History of the Dudley Arms a.k.a. Starving Rascal at Amblecote in the county of Staffordshire.


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Some history of the Dudley Arms

More recently known as The Starving Rascal, the Dudley Arms is located on the apex corner at the junction of Brettell Lane and Collis Street. This places the building at the extreme edge of the old Amblecote Urban District - or does it? Maps show the boundary of the municipal ward prior to the creation of the Amblecote Urban District in 1898 as being to the west of the building. I have marked this on the map extract below dating from 1882. I have also highlighted the Dudley Arms in red.

Amblecote : Map Extract showing the Dudley Arms at Brettell Lane [c.1905]

The boundary line would cause an administrative issue for the Urban District Council during the years that followed. The line created an awkward triangular plot at the corner of Brettell Lane and Collis Street. However, Amblecote was prepared to fight for the public-house. Matters came to a head in March 1935 after a Staffordshire County Council Boundaries Review Order saw the inn and about six houses covering about one acre of ground being transferred to Brierley Hill urban district. This administrative decision came after Amblecote had held the plot without dispute for nearly half a century. Members of Amblecote Urban District Council were not having any of this bureaucratic nonsense and fought against amalgamation in the enlarged Brierley Hill urban area and protested against the Dudley Arms and neighbouring properties being taken from them. In consequence Staffordshire County Council held an inquiry and found in favour of Amblecote. Interestingly, when this matter was reported in the local newspapers, the Starving Rascal name was used to describe the popular name of the Dudley Arms Inn. This is the earliest instance that I have seen the name in print.

The map extract from 1882 is useful for placing the public-house in context with its surroundings. There was little development across the other side of the main road where the occupants of Hawbush Farm were still tilling the land. The Parliamentary boundary heading north to Audnam Brook where it followed the watercourse north-eastwards towards Nagersfield Colliery. Oakfield House is just off the left edge of the map extract, though the lodge building fronting Brettell Lane can be seen. Oakfield was put up for auction in October 1889 following the death of John Hall, the occupier. The bidding reached £2,700 when it was withdrawn. It was decided to divide the property into two lots, the first to include the house, shrubberies, gardens, conservatories and two acres of land. The second lot, including the lodge, was offered as development land with frontages to Brettell Lane. It was following this sale that the properties, some of them rather fine, would emerge on the landscape opposite the Dudley Arms.

To the east of the Dudley Arms was Brettell Lane House, once the residence of John Wheeley before the Hawbush Estate was broken up following the failure of his business in the 1860s. When the house was advertised in 1868 the sale notice stated that it had three reception rooms, eight bedrooms, dressing rooms, capital cellarage, and all domestic offices, together with stabling, outbuildings, garden, lawn with ornamental water and a lodge entrance. At the time of this map being drawn up the house was occupied by the iron manufacturer and coal master Henry Hall J.P. who owned the Old Level ironworks and colliery at Brierley Hill.

The land to the south-west of the Dudley Arms was formerly part of the Dennis estate. The Dennis, or Deynis, name emerged in medieval times and a large park here was named accordingly. It was when the estate passed to William Seger Wheeley in the 1820s that development of the land started with new housing and streets being laid out. King William Street, a long straight road that connects to Collis Street just below the Dudley Arms, is said to be named after the claymaster William King, resident of Amblecote Hall until his death on March 16th 1850. However, it was possibly a memorial to King William IV who died shortly before development started. Collis Street was named after the local industrialist and wealthy brickmaker, William Blow Collis, who once owned much of the property in the lane. He was later appointed a Deputy Lieutenant for Staffordshire.

Amblecote : Double-Decker Bus outside the Dudley Arms at Brettell Lane [1968]

I have not stumbled across a truly historic photograph of the Dudley Arms. Standing on such an elevated position it would have attracted the attention of Victorian and Edwardian photographers, but none seem to have come to light. The oldest image I have dates from 1968. I wonder if that old Rover coupé, registration number HA 999, is still on the road? Just pulling up outside the Dudley Arms is the No.246 bus, once a really busy double-decker route. I can remember seeing buses on this route leaving Dudley with passengers packed like sardines and the clippy struggling to move around to issue tickets.

Truman, Hanbury, Buxton & Co. Limited : Eagle Ale and Stout

In the photograph the Dudley Arms has the livery of Truman's on the frontage. Based at Burton-on-Trent, this company had operated the Dudley Arms since the late 19th century. This brewery of Truman, Hanbury, Buxton & Co. Limited started life in London in 1666 but became very much a Midlands brewer when the company purchased the Phillips Brewery at Burton in 1873. This was a response to the invasion of Burton-based beers into London after the development of the railways. The company rebuilt the brewery at Burton between 1874 and 1876 and called it the Black Eagle Brewery after their original site in Stepney. The brewery was sadly demolished in 1973, just two years after production ceased on the site. The company's name was changed to Truman's Ltd in 1971 when Grand Metropolitan Hotels Ltd. acquired the group. Three years later the firm was was merged with Watney Mann Ltd.

Amblecote : Toll House on Brettell Lane [1968]

In this photograph the Dudley Arms is just out of shot on the right. The photograph was taken just behind the same Rover saloon seen in the first 1968 image and shows that, beyond a shop on the opposite side of Collis Street [where today's Dennis Hall Road emerges] stood the old Brettell Lane Toll House. This road was originally a busy turnpike and was designated as such in 1727. The Toll House survived for more than 100 years after Brettell Lane was made a 'free' public highway in 1871. Sadly, the building was demolished in the 1970s.

The origins of Brettell Lane's name has been the subject of much debate with local historians. Whilst it is thought that the road may be named after the Brettell family, some think it is more likely that the name is derived from the fact that it passed through Silver End which was once known as Brettell which, in turn, may be a corruption of Bredhulle - an ancient name for the hill or ridge on which Silver End stands. Certainly, the name Brettell [and Bredhulle] has existed in the area for many centuries. Indeed, it is recorded that in the reign of Henry V that a certain J. Bredhull was granted land and buildings in a field called Worthull in Swinford Regis [the parish of Oldswinford extended up to Brettell Lane which acted as a parish boundary]. The name Brettell is also thought to be of French origin and can be traced to the Norman family de Bretiuil and Bretteville.

An early reference to the Dudley Arms appears in Jones's Mercantile Directory published in 1865 which lists John Hampton as a foreign wine and beer retailer. In August 1865 he was one of thirteen publicans to apply for a spirits licence at the annual licensing meeting held at the Foley Arms Inn at Stewponey. Only three were successful in their applications and John Hampton, supported by his solicitor Mr. Maltby, was one of them. The full licence elevated the status of the establishment above other taverns that only offered beer, cider and wines.

Dudley Borough Coat-of-Arms

Doffing his cap to William Ward, the 11th Baron Ward, John Hampton chose the sign of the Dudley Arms. William Ward had inherited the title in December 1835, along with Himley Hall and the ruins of Dudley Castle. Two years later his trustees acquired the Witley Court estate in Worcestershire from Thomas Foley, 4th Baron Foley. He was created Viscount Ednam and Earl of Dudley in 1860.

Born in February 1827 at Coseley, John Hampton had moved to the locality with his parents and ten siblings by the 1850s. His father Isaac was a master lime burner and employed five men within the business. As eldest son, John Hampton assisted in the firm as a clerk. He married in the late 1850s and set up home with his wife Sarah in Collis Street from where he traded as a lime merchant.

John Hampton was trading with a beer house licence in 1864. The freehold of the Dudley Arms was held by the aforementioned iron-master Henry Hall. Indeed, the property remained within the family estate until it was acquired by Truman, Hanbury, Buxton & Co. Limited later in the century.

John Hampton had an emergency to deal with in May 1867 when a fire broke out in the stables. The flames were thought to have originated through some person taking a naked candle into the stable. There was loose straw scattered about and it was possibly a spark from the candle that started the fire. In no time at all the whole stable block was ablaze. An alarm was instantly raised, and John Hampton, assisted by a number of people who rendered assistance, set about trying to put the fire out. It was reported that "five valuable horses were in the stables at the time, and although the inflammable material in the stables was burning fiercely, the horses, after some difficulty, were got out without having sustained any injury." The publican and his helpers worked tirelessly to subdue the flames and they managed to confine the blaze to the stables. A fire engine from Stourbridge made it to the pub as quick as possible but the crowd had managed to put the fire out just before they arrived on the scene. There was a fair amount of damage but fortunately the publican was insured.

Drunk Man in Street

John Hampton was part of a sad tale in February 1868, and one that was not untypical for the period when working class men worked hard and drank heavily. It was a cold winters night in February 1868 when a forty year-old sinker from Rock's Hill, named John Jones, was found lying in the gutter further up the turnpike road at Brierley Hill. He was discovered by Henry Walters, driver of the night mail cart that ran between Stourport and Wolverhampton. It was when he was returning home from Wolverhampton that he spotted John Jones lying face down in the road, close to the Old Whimsey Inn. Henry Walters knocked on the door of a nearby house and asked Mary Hardwicke to look after the man who was alive but insensible.

Mary Hardwicke went to John Jones and when she asked what was the matter with him he replied: "I think it's the wind on the stomach. I feel very ill, and can't go on. Let me lie somewhere a bit." Jones later said that he lived at Rock's Hill. Mary Hardwick, said that at this time, around four o'clock in the morning, he was quite sensible when she got him into her house. He even managed to take his coat off. However, he quickly became insensible again and was rambling. The woman gave him some ginger tea, and some peppermint. She did not ask him if he had been knocked about or had been fighting, as he did not appear as if he had been involved in an altercation. He remained with her until his wife fetched him away about nine o'clock the morning.

When later questioned, Martha Jones said she had been married to John Jones for eleven years. She said that he went to work on the Wednesday morning, the day before his death, "as well and as hearty as ever he was in his life." He worked as a sinker at Messrs. Perrens and Harrison along Brettell Lane. She added that she took him his dinner at the pit, and did not see him again until she was fetched to the house of Mary Hardwicke. She stated that he was quite sensible when she went to him, but he told her that he was too ill to walk. She asked him if he had been fighting, or had been injured by anyone, to which he said he had not. She went on to say that her husband was a man of very drunken habits, and was accustomed to staying out late at night. In the past she had walked miles trying to find him at night. She stated that John Jones had no money on him when he set off for work. He did have a quantity of ale whilst at work as this was allowed for sinkers. She told the coroner that her husband died around three hours after reaching home.

At, the coroner's inquest, held at the Rock's Hill Tavern, Henry Plumb was called to give evidence. He was the toll collector at the Brettell Lane turnpike gate. He stated that John Jones, who he knew by sight, knocked on his door two or three times at around half-past one in the morning. When he got up and opened the door Jones said: "Oh, I see I'm at Brettell Lane.' Henry Plumb told him that we was indeed at Brettell Lane and advised him to make his way back home. However, after only a minute or two, Jones returned and held out his hand, saying: "I hope there's no harm done?" The toll collector shook hands with him, and then walked away in the direction of Brierley Hill. Henry Plumb remarked that Jones appeared to me to be in stupified state, although he walked steadily enough.

It was at this point in the inquest that John Hampton was questioned as a witness. I told the coroner that he knew John Jones and he, along with three other men, had called at the Dudley Arms on the Wednesday night. He remembered that they drank four quarts of ale between them. John Jones, he recalled, did not pay for any of the ale. The publican told the coroner that only one of the party seemed to be any the worse for drink and it was not Jones. He stated that John Jones, along with two of the men, left the pub at half-past twelve. Indeed, the publican said that he saw them go through the gate and that they all walked quite steady. He went on to say that there had been no quarrelling or disturbance. However, he noticed that John Jones was unusually quiet when he was in the pub.

John Hampton was hardly likely to tell the coroner that the men were completely bladdered as he would have found himself being charged with permitting drunkenness. However, Police Sergeant Carroll found one of the others lying on the towing path of the canal, with his head overhanging the side and almost in the water! The other man had found himself at Wheeley's works the next morning but could not remember how he got there.

In addressing the Jury of the inquest, the Coroner said that "John Jones had bruises of a slight character on his right arm and left hand and wrist, which might have been caused by a fall or falls. It was evident that he had been drinking heavily, and this no doubt accounted for the very decomposed state in which the Jury found the body. It was also evident that he had been lying some time in the road and that, too, on a frosty night." On deliberation the Jury returned a verdict to the effect that "the deceased died from the effects of excessive drinking and exposure to the cold."

Truman, Hanbury, Buxton & Co. Ltd. Eagle Stout & Pale Ale

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Although John Hampton remained on the premises, the census conducted in 1871 suggests that it was his younger sister Hannah who was running the place. The evidence also suggests that he and his wife Sarah were living separately. John Hampton was still described as the landlord in January 1872 when he appeared in court on a charge of non-payment of his water rates. Other publicans, such as Benjamin Pearson of the Roebuck Inn further down Brettell Lane, also appeared in front of the magistrates claiming that they had withheld payment on the basis that they were not supplied with water for a portion of the quarter. John Hampton owed £3 but got off the hook on a technicality with the charge sheets being wrongly submitted.

Advertisement for the Dudley Arms on Brettell Lane [February 1870]

I do not think John Hampton enjoyed his time at the Dudley Arms. In early 1870 he attempted to dispose of the lease. The above advertisement appeared in the local newspapers in February 1870. The advert omits the hotel status that the house boasted by this time. The 'Old' was a little misleading as the property was not of much age at all. There is little evidence that Sarah Hampton lived on the premises and it would appear as if the couple were separated. In later years John Hampton, although recorded as a married man, lived at Wollaston on the Bridgnorth road with only his children Amy and Harry. He subsequently worked as a coal agent.

Advertisement by Herbert Witherington for the Dudley Arms Hotel on Brettell Lane at Amblecote [August 1873]

John Hampton did not find a buyer for the lease but relinquished the licence in favour of his sister. However, during the following year the licence of the Dudley Arms was transferred from Hannah Hampton to Herbert Wickens Witherington in July 1873. Nothing like having a publican with eight syllables. He was the son of the chemist Thomas Witherington of Worcester. Trading in the Cornmarket, he not only dispensed medicines to the folks of the Faithful City but also did a good trade with his sheep-dipping composition which he sold to farmers attending the market. The family later moved to premises in Foregate Street. Following his death in 1876, the business was transferred to Thomas Lunn who had worked under him for many years.

Herbert Witherington grew up in a large family. Four of his siblings entered the family business. An elder brother trained as an architect but Herbert went into banking as a clerk. With his background, born into a middle-class family, I wondered how he wound up running a pub. When looking into his lifeline the answer unfolded. In his spare time he would attend race meetings at The Pitchcroft where a large tavern named the Grandstand stood close to the River Severn. The pub was also popular with walkers and boat-trippers from Holt Fleet. In the 1860s the Grandstand was kept by Fred and Mary Ann Ellis. The daughter of Joseph Pitts, she was renowned as a bit of fiery personality. When Fred Ellis died in 1870 widow Mary Ann continued to run the Grandstand. And here is where Herbert Witherington met her and started a romance.

Herbert Witherington probably dipped his feet in the licensed trade by helping Mary Ann Ellis at the Grandstand. Romance blossomed and the couple were married at Brierley Hill in August 1871. She was 40 years-old and Herbert was thirteen years her junior. Of course, we will never know it it was viewed as scandalous or caused a commition within the Witherington family, but one has to ask why a couple from Worcester and Claines were married in the Black Country? Regardless, they had a marriage that endured.

Herbert and Mary Ann Witherington put in a three year shift at the Dudley Arms Hotel but either they could not understand what Black Country miners and brick-makers were on about when ordering a pint of ale in their dialect or they simply missed their home town. They returned to Worcester where they kept a cigar and tobacco stores on St. Swithin's Street. However, they were soon back in the pub trade and moved into the Lamb and Flag on The Tything. They would later run the Horn and Trumpet in Angel Street before they both died in the early 1890s.

Advertisement by James Hutchinson for the Dudley Arms Hotel on Brettell Lane at Amblecote [December 1876]

At the Dudley Arms Hotel Herbert Witherington was succeeded by Jane Davies as licensee. However, her stay at the helm was brief due to her bankruptcy. In November 1876 a petition for liquidation was filed by the landlady when she was out of business and had gone to live in Kidderminster Street at Stourbridge. Her liabilities were reckoned to be £350, and her assets were £120. Mr. Thomas Rees of Stourbridge was appointed the receiver.

Advertisement by John Harriman for the Dudley Arms Hotel on Brettell Lane at Amblecote [April 1880]

The late 1870s saw licensees come and go at the Brettell Lane hostelry, suggesting it was something of a slog to turn a profit during this period. One man determined to make a go of the place was John Harriman who splashed out on advertisements informing the public of new and choice ales, wines and spirits, along with promoting the facilities available at the Dudley Arms Hotel.

Born in Wolverhampton in December 1841, John Harriman initially followed in his father's footsteps and became a locksmith. And like his father, he later combined this trade with that of operating a beer house. In addition to his long hours labouring in a workshop, he and his wife Lucy kept an Ale and Porter Stores in Bilston Street.

Amblecote : Sale of Collard and Collard Pianoforte at the Dudley Arms in Brettell Lane [1880]

Collard and Collard of London

A violin player, the locksmith-publican also taught music. Unfortunately, the fine Collard and Collard pianoforte was sold before he and Lucy moved into the Dudley Arms Hotel. He would have made good use of such a fine musical instrument. Ironically, later in his career John Harriman would become a pianoforte agent when living in Handsworth. Three years older than her husband, Lucy Harriman was born in Ackleton, Shropshire. When they arrived at Amblecote the couple had four children - John, Albert, Florence and Lillian. The Harriman's employed 18 year-old locally-born Clara Jones as a servant.

Amblecote : Servant Girl Wanted at the Dudley Arms Hotel on Brettell Lane at Amblecote [1884]

The marriage of John and Lucy Harriman went through a sticky patch whilst they were at the Dudley Arms Hotel. Indeed, it would deteriorate to the point that they lived separately. It would seem that it was Lucy who was more involved with the house, her husband concentrating on his music. He sat teaching exams whilst living at Brettell Lane. The advertisement above also requests applicants for a position at the house to apply to Lucy rather than the licensee.

Finding an honest, hard-working and sober servant could be problematic in the Victorian period. Lucy Harriman hired Amelia Giles as a general servant and all seemed to be going well until the police turned up at the pub in July 1886 and arrested the young woman. It transpired that she had previously worked for Mrs. Albert Walker of Wellington Road in Dudley where one of her duties was to go to the shop of Joshua Davies in the High Street to collect goods on her behalf. After Amelia Giles left Mrs. Walker's service she went to the shop of Joshua Davies and asked for a pattern book for her mistress. Later on that day she returned to the shop and ordered nine yards of cashmere, two yards of plush, two dozen buttons, and five yards of lining, telling the proprietor to charge it to the account of Mrs. Walker. It was only when the account was supposed to be settled that the deception came to light. Inspector Speke traced the servant to the Dudley Arms Inn and when he asked her is she had previously worked for Mrs. Walker, she denied ever living with her. The Inspector then demanded to see the dresses in her room and found that the patterns matched those that had been ordered. However, the servant girl said she had bought them from Cook's. He took her into custody when, on the way to the police station, she confessed to her wrong-doing. She said she was sorry and asked to be let off as she would "never do wrong again as long as she lived." Inspector Speke charged Amelia Giles with obtaining goods by false pretences and she was committed to the Sessions. When she appeared in front of the magistrates, it transpired that Amelia Giles had been twice previously convicted so she was sentenced to four months' hard labour.

Hawbush : Nagersfield Fireclay Colliery [c.1905]

In the late 19th century a new railway line appeared on the landscape near to the Dudley Arms Hotel. Connecting the Brettell Lane and Nagersfield Fire Brick Works, it meandered around the back of Brettell Lane House and past Hawbush Farm. I believe that is was originally planned to cross Brettell Lane as this would have saved the company owned by George King Harrison a lot of expenditure. However, this was unacceptable to traffic using Brettell Lane so a tunnel was built to channel the line, operated by electric traction, beneath the old turnpike road. A further footbridge was erected on the footpath that originated opposite Collis Street. Part of this footpath would evolve into what is Harrison Road. Many a customer of the Dudley Arms would have walked across the fields at Hawbush Farm on their way to work or seeking refreshment after a hard day's graft.

Tram Car of the Dudley, Stourbridge and District Electric Traction Co. Ltd. [Photo courtesy of the National Tramway Museum]

An entirely new form of transport arrived in 1884 and, with a stage at Dennis Park, one that offered a boost in trade for the Dudley Arms Hotel. The tram route was authorised by the Dudley, Stourbridge and Kingswinford Tramways Order of 1881 and, following the laying of track, cars operated by the Dudley and Stourbridge Steam Tramways Company Limited started to run three years later. The tram cars were originally steam-powered and remained so until the company was acquired by the British Electric Traction Company in April 1898. The last of the steam-powered vehicles ceased to run in 1899.

The trams were not universally popular and an accident close to the Dudley Arms Hotel in August 1887 presented the naysayers with an opportunity to oppose and even close the transport system.

The accident occurred at half-past nine in the evening on August 18th 1887 and it resulted in the shocking and almost instantaneous death of a well-known Dudley tradesman. Driven by S. Cosgrove, the tram car from Dudley, timed to reach the Dennis Park stage at twenty-five minutes past nine, had arrived as far as Green's Pottery Works, situated on the right-hand side of the road to Stourbridge, when it collided with a vehicle being driven from the opposite direction.

It was an intensely dark night and the startled passengers in the tram car eagerly inquired what was the matter. It transpired that Thomas Bruton, a horse-slaughterer, carrying on business in Flood Street, Dudley, was returning home from Kidderminster market, in company with two men, one of whom was stated to be his cousin, when somehow or other the dog cart in which they were riding was upset. Thomas Bruton was thrown violently out, the horse simply rolling on him, and it was reported that "the poor fellow sustained such dreadful injuries about the head and body that he died a few minutes after he was picked up.- The report added that -it was found that the unfortunate man had one side of his head literally torn off, a nasty cut over the right eye, and the frontal bone of his head shattered."

Slowly and tenderly, the dying Thomas Bruton was conveyed with the utmost promptitude to the nearby Dudley Arms Hotel where two surgeons, Mr. S. Partridge and Mr. E. Sainthill Pearse, at once examined him and found life to be quite extinct. The sad affair created "much excitement in the neighbourhood, there being much speculation on the causes and blame for the tragic accident. Thomas Bruton was said to be rapidly driving on the left side of the road when his off-shaft caught the tram engine with such momentum that the vehicle immediately capsized, throwing him to the ground. The tram, it was stated, was showing its red light, and was proceeding at its usual pace. It was decided to hold a Coroner's inquiry at the Dudley Arms Hotel on the 42 year-old Thomas Bruton who was married and had seven children.

Even before the inquiry, the local newspaper commented that "only the other day the Borough Coroner strongly animadverted on the danger to life and limb - especially infantile life and limb - through these modern Juggernauts ploughing their way through crowded thoroughfares."

Dudley : Advertisement for Thomas Bruton of Flood Street [1883]

On the Saturday afternoon Mr. E. B. Thorneycroft, deputy coroner, held the inquest at the Dudley Arms Hotel. Henry Watson, cousin of Thomas Bruton, who was injured in the incident, gave evidence that he went to Kidderminster with his cousin on a light float, and on their return they picked up a man on the road to give him a lift. He stated that, at the time of the collision, Thomas Bruton was driving about four or five miles an hour, and the tram car was coining at a good speed. Although it was dark, he said Bruton carried no light, but the tram car light was visible. When this light was seen he told the inquiry that Bruton tried to pull out of the way, but the car came into them, and threw them out of their vehicle. He was adamant that he and Thomas Bruton were sober. However, he said that the three men had a pint of ale at Kidderminster, another at Stourbridge, and a third at Brettell Lane. He did not know if Thomas Bruton had consumed any ale at the market. He said that the horse was on part of the rails, and was only a "knacker," which had been recently bought. After other evidence had been given, the jury returned a verdict of "Accidental death," and exonerated the tram car driver from any blame. It was reported that the enquiry lasted over three hours in the Dudley Arms, and much interest was felt in the district as to the result.

The relationship between John and Lucy Harriman had evidently collapsed in the late 1880s, some of their affairs coming to light through a court case "Edgbaston Brewery Company v. John Harriman" in August 1889. In this case Mr. J. L. Holberton, appearing for the Edgbaston Brewery Company, sought to recover the sum of £5. 8s. for spirits supplied by the plaintiffs, the point in the case being that they were ordered by Mrs. Lucy Harriman, who then kept the Dudley Arms Inn, her name being over the door and she living separate from her husband. It was stated that "she afterwards died, and her husband then took possession of the house, and had possessed himself of a portion of the things there, including the plaintiffs' goods and the money realised by the sale of the spirits." The prosecuting solicitor said that, under these circumstances, John Harriman was liable as executor de son tort of his wife.

Truman's Burton Ales & London Stout : The Masterpiece

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I am not sure if John Harriman settled his outstanding debts but he left the pub and handed over the keys to Benjamin Levi. This publican got into a pickle here at the Dudley Arms but it was a blip in a career that earned him many friends in the region. He was the son of the glasscutter and postmaster Benjamin Levi who had a modest glass manufactory at the bottom of Brettell Lane. The business was formally a partnership between his father and William Sparrow but this was dissolved 1864 and William continued as sole proprietor. He had several men and apprentices working for him and, although he held the title of postmaster, I suspect that this part of the business was conducted by his wife Maria. Business was good for the firm in the 1870s and he advertised for six flint glass cutters with steady work guaranteed.

Benjamin Levi followed his father into the glass trade and married Matilda Ensell in April 1868. The couple also set up home in Brettell Lane and their son Charles would also become a glasscutter. When they were running the Dudley Arms Benjamin was charged with illegally selling intoxicating liquors. I am not certain what he was selling or to what extent, but it was deemed serious enough for his licence to be refused and the Dudley Arms being placed on the black list - so serious stuff. At this time the Dudley Arms was owned by Henry Hall of Dennis Park but he sold to Truman's who gave Benjamin Levi notice to quit and appointed James Barber as tenant. The licence of the house was transferred to him on October 3rd 1891.

Benjamin and Matilda bounced back from their experience at the Dudley Arms Hotel. They were later appointed as stewards of the Dudley Conservative Club on Birmingham Road at Dudley. When Benjamin died from pneumonia after holding this position for 21 years there was an outpouring of grief amid those who knew him. The Dudley Chronicle reported: "By all he was esteemed for the excellent services he rendered to the club and its members, for his never varying courtesy and assiduity and for the unobtrusive way in which he performed his duty. Benjamin and Matilda were due to retire from their roles when he succumbed to pneumonia. His death came in the week the couple were due to receive a presentation in recognition of their service.

Truman's Beer Labels

James Barber was running the Dudley Arms under a temporary licence when, in September 1891, another dead body was carried through the door of the pub. The corpse was that of 28 year-old Abraham Young, a former colour-sergeant in the Royal Scotch Fusiliers who was living with his parents at Level Street in Brierley Hill.

Abraham Young had apparently been lurking about the bushes by the Audnam Brook at Nager's Field clay pits. It was later reported that he was lying in wait for his girlfriend, clay-sorter Mary Ann Tomkins, of Silver End. When she crossed the stile next to the brook they exchanged a few words before Young produced a revolver and fired at the woman's head. She instinctively threw up her arm to protect herself, and received the bullet just above the wrist. She screamed for help, and some men employed in the pits ran towards the spot. The moment Young saw them coming towards him he pointed the pistol at his right ear and fired. He fell at once, and those who came up were horrified to find that the man was dead, a portion of his head and the roof of his mouth being blown away. Mary Ann Tomkins was taken to her home, and the former soldier's body was taken to the Dudley Arms Hotel, where he was laid out awaiting the coroner's inquest.

Mary Ann Tomkins suffered extreme shock to her system and, although the jury at the inquest wanted to hear her story, the Coroner refused their request to protect the woman from further distress. The inquest revealed that Young had been in India for seven years, during which time he and Mary Ann Tomkins corresponded "on the most affectionate terms." Following his discharge from the army and his return to the Black Country he was seen quarrelling with Tomkins. Consumed with jealousy, it was said that he had threatened suicide, and had even made an attempt on his life. The details of his jealousy and his intention to kill his girlfriend was apparently detailed in a note book found after the incident.

When questioned inside the Dudley Arms at the inquest, the soldier's parents were less than forthright with details of their sons behaviour. The father claimed that he did not know Young possessed a revolver. His mother said he would sit in the house for hours reading, and never speaking to anyone. The Coroner read an entry in his note book which read: "if this deed ends both our lives I hope we shall be put in the same ground at the Baptist chapel, by the side of my sister and brother and Mary Ann Tomkins. So farewell to all in this world." The jury returned a verdict to the effect that Young committed suicide whilst temporarily insane. The Coroner said he would record the verdict, but he called it a clear case of self-murder.

For James Barber, the inquest was certainly an extraordinary introduction to running the public-house. Born in Kidderminster in 1853, he kept the Dudley Arms with his second wife Elizabeth, who also hailed from the Worcestershire carpet town. The son of a carpet-weaver, he married Susan Taylor in February 1879 and the couple moved in with her mother on Mason Road, from where he worked as a worsted weaver. His wife Susan died in 1883 and he re-married during the following year. And this is where he got involved in the licensed trade as Elizabeth was the daughter of William Mumford, publican of the Square and Compasses on Coventry Street in Kidderminster. Both Elizabeth and her sister Minnie helped her father in the business.

Amblecote : Inn Sign of The Starving Rascal on Brettell Lane [2001]

Amblecote : Inn Sign of The Starving Rascal on Brettell Lane [2001]

Here is where I am going to discuss the colloquial name of the Dudley Arms Inn. As we saw earlier, by 1935 the Starving Rascal name appeared in print. The locals had called it by this name, or The Starver, for many years. The name of the pub officially changed in 1974 to that of its colloquial term. A new inn sign was erected outside the building and, for many years, the original designs for the signboard were on display inside the pub. These were the work of Mr. G. E. Mackenney who painted the double-sided board with two different illustrations. When the sign was updated in 1996 one side of the board showed a starving beggar being banished to his death in the snow by the Dickensian landlord of the Dudley Arms, and on the other side, the ghost enjoying a pint in the pub. This can be seen in the above illustrations. The original design, however, showed the ghost being welcomed back to the glowing portals of the pub named in his honour. The 1974 sign was dedicated by Ray Barlow, a former West Bromwich Albion star who had a newsagent's shop just down the road. Ray's wife, incidentally, was the lead singer of the Brian Pearsall Band.

Amblecote : Original Designs for the Inn Sign of The Starving Rascal [1974]

In addition to the original designs, the pub also had a frame with the following abstract: "Legend has it that one bitterly cold winter's night, a starving beggar pleaded with the bygone licensee for sustenance and warmth by the open fire, only to be turned away and have the door slammed shut behind him. The next morning that poor beggar was found dead on the doorstep, his scrawny hands still clutching the bag of meagre possessions that had hung by his side."

That abstract is often rolled out when people ask why the pub is called The Starving Rascal. The story has appeared in local newspapers and pub guides and is probably out there somewhere on various websites. These legends and tales pervade around the country, particularly with the names of old inns and taverns. Indeed, they are a lovely part of Britain's folklore. The stories often get embellished or embroidered over the years. Anybody who has played the game of Chinese Whispers will understand how a story can get muddled up. And yet there is often a grain of truth in there somewhere, or at least the odd true fact. I stumbled across a newspaper article which reported on a sad event in November 1893 and is, in my humble opinion, the source of the story .....

The night of Saturday November 18th 1893 was particularly cold with Amblecote experiencing a bitter storm. In the afternoon William Hall, a glassmaker living at Bromley, left the Coalbournbrook factory in which he worked and set off for home. However, with a full pay packet, he visited a number of public-houses on the way. By the evening he was the worse for liquor and it was said that the last time he was seen alive was when he left the Dudley Arms Hotel. His route home took him across the fields at Hawbush. However, the following morning his dead body was found lying near the Audnam Brook close to George King Harrison's colliery. His clothes were stiff with ice, and there was blood about his forehead. It was surmised that this was due to the glassmaker stumbling against some barbed wire fencing.

At the Coroner's inquest held at the Dudley Arms Hotel, the first witness called was Helen Hall, wife of the frozen glassmaker. She told the Coroner that she and her husband lived in Mullett Street at Bromley. She said that her husband left home about a quarter-to-eleven on Saturday morning in good health and was going to pick up his wages. That was the last time she saw him. She added that, although William Hall enjoyed a tipple, he had not been in the habit of heavy drinking.

Following a post-mortem examination, Mr. H. D'Arcy Ellis, the surgeon, stated that William Hall was generally healthy and it was his opinion that the cause of death was his intoxicated condition and his subsequent exposure to the cold, which was very intense. His body, he added, displayed no marks of violence and the bruises and cuts might have been caused by barbed wire fencing.

Henry Porter, a bricklayer living in Brettell Lane, was the man who found William Hall close to the stile near the colliery. He had known William Hall for many years and recognised him instantly. He told the coroner that there was no appearance of violence. He also saw that the glassmaker's trousers were frozen up to the knee.

Elizabeth Barber, wife of the licensee of the Dudley Arms, told the coroner that she knew William Hall by sight. She last saw him on the Saturday night, between six and seven o'clock, when he had two pennyworth of whiskey. As somebody who had been in the licensed trade for many years, Elizabeth Hall knew that she would be in hot water if she told the coroner that William Hall was drunk. She then stated that she considered him fairly sober at that time, he drank with nobody else and went out of the pub alone.

In stark contrast with the statement by the deceased man's wife, Police Constable Gibbs said he knew William Hall and considered him to be of drunken and idle habits. He remarked that at one time, however, he was a good workman and could earn £4 a week. He saw the glassmaker in the field after Henry Porter brought the matter to his attention. He made a quick check around the body and found a sovereign and sixpence by the side of William Hall, and also some coppers in the brook. He therefore concluded that he had not been assaulted and robbed. He also thought the blood on him was due to the barbed wire. In fact, he found some of the dead man's hair on the barbed wire fence.

Bobbies in those days had their ears to the ground and would learn intelligence and pick up on all the gossip. Police Constable Gibbs had heard that William Hall had been quarrelling with a man named Eli Collins in the Swan Inn before he went into the Dudley Arms, and that Collins was turned out of the house. Collins, he said, was afterwards found in the road dead drunk.

On hearing the policeman's evidence, the Coroner re-called Elizabeth Barber to give further evidence. She told the coroner that Collins was in the tap room of the Dudley Arms on the Saturday night, and she did not think he was drunk. To paraphrase Mandy Rice-Davies, "Well she would say that, wouldn't she? The Dudley Arms had only recently come off the black list and the licence would have been in jeopardy if it was deemed that she had allowed drunkenness on the premises.

Eli Collins was then questioned and he said that he had known William Hall for around 18 months. He said he last saw him alive in the Swan Inn. He denied having a quarrel in the house beyond the deceased glassmaker saying "that he would put him up the chimney," and he replying that he could not. Collins also denied being drunk but he did admit that the landlord of the Swan Inn did turn him out of the pub.

The next person to be questioned was Albert Edward Kinsell, a glassmaker who worked at the same factory as William Hall. He recounted that he had left the glassworks on Saturday with Hall at about two o'clock. They then visited four public-houses, and they had something to drink at each. He heard the quarrel in the Swan Inn between Collins and the dead glassmaker, but said it was nothing to speak of. He stated that the last pub they visited was the Dudley Arms. He had asked William Hall to travel with him on the tram up to Brierley Hill, from where they could walk home together. However, William Hall refused, saying he would go across the fields. No further evidence was called, and the Jury returned a verdict of "Death from natural causes, accelerated by exposure to the cold."

Amblecote : Denial statement by James Barber of the Dudley Arms [1893]

The local gossip would have been rife after such an event and it easy to see how the facts of this case became distorted. The facts were that it was a bitterly cold night, a man did die and was found with the last of his wages, Eli Collins was turned out of the neighbouring Swan Inn and apparently found "dead drunk" in the gutter outside the pub. In the late Victorian era there was no telly, radio, Twitter or WhatsApp. When stories went 'viral' it was through word-of-mouth dissemination. Remember my allusion to Chinese Whispers? I believe that this story formed the basis of the Starving Rascal legend. Whatever the case was with the locals, the gossip was such that James Barber felt compelled to issue a denial statement in the local newspapers that Eli Collins had not been supplied with drink at the Dudley Arms Hotel, and that he "refused to supply him with anything and ordered him to leave." It would seem that the two cases were mixed up in the local gossip, the statement by P.C. Gibbs including the phrase "dead drunk" being a key factor.

S.S. Cephalonia

In some cases, a scandal can be a good thing for business. One only has to think to the noir classic "The Postman Always Rings Twice" in which Frank Chambers murders the husband of Cora Smith and their subsequent struggle to cope with the boom in trade brought about by the gossip. However, in this case it would seem that the reputation of James Barber was tarnished with the local gossip, tittle-tattle and hearsay. He may have rued the day in which he ejected Eli Collins from the Dudley Arms. He may have felt that he needed to start a new chapter in in his life and forget all about drunken Amblecote men and the licensed trade in general. Handing over to a new tenant he booked a ticket on the S.S. Cephalonia which sailed from Liverpool on April 4th 1895 bound for Boston, Massachusetts.

From Boston, James Barber headed west to Palmer in Hampden County and started a new life but with his old trade by becoming a carpet mill weaver. His wife and children quickly followed him by sailing on the S.S. Scythia from Liverpool.

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Succeeding Thomas Berridge, Walter Hudson was the licensee of the Dudley Arms at the turn of the 20th century. The licensed victualler was born in Holt, Norfolk in 1858. Hailing from Church Gresley in Derbyshire, his wife Annie was six years younger. The couple had three children - Douglas, Ethel and Norman. Walter Hudson employed Maria Turner as a barmaid. I suspect that he worked for Truman, Hanbury, Buxton & Co. Limited as he was previously recorded as a brewer's clerk and living in Burton-on-Trent. Walter Hudson was only in his early forties when he died here in April 1902, following which Annie moved back to her home area at Woodville with her teenage children.

Truman's Beer Labels

Following the death of Walter Hudson, the Dudley Arms went through an unsettled spell. Benjamin Mallen stepped in to help Truman, Hanbury, Buxton & Co. Limited for whom he was working as an agent. Whilst he was at Amblecote, he briefly held the licence of the canteen on the volunteer shooting range on Barrow Hill at Pensnett. Dabbling with local council politics, he returned to his role as brewery agent after his brief spell at the Dudley Arms. However, whilst conducting business at the Talbot Hotel at Stourbridge he suddenly collapsed and died in 1910. A popular local figure, a very large crowd attended his funeral at Bank Street Wesleyan Chapel, including many members of the Licensed Victuallers' Association. His sister Louisa lived at Claredon House on Brettell Lane and also died very suddenly a year after Benjamin Mallen. Also working for Truman's, she was found dead in bed by her servant Annie Brooks. She had suffered from chronic asthma.

George and Emma Budden moved into the Dudley Arms in 1904, adding a southern flavour to the conversation to the pub. George was born in the Dorset village of Loders whilst Emma hailed from Sussex. Their servant Eliza Hughes was from Brierley Hill and possibly had an additional role of interpreter. In the late Victorian period George Budden worked as a cab driver in Kensington, London. The couple had moved around quite a bit in their lives but they dropped anchor at Amblecote for almost a decade, possibly the longest spell they spent anywhere.

Amblecote : The Starving Rascal [2004]

Amblecote : Interior of The Starving Rascal [2003]

William Rose joined the list of licensees who died at the Dudley Arms Hotel. If recent publicans thought the place was haunted then they may have felt the presence of a former publican - or one of the many people brought here for a coroner's inquest. William Rose kept the pub with his wife Emily. The couple's son Tom was a prominent member of Worcester County Cricket Club and made a couple of appearances for the side. The Rose family hailed from the Ilkeston area in Derbyshire. Following the death of her husband, Emily Rose remained as landlady for a quarter of a century. Her son Herbert worked as an engineer and fitter at Marsh & Baxter's in Brierley Hill.

Amblecote : Interior of The Starving Rascal [2019]

Peter and John Lawson kept the Dudley Arms during the 1950s. The couple had previously kept the Sportsman's Arms at Allesley near Coventry. Peter Lawson fell ill in 1962 and died in Corbett Hospital in January 1963.

The Starving Rascal returned to free house status in the 1980s when Peter and Denise Lodge purchased the Courage-operated pub. Annette and Alistair Cochrane later bought the premises with the intention of creating a pub-restaurant. They installed Bob Anderson as bar manager. The restaurant section was called The Cellars and was indeed down below in a room with a vaulted-ceiling.

Amblecote : Interior of The Starving Rascal [2019]

Raymond Williams acquired the Starving Rascal in February 1995. I did visit a few times in the mid-late 1990s because the pub started selling guest ales and was included in CAMRA's Good Beer Guide. Raymond Williams sold the building to Enterprise Inns on March 19th 1999. Brian Temple was the licensee after this - I think he had something to do with The Crown Inn at Iverley.

When I patronised the pub in late September 2003 I met a friendly Paula Snape who had been running the Starving Rascal for 12 months with business partner Stuart Pearsall. Born in Bridgnorth, Paula had previously managed The Shed, a music venue further up Brettell Lane.

Steve Robinson was the licensee of The Starving Rascal when it won Stourbridge and Halesowen CAMRA Pub of the Year in 2013.

Amblecote : Holy Trinity Church [2007]

The pub was closed in 2020 when the freehold was acquired by Black Country Ales.

Truman's Beer Labels

Licensees of this pub

1864 - 1872 John Hampton
1872 - 1873 Hannah Hampton
1873 - 1876 Herbert Witherington
1876 - 1876 Jane Davies
1876 - 1877 James Hutchinson
1877 - 1878 John Brown Bates
1878 - 1880 Mary Ann Pearks
1880 - 1887 John Harriman
1887 - 1889 Mrs. Lucy Harriman
1889 - 1891 Benjamin Levi
1891 - 1895 James Barber
1895 - 1896 Edward James Kirkham
1896 - 1899 Thomas Berridge
1899 - 1902 Walter Hudson
1902 - 1903 Joseph Cole
1903 - 1904 Benjamin Beckley Mallen
1904 - 1913 George Budden
1913 - 1914 William John Skinner
1914 - 1923 George Wainwright
1923 - 1927 William George Hickton Rose
1927 - 1952 Emily Rose
1952 - 1954 Ernest Pendlebury
1954 - 1963 Peter Lawson
1977 - 1982 Dennis Walter J. Farrow
1982 - 1984 Clive Anthony Casey
1984 - 1986 Peter and Louise Lodge
1986 - 1987 Peter John Lodge
1987 - 1989 Alan Davis
1989 - 1992 Alistair Hunter Cochrane
1992 - 1993 Janet Stevenson
1993 - 1993 Marie Catherine Wakeman
1993 - 1993 Eric Thomas Selvey
1993 - 1994 Philip Edward Nicholls
1994 - 1995 Raymond Keith Williams
1995 - 1998 Tracey and Ray Williams
1998 - 1999 Raymond Keith Williams
1999 - 2001 Brian William Temple
2001 - 2002 Lorraine L. P. Alberts
2003 - 2004 Paula Jayne Snape
2013 - Steve Robinson
Note : this is not a complete list of licensees for this pub.

Truman's : More Hops in Ben Truman

Genealogy Connections

If you have a genealogy story or query regarding the Dudley Arms or Starving Rascal at Amblecote you can contact me and I will post it here in addition to including your message within the website pages for Staffordshire Genealogy.

Have Your Say

If you would like to share any further information on this pub - perhaps you drank here in the past? Or maybe knew a previous publican? Whatever the reason it would be great to hear of your stories or gossip. Simply send a message and I will post it here.

Truman's Strong Ale

Related Newspaper Articles

"An inquest was held yesterday, at the Dudley Arms Hotel, Brettell Lane, before Mr. W. H. Phillips, Coroner, on the body of Mr. George Pearson, who died on Sunday evening, from the severe burns he received in an explosion at the Old Level Works. The evidence given was to the effect that the deceased was standing in front of the dam of the blast furnace, speaking to Coombes, the furnace-keeper, when one of the tuyeres on the right of the furnace burst, causing a rush of melted iron and cinders from the tap. He, Coombes, and three others were burnt. The injuries of the deceased were chiefly about the face and neck, though there were burns on his hands and various parts of his body. John Samuel Hill, engineer at the works, said the tuyeres in use of the furnace were made of boiler-plate iron, and were, in his opinion, sufficient for their purpose. Since the accident he had, however, recommended the use of a tuyere of another make - one which would contain a smaller quantity of water. He believed that the explosion of the tuyere had been caused by a quantity of melted iron having become "pocketed" above its nose, which it wore away by dripping upon it. He had since suggested that the points of the tuyeres should be protected from anything of this kind by a projecting brick. Neither of the witnesses considered that anyone was to blame for the accident; and in summing up the Coroner pointed out that as Mr. Pearson was the general manager it devolved upon him to make the working of the furnaces as safe an possible. The Jury returned a verdict of "Accidental death."
"Explosion at the Old Level Works"
Birmingham Daily Post : December 8th 1869 Page 8.

"Herbert Wickens Witherington, of the Dudley Arms Hotel, Brettell Lane, was charged with keeping his house open for the sale of intoxicating liquors during prohibited hours on the 10th August. Mr. Superintendent Mills said he should be content if the costs were paid in this case. Both the defendant and the person who was in the house agreed to pay costs."
"Charge against a Publican"
County Advertiser : August 23rd 1874 Page 2.

"James Homer, iron worker, Brettell Lane, was charged with being drunk on licensed premises on the 28th February. Police Constable Jeffery said he went to the Dudley Arms, Brettell Lane, and saw the defendant sitting in a corner of the room drunk. His father was trying to get him home, and the landlady asked him to go. A fine of 6s. and costs was imposed."
"Drunk On Licensed Premises"
County Express : March 14th 1885 Page 7.

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