Some history of the Boot Inn at Church Gresley in the county of Derbyshire.
The Boot Inn has been converted into Gresley House, a residential care home. However, the building still stands on Church Street, as does the premises in the foreground on the left [see below[. In the 2020s the property has been refronted and houses a branch of the Coral betting shop empire. In this photograph the premises were occupied by the grocery business of Hunter's [The Teamen] Limited.
A tram is outside the public-house, the route connecting Swadlincote with Castle Gresley. Operated on single track with passing loops, tram services started in the mid-Edwardian period on what was an extension of the Burton & Ashby Light Railway owned by the Midland Railway. The open-topped tramcars, as seen in this photograph, were built by Brush Electric Co. Ltd. of Loughborough. The last trams of the Burton & Ashby Light Railway operated on Saturday February 19th 1927 when bus services took over local transport routes.
In the previous year the bus versus tram issue was taken personally by William Lloyd, a local bus operator, who was found guilty of deliberately and "wilfully obstructing" a tram car driven by Edgar Thackwell. At the Swadlincote Petty Sessions he and his conductor stated that the "bus obstructed the tram repeatedly all the way from Swadlincote to Gresley, and would not move off the tram track." William Lloyd was fined by the magistrates.
In truth, the tram services were struggling to compete with the new bus services which were deemed speedier and more comfortable. But what we wouldn't give to have tram services these days as they offer a greener transport option.
By the time of the above photograph the Boot Inn formed part of the tied estate of Worthington & Co. Ltd., their signs being seen on the building. The brewery also operated the Royal Oak in nearby Regent Street, along with the King's Arms at Swadlincote.
The Burton-on-Trent-based brewery had acquired the old Boot Inn, built a new property in 1895, transferred the licence, and closed the old house.
Thomas Cooper was the licensee of the original Boot Inn during the mid-1830s. He was succeeded by his son James who kept the tavern with his wife Elizabeth. They were running the pub in October 1847 when an inquest was held at the house on the body of John Read, aged 26 years, who was killed when working at the bottom of the pit where the tunnel was being dug out for the Burton and Swannington railway. It was stated that "when a truck laden with soil was going up the shaft, a piece fell to the bottom, striking John Read on the head and killing him on the spot, his head having been shattered in a most frightful manner." In an age when it was extremely difficult to blame the employer or working conditions, a verdict of "accidental death" was returned by the jury.
Another inquest was held at the Boot Inn in July 1853 concerning the death of Rowland Holmes, who was killed at the Gresley Colliery by the kick of a horse. Employed as a horse-keeper, he was described as a steady, sober, trustworthy servant and very fond of the horse that caused his death which, according to witness statements, was remarkably quiet and good tempered. The jury heard that a strange horse had, on the day of the incident, been placed against the horse in question in the stable and, as Rowland Holmes was opening the door to look at them, he was kicked on the chest by the colliery horse. Medical assistance was promptly obtained, but the unfortunate man expired in about half an hour. The jury returned a verdict of "Accidental Death."
James Tunnicliff was licensee of the Boot Inn by 1855. He was also recorded as a grocer. It was not unusual for Victorian publicans to have a second trade, job or business. At this time William Heath of the neighbouring Freehold Tavern was also a tailor, a trade in which he employed two men. James Tunnicliff was assisted by his wife Elizabeth. The couple employed Ann Betteridge as a general servant.
Levi Massey was the publican of the Boot Inn for over two decades in the late 19th century. He also traded as a butcher. He was also appointed overseer for Church Gresley. He and his family had something of a shock in August 1868 when a shed outbuilding caught fire. An alarm was raised and a number of the local residents turned out to provide assistance. A scarcity of water made the task difficult and an adjacent hay stack went up in flames putting other houses at risk. Eventually the flames were extinguished. It was later stated that a number of teenage boys were smoking a cigar in the shed and a discarded match had caused the fire.
The son of a potter, Levi Massey was born in Church Gresley in 1830. At the age of 36 he married Sophia Hough, daughter of John Hough of Moira, who held several of the local toll gates. Together, they run both businesses until the mid-1890s. Levi Massey was successful and acquired other land and property in the local area. He had accumulated some wealth by the time of his death in July 1898.
A tenant of Worthington & Co. Ltd., Thomas Brown was the last licensee of the old Boot Inn. The brewery built new, larger premises whilst he was serving customers in the old tavern. The licence was transferred to the new building in October 1895.
Thomas was the son of Edwin Brown who owned the Oak Inn at Oswestry in the late Victorian era. Forging his own path, he came to Church Gresley. Things may have been going alright for him in the old place but, following his move into the new Boot Inn, his rent was tripled. Struggling to make a profit, he and his wife Margaret decided to give up the pub, remaining in Church Gresley as a butcher trading in Queen Street. In 1902 he bought the Oswestry tavern that had been willed to his sister. However, he failed at the Oak Inn and was declared bankrupt in the autumn of 1906.
Herbert Collins took over the licence in the mid-Edwardian period. He kept the Boot Inn with his wife Sarah Ann. He got into a pickle with the local police in 1912 and was charged with allowing drunkenness on the premises during lunchtime on Christmas Day. When the case came to court it transpired that it was his son Enoch who, standing in for the publican, had served some men who had piled into the pub following a football match at the Gresley Rovers ground. The police showed little Christmas spirit and summoned the licensee who was fined by the magistrates.
Following the death of Herbert Collins at the start of World War One, his wife Sarah Ann continued in the licensed trade until her death in 1933, aged 73. She had been running the Queen's Arms in Queen Street for 19 years and was one of the oldest licensees in the district. She and her husband had also had a spell at the Barley Mow on Coppice Side.
Montague Stimson was the licensee of the Boot Inn during the mid-1920s. Of short build, measuring just over 5ft 3ins., he was born in Ashby-de-la-Zouch in 1891. He was the son of the auctioneer and valuer Alfred Stimson who had premises in Market Street at Ashby. When he was a young boy the Stimson family kept the Queen's Head Hotel so he would have become familiar with the licensed trade. During the First World War, following his marriage to Elsie Osbourne, he was enlisted in the Royal Navy, serving at the shore establishments of HMS Pembroke III and HMS President II. He was posted to HMS Daedalus, a depot ship of the Royal Naval Air Service. This led to a transfer to the Royal Air Force.
Montague Stimson picked up many transferable skills with which he became a motor mechanic. However, as publican of the Boot Inn, he dented his reputation by watering down the whiskey served at the pub. In September 1926 he was hauled before the magistrates at Swadlincote charged with retailing whiskey "not of the nature, substance, and quality demanded by the purchaser." The analyst's report showed that the spirit was 38.4 degrees under proof, containing 5.2 degrees excess of water, an extraordinary amount and watered down to levels that would fool no patron of the Boot Inn. Incredibly, he attributed the discrepancy a defective cork! The magistrates fined the publican and word no doubt spread around Church Gresley that had a negative impact on sales of liqueur at the Boot Inn.
I suppose that Montague Stimson could hardly blame his whiskey when he was summoned for dangerous driving at Northamptonshire in August 1927. It was not the police that saw him in court - these were the days of assiduous highway patrols from motoring organisations. Both William Miller, an A.A. scout, and Charles Badcock, guide for the R.A.C. appeared in court to give evidence against the publican. His previous conviction for selling adulterated whiskey caused great amusement in the court when it was read out. Montague Stimson found himself out of pocket again when the magistrates at the Northamptonshire Divisional Petty Sessions fined him for his wreckless driving.
Montague Stimson was still living along the road at No.51 Church Street when he died in July 1977, aged 86.
Ernest Clamp had a spell at the Boot Inn during the 1930s. He would later run the 'Holmhurst' off-licence at nearby George Street. He remained there until 1952 when he was succeeded by George Smith.
"At the Boot Inn, Church Gresley, yesterday, Mr. Godfrey Mosley [Derby], coroner for the district, held an inquest upon the
body of Samuel Newberry, aged 31, who took his life with razor on the previous morning, as stated yesterday. The evidence showed that he had been somewhat depressed
during the past ten days, owing to business matters. He managed one of his father's blacksmiths' establishments, and it was thought he felt slighted owing
to the father taking other brothers into the firm, and not himself. Deceased was at one time a well-known bicycle racer, and it is stated that the razor
with which he committed the deed was one of his prizes. The jury found that he committed suicide whilst temporarily insane."
"The Suicide at Church Gresley"
Sheffield Daily Telegraph : February 4th 1899 Page 12