History of The Plough on Suffolk Street in Birmingham in the county of Warwickshire.

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Some history of The Plough

The Plough, once also known as the Plough and Harrow, was located on the western side of Suffolk Street on the northern corner of Gough Street. Indeed, the house was listed in both thoroughfares.

Birmingham : Gooch Estate Plan showing location of The Plough on the corner of Suffolk Street and Gough Street [1875]

The tavern was known as the Plough and Harrow when it was kept by the Clare family in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. John Clare was listed as the licensee in Pye's Birmingham Directory published in 1797. He had married Mary Hunter five years earlier. Following his death the licence of the Plough and Harrow was transferred to her in 1820. She was both victualler and retail brewer. Rate books from 1832 and 1834 show that the premises had an adjoining malt house.

By the time Henry Burgess was running the tavern in the mid-1840s the house was known as the Old Plough and Harrow. In 1849 the pub was listed as the Old Plough and Harrow Revived. However, in 1850 the 'Revived' element had been dropped when the tavern was advertised ....

Birmingham : Sale of the Old Plough and Harrow on the corner of Suffolk Street and Gough Street [1850]

The advertisement shows that James Davis was the licensee at the time. The Londoner was running the Old Plough and Harrow with his wife Sarah. The couple lived on the premises with two young sons, James and William. It would appear that his 'satisfactory reason' was that he needed or wished to return south. In the early 1860s the family was living at Drury Lane in London.


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Joseph Hawkesford was seemingly the man to respond to the advertisement and it was he who shortened the name of the tavern to The Old Plough. However, the Harrow was reinstated during the 1850s.

Birmingham : Auction of The Old Plough on the corner of Suffolk Street and Gough Street [1854]

Benjamin and Ellen Terry were hosts during the late 1850s. There was no room for guests as there were ten family members living on the premises. The couple's three eldest daughters, Catherine, Betsy and Ellen, had roles within the tavern.

It seems that it was during the time of Sarah Barnes in the mid-1860s that the house became known simply as The Plough. In December 1866 she had to apply for a new licence for the building as the previous tenant had given up possession.

The licence of The Plough was transferred to Kingston Brett in January 1869. The Leamington-born publican was hauled in front of the magistrates in June of the same year and fined for defective 'weights and measures.' His father was a wine and spirits merchant who operated a couple of retail outlets in Leamington.

William and Ellen Rickerby kept The Plough throughout the 1880s. Trade at the tavern may have fallen away as both of them were engaged in other work whilst at the pub. William worked as a tool maker whilst Ellen toiled as a machinist.

Alfred Howell was the last licensee of The Plough. Unfortunately he was declared bankrupt in 1907. He remarked to the Birmingham Bankruptcy Court in February of that year that "the amalgamation of brewers had done more to kill his trade than anything else."

The proceedings revealed that Alfred Howell had purchased The Plough in 1897 for £1,700. He borrowed £1,500 of the money and afterwards spent another £300 on the house. It was reported that he could have sold the house at a profit at one time, but refused an offer of £2,250, thinking that the value of the property would increase. However, the reverse happened and the publican found himself in difficulties.


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Compounding Alfred Howell's problems was the fact that he could not trade out of his crisis. The Birmingham Licensing Bench refused to renew the licence of The Plough on the grounds that the premises were 'structurally unfit.' The publican took the case to appeal at the Warwickshire Quarter Sessions which was presided over by Mr. J. S. Dugdale. During the hearing Mr. Parfitt, on behalf of the Birmingham justices, stated that "the smoke-room was like the Black Hole of Calcutta, being underground and having no windows and very little ventilation." Mr. E. J. Bigwood, valuer, of Birmingham, said that "the house was utterly unfit for the purpose of a public-house." Mr. Hugo Young K.C., contended that "by the alteration of the smoke-room or giving it up and by clearing away the old building at the rear, the premises could be made perfectly suitable for a public-house." William Thomas Rushton, director of Rushton's Brewery Limited, said "the firm were the mortgagees in possession, having advanced £1,500 out of the £1,900 paid for the house." He added that "the house did an average weekly trade of £l4, and £15 had been paid yearly in respect of it to the Compensation Fund. The Court decided by a majority to dismiss the appeal and, as a result, it was the end of the road for The Plough which has traded for over a century.

Christadelphian Hall on the corner of Suffolk Street and Gough Street in Birmingham [1957]

The Plough Inn was demolished and formed part of the site for the Christadelphian Hall. The terracotta building was erected between 1910-11 to the designs of the Cardiff-based architect G. A. Birkenhead.

Licensees of this pub

1797 - John Clare
1820 - Mary Clare
1839 - Thomas Clare
1845 - Henry Burgess
1851 - James Davis
1852 - Joseph Hawkesford
1854 - F. Sheath
1855 - Elizabeth Sherwood
1858 - Benjamin Terry
1864 - H. Mountford
1865 - John Wilson
1866 - Sarah Elizabeth Barnes
1869 - Sarah Wainwright
1869 - Kingston Brett
1875 - James Cooper
1881 - William Rickerby
1898 - George Henry Rickerby
1900 - Alfred Howell
Note : this is not a complete list of licensees for this pub.


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Related Newspaper Articles

"On Saturday last Mary Ann Millard, the wife of an electro-plater of that name, living in Suffolk Street, died, after considerable suffering, from congestion of the lungs. At the inquest held on her remains on Monday at the Plough and Harrow, Suffolk Street, a statement of the shocking addiction of the deceased to intoxicating liquors was elicited. It was deposed by a female who had attended her some time previously, and other persons, that she was in the habit of regularly drinking six or seven pints of gin in a day, and on one occasion she indulged to the appalling extent of seventeen half pints. Her husband was also very intemperate. They were accustomed to follow their avocations very steadily for two or three months, at the expiration of which they spent their savings [often a handsome sum] during that period, in a succession of drinking "bouts," when would again return to their labours. It was not surprising, therefore, that such a fearful indulgence should induce disease ultimately proving fatal. Verdict of "Died from congestion of the lungs, caused the excessive drinking of ardent spirits."
"Shocking Case of Excessive Intemperance"
Birmingham Journal : December 7th 1850 Page 7

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