History of The Trumpet at Bilston in the county of Staffordshire.


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Some history of The Trumpet

I am breaking my own rules with this pub listing. I generally list pubs by their historic name but I suspect that most people looking for information on this Bilston house will be searching for The Trumpet. For many years this house had been known as The Trumpet even when it was actually the Royal Exchange. It was eventually renamed The Trumpet. However, wind the clock back to the mid-19th century and the building is said to have traded as the Butcher's Arms.

The late John Richards, a man who dabbled with pub histories, placed a frame in this pub stating that the property was "originally owned by the Fellows family and was a butcher's shop with a slaughter house in the yard at the rear." This may be the case but I have not seen a reference to the building being called the Butcher's Arms in the early 1830s. Joseph Fellows is listed as a beer retailer in the High Street within White's History, Gazetteer and Directory of Staffordshire published in 1834 but the name of the house is not recorded. The census of 1841 lists Joseph Fellows in the High Street but he is listed as a tin metal worker not a butcher. Consequently, I am not certain of the name of the house run by him and his wife Ann. Unless I see it for myself I cannot verify that it was called the Butcher's Arms in the early 1830s. The occupation of James Fellows suggests that it may have had a different name altogether.

Another curiosity is that John Richards stated that this was a beer house. This would mean it would not have been licensed to sell beer until after the 1830 Act of Parliament. Two years earlier, in the 1828 Pigot's Directory for Staffordshire, Joseph Fellows is listed as a retail brewer in the High Street. He may have been simply brewing but it does state retail brewer. Oh, to see the title deeds of this property. I did once ask Jonathan Holden, director at Holden's Brewery, to view the deeds of houses they owned but I was fobbed off. I suspect that Joseph Fellows was occupying another property in the 1820s. As a matter of interest, the public houses listed in the High Street in the 1818 Parson and Bradshaw Directory were: Air Balloon, Bird in Hand, Black Horse, General Moore, Green Dragon, Greyhound, Holly Bush, New Bull's Head, Old Bird in Hand, Recruiting Serjeant, Seven Stars, Turk's Head and White Horse.

Joseph and Ann Fellows were still in the High Street when the 1851 census was collected. He was listed as a 61 year-old Bilston-born retail brewer. His wife Ann, two years older, hailed from Belbroughton in Worcestershire. Also from Belbroughton was 16 year-old Fanny Fellows who was recorded as a house servant. Joseph Linney was trading next door and was recorded as a beer retailer, greengrocer and inspector of nuisances.

I knew John Richards and drank with him on a couple of occasions. He was a nice bloke and a good raconteur. However, I have often found his research to be less than rigorous. His history frame for this pub lists Joseph Fellows as licensee in 1861. However, the widow Mary Lester was recorded at this address prior to this date. In 1861 she was listed as a 43 year-old beer house-keeper who was born in the town. She lived on the premises with her daughters Mary and Fanny, along with her mother Sophia Spencer, sister Sarah and brother George. She is also listed in the 1861 Harrod's Directory and Gazetteer but still no name of the house is mentioned. And now to throw a spanner in the works, Mary Lester was listed ten years earlier as a brewer and grocer in the High Street. In both 1861 and 1871 she was three doors away from the butcher Thomas Addison, suggesting that she was at the same property.

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Bilston : Joseph Cross in the Post Office Directory for Staffordshire [1872]

This entry in the 1872 Post Office Directory for Staffordshire is a listing in which the combination of butcher and beer retailer is listed at these premises. The earliest such reference I have seen is a directory for 1868. This amalgamation of trades certainly qualifies for the name of the Butcher's Arms - but I have not seen the name in any of the trade directories, electoral rolls and census records that I have looked at. Joseph Cross was certainly at this address from 1864 until he got into financial difficulties in May 1875. His liquidation was announced in the local newspapers in which he was recorded as a beer house and eating house keeper.

Bilston : Sale of the New Inn Tavern [1857]

This is a curious advertisement. I am slotting it in here because, like the description of Joseph Cross, it mentions a beer and eating house. I am not saying that this was once The Trumpet but I had previously not seen a New Inn on the High Street. There were other houses of this name in Bilston, notably in Bilston Road and Oxford Street. One for future research perhaps?

A good number of licensees came and went in the late 1870s, by which time the house was known as the Royal Exchange. By the time the dust settled with furniture coming-and-going, John and Maria Atkin were running the place. Up until this time most people running the pub were locals. However, the Atkin couple hailed from Cheshire and Lancashire repectively. John Atkin died on the premises on January 14th 1884 and the licence of the Royal Exchange passed to his wife. It was during her spell as landlady that the beer house was acquired by the Wolverhampton brewers William Bruford and Co. Ltd. The next publican, James Lawley, was a tenant for this brewery until 1899.

Paying £680, J. and J. Yardley and Co. Ltd., of Bloxwich and Darlaston purchased the Royal Exchange in 1899. If events had run a different course, the beer house would then have come under the Old Wolverhampton Breweries umbrella in 1910. However, in October 1902 the company sold the house to William Swan who took over as licensee during the following year.

William Swan was a local bloke but his wife Alice was born at Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire. He was an iron plate worker and, together with his wife, they had previously kept the George and Dragon at Broad Lanes at Ettingshall. William died in October 1915 and the licence passed to Alice who remained at the Royal Exchange until 1929. She spent her retirement years living at 268 Wellington Road.

Joseph and Lottie Llewelyn took over the reins of the Royal Exchange in 1936. The couple had married in July 1922. The pub was to be their final years. Joseph died in March 1937 and Lottie in January of the following year. She was succeeded by Joseph Dilger who had previously kept the Traveller's Rest on St. John's Road at Darlaston. A tailor by trade, I suspect that his father was the Joseph Dilger who once kept the Court House at Sedgley and also the Old Chainyard at Coseley.

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Ownership of the Royal Exchange passed to the furniture dealer Herbert Beach and James Hewitson of the High Street in Bilston before it was acquired by Holden's Brewery Co. Ltd. in 1970. At that time Les Megson had been the licensee for five years. He was in charge when the house was granted a full licence. For a while, the Royal Exchange was one of the last beer houses in the Black Country.

Legend has it that when Les Megson first took over the pub it empty most nights and that he had no regular patrons. He apparently decided to amuse himself by playing his collection of jazz records at high volume. This attracted the attention of Tommy Burton, a fellow jazz fan who lived near the pub. Hearing jazz blasting out of the Royal Exchange, he nipped in for a drink and started to chat with the publican. He offered to play in the pub for free, though he would pass a tray around the boozer in order to collect tips. It was the beginning of a new era for the Royal Exchange. Les Megson had not secured free performances from some no-hoper - Tommy Burton was a consummate artist and performer. Coupled with his outrageous sense of humour, the multi-instrumentalist put on show-stopping performances. The pub became the place to be. Other musicians flocked to be part of the scene, most notably the pianist and raconteur Reg Keirle who clocked up half a century of live performances for the tray.

When Les Megson hung up his bar towel for the final time he handed over to Tony Swinnerton who had worked with him for 12 years. Les left his pictures and ceiling records to maintain the pub's interior decoration.

Licensees of this pub

1877 - 1877 James Lawley
1877 - 1879 James Turner
1879 - 1880 Benjamin Rhodes
1880 - 1884 John Atkin
1884 - 1891 Maria Atkin
1891 - 1899 Thomas Edmunds
1899 - 1900 William Hassell
1900 - 1901 John Thomas Unitt
1901 - 1902 William Edwards
1902 - 1903 George Hassell
1903 - 1903 James Breedon
1903 - 1915 William Swan
1915 - 1929 Mrs. Alice Swan
1929 - 1929 A. Charles Lewis
1929 - 1935 Bert Lewis
1935 - 1936 Harry Porter
1936 - 1937 Joseph James Llewelyn
1937 - 1938 Lottie Rose Llewelyn
1938 - Joseph Thomas Dilger
1965 - 1983 Les Megson
1983 - 1983 Ethel Megson
1983 - 1985 Anthony William Swinnerton
1985 - 1990 Robert Francis Conway
1990 - Catherine M. Duffy
2000 - Rob Clee
2005 - Mrs. Ann Smith
2006 - Musti Bouameur
Note : this is not a complete list of licensees for this pub.

Bilston : Interior of The Trumpet [2016]

Genealogy Connections

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Related Newspaper Articles

"A legendary Bilston jazz pub which looked set to close last year due to spiralling debts has been given a new lease of life. Popular musician Musti Bouamdur has taken over at The Trumpet which has been a favourite haunt for jazz fans for more than 40 years. The watering hole has been shut for the past week for refurbishment and will tonight open its doors again to the public for the start of a "new era." To celebrate four top jazz musicians will be playing. The unique venue is the only pub in the country to offer free live jazz shows seven nights a week. But the Holden's Brewery-owned site ran into difficulty last year when the former landlady was forced to shell out £20,000 of her own money to pay performers. Brewery spokeswoman Abby Holden said today: "We're hoping to get the pub back to its former glory - everybody knows the pub." She added that: "It is infamous in the area and it was sad when it was in difficulty because it is part of the history of Bilston." New manager Musti, who has been performing himself at the quirky pub for more than a decade, said: "I am really excited about the new opening. I love the place and I love the music. I really hope we can get it back to the way it was."
"Old Jazz Pub Gets New Lease of Life"
by Victoria Nash
Express & Star : November 14th 2006

Bilston : Reg Keirle celebrates 50 years of entertaining at The Trumpet [Photo ©2018 Express & Star]

"A jazz musician who inspired one of Slade's biggest hits has celebrated performing for 50 years at a Black Country pub. Reginald Andrew Keirle, known as 'Reg' or 'Keirley,' started playing piano at The Trumpet, High Street in Bilston, in the summer of 1968. The pianist was the inspiration behind one of Slade's biggest hits - "Skweeze Me Pleeze Me" - after Jim Lea and Don Powell saw him perform on a Sunday night at The Trumpet, according to Don Powell's "Look What I Dun" autobiography. Friends and family gathered around Mr. Keirle on July 30th to celebrate the 82-year old's legacy at the pub. Mr. Keirle said: "It was a complete surprise to me at The Trumpet. I thought it would be an ordinary Monday night but it was great. Usually, you only get half a dozen in and when I went in it was packed. Musicians, old friends of mine were there - they've all become nice friends." Reg started performing at the pub after watching Wolverhampton artist Tommy Burton and Dave Holmes - who was the first drummer to play at The Trumpet. Reg has played for free at the pub ever since a fateful Monday night. He added: "Tommy Burton was playing there and I went down to hear him and then I took over when he left and in the early days I was doing everything - including painting the walls just to get it going. It was only three, four nights a week but when a landlord came he was determined to have jazz on every night of the week. It was good and I played there on Friday once a week and there's one week night - on Monday - and hardly anybody came along so I did it for nothing, except for the tray and I've been doing it ever since." The 82-year-old said he still couldn't make 'sense' of music, but said he played 'by ear,' adding: "We had a piano at home and as a kid I used to pick out the odd tune. I had lessons when I was a kid from Miss Hill. I used to watch her fingers on the piano but I couldn't make any sense of music myself. I had a go myself and learnt a trick every fortnight - what to do with your fingers - and there's a lot of fortnights in 50 years and you gradually learn a style." Reg said he preferred 'traditional jazz' which he could sing along to. He said: "I like traditional jazz in the style and songs as well - I like singing swing numbers. I sing what I can play. If I can't play it I don't sing it. I just play by ear." Mr. Keirle's other job was at the Express & Star as a commercial artist. He said: "I went to college and I went to the army for a few years. I had a year off and then I worked at the Express & Star as an artist. I was there for about five years until I got the sack for being late." Reg, who was born in Waterloo Road in Wolverhampton, now lives in Redditch with his wife Linda Clement Keirle and still performs at The Trumpet every Monday night - thanks to an alcoholic inspiration. He said: "Every Monday night I'm there at about 9.15 until 11.15pm. I like beer, that's my inspiration. I like the pub, the beer and I like playing the piano - that's good enough for me."
"Reg hits all the right notes after 50 years"
by Thomas Parkes in
Express & Star : August 2nd 2018 Page 3

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