History of the Bell Inn on Lozells Road at Handsworth in Birmingham in the county of Warwickshire.


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Some history of the Bell Inn

The Bell Inn was on the south side of Lozells Road close to the corner of Wilton Street. I use the past tense because, although the building still stands, the pub itself closed for trading some years ago. The premises were subsequently converted into a retail shop. Note in the photograph below that Mitchell's and Butler's owned both the public-house and the shop on the corner, the latter being used as an off-licence under the company's "Good Cheers Cellars" brand.

Birmingham : The Bell Inn on Lozells Road at Handsworth [c.1958]

The above photograph dates from around 1958 when William Briggs was the publican. He held the licence for twenty years between 1952 and 1972. The pub's location can be seen on the 1888 map extract below. Note that there was a large malthouse on the opposite corner of Wilton Street at this time. Ironically, during the First World War the malthouse was owned by Ansell's, arch rivals to Mitchell's and Butler's - not that the Cape Hill brewery were operating the Bell Inn at this stage in its history. However, they would later take over the Bell Inn.

Birmingham : Map showing the locations of the Bell Inn and Lozells Inn on Lozells Road at Handsworth [1888]

Prior to Ansell's utilising the malthouse, the building was operated by Showell's of Langley Green. In the 19th century however it was sole proprietors who were listed at the maltings. For example, in 1892 Thomas Swift was listed as the maltster, whilst in 1879, it was the business concern of James Poole.

Birmingham : The Bell Inn on Lozells Road at Handsworth [c.1958]

Courtesy of Lyn Harrington, this colour photograph was taken around 1965 and shows the pub's immediate neighbours to the west of the building. The shop next door was occupied by a ladies' hairdressing salon. In the late 1950s a similar business traded as Adrienne's. However, here in the swinging sixties it was known as Vera's Hair Fashions. Hair styles may have changed over the decades but the salon was still called Vera's in the early 21st century!

Next to Vera's Hair Fashions there was a café simply called The Burger Bar. However, the Bell Inn had put up a sign advertising that "Food was always available." This was around the time that public-houses realised that a few snacks and light meals could attract more customers during their lunchtime opening hours.

The Bell started out as a beer house but was upgraded to a fully licensed house in August 1857 at Erdington's annual licensing meeting. At this time, the Bell Inn was under the stewardship of John Matthews. Although his application was opposed by Thomas Hall, landlord of the Lozells Inn on the opposite side of the road, the Bench granted John Matthews a new licence for the Bell Inn. The Birmingham-born publican had been running the Bell Inn during the late 1840s with his wife Charlotte. She hailed from Brereton near Rugeley. The couple employed a barman and two house servants, suggesting that trade was pretty good at the Bell Inn.

Victorian Pigeon-Shooting

In addition to catering for travellers or transients by offering accommodation, the Bell Inn was involved in a number of local social or sporting activities that ensured a constant level of trade throughout the calendar. For example, John Forbes organised pigeon shoots on the grounds behind the pub at a time when there were still some open fields in the locality. These shoots were quite grand affairs during which an early lunch was served to those participating in the sport.

Referring back to the plan above, it can be seen that the property of the Bell Inn was quite extensive and there was an entrance to the rear of the premises along Wilton Street. Whatever activity took place in these buildings John Forbes was seemingly not interested in engaging in them himself, preferring to rent out the property for others to try and make a living. In 1864 he advertised part of the property [possibly the corner shop that later became the off licence] as "shopping, six lights, well-built and stabling with lock-up coach-house."

The licence of the Bell Inn was transferred from John Forbes to Isaiah Williams in October 1865. However, his stay at the pub was brief and by 1868 John Bennett was mine host. He and his wife Sarah were born in Gloucestershire and their time at the Bell Inn could be viewed as a natural progression in terms of movement for they had earlier kept a pub in the city centre before moving out to Lozells and then they drifted a little further out to Birchfield.

Birmingham : Off-Licence adjoining the Bell Inn on Lozells Road at Handsworth [c.1958]

In the early 1880s the shop next to the Bell on the corner of Wilton Street was occupied by the grocer John Pugh. The Bell meanwhile was now being run by Oxford-born Adam Powell. He was the son of William Powell, an attorney;s clerk turned accountant who had relocated to Duddeston when the publican was a small boy. The Powell family later moved to Victoria Road and Adam, like three of his brothers, found work in the jewellery quarter. Taking over as landlord of the Bell Inn, he remained for much of the 1880s.

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I have not seen the deeds for the Bell Inn but other documents seem to point to Adam Powell being the proprietor of the business rather than being a tenant of the property. It would seem that Adam Powell had a penchant for the green baize for he installed a billiards hall at the Bell Inn. The table would have provided a venue for keen players in the locality but it also played host to exhibition games and competitions. For example, in 1885 a "Grand Match between John Roberts Jnr., Champion, and H. Coles [Champion of the Midlands]." Tickets priced between 2 and 3 shillings were sold for the afternoon and evening sessions of this contest.

Birmingham : John Roberts Jr. Champion Billiards Player

Staging such a billiards match at the Bell Inn was nothing short of a coup for publican Adam Powell. John Roberts Jr. was not only one of the finest billiards players, he was instrumental in establishing the modern game. His father was also a key figure in the game. He became champion in the same year that he appeared at the Bell Inn and he would dominate the sport for much of the late 19th century. In 1884, he broke the spot-barred record break with 360, taking the record from William Cook from whom he had also taken the championship title. Roberts developed the "top-of-the-table" technique and, in doing so, he changed the way that the game was played.

John Roberts was at the meeting in which the Billiards Association was formed and was influential when the rules for modern game were established. In later years Roberts entered royal circles and played exhibition games for the wealthy and celebrities, generally giving the opponents a healthy head-start before trouncing them. On one occasion he played Lily Langtry, the stage actress and music hall entertainer. The Prince of Wales, Langtry's intimate acquaintance, watched the game. He also played before the Maharajah of Jaipur.

Ask for Ind Coope Double Diamond

Adam Powell must have made quite an impression in Lozells Road. His move to Handsworth was probably a desire to operate larger premises so he took over at the New Inns. He must have done pretty well for himself for he retired at a relatively early age and moved out to Shirley in what was then rural surroundings. I wish I could review the deeds of the Bell Inn because, at this point, things start to get a bit messy in terms of who owned the building and who was actually running the place. Both Harry Crow and a man called McKnight came and went. The newspaper article published in 1891 indicate that the leasehold had been taken over by Ind Coope and that one of the company's regional managers applied for the licence but intended to have a barman run the pub. When George Taylor's application was refused, another newspaper article reported that it had been decided that Mr. McKnight could remain in occupation pending arrangements to be made between the owners and the tenant with respect to the Bell Inn. However, another newspaper article later reported George Taylor living at the pub with his wife Theodora. He was, by all accounts, a despicable character and it was proved that he had committed several acts of violence against his wife. The newspaper article shows that Ind Coope had given him his marching orders. It would appear that they advertised for a new tenant and that Hugh McIntyre applied and was successful in taking over as the new incumbent of the Bell Inn.

Hugh McIntyre of Blackburn Rovers Football Club [1884]

The appointment of the new publican must have created a bit of a fuss in Lozells because this was a another case of sporting celebrity gracing the premises. Hugh McIntyre [sometimes spelt MacIntyre] was a former professional football player who had played in the Scottish Cup Final for Rangers before winning the F.A. Cup with Blackburn Rovers three years in a row from 1884-6. Hugh McIntyre is circled in the above photograph in which Blackburn Rovers are proudly displaying the F.A. Cup, the Lancashire Cup and the Lancashire Charity Cup, all three trophies won in the 1883-84 season.

The Bell Inn was not the first public-house run by Hugh McIntyre. A key reason for his move down south from Glasgow was that he was appointed licensee of the Castle Inn at Blackburn. This was an era during which, officially, players were not allowed to be paid to play the game. Clubs got around this ruling imposed by the Football Association by setting up players with paid employment. However, during McIntyre's time at Blackburn Rovers the ruling was changed and players turned professional.

Born in Glasgow around 1855, Hugh McIntyre played for both Glasgow Northern and Partick Thistle before signing for Glasgow Rangers. He only played for Scotland on one occasion, largely due to his move to Blackburn. This was a period when the Scottish Football Association refused to select players who had moved south of the border.

Unfortunately, Hugh McIntyre's move to Lozells was not a happy time for the former pro-footballer. Indeed, outside of the game, it would seem that his career was something of a disaster. After he hung up his football boots, following his failure at the Castle Inn, he left for London and went back to his trade as an upholsterer. However, he returned to the licensed trade when he came to Birmingham. Through a newspaper article published in 1892 we learn that Hugh MacIntyre had previously managed the Bell Inn on the corner of Bristol Street and Bell Barn Road. It was when I looked at that pub I noticed that the aforementioned Adam Powell [of billiards match fame] kept the Bell Inn between his spell here and before his move to Handsworth. This seems too much of a coincidence. Did the sporting promoter lure Hugh MacIntyre to Birmingham to run the Bell Inn on Bristol Street before he took over at the New Inns? And was he the owner of this Bell Inn let out to Ind Coope and is this why Hugh MacIntyre was brought in to run the place after the debacle of Arthur Taylor? Whatever, it would seem that the footballer was pretty much stitched up when he signed his tenancy agreement and he soon found he was unable to make ends meet. Finding himself in debt, he removed himself to Wolverhampton where he took over as manager of the George Hotel before being declared bankrupt.

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Birmingham : The Bell Inn on Lozells Road at Handsworth [c.1905]

Following the departure of Hugh McIntyre, a few more publicans came and went before the arrival of George Asbury in 1897. This brings us nicely to the wonderful image above in which one can see the name of this publican emblazoned on the wooden gable advertising mounted on the Bell Inn.

George Asbury was clearly intent on advertising all the key attributes of the Bell Inn to passers by. He was very keen to display the different types of whiskies that could be purchased at the pub. Billiards, pool and pyramids were still being played on the premises which, from the large painted advertisement between the bay windows, was being used for smoking concerts every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. By all accounts, it would seem that George Asbury had restored the fortunes of the Bell Inn.

Born in Birmingham's Gun Quarter, George Asbury, like most of his family, worked in the gun trade before his marriage to a Yorkshire lass took his career in a new direction. His wife Sarah hailed from Mirfield, near Huddersfield and the couple operated a general store on Key Hill in the early 1870s. George Asbury was licensee of the Bell Inn towards the end of the 19th century but at the end of Queen Victoria's reign he and Sarah had moved to nearby Birchfield Road where they traded as tea dealers within their grocery shop. Consequently, the date on this photograph, originally thought to be from 1905 is perhaps earlier.

Sarah Asbury died in 1902 and George re-married around seven years later. In the census of 1911 he is recorded as the licensed victualler in charge of the Star Hotel on Birchfield Road, a pub he kept with his second wife Minnie. Meanwhile at the Bell Inn George and Emily Parrock were mine hosts at the end of Queen Victoria's reign. George probably had a good idea how to keep a good pint of beer for his father worked as a brewer in Aston. At least he could rely on a guiding hand from his father. Three of George and Emily's children lived with them at the Bell Inn. The couple also employed Lucy Evans as a barmaid and Mary Bishop as a general servant. Also living on the premises at the time of the 1901 census was Bernard Holms who was recorded as a "Chairman of Concerts."

A succession of managers/tenants came and went during the Edwardian era, suggesting that the house was not doing as well as it ought. Ind Coope may have thrown in the towel on the place as they opted to sell up to Mitchell's and Butler's. The Cape Hill brewery paid the sum of £4,000 to Mrs. Buckland for the freehold of the property. She had leased the building to Ind Coope and the brewery's term ended in 1909. The sale included the neighbouring shop and premises which Mitchell's and Butler's rented out for £80 per annum.

The first licensee to serve M&B beers over the counter of the Bell Inn was Herbert James. The former ivory turner was born in Birmingham whilst his wife Elizabeth hailed from Avenbury in Herefordshire. The couple were able to employ three barmen and a domestic so trade must have picked up again at the Bell Inn.

Herbert and Elizabeth James remained at the Bell Inn until 1916 when Fred Simnett took over the reins. He had previously worked as a steward at King's Norton Golf Club though immediately before moving to the Bell Inn he was running the Albion Hotel on Livery Street. Fred Simnett's spell on Lozells Road was however brief.

The wonderfully named Herbert Octavius Woodhall succeeded Fred Simnett. He had previously worked as a brewer's traveller before taking over the reins of the Bell Inn with his wife Susan. The couple had married at Aston in July 1903.

At the end of hostilities Thomas and Edith Elcocks took charge of the Bell Inn. The couple had previously worked for Cheshire's Brewery when they kept the Shakespeare Tavern in Lower Temple Street. However, Mitchell's and Butler's had acquired the Windmill Brewery of Cheshire's at Smethwick during the First World War so they probably switched to the pay roll of the Cape Hill Brewery. The Bell Inn had certainly become a managed house by this time. Thomas Elcocks was himself Smethwick-born but his wife Edith hailed from Kent.

Ian Dixon moved from the Old Windmill on Dudley Road at Winson Green to run the Bell Inn at the end of the 1920s. He married Phyllis Anderson in October 1926. The couple were helped at the Bell Inn by Gladys Hughes, Ethel Holt and Florence Dethridge.

Ian and Phyllis Dixon were succeeded by Ernest and Doris Glenn. This was a man with pubs in his blood. He had grown up at the Old Britannia Inn on New John Street West, a boozer run by his parents Charles and Sarah Glenn. The Bell Inn was a stepping stone for this couple as they would go on to run the prestigious Crown Inn on Broad Street during World War Two. It was during the war that the publican made the newspapers as he was driving in the black-out at West Bromwich in October 1939 with his friend Benjamin Underwood, of the Old House Hotel at Harborne. Ernest Glenn turned off the Birmingham Road into Halfords Lane when he suddenly heard an unusual noise before the car came to a halt. Benjamin Underwood opened the passenger door to investigate but, as he stepped from the car, he disappeared completely from view. He had fallen into a hole excavated by workmen who were laying telephone lines. Fortunately, the Harborne publican received only a minor injury to his left leg.

Herbert Law took over as the manager of the Bell Inn on July 9th, 1934. At this time the average barrelage of the Bell Inn was 510 which, combined with other takings, made a net annual profit of £1,700 for the Cape Hill Brewery - not bad going for the period.

Taking over on January 13th, 1936 William and Daisy England kept the Bell Inn for two-and-a-half years before moving to the Greville Arms at Solihull. Their daughter Joyce worked as a hairdresser.

When the Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain made his radio broadcast that Britain was at war with Germany in September 1939 the Bell Inn was kept by Ronald and Lilian Greatrix. The couple had taken over the pub on October 4th, 1938. Although they only stayed here until January 1941, they remained in the licensed trade. They moved to the Sun Inn on Bristol Street where they remained for many years.

William Isaac Briggs would hold the licence of the Bell Inn for twenty years between 1952 to 1972. His name is on the licence plate in the first photograph dating from around 1958.

Birmingham : The Bell on Lozells Road at Handsworth [2002]

The Bell Inn remained on the portfolio of Mitchell's and Butler's until the early 1990s, probably as a result of the beer orders when the business was sold off to Mercury Taverns PLC of Amington near Tamworth. The pub can be seen here with the signage of Mercury Taverns in a photograph dated November 2002. It would not be long before the The Bell would close for good and the premises converted for retail use. By 2008 the premises was trading as a carpets and furniture store.

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Licensees of this pub

1849 - John Matthews
1861 - B. Harper
1864 - John Forbes
1865 - Isaiah Williams
1868 - John Bennett
1879 - William Bedford
1881 - William Bedford
1881 - Adam Powell
1890 - Harry Crow
1891 - McKnight
1891 - Arthur Henry Taylor
1891 - 1892 Hugh McIntyre
1894 - Joseph Baker
1895 - James Walton
1897 - George Albert Asbury
1901 - George Parrock
1903 - Edward Clarke
1906 - 1908 Alfred Chilton
1908 - 1909 Joseph Parsons
1909 - 1916 Herbert James
1916 - 1917 Fred Simnett
1917 - 1918 Herbert Octavius Woodhall
1918 - 1927 Thomas Henry Elcocks
1927 - 1928 Harry Parsons
1928 - 1932 Ian William Dixon
1932 - 1934 Ernest Glenn
1934 - 1934 William C. Willetts
1934 - 1936 Herbert S. Law
1936 - 1938 William Day England
1938 - 1941 Ronald Fras. Greatrix
1941 - 1943 George Edward Davies
1943 - 1948 John Price
1948 - 1952 Harry Dennis
1952 - 1972 William Isaac Briggs
1972 - 1975 Michael Ant. Humphries
1975 - 1976 Maurice Hull
1976 - 1978 Michael John Castle
1978 - 1979 Paul Randolph Stanyard
1979 - 1980 Miriam Denise Chapman
1980 - 1982 Peter Jones
1982 - 1986 Raymond Ken Bennett
1986 - 1990 Ajit Singh Dhaday
1990 - 1996 Arnold Arnett
1996 - 2000 George Kurantye Hanson
2000 - 2000 Christine Wilkins
2000 - 2001 Barbara Anita Brown
2001 - Ron Stanley Cameron
Note : this is not a complete list of licensees for this pub.

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Related Newspaper Articles

"Yesterday, at the Aston Police Court, Mr. George Edward Taylor, district manager to Messrs. Ind Coope and Co., applied for the transfer of the license of the Bell Inn, Lozells Road, from a person named McKnight to himself. In reply to Mr. Rowlands [magistrates' clerk], Mr. Taylor said Messrs. Ind Coope and Co. were the leaseholders of the premises; but although he did not intend to reside on the premises he should be responsible for the conduct of the house. A barman would carry on the business, but he [Mr. Taylor] would visit the house each day, perhaps twice or thrice. Mr. Hill, after consultation with his colleagues, said in Aston they had a large number of cases of sham tenants, or persons who are not legally responsible for the good conduct of the house. Under the circumstances they could not transfer the license to Mr. Taylor, as the Licensing Act laid it down that the house must be held by the responsible tenant and occupier, who shall conduct the business for his own and not for the profit of other persons."
"The Aston Justices and Tied Houses"
Birmingham Daily Post : January 3rd 1891

"Yesterday, at the Aston Police Court before Mr. A. Hill and Alderman A. Ash, Arthur Henry Taylor, licensed victualler, was summoned for having committed an aggravated assault upon his wife, Theodora Taylor. Mr. Joseph Ansell [Ansell and Ashford] appeared for the complainant, and Mr. Vachell [barrister] defended. Mr. Ansell asked that the Bench, if he made out his case, should grant his client a separation order, with an allowance for the support of herself and her child. The defendant, he explained, was well known in Aston. He had at one time been the landlord of the Guild Hotel, Witton Road, and was lately at the Bell Inn, Lozells Road, the property of Messrs. Ind Coope and Co., who had dispensed with his services. The complainant stated that on the 19th ult. defendant went into Birmingham. On his return in the evening to the Bell Inn, she put his tea before him, and asked him if he had seen Ind Coope and Co. He said he had and that they would have to leave the house, but as he did not offer any further explanation she told him that she should go to see Ind Coope and Co. herself in the morning. She got up from the table, and was in the act of leaving the house when defendant threw a large carving knife at her. The handle struck her on the back of the neck and caused her to fall to the ground, partly stunned. She afterwards picked up the knife, and told him that she would have him at Aston Police Station for what he had done, for she would not put up with his cruelty any longer. Defendant thereupon rushed at her, and bumped her against the wall with all his force. The servant interfered, and was struck. Then she received a blow on the body, and defendant caught hold of her by the hair, threw her to the ground, and bumped her about. In the end she managed to get away, and went and saw her brother. Emma Birch, a servant in the employ of Taylor at the time of the alleged assault, was called, but, although severely pressed by Mr. Ansell, persisted in saying that all the defendant did was to order the complainant out of the room, and when she declined to go to push her out. Mr. Ansell [to witness]: "Can you swear?" Witness [excitedly]: "Yes." Mr. Ansell: "At what?" Witness: "At anything. [Laughter.] A barmaid was also called, but did not bear out Mrs. Taylor's evidence. For the defence the assault was denied, Mr. Vachell contending that even if it had been proved it could not be described as an aggravated assault. The Bench, however, convicted the defendant of an aggravated assault, and heard evidence as to previous ill-treatment. Mrs. Taylor stated that they were married on the 15th June, 1884, and that they lived without anything like ill-treatment taking place until about 1888, early in which year he gave her a blow on the arm with his walking-stick,, which disabled her for some time. In January, 1889 he threw a spirit-glass at her, in July of the same year he pointed a revolver at her; at Christmas, 1891, while a bailiff was in possession, he threw a decanter at her; and in April of the present year he knocked her down and kicked her. In addition to this he had also given her a black eye. Mr. Ansell said that the defendant had given way to intemperate habits and horse racing. From bad he had gone to worse, and as in the "Rake's Progress," so in Taylor's, everything went before him. He was now before the Court on a charge of assaulting his wife, and she was practically homeless. The complainant did not press for a heavy fine. Defendant was ordered to pay £5 and costs, and a separation order was granted, Taylor to contribute £1 a week towards the support of his wife and child."
"Brutal Treatment of a Wife by an Aston Publican"
Birmingham Daily Post : November 3rd 1892

"Regarding Hugh MacIntyre, public-house manager. Yesterday a petition was filed in the Wolverhampton County Court on behalf of Hugh Maclntyre, the manager of the George Inn, Stafford Street, Wolverhampton. The debtor formerly occupied the position of publican at the Castle Inn, Market Street, Blackburn; upholsterer in Gray's Inn Road. London; manager of the Bell Inn, Bristol Street, Birmingham, and the Bell Inn, Lozells Road, Birmingham; and it may be added that he held the position of captain of the Blackburn Rovers Football Club when it was in the zenith of its power, and captured the English cup so frequently. The meeting of creditors and the public examination are fixed for December 20th."
"Bankruptcy Proceedings"
Birmingham Daily Post : November 29th 1892

"Re. Hugh Maclntyre, manager of the George Hotel, Stafford Street, Wolverhampton. Yesterday a meeting of the creditors of this bankrupt was held at the office of the [Official Receiver], Mr. E. Pritchard, in the town of Wolverhampton. The statement of accounts showed liabilities £352. 7s. 3d. and assets £2. The debtor, who was formerly captain of the Blackburn Rovers football team, was a journeyman upholsterer until 1880, when he commenced business as a licensed victualler at the Castle Inn, Blackburn; paying with borrowed money £500. for the goodwill, stock, plant, and licence. He repaid the whole of that money, but as the business did not pay he sold it and removed to London, where he was employed in his own trade until November 1888, when he became manager of the Bell Inn, Bristol Street, Birmingham, and afterwards the tenant of the Bell Inn, Lozells Road, Birmingham. The rent of the latter house was £300. a year, and the stock was valued to him at £350. which he was to pay for by £12. 10s. per week. As his creditors pressed him he gave up possession to the owners of the house, who took everything on account of the moneys owing to them. In April last he secured his present situation with £4. a week, out of which he had to pay two barmen. He explains his insolvency as the result of heavy rental and expenses at the Bell Inn, Lozells Road, Birmingham, having to borrow money at high rates of interest, and certain misappropriations of cash by one of the servants, who had absconded. The estate was left in the hands of the Official Receiver. Later in the day the debtor was examined before Mr. Registrar Sanders, at the County Court, and he was allowed to pass."
"Bankruptcy Proceedings"
Birmingham Daily Post : December 21st 1892

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