Some history of the Sir John Falstaff Tavern on Icknield Street West at Ladywood in Birmingham in the County of Warwickshire

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This beer house may have been the former Vine Inn, the inn sign being changed after the death of Sarah Beach. I have no firm evidence of this but the Vine Inn was close to Ladywood Place, the row of properties set back from the road between Icknield Square and Beach Street, the latter almost certainly commemorating the Beach family who operated extensive nursery gardens here.

Birmingham : Map extract showing the location of the Sir Falstaff Tavern on Icknield Street West in Ladywood

Sarah Beach died in 1853 and the sign of the Vine Inn subsequently vanished from trade directories of Birmingham. It was in the mid-1850s that the sign of the Sir John Falstaff first appeared. The building was located on the southern corner of Icknield Square and, before later numbering of Monument Road, was No.260 Icknield Street West, the earlier name for this stretch of road from the parish boundary to Brookfields.

Falstaff and his Page by Adolf Schrödter

The inn sign of Sir John Falstaff was popular in the mid-19th century and Birmingham had several houses bearing his name. The fictional character appears in three plays by William Shakespeare, notably as the buffoonish suitor of two married women in "The Merry Wives of Windsor," a play appropriated by some branches of modern feminism. As in the above painting by Adolf Schrödter, Falstaff is portrayed as a plump, larger-than-life character, a bit of an old rogue fond of practical jokes. The sign may have gained some popularity following the "The Life of Sir John Falstaff" by Robert B. Brough, published in ten monthly installments priced at one shilling each, though this did not appear until 1858.

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Joseph Everitt first appears as a beer retailer at No.260 Icknield Street West in the Post-Office Directory published in 1854 and, with the slippage of such publications, probably places him at the tavern in 1853. In the 1852-3 Slater's Directory he was listed at 32 Bridge Street West, a beer house called the Royal Exchange.

Birmingham : Sale of Household Furniture and Brewing Plant at the Sir John Falstaff Tavern on Icknield Street West in Ladywood [1858]

The above notice for a sale of the household furniture suggests that Joseph Everitt was giving up the licensed trade. This is the first reference I have seen with the inn sign of the Sir John Falstaff. The sale also included brewing plant, including copper, mash tun and casks, showing that the tavern was selling homebrewed ales.

The Post-Office Directory of 1860 lists D. Hancox as the licensee. The premises were unoccupied at the time of the 1861 census. Mark Lees applied for a music licence in August 1862.

By 1867 John and Elizabeth Bradley were running the Sir John Falstaff Tavern. Both were born in Worcester.

When the street was renumbered the Sir John Falstaff Tavern was at No.338 Monument Road. The premises were de-licensed as part of a cull of Ladywood houses by the Birmingham Licensing Justices in August 1913.

Birmingham : Former Sir John Falstaff Tavern on the corner of Monument Road and Icknield Square at Ladywood [1962]

After its time as a tavern, the premises were converted into a shop. In the early 1920s the corner building was occupied by the pawnbroker John McMahon. A decade later Frederick Archibald Fullwood was trading as an outfitter from the premises. This business evolved into Fullwood Ltd. and occupied the premises until the death of Frederick Fullwood in 1959. By the time of this 1962 photograph the shop seems to be a general store. The shop next door was Bradley's, a butchery.

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Licensees of the Sir John Falstaff Tavern

1854 - Joseph Everitt
1860 - D. Hancox
1862 - Mark Lees
1867 - John Bradley
1880 - Richard Parker
1888 - James Wood
1892 - John Maddock
1903 - John Watts
1912 - Wathen Henry Wood
1913 - Frederick Richard Cooper
Note : this is not a complete list of licensees for this pub. The dates of early licensees are sourced from trade directories, census data, electoral rolls, rate books and newspaper articles. Names taken from trade directories may be slightly inaccurate as there is some slippage from publication dates and the actual movement of people.

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Sir John Falstaff drawn by George Cruikshank [1858]

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