Some history of the Holly Bush at Amblecote in the County of Staffordshire


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The Holly Bush Inn was located on Amblecote's High Street. The building was across the road from the lodge entrance to Corbett Hospital. The Holly Bush traded until 1981 but the building was demolished after closure.

Amblecote : The Holly Bush on the High Street [1940s]

It looks like these two women are waiting for the bus outside the Holly Bush Inn during the 1940s. The photograph was taken between 1940 and 1948 when Albert Harry Talbot was the publican. I would guess that it was a post-war image due to the lack of protection to the doors and windows. The residue of window tape can be seen, along with the remains of white paint which was used for the steps during times of blackout. The glass in the bay windows reveals that the smoke room of the Holly Bush was on the left and the bar to the right of the building. A row of petrol pumps for Hewitt's Garage are slap-bang next to the exterior wall of the smoke room, no doubt this would be a dilemma for today's clipboard-wielding health and safety inspectors!

Amblecote : Two women waiting for a bus outside the Holly Bush on the High Street [1940s]

The two women can be seen enjoying a chin-wag whilst waiting for the bus to crawl up out of Holloway End. The name of A. Harry Talbot can clearly be seen on the licensee's plate above the front door. This suggests that he preferred to go by the name of Harry instead of Albert. Born in Smethwick in 1882, he followed in his father's footsteps when working as a horse driver and groom on the canal network. He came to the locality when his parents, Thomas and Elizabeth, took over at the Vine Inn on Camp Hill at Audnam. In April 1934 he married Sylvia Read, daughter of a Belbroughton carpenter. Prior to the war the couple lived on Love Lane from where Harry worked as a cinema attendant whilst Sylvia found work in a general stores as shop assistant. Harry Talbot also volunteered as a Special Constable.

The licence of the Holly Bush was transferred to Harry Talbot in October 1940. He remained at the tavern until his death in May 1948. The licence was transferred to Sylvia who may have been serving what was known as a "widow's year." During this period she married Eaton Hardman and the licence was transferred to him during December 1949. The son of a train driver, he was born in Ludlow but grew up in neighbouring Wollaston. He would become a locomotive fireman, a demanding job that entailed shovelling coal into the firebox of the boiler. Based at Stourbridge, he was promoted to driver in 1944 but resigned from the Great Western Railway when he became publican at the Holly Bush Inn. He had also married in 1934, tying the knot with Effie Chrismas whose parents worked as porters at the Stourbridge Union Workhouse, an institution that would later evolve into Wordsley Hospital. Eaton and Sylvia Hardman spent a decade together at the Holly Bush. He died across the road in Corbett Hospital in October 1958. The "widow's year" ruling had been banished by this time so Sylvia, widow for the second time, remained at the helm of the Holly Bush until 1965, notching up a quarter-of-a-century pulling pints for the folk of Amblecote. She enjoyed a long life before ending her days in July 1989 at Ridgeway House Care Home in Wootton Bassett in Wiltshire.

John Elcock was the publican of the Holly Bush Inn during the late 1840s. He also worked as a glass blower, possibly at the nearby factory operated by Thomas Webb. Looking after the Holly Bush Inn during the day was his wife Sarah. The couple are recorded in the 1841 census but I am not certain if the Holly Bush was operating by this date. In that year John Elcock was only documented as a glass blower. The couple later moved to the Plough Inn at Wollaston.

The Elcock's were succeeded by John and Jane Beard, the licence being transferred in April 1855. The couple employed Mary Smart as a servant to help keep the place ticking over nicely. Born in the Worcestershire village of Ombersley in 1818, John Beard was both owner and publican of the Holly Bush Inn. He had earlier worked as a coachman to James Foster at Stourton Castle. His wife Jane hailed from Clunton in Shropshire. Not long after moving into the public-house the couple suffered the loss of their child, an inquest being held in the Holly Bush by the coroner. One can only speculate on the effect of such a tragic event had on the family. John Beard had re-married by the time of the census of 1871, his wife Elizabeth hailing from Calne in Wiltshire.

Amblecote : Notice of an auction of the Holly Bush Inn [1876]

Following the death of John Beard in May 1876, the Holly Bush Inn was sold at auction. The notice advising of the sale provides a glimpse of what the property was like in the mid-Victoria era. The club room was used for a number of social events. For example, in December 1865 fifty employees of the Stourbridge Plate-Glass Company's Works sat in this room to for an "excellent supper" provided by the John and Elizabeth Beard. After the meal Mr. Marshall, sen., was appointed chairman, and Mr. J. Middlehurst vice-chairman. The usual loyal toasts were given, after which the Chairman gave a speech during which he presented a massive silver inkstand, bearing the inscription "Presented by the workmen at the Platts Glass Company's Works, as a token of their respect and esteem, to Mr. Gray, on his resignation as manager."

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John Birt was seemingly the highest bidder at the auction and the licence of the Holly Bush Inn was transferred to him during August 1876. Born in Wolverley around 1839, he had previously lived at Lion Fields in Cookley, where he worked in the ironworks. He lived at the Holly Bush Inn with his older sister Elizabeth. Also born in Wolverley, she was officially recorded as a domestic housekeeper. However, she no doubt worked in the pub alongside her brother.

Amblecote : Advertisement for the tenancy of the Holly Bush Inn [1890]

The transfer of the licence to Ellen Pargeter on April 23rd 1889 was the probable date the Holly Bush Inn was sold to Bucknall's Brewery of Kidderminster. Advertisements such as the example above offered only a tenancy of the Holly Bush Inn and NOT the freehold of the property.

Charles Hazlewood and Leigh Fawke served ales for only two years between them before James Steadman took over as licensee. Born in Chaddesley Corbett in 1851, he kept the Holly Bush Inn with his wife Adelaide who hailed from Cheltenham. The publican had previously worked as a coachman when the family were living in Acock's Green. James and Adelaide would later move to the Corn Exchange Inn at Tamworth.

The publican of the Holly Bush in 1900 was Hodnet-born John Ellis who was also a contractor. It was around this time that the Holly Bush Inn was re-named The Jaguar - it was recorded as such by a clerk to the Licensing Justices in 1904. It reverted to the Holly Bush during the Edwardian period but the name would re-emerge in later years.

Amblecote : Map extract showing the Holly Bush Inn [1903]

The Holly Bush is marked on the above map extract dating from 1903. The nearby glass works was that of Joseph Fleming & Co., manufacturers of table and ornamental glass, along with engraved and etched tableware. The firm were acquired by the Amblecote Glass Co. Ltd. in October 1934. A cone of the works, formerly run by Gastrey & Gee, survived until 1955.

Tiddington-born Phoebe Briney became the licensee of the Holly Bush Inn towards the end of October 1907. She had received some compensation following the closure of the Cross Guns at Beaudesert, a tavern she kept for Flower and Sons Ltd. By this time Bucknall's Brewery had been amalgamated with the Delph Brewery of Brierley Hill so the Holly Bush Inn was part of the tied-estate of the Worcestershire Brewing and Malting Company Ltd.

At the licensing sessions held on February 1st, 1915, there was a serious hiccup for the Holly Bush Inn as the magistrates adjourned for further consideration as the police had filed a report that the house was not being well conducted. The licence had been transferred to Caroline Wall, one of a number of the Wall clan who had slowly moved into the tavern as they were related to Phoebe Briney. It was not until March that the Bench finally renewed the licence. Caroline Wall was brought before the magistrates on November 17th, 1919 charged with selling brandy at a price above the maximum price. She was found and fined £10.

A surprising discovery during a look back at the Holly Bush is that the house was going to be rebuilt in the early 1920s. In December 1921 Mr. J. T. Higgs appeared at Brierley Hill Court on behalf of Wolverhampton & Dudley Breweries Ltd. to apply for permission to rebuild the Holly Bush Inn. The esteemed architect, Albert Thomas Butler, submitted the plans to the magistrates, which showed that whilst the living accommodation of the house would be increased, the licensed portion would be slightly decreased. However, replying to the Magistrates' Clerk, Superintendent Willis expressed the opinion that the house was one suitable for reporting on the ground of redundancy. The brewery's solicitor countered that "the house was necessary and particularly emphasised the convenience it was to visitors to Corbett Hospital." Upon undertaking to supply reasonable refreshments other than intoxicants, but during and outside licensing hours, the application was granted. As can be seen in the 1940s photograph, for one reason or another, Amblecote did not get a lovely A. T. Butler creation on the High Street. I consulted architectural historian Andy Foster on this matter. He said that "at first sight it is a 19th century building, but all the details - the wooden mullion-and-transom windows upstairs, the raising-up of the end walls above the roof, the modern brick chimneys, and probably the porches, would fit with a date of 1921. It looks as if it was thoroughly re-cast around then. There's nothing particularly Butler about the details though."

Caroline Wall remained at the Holly Bush Inn until 1928 when she was succeeded by George Cartwright, the licence being transferred to him during September of that year. He grew up nearby where his mother Fanny kept a grocery and confectionery shop at Coalbournbrook. He started his working life as a carter and became romantically involved with Gladys Jackson, daughter of Harry Jackson, publican of the Royal Exchange on the High Street in Stourbridge. The couple were married in April 1922. They kept the Holly Bush for more than a decade when, in 1939, George Cartwright left the licensed trade to start up his own dairy business in John Street at Wordsley. He was fairly successful in this career change. He and Gladys would remain in John Street for the rest of their lives.

Succeeding George Cartwright, the licence of the Holly Bush was transferred to Elizabeth Jarvis in June 1939. In August of the following year the 58-year-old widow was found dead with her head in the oven in the scullery of the Holly Bush. It was stated that "since the death of her husband two years earlier she had been depressed, and that this depression had been accentuated by the illness of her mother," who had been living with her for three weeks prior to her taking her own life.

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The passing of Elizabeth Jarvis marked the start of the period in which Sylvia Talbot/Hardman was running the Holly Bush with her husbands.

Although demolished after closure in the early 1980s, the name of the Holly Bush Inn is remembered in a cul-de-sac off Stamford Street. Indeed, Stamford Street was originally called Holly Bush Lane and led to The Hollies. In the 1930s a field behind The Hollies was used by Stourbridge Old Edwardian Football Club. On the area now occupied by the cul-de-sac there was a large bowling green that may have been used by patrons of the Holly Bush.

In the 21st century a fitted bathroom and kitchen showroom stood on the site of the Holly Bush Inn. Towards the end of the pub's life the adjacent garage [Hewitt's] used to sell Jaguar cars and, in remembrance of the pub's brief name change earlier in the century, it was re-named The Jaguar by the garage proprietors who had acquired the old pub to entertain clients. The pub closed down on March 10th 1981.

Licensees of the Holly Bush Inn

c.1848 - 1855 John Elcock
1855 - 1876 John Beard
1876 - 1876 Elizabeth Beard
1876 - 1889 John Birt
1889 - 1889 Ellen Pargeter
1889 - 1890 Charles Arthur Hazlewood
1890 - 1891 Leigh Fawke
1891 - 1893 James Steadman
1893 - 1894 James Phillips
1894 - 1895 George Henry Woodman
1895 - 1895 Daniel William Workman
1895 - 1896 William Hodgetts
1896 - 1896 Henry Ivins
1896 - 1899 Charles Mason
1899 - 1904 John Gerard Ellis
1904 - 1904 Alfred Henry Darwent
1904 - 1905 John Edwards
1905 - 1905 William Walter Smith
1905 - 1906 John William Matthews
1906 - 1907 Willie Homer Stephens
1907 - 1907 Albert Kennerley
1907 - 1913 Phoebe Briney
1913 - 1928 Caroline Wall
1928 - 1939 George Frederick Cartwright
1939 - 1940 Elizabeth Lucretia Jarvis
1940 - 1948 Albert Harry Talbot
1948 - 1949 Sylvia Marjorie Talbot
1949 - 1958 Eaton Hardman
1958 - 1965 Sylvia Marjorie Hardman
1965 - 1972 Marjorie Irene Townsend
1972 - 1977 John Henry Killick
1977 - 1981 Paul Peter Tobor
Note : this is almost a complete list of licensees and dates for this pub. Apart from John Elcock, the dates of early licensees are sourced from newspaper articles which included the date of licence transfers. The listings from 1872 is complete and accurate as these names are sourced from licensing records. These records are hand-written and I have done my best to transcribe them accurately, though some scribbles of the clerks can be hard to determine.

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Related Newspaper Articles

"On Thursday last, an inquest was held before T. M. Phillips Esq., Coroner, at the house of Mr. Beard, the Holly Bush Inn, OLLY BUSH INN, Holloway End, on the body of the daughter of Mr. Beard, an infant 6 weeks old. The mother stated that on awakening in the morning of Tuesday last, she found the child dead by her side. Mr. Freer, surgeon, who was immediately called in, gave it as his opinion that life had been extinct for some hours previous, and that the child had been accidentally suffocated by the pressure of the mother upon its face during sleep. Verdict accordingly."
"Child Overlaid"
County Advertiser & Herald
for Staffordshire and Worcestershire
February 23rd 1856 Page 4

"William Booton and Thomas Jenkins were charged with assaulting Police-Constable Shenstone. Booton is a carter in the employ of Mr. Beddard, fruiterer, Dudley, and on the previous Tuesday night while driving home he called at the Holly Bush Inn, Holloway End, with Jenkins. On asking for a glass of rum some words ensued between Booton and the landlord, Mr. Beard, relative to some drink unpaid for. Complainant was near at the time and heard them. Defendants came of the house, and Booton pulled of his smock, declaring he would fight. Shenstone interfered, upon which Booton struck him twice and knocked him against the wheel of the cart. Booton then jumped upon the cart and drove off. Complainant followed and overtook him, but just as he collared him Jenkins set a dog upon him which seized him by the leg. Shenstone, however, threw his staff down to the animal who was satisfied to play with that while the owner attended to his master. Beard also came up to assist the officer, and both the accused were taken into custody. Mr. Burbury appeared to the defendants, and they were each fined 21 days' hard labour in default."
"Assaulting a Police Officer"
Worcestershire Chronicle : May 25th 1859 Page 3

At the Police Court, on Monday, before Messrs. H. O. Firmstone and H. Smith, William Hillman was charged with stealing a knife, the property of Oswald Williams, at Amblecote, on the 29th ult. Prosecutor said he was an inmate of the Stourbridge Union, and on the above date he called at the Holly Bush Inn, Amblecote. He wanted to get some tobacco and having no money he offered his knife for sale. A man had it to look at and prisoner took it from the man. Witness asked him for it and prisoner walked away to Stourbridge. Witness followed him to the New Inn, Enville Street, where he was taken into custody. Police-Constable Williams, stationed at Stourbridge, said he apprehended the prisoner at the New Inn, Enville Street, Stourbridge, on the above date. He charged prisoner with stealing the knife and he said he did not steal it. Prisoner said he bought the knife from the man at the Holly Bush and gave him threepence for it. He offered to let prosecutor have the knife back if he would give him the threepence. This was denied by the prosecutor, and the Bench sentenced prisoner to 14 days' hard labour."
"Stealing a Knife"
Cradley Heath & Stourbridge Observer : October 7th 1876 P.4

"A verdict of "Accidental death" was returned on Monday at an inquest held at the Holly Bush, Amblecote, touching the death of James Henry Smith [27], bricklayer's labourer, of Gigmill, Stourbridge. Smith was employed by Messrs. John Guest and Sons, of Amblecote, contractors, and on the morning of December 29th was at the works of Messrs. Bailey, Pegg, and Co., Brettell Lane, with a load of bricks, which he began to hoist in a hydraulic lift. A fellow workman named Bache heard the lift go up with a crash, and found deceased lying in the well of the lift. Smith's chest was crushed, and he died on the way to the Corbett Hospital. While no one actually witnessed the tragic affair, evidence was given that during the holidays the water had been turned off at Messrs. Bailey, Pegg, and Co.'s works in case of freezing, and all the taps stood open. James Plant, a watchman, stated he advised Smith not to interfere with the lift, but apparently Smith turned the water on, and the taps being open, the tank filled without his knowledge, so that the lift went up unexpectedly, crushing him against a beam. Mr. Mellor represented Messrs. Guest and Co. and Messrs. Bailey, Pegg, and Co. at the inquest, and Mr. K. H. Garvie, Factory Act inspector, was also present. Mr. Mellor, on behalf of the firms he represented, expressed sympathy with the family, and said that Messrs. Bailey, Pegg, and Co. had had works for 100 years, and never before had a fatal accident."
"Stourbridge Workman's Death"
County Express : January 8th 1910 Page 8

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