Some history of the Yew Tree Inn on Stoney Lane at Yardley in Birmingham in the County of Warwickshire


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The Yew Tree Inn stood close to a roundabout where Church Road, Stoney Lane and Hob Moor Lane converge. The building was demolished at the start of the new millennium and replaced by a supermarket, shopping and leisure complex that, ironically, featured another pub called the Yew Tree. The latter would later be changed to the Clumsy Swan. Progress? I think not. Can we have the old Yew Tree back please? Of course, I know that is not possible but remains a daydream of mine because, even taking into consideration the decline of the public-house, this is no way to treat a landmark.

Birmingham : Map extract showing the location of the Yew Tree Inn at Yardley [1888-1926]

To help clarify the location of the Yew Tree Inn in relation to old Yardley, I have overlaid the position of the public-house over a map extract dating from 1888. The pub, along with its bowling green and pavilion, was not laid-out and constructed until the mid-1920s but this map-adaptation may help to tell the story of the building. So, map purists do not message me telling me this map is a bastardisation - that's the whole point!

Birmingham : Hob Moor Lane crossing of River Cole at Yardley [c.1905]

The road junction and thoroughfares were enlarged but they roughly remain in the same place. The road entering this map extract from the south-west is known to everyone as Church Road but in the 19th century it was called Long Causeway and continued to the Swan Inn on the Coventry Road. Hob Moor Road is a realignment of a rural track called Hob Moor or Hobmoor Lane. An offshoot of this lane turned north and headed towards Stechford but Hob Moor Lane continued eastwards and crossed the River Cole and on towards Little Bromwich. Until 1911, the river was the west boundary of Yardley parish and Worcestershire. Yew Tree Lane also connected with Coventry Road and was, like the large property on the road junction, probably named after a notable Yew Tree, perhaps an ancient marker for this road junction. The public-house would, of course, be named to acknowledge or commemorate this.

There were two key buildings in this section of Yardley. In 1888, at the time of the above map extract, Yew Tree House was occupied by the surveyor and land agent Daniel Holloway. Although Yardley House was occupied by William Clements in the 1880s, the property and land belonged to the Flavell family. It was from the trustees of this family that Mitchell's and Butler's acquired 11,472 square yards of land and property. The Cape Hill brewery paid £3,800 on September 29th, 1919 and plans were initiated for the construction of a new public-house.

The Yew Tree Inn was not a case of "Field of Dreams" in that the brewery would "build it and they will come" or, indeed, Noah with his Ark. The company were not building a new public-house on a whim as they were aware of the plans to develop this area in the expansion of the suburbs. The Flavell family saw it coming too and sold land for housing while the market price held good. However, the family's agent was poorly advised and sold more land to the brewery than was necessary. Consequently, Mitchell's and Butler's not only recouped their outlay but made a profit on re-selling land to Birmingham Corporation in March 1926. In addition, they sold two parcels of land to C. A. Wareing and A. J. White in October 1930.

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In the pub reform period, it was necessary to surrender the licences of houses in the congested urban conurbation in order for the magistrates to sanction the construction of a new public-house on the outer fringes of Birmingham. Mitchell's and Butler's gave up four licences to get the go-ahead for the Yew Tree Inn. The compensation for these totalled £7,278.19s.6d. which, combined with the profit on land sales, made sound business for the brewery.

Birmingham : The Yew Tree Inn on Stoney Lane at Yardley [c.1926]

Many of these substantial inter-war public-houses became unloved at the end of the century and many were demolished or converted into other uses. However, the Yew Tree Inn was a classic of the period. With a good dollop of distilled Tudor styling, it was well constructed of brick and stone with simple understated decoration. Influenced by the Carlisle experiment in which William Waters Butler, chairman of M&B, was actively involved as a member of the Liquor Control Board, the Yew Tree Inn was a fine example of the brewers approach to public-house improvement and social responsibility. His son, Owen Butler, a supporter of revivalist architecture, possibly discussed the plans with the architect. In removing this building for a bland retail and leisure complex, another key part of Birmingham's 20th century urban development has been lost.

Birmingham : Assembly Room of the Yew Tree Inn on Stoney Lane at Yardley [c.1926]

The Yew Tree Inn opened to the public on January 22nd 1926. M&B installed Robert Warren as the manager. The man charged with the responsibility of running the new pub at Yardley had previously kept the Coach and Horses on the Coventry Road at Small Heath. By the end of his dozen years at the helm the average weekly takings were of the Yew Tree Inn had peaked at £404 but had slipped a little when the licence was transferred to Harold Naylor on November 7th 1938.

Birmingham : The Yew Tree Inn on Stoney Lane at Yardley [c.1938]

Harold and Edith Naylor stayed at the Yew Tree Inn for just over a decade. The couple were successful managers and the sales at the pub increased dramatically during their stewardship. In addition to their daughter Irene, they shared the accommodation with two live-in employees Minnie Bannister and Constance Dymock. The son of a stone and wood carver, Harold Naylor was born in December 1888 and grew up in Balsall Heath. Harold followed in his father's footsteps and became a stone carver. He may have cast a critical eye over the work carried out at the Yew Tree Inn. Harold and Edith Naylor moved from the Yew Tree Inn to the Woodman Inn next to The Hawthorns, home of West Bromwich Albion.

In 1948 Matthew Wilson Poole Matthews took over the licence of the Yew Tree Inn. Born in 1909, he married Beatrice Swoffield at Christ Church in Sparkbrook in April 1935, after which they kept the Three Horseshoes in Irving Street. Beatrice's father, George, was a comedian and entertainer and trod the boards of many theatres in Birmingham . I wonder if he did a turn here at Yardley? Matthew and Beatrice's spell at the Yew Tree was, however, brief and they were soon succeeded by Harold Crosthwaite Scott.

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Henry and Gwendolene Partridge were mine hosts of the Yew Tree Inn between 1954 and 1964. If the bar had a jukebox at this time it would have gone from spinning Al Martino to blasting out The Beatles. The couple would have been running the pub when the photograph [below[ was taken. Born in 1917, Henry had spent much of his life working in retail or the licensed trade. He married Gwendoline Waddington in July 1939. At the time of his wedding he was working in a butcher's shop at Coventry. The couple remained at the Yew Tree until the mid-1960s.

Birmingham : The Yew Tree Inn on Stoney Lane at Yardley [c.1960]

The Yew Tree was run by a few stop-gap publicans until Donald MacLachlan steadied the ship by keeping the pub between 1965 and 1979. If anybody has any memories of his time at the Yew Tree then please get in touch.

A few brief facts about more recent licensees ... I believe Raymond Ewing went on to run the Jewellers' Arms at Hockley. Stephen Bant married Susan Price in July 1976.

Licensees of the Yew Tree Inn

1926 - 1938 Robert Warren
1938 - 1948 Harold Naylor
1948 - 1949 Matthew Wilson Poole Matthews
1949 - 1954 Harold Crosthwaite Scott
1954 - 1964 Henry Arthur Partridge
1964 - 1964 Anthony Michael Andrews
1964 - 1965 Stanley Sandbrook
1965 - 1965 Stanley Kenneth Harrison
1965 - 1979 Donald MacLachlan
1979 - 1980 Raymond Ignatius Ewing
1980 - 1982 William Edward Lawrence
1982 - 1985 Stephen Gerald Bant
1985 - 1990 Charles Joseph Gallagher
1990 - 1992 Sean Clancy
1992 - 1993 Arthur Raymond Lineker
1993 - 1993 Andrew Thompson
1993 - 1997 Peter Brandham Witty
1997 - 1998 Frederick Gardiner
1998 - 2000 Jacqueline Ann Jones
2000 - 2003 Robert Anthony Wale
2003 - 2003 Andrew Mark Robinson
Note : this is not a complete list of licensees for this pub.

Mitchells's and Butler's

Related Newspaper Articles

"The Birmingham Licensing Justices yesterday granted music and singing licences for the grounds of the Stockland Inn, Marsh Lane, Erdington; Yew Tree Inn, Stoney Lane, Yardley; and the Robin Hood, Stratford Road, Hall Green, from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. on week days between Easter and 30th September. In granting the applications, Mr. G. A. Bryson [chairman] pointed out that they regarded it as an experiment, and would watch it so that when the licences came up for renewal at the annual sessions, and any complaints were reported, the Justices' decision would be reconsidered. They did not, however, anticipate any trouble would arise."
"Concerts at Inns"
Birmingham Daily Gazette : July 22nd 1927 Page 10

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Birmingham : Regular of the Yew Tree Inn Steve Stokes with George Best

"I was a regular at the Yew Tree from around 1974 until it was demolished. I remember Don very well, and also his wife who was named Lola. Alfie was the bar manager and Billy was his assistant. I also remember Angie who went on to run the pub next to the Shakespeare in town, its name escapes me. I remember Roy Wood and Jeff Lynne drinking in there along with Mike Summerbee and George Best. The above photograph shows me and Bestie and was taken round the back in the Rio Grande. Other regulars at that time were, Sean Mahoney, Noel Barnes, Jinksy, Alan Downiest, Colin Williams, Alan Bean, Tommy and Paddy Murphy, Dick Patterson, Safety Pin, Ricky and Gary Whitehouse, and me whose nickname at the time was Poke. Happy days."
Steve Stokes, Birmingham, March 2020

Mitchells's and Butler's : Traditional Cask Ales

"I worked part-time at the Yew Tree from summer 1977 until spring 1982. Initially for Don MacLachlan, then Ray Ewing. Bill Lawrence was in charge when I left. I remember Paul Mitchell being cellarman under Alfie and among the staff were some long servers such as Carol Tomlinson and barman Peter. Also Kathy Kiernan had a presence as a senior staff member. My younger brother Pete was a teenage potman there. I worked various shifts but remember working mainly Tuesday evenings with a barman called Bill in the Lounge. I also worked Sunday lunchtime in the Bar, then Sunday night with Carol in the Heavy Rock night in the Rio run by Roger Bruce. There was also a spell of a stripper session some Sunday lunchtimes in the Rio. The Yew Tree at that time was packed most nights and was, for a while, the most profitable pub in Brum. It also became known as the pub that closed the Swan, once the biggest pub in Europe. Exhausting Sunday nights always ended with barman Peter taking orders then going up to the Chinese opposite the Swan for takeaways that would be consumed with 'afters' in the lounge."
Dave Barry, Birmingham, February 2020

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