Some history of the Sailor's Return on Watery Lane at Bordesley in Birmingham in Warwickshire


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The Sailor's Return was located on the western side of Watery Lane, at the triangle formed by Garrison Lane and Lower Dartmouth Street. The public-house looked across towards Callowfields Recreation Ground.

The name of the house suggests that a mariner returned to Birmingham with sufficient booty to open a public-house. The earliest mention I have seen of the Sailor's Return is an entry in the licence register dated 1819 in which John Undrell was the publican. He may have moved to the Rose and Crown on Bromsgrove Street. This was in the year 1825 following the death of his wife Sophia. In tracing Sophia Fletcher, I have found that she married John Undrell of HMS Ganges at Portsmouth in 1817 so it would appear that this solves the origins of the inn sign. It was reported that John Undrell died in November 1830 in the 55th year of his age.

I did see a post by Clive Hinsull on the "Lost Pubs Project" that the Sailor's Return was "built by the Vicar of Aston, Dr. Spencer, for a sailor named John Parkes who had served under the command of the Vicar's officer son at the Battle of the Nile in 1798." This is very interesting but the building does appear as the Sailor's Return in earlier licensing records. John Parkes was licensee in the late 1820s.

I have heard that this pub was known by locals as The Chain. There is a licence record of a tavern at Bordesley called The Chain in 1817-8 when run by William Daniel Brownell. Perhaps there was a change of name by John Undrell in 1819? And if so, it is extraordinary that the name would pervade for 150 years. William Daniel Brownell was appointed an Inspector of Weights and Measures in 1835. He may have been the William Brownell in chage of the prison at Bordesley in 1817 - perhaps the sign of The Chain was appropriate!

For many years the Sailor's Return was operated by the Holt Brewery Company.

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More information on the Sailor's Return on Watery Lane to follow. I probably created the page as I had a link to the Sailor's Return from another page. When building the site it is easier to place links as they crop up rather than go back later on. I realise this is frustrating if you were specifically looking for information on the Sailor's Return. There is information on Birmingham dotted around the website - click here for a suitable starting place.

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Licensees of the Sailor's Return

1819 - John Undrell
1829 - John Parkes
1839 - J. Jackson
1845 - Sarah Jackson
1940 - Arthur Henry Hancox
1951 - 1955 George Samuel Wall
1955 - 1955 Sidney Joyce
1955 - 1959 Charles Joseph Bardell
1959 - 1960 William Thomas Groves
1960 - 1962 Harold Edgar Charles Bennett
1962 - 1962 Albert Victor Archer
1962 - 1963 Douglas Frank Page
1963 - 1967 James Gerrard White
1967 - 1967 Peter Robson Forsyth
1967 - 1969 Peter James Dawson Hughes
1969 - 1972 Arthur James Prince
1972 - Reginald Harry Wedgebury
Note : this is not a complete list of licensees for this pub.

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Related Newspaper Articles

"Another shocking attempt at wife murder occurred in this town on Thursday night last. The name of the woman is Elizabeth Chatfield, and that of her husband Henry Chatfield. They are both young people, neither being more than twenty years of age, and what makes the present occurrence the more lamentable is, that they have only been married the short space of five weeks. Chatfield is by trade a bedstead maker, and has been employed at the works of Mr. Cook, in Green Street, but lately has been out of work. His wife worked at the tin plate trade, somewhere on Gosta Green, but her hands having become affected, or as the neighbours call it "poisoned" by the work, she, too, has been recently thrown out of employ. They occupied a small house a court, opposite the Sailor's Return, in Watery Lane. The circumstances attending the affair and the causes assigned for the attempted murder are very similar to the tragic occurrences in Bissell Street and Dartmouth Street, though in this instance the weapon used was a razor and not a pistol. It appears that during the very brief period that has elapsed since the marriage frequent bickerings have taken place between the husband and wife. The husband has been jealous of a former sweetheart of his wife's, and the latter, not having yet learned the womanly virtue of obedience, has sought rather to assert her own independence than to conciliate her husband. Last Saturday evening she went to a "free and easy," and this offended Chatfield to such a degree that he beat her very severely, and she now bears the traces in a black eye. On Thursday evening they went to the house of Chatfield's sister, somewhere in the neighbourhood of the Coventry Road, and she upbraided him with having so cowardly beaten his wife. There was a good deal of recrimination between the husband and wife while they stayed there, and they left to go home shortly after ten o'clock. The quarrel was continued on the road home, and was so marked as to attract the attention of a young woman, who followed them to the end the court where they lived. The wife seemed unwilling to go indoors, but Chatfield pushed her up the yard, and as she was going she asked this young person to fetch her mother, who lives close by, to protect her from the violence of her husband. The young woman waited a minute or two at the end of the entry, and then she heard a scream. She went to Chatfield's house and tried the door, but it was fastened from the inside. Almost immediately upon this Mrs. Chatfield rushed out into the yard and fell down, the blood streaming from a wound to her throat. The husband followed her, but not, as is supposed, to do her any further mischief, for he, too, fell down in a state of prostration, apparently unnerved at what he had done. As may be surmised, the affair caused a good deal of excitement in the neighbourhood, and in a very few minutes the place was thronged with the neighbours. Police-Constable Myatt came up, attracted by the cry of murder, and by his direction the wounded woman was removed to the house of her mother, from whence she was shortly afterwards taken to the General Hospital. In reply to the officer, she said "My husband did it." Chatfield was apprehended by Hyatt in his own house. The razor with which he had inflicted the wound was lying upon the table covered with blood. His hands and clothes were also besmeared with blood, and there was a pool of blood upon the floor of the house. Before being taken to the station he asked to be allowed to wash the blood from his hands, and requested that he might not be handcuffed. He was perfectly sober at the time. It was stated that has previously threatened to take his wife's life. Yesterday morning the prisoner was brought in custody, at the Borough Police Court, charged with attempting to murder his wife. A certificate was handed in from Mr. Bracey, the house surgeon to the Hospital, stating that the woman will not be able to leave that institution for several weeks, and, on application of Inspector Peacock, the prisoner was remanded for a week. On enquiry at the Hospital last evening, our reporter was informed that the woman was lying in a very exhausted condition, though there was no immediate apprehension of a fatal result.".
"Attempted Wife Murder"
Birmingham Journal : June 11th 1864 Page 5

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