Some history of the King's Arms
The King's Arms was located on the eastern side of Suffolk Street on the northern corner of New Inkleys, later Station Street.
The King's Arms was originally a beer house but, through the redevelopment of other sections of Suffolk Street, the building survived most of its competitors for trade. Eventually, the tavern would fall victim to redevelopment and the last pints were pulled on the evening of September 29th, 1962.
Richard Davies was the man responsible for obtaining a licence for No.14 Suffolk Street when he took over the property from Benjamin Mayo in 1832. Rate books for Suffolk Street indicate that the property was a beer house in 1834. He did not hang around for long and was succeeded by Isaac Moore two years later.
The beer house may have been originally known as the White Horse. Isaac Moore was mentioned at the sign of the White Horse in a newspaper article within the Birmingham Journal on October 12th, 1839. Rate books and trade directories did not mention the house by name up until this point so it could be that the article was correct. Robson's Directory for Birmingham of 1839 records Isaac Moore as both brace bitmaker and retail brewer so it can be assumed with some degree of certainty that this was a homebrew house.
The sign of the King's Arms appears for the first time within Pigot's Trade Directory published in 1841 after Isaac Moore successfully gained a full licence for the tavern. He kept the King's Arms with his wife Sarah and employed Elizabeth Bibb as a servant.
The King's Arms changed hands in 1845 when George and Harriett Careless moved in, a couple who married at St. George's Church in August 1836. The couple lived at the King's Arms with their young daughter Harriet and Mary Brady, a servant in their employ. Following the death of George Careless the licence of the King's Arms was transferred to his wife Harriet in 1852.
William Fitter was the licensee when the above plan was drawn up in 1855. The line down the middle of Suffolk Street is not a tram line but shows the proposed sewer pipe to improve sanitation in the town. This plan extract is taken from many produced by John Pigott Smith who was appointed surveyor to the Birmingham Street Commissioners in 1835 before becoming the Borough Surveyor in 1852. His street plans of Birmingham are the most detailed of the mid-19th century and provide good comparisons with those produced by the Ordnance Survey in the late 1880s.
In the 1855 plan the shape and size of the King's Arms, as it was constructed, can be seen. The opposite corner of New Inkleys was a later development and by the time of this plan the property was occupied by the dyer Hannah Quinn.
In order to concentrate on his industrial career, William Fitter put the King's Arms up for sale towards the end of 1858. In White's Trade Directory of 1855 William Fitter was listed as a victualler and candle-lamp spring and lamp screw maker. He would establish new premises in nearby Severn Street. William Davis would respond to the advertisement for the King's Arms Tavern, though it was not until August 1859 that the licence was transferred to him.
The steel toy maker Benjamin Bird, along with his wife Ann, had a brief spell at the King's Arms before Henry Street became a long-serving publican. A former wire worker, Henry had recently married Maria Smart at St. Mark's Church. They settled into their new home and remained for almost two decades. George Street issued a tavern check for the King's Arms Inn.
The Street family suffered a double loss in 1869. In March their seven year-old daughter Maria died after "a lingering illness." A couple of months later their five month-old daughter Elizabeth also died. The couple also had two young sons, Henry and Arthur. Also living on the premises was Emma Taylor who worked as a domestic servant. However, in October 1873 their son Henry died with what was diagnosed as "brain fever." After losing three children, Maria Street herself died in December 1878. She was only 44.
It could be tough going at times to keep an orderly house in this part of Birmingham. The Irish tough cases of the so-called slum housing in and around Green's Village were known to kick-off at times. In March 1882 Mark Conway, a 23 year-old brassfounder of Gough Street was drinking in the King's Arms when Henry Street told him he had had enough to drink and refused to serve him with more drinks. Conway refused to leave the premises and became enraged. He hurled abuse and assaulted Henry Street who, along with some help, managed to eject him from the pub. However, he came back for more and created a right ding-dong. The police arrived and carted him off to the cells. The magistrates imposed a fine on the brassfounder and if he failed to pay he would have to serve 14 days' hard labour.
The licence of the King's Arms was transferred to Rose Lester in March 1888. However, within months it was transferred again, this time to John Downes. I suspect that this publican was installed by Edward Ansell who had become the owner of the property prior to his family's firm being converted into a limited company and registered as Joseph Ansell & Sons Ltd in 1889.
This extract from an estate plan for Sir Thomas Gooch, a major landowner, shows that the King's Arms was essentially the same building as seen in the 1855 plan. There had been development around the public-house but much of this was about to be swept away in the creation of John Bright Street, the outline of which was marked on this plan as it was years in the planning. The thoroughfare, named after the politician and social reformer, was completed by the end of 1881 - that is the street not the buildings, such as the Skin Hospital, which would take some years to complete.
This photograph of the King's Arms Inn was almost certainly taken in 1891. It is interesting as there are clues to its past in the image. To the left the painted lettering advertises Home Brewd and Burton Ales. Henry Street clearly offered a choice to his patrons - and displayed confidence in his own recipes that stood alongside those produced in the Staffordshire centre of brewing. Another wall sign shows that past publicans, probably Henry Street again, was a bonder of wines and spirits.
In the photograph there are no signs of brewery ownership on the building's fabric. However, propped up inside the windows, there are framed panels advertising Holder's Ales produced at the Midland Brewery. The company had taken ownership of the King's Arms Inn and John William Barton was a tenant. The licence of the building was transferred to him on March 5th, 1891 and he installed Jacob Higton as manager. The Nottingham-born publican managed the King's Arms Inn with his Brummie wife Sarah. Jacob Higton would later run the Golden Cross Inn on Snow Hill, another Holder's house leased to John William Barton.
On August 6th 1891 building plans for extensions to the King's Arms Inn were approved. The plans were drawn up by the architect William Jenkins for the owner John C. Holder. Accordingly, this image almost certainly has to be 1891. Interestingly, in the previous year, during January, strong winds caused a workshop attached to tavern to be blown down. It was reported that "the building was not an old one, but appeared to have been flimsily built." It was also stated that "a brick fell out of the gable and narrowly missed a girl who was passing." Was this incident the catalyst for Edwin Ansell to dispose of the King's Arms Inn? This is the advertisement that attracted the attention of John C. Holder in November 1890....
Featuring large bargeboard advertising for Holder's Ales and Stout, this photograph dates from around 1895 prior to Barton & Binns relinquishing the lease on the property during the following year. John Barton and George Binns operated together for a period as wine and spirits merchants. John Barton continued his relationship with Holder's and, taking out leases, operated some of their properties, including the Acorn Inn on Hill Street and the Three Tuns Inn at Digbeth. I wonder if Mr. Barton or Mr. Binns are featured in this photograph? The man in the apron may be the manager Jacob Higton ....
In December 1896 the licence of the King's Arms Inn was transferred to Walter Jones and the house became part of the Birmingham Criterion Limited. William and Walter Jones formed this business, arguably the first retail pub company of the Midlands. They may have even invented the term 'Corporate Identity' because each time they took over the lease of a pub they changed the name of the premises to The Criterion. And so, the King's Arms Inn, as part of a small chain of public-houses around Birmingham, became known as The Criterion. Other public-houses operated by the company, and all re-named to The Criterion included : The Big Bull's Head on Digbeth, Sir Charles Napier on Gooch Street, The Brook Vaults on Jamaica Row, The Wellington at Mary Street, the Hen and Chickens on Constitution Hill, the Old Rodney Inn at Hurst Street and the Spread Eagle on Spiceal Street.
Walter Jones retained the licence of the King's Arms Inn, trading as The Criterion, and installed managers to run the place. In 1901 this was Noah and Emma Ride. Remaining with the company, they would later manage the Sir Charles Napier on Gooch Street.
The Ride's were succeeded by a right scoundrel. William Bannister made off with a week's takings at Christmas 1903 and it was some time before he was found and arrested by the police.
Handsworth-born Archibald Forsyth was appointed manager of the King's Arms in 1906 and lived there for almost a decade before he suddenly died in June 1915. The publican was reportedly "seized with a violent fit of coughing in his bedroom, and died before medical assistance arrived." The licence was subsequently transferred to his wife Elizabeth. She re-married in August 1918 to Herbert Wakefield who became the licensee.
The King's Arms continued to be known as The Criterion until the mid-1920s but the company had to pay their rent to new owners in 1919 when Mitchell's and Butler's bought out Holder's Brewery Ltd., taking over their estate of public-houses. The valuation of the King's Arms recorded within the Cape Hill Brewery's ledger was £8,500. As soon as their agreement with Birmingham Criterion Limited came to an end the King's Arms was managed by brewery employees. The photograph above shows the King's Arms with the livery of Mitchell's and Butler's, including very nice etched-glass windows.
The vacant plot next door fronting Suffolk Street was vacant, a legacy perhaps of the great winds and storm of earlier years. The above map shows that the space was later developed with a new No.16. In the early 1930s it was occupied by the antiques dealer Hedley Shipway. The tall building next to the King's Arms fronting Station Street was a mixed-use development of offices and apartments, the caretaker being Richard Kyrwood. Known as Somerton Buildings, the ground floor also had some retail units.
George Worman was one of the last managers to run the King's Arms under the Criterion guise. He would later marry Florence Hitchman and the couple moved to Worcester where they kept the Crown on Friar Street.
Ernest and Jessie Ryland were managers for a spell during the late 1920s. The moved for a brief spell at the Junction Inn at Harborne before a decade in charge of the Barton's Arms on High Street Aston. Ernest Clifford died in January 1942 whilst running one of the brewery's flagship public-houses.
Edward Malone was appointed manager on October 23rd, 1939. In the 1930s he rode around on a motorcycle. However, he broke his leg in a collision with another motorcycle on the way home from the Coventry Carnival in June 1931. The son of a policeman, had only just married his wife Georgina, who worked as a receptionist in a photographic studio, when taking on the King's Arms. Employed as a draughtsman, he seemingly thought it a good idea to test his marriage by going into the licensed trade! A further test was to come when he served in the Royal Navy during World War Two. The reunited couple continued in the licensed trade after the war. In the 1950s they were running the Bird in Hand at Henley-in-Arden.
This photograph was taken just six months before the King's Arms ceased trading. There are some key changes to the building from when it was captured on film in 1924 - perhaps the result of bombing during the war. The air raid map of Birmingham does have an incendiary bomb incident plotted at or very close to this junction. The 1920s windows had been replaced with the lower section infilled with brick. The etched panes were gone and replaced with leaded windows. The roofline is more basic with the decorative dentils gone. Adjoining the public-house on the Suffolk Street frontage was a firm specialising in cash registers and repairs. On the other side of the pub in Station Street was the Colmore Motor Cycle Depot.
The last manager of the King's Arms was Robert Bright. After closing on September 29th, 1962, the licence was held in suspense and then transferred to the Royal Mail at No.84 New Street in September 1967.
Licensees of this pub
1834 - 1836 Richard Davies
1836 - 1836 Isaac Moore
1845 - 1852 George Careless
1852 - 1854 Harriet Careless
1854 - 1859 William Fitter
1859 - 1861 William Richard Davis
1861 - 1862 Benjamin Bird
1862 - 1888 Henry George Street
1888 - 1888 Mrs. Rose Lester
1888 - 1891 John Downes
1891 - 1893 John William Barton
1893 - 1896 John Barton & George Binns
1896 - 1903 Walter Jones
1903 - 1904 William Thomas Bannister
1904 - 1906 Joseph William Hodgson
1906 - 1915 Archibald Forsyth
1915 - 1918 Elizabeth Forsyth
1918 - 1920 Herbert Wakefield
1920 - 1921 Frederick William Watt
1921 - 1924 George Worman
1924 - 1925 John D. Shires
1925 - 1928 Ernest Richard Keable
1928 - 1929 Ernest Clifford Ryland
1929 - 1930 Sidney Walter Ryland
1930 - 1933 Peter Thomas Troman
1933 - 1935 Edward Lloyd
1935 - 1936 Charles Henry Hughes
1936 - 1939 Edward Freeling Wilkinson
1939 - 1939 H. Collins
1939 - 1940 Edward Wykes Malone
1940 - 1944 Frank Lawrence Collins
1944 - 1946 Harold Crossthwaite Scott
1946 - 1948 Walter Gerald Palmer
1948 - 1953 William Sutheran
1953 - 1954 William Arthur Salter
1954 - 1956 Arthur Bernard Reeve
1956 - 1959 John Murphy
1959 - 1960 Arthur Scurch Styler
1960 - 1962 Robert George Bright
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Related Newspaper Articles
"Thomas Howman , drover, 9 Court, 6 house, Sherlock Street, was charged with being drunk on licensed premises and assaulting
policemen. Police Constable Charles Price said that he and Police Constable Harris went to the King's Arms, Suffolk Street, on Saturday night, and found the prisoner
there. He was drunk, and had a pot containing beer before him. He refused to give his name, and consequently was taken into custody. When in the street he fought like a
madman. He threw himself on to the ground, refused to walk, and kicked witness and Police Constable Harris on the legs and head. Mr. Timmins: Do you want to ask him
a question? Prisoner: Well, he's told a very nice tale. Prisoner admitted, however, that he struck the officer and refused to go to the lock-up. He did
so because he would not let him finish his beer. Several convictions were recorded against the prisoner, and he was sent to gaol for six weeks, with hard labour."
"Not Allowed To Finish His Beer"
Birmingham Daily Post : October 1st 1889 Page 7
"William Jackson, a watchman, of Stirchley, was charged with uttering counterfeit coins. Evidence was given showing that on the 6th inst. he
went to three public-houses - the Half Moon Inn, Irving Street; the King's Arms, Suffolk Street; and the Hill Street Tavern, Irving Street -
and passed at each a gilded Jubilee sixpence, receiving change for the half-sovereign supposed to be presented. The case was suspended for a week, in order that the
Treasury authorities mav be communicated with. Sergeant Rytle said a number of gilded sixpences had been circulated in the city of late, but only three had been traced
to the prisoner."
Birmingham Daily Post : December 15th 1893 Page 3
"Three months' imprisonment was the punishment meted out at the Birmingham Police Court, today, to William Thomas Bannister, an
ex-publican, who was charged with embezzling the sum of £12. from Criterions Ltd. Prisoner was manager of the King's Arms, Suffolk Street, and on Christmas
Day last he absconded with the week's takings, which amounted to about £50. His whereabouts were not discovered until last week, when Detective Sergeant Evans
arrested him in Balsall Heath. Prisoner said: "I am very glad it has come to an end; if I had not been arrested I meant to give myself up." Mr. Stanbury
Eardley pleaded for leniency for the prisoner, who had hitherto borne a good character. Last Christmas he had been drinking heavily, and was in such a state that he did
not know what was doing when he absconded."
Birmingham Mail : November 29th 1904 Page 4