."
"Violent Assault"
Birmingham Mail : January 29th 1883 Page 3

"Thomas Dodds [34], fitter, was indicted for stealing, on the 23rd December last, 15s., the moneys of Francis Scott, Plough and Harrow Hotel, Jamaica Row. Mr. Simmonds represented. The prisoner was seen to lean over the counter in the bar of the hotel, and directly afterwards the jingle of money was heard. The accused then hurriedly left, and he was arrested by Detective Sergeant Brown. The accused was found guilty, and he was sent to gaol for three months."
"Theft From a Hotel"
Birmingham Mail : April 13th 1891 Page 3

"An action was brought by Francis Scott against Adam Smith Powell to recover for alleged fraudulent misrepresentation in respect to the takings of public-house. Mr. Harris, Q.C., and Mr. Parfitt, for the plaintiff, and Mr. A. Young and Mr. Lindsell for the defendant. Plaintiff had been a railway contractor. With a little money that he had saved he took the Plough and Harrow, Jamaica Row, off the defendant, who has a considerable connection with public-house property. Defendant had lent Mr. Hall, who had failed at the house, money, and became the mortgagee. Afterwards the defendant had two managers in the house - Mr. Hunt and Mr. Heathcote. Plaintiff stated that it was represented to him that the takings of the house were £35 per week; that the yard paid £150 per year, and that there were no unusual covenants in the lease, which bound the tenant for ales to Mr. Atkinson. Subsequently plaintiff found there was a covenant that he should pay £200 as a premium to the landlord, beyond the £500 represented to him as the full ingoing, and Mr. Atkinson required him to pay £13 per year for a part of the yard that it turned out was not in the lease. Plaintiff arranged with the defendant to pay £100 of the £200, and to pay it by £l per week instalments. Plaintiff signed an agreement to become the tenant on the 21st October, 1890, and since then he had found the house takings to average £18. 14s. per week, and £22 being the highest week, and the yard takings were £2. 1s. 5d. He had also discovered that the takings of the defendant's managers Hunt and Heathcote were £22. 8s. 3d. and £18. 15s. 5d., and that Hunt's takings for the yard were £2. 3s. 4d., and Heathcote's £1. 5s. per week. At the time it is said to have been represented to the plaintiff that the yard takings were £150., defendant must have known that was not so, as he was aware it was paying £1. 5s. at the time. The defendant denied that he had made any misrepresentations. Plaintiff had made himself liable for twelve years for the rent of £200 per year. If he could only get £20 per week takings and £1. 5s. for the yard he would be living on a loss. Plaintiff sought to recover from the defendant £450 for the goodwill and the loss he would sustain by paying rent for twelve years. Mr. A. Claridge, auctioneer, who acted for the plaintiff in the negotiations for taking the house, said on £18 per week takings the plaintiff, after paying rent, the license, rates, and taxes, would be quite £100 per year out of pocket. Plaintiff said he paid £300 down in cash. That was all he had, and he agreed to pay another £100 by weekly instalments of £1 per week. The rent was £200, taxes £65, licenses £35, wages and sundries £150, repairs £20, total £470. If the takings had been £35 per week the gross annual profit would have been £606, to which, adding £65 from the yards, gave a total income of £671, leaving more than £200 as profit. At £18 per week takings, the gross income was £375, nearly £100 less than the expenses. Messrs. Hunt and Heathcote spoke to the defendant knowing from week to week what their takings were during the time they respectively acted as his manager at the Plough and Harrow. Mr. Lendsell, in addressing the jury, said most unfortunately Mr. Grey, who acted for the defendant, put down £35 as the weekly takings instead of £30 by a clerical error, but he had told Mr. Claridge several times in conversation that the defendant regarded the house a £30 house. The defendant said he took the house from Mr. Hart, and had it 11 months. Hart was his manager for six or seven months. The two other managers who followed Hart did not do so. It took time for a manager to get custom together. The takings, he estimated, were about £30 per week, and he gave that figure to Mr. Grey, his agent. He [defendant[ gave £724. for the house, and sold it to the plaintiff for £500. Mr. Grey, of the firm Grey and Walker, auctioneers, said he inadvertently put £35 instead of £30. Before defendant's manager had told him the takings were £35, and the defendant corrected that figure and said £30."
"A Public-House Case"
Birmingham Mail : March 16th 1891 Page 3

It was a few weeks before the outcome of this case was reported in the press. The jury who assessed the damages in this action returned a verdict of £400 to be awarded to Francis Scott.

Brummagem Boozers

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