Some history of the Beehive Inn at Cradley Heath in the County of Staffordshire
The address of the Beehive Inn was No.49 Grainger's Lane. The building stood on the corner of Southgate. Originally a cul-de-sac called Beehive Street, this small thoroughfare was eventually extended to connect with Northgate. The latter was originally called Tibbett's Garden.
It would appear that the pub was extended into the neighbouring cottage at some point in its early life. The cottage is significantly smaller than the corner building, suggesting that the pub was constructed first and the terrace followed later. The bay windows of both cottages are probably a later addition. You can just see a grocer's store next door to the Beehive Inn. When this photograph was taken this shop was run by the elderly Hannah Harbach. She had been the shopkeeper here for a couple of decades.
Rachel Garratt was the licensee of the Beehive Inn when this photograph was taken around 1940. Indeed, she remained at the Beehive Inn until the brewery decided to close the pub in 1956. Succeeding her husband Joseph Patrick Cunningham, she was running the Warwick Arms at Littles Lane in Wolverhampton during the early 1920s. She later managed the Elephant and Castle on the Stafford Road. As Rachel Cunningham, she took over the licence of the Beehive Inn on August 11th 1937. She married the warehouse manager Ernest C. Garrett in April 1939 but remained as the pub's landlady. Her young daughter Joan also lived at the Beehive Inn.
Zooming in on this photograph it is possible to see a notice in the window stating that the Beehive Inn had "No Beer," confirming that the image was captured during the Second World War when shortages of raw materials could suddenly turn a pub dry. "No Beer" had also been scrawled on the side wall of the property with chalk though, of course, that could have been the work of some mischievous children.
The Beehive Inn may look like it was a fairly ordinary public-house but when it was kept by John and Sarah Perks during the Victorian period it was a place of high repute. Despite its relatively small size, the couple hosted a wide range of gatherings and meetings. For example, on Easter Monday in 1850 members of the "Industry" Lodge of the Wolverhampton order of Odd Fellows, met at the Beehive Inn, in which they partook in their annual feast. Sarah Perks had to cater for more than fifty members but the evening was a tremendous success. Mrs. Perks was a dab hand at staging such functions and, as a result, two clubs with about 120 members, held their meetings and events at the Beehive Inn.
The Beehive Inn had a liquor vault, club room and brewhouse. Although, the building plan of the Beehive Inn dates from 1903, little had changed from the days when John and Sarah Perks operated the business. The couple also owned a piece of land opposite the pub. There was a quoits bed for the entertainment of customers and no doubt the Beehive Inn had a team in a local league. The plot of land also featured piggeries and fowl pens.
The core of the Beehive's trade was the community living in and around Beehive Street and Cokeland Place. Many of the residents worked in the nearby Corngreaves Works and Collieries of the New British Iron Company. There were a number of other factories close to the pub so the jug department would have been busy when the furnaces were blazing. Another key element of the pub's location was the Theatre Royal which stood on the opposite side of Grainger's Lane. I believe this building evolved from a travelling theatre that used some of the open land across from the Beehive Inn.
An auction was held at the Beehive Inn during March 1862 in which many of the materials and timber of Cradley Heath House was sold in a massive recycling reclamation project, the house having been dismantled during works for the railway line that opened in the following year. So, if anybody fancied a bargain-priced three-storey staircase then they would have had to bid inside the Beehive Tavern.
Licensed victualler of the Beehive Inn, John Perks was born in Brierley Hill. Succeeding Mary Ann Roberts in March 1850, he and his wife were running the pub for much of the mid-19th century. Sarah Perks was born in Tipton in 1826. The licence was transferred to her when her husband died. In the 1881 census she was recorded as Licensed Victualler whilst her 33 year-old son James was documented as manager of the pub. When Sarah retired they moved to Caroline Street at Kate's Hill. James worked as a commercial traveller.
By the time Jeremiah and Priscilla Westwood took over the licence of the Beehive Inn they were very experienced in the licensed trade. They had previously run a pub in Corngreaves and, before that, the Jolly Collier Inn at the bottom of Cradley Road.
It was during the period of the Westwood's that the Beehive Inn was badly affected by mining subsidence. Full details of this are featured in the newspaper articles. The property had to be shored up but, despite the cracks in the walls, customers could still come in for a pint of ale. No disaster, it would seem, was going to stop the men of Cradley Heath from enjoying their beer at the Beehive Inn.
Jeremiah Westwood was busy in his back yard when not serving behind the counter of the Beehive Inn. He had another income as a Beer Finings Maker. The traditional finings used for beer is Isinglass. This comprises of shredded, freeze-dried, powdered swim bladder of sturgeon dissolved in liquid suspension. A positively charged fining agent and extremely gentle, they are dissolve into water and then stirred thoroughly into the beer. The finings have a positive charge which attract negatively charged particles that cause cloudiness in the beer. It also helps to clear the haziness caused by tannin in grain husks. When the particles bind with the finings they become too heavy to float and sink to the bottom of the cask leaving a beer that should be clear and polished in the glass.
Business did not go too well for Jeremiah Westwood and the licensed victualler was declared bankrupt in 1895. He later lived in Southall's Lane, Dudley, but ended up residing at the neighbouring Railway Tavern, after a spell of working as a fish and fruit dealer. I suspect it was the latter business that failed rather than his dealings at the Beehive Inn. Jeremiah and Priscilla Westwood died within a short space of each other in the late 1890s.
It was in the last years of the 19th century that the Beehive Inn formed part of the tied estate of the North Worcestershire Breweries before it was transferred to Wolverhampton and Dudley Breweries Ltd. in 1910. The pub would remain an outlet for Banks's ales for the rest of its days.
Harold Harbach was manager of the Beehive Inn during the 1920s. In 1932 he was listed at the Old Engine in Old Hill's Wagon Street. Born in 1888, at the end of the Edwardian period he was working as a blacksmith's striker. He married Lily Homer in January 1911. The couple did well for themselves, continually improving their lot. By the time of the Second World War Harold had become a millwright and he and Lily were able to afford a house on the more affluent Barrs Road.
The Beehive Inn was closed by Wolverhampton and Dudley Breweries Ltd in 1956. In addition to the licence of the Railway Tavern, this pub was sacrificed in order to open The Brickhouse at Rowley Regis, a newly-built pub that opened in November 1956.
"On Friday afternoon last fight took place between two men employed at the works of Messrs. Mountford and Homer, chain manufacturers,
Cradley, which ended fatally. The two men are named Adam Williams, alias Diper, and Samuel Woodhouse, alias Baby. The former is a young man
about 19 years of age, residing at High Lane, Cradley, and the latter is a married man, aged 24, residing near the Beehive Inn, Cradley Heath. It appears
that the two men worked in the same shop, and that a bad feeling had been engendered in connection with a pigeon match a few days previously. During the morning
the deceased was chaffing Woodhouse, and at dinner time Mrs. Woodhouse brought her husband's dinner, which did not please him, and he sent it back untouched.
Deceased made all sorts of remarks about this, suggesting that Woodhouse should give his wife a good thrashing. Woodhouse he should prefer thrashing Williams. To
which said, "Come and try it on," and led the way out of the shop. The two, with three other workmen, then proceeded to small field at the back of the
Baptist Chapel, and fought several rounds, when Woodhouse struck deceased a violent blow on the pit of the stomach, causing Williams to fall insensible. His
comrades rubbed him and bathed him with warm water, but death had already taken place. He was quickly removed to Mr. Bennett's, the Rose and Crown Inn, where
further efforts were made to restore consciousness, but without success. During the afternoon Woodhouse was apprehended, and conveyed to Stourbridge police cells.
On Saturday morning he was brought before Mr. R. L. Freer, and remanded until Tuesday next."
"Fatal Fight at Cradley"
Birmingham Daily Gazette : February 19th 1866 Page 6
"Jeremiah Westwood, landlord of the Beehive Inn, Grainger's Lane, Cradley Heath, was charged with selling liquors during
prohibited hours on the 2nd inst Mr. Waldron, who defended, said he did not dispute the facts of the case, but contended that the person who fetched the spirits was ill,
and handed in a certificate from Dr. Thompson to that effect. The Bench imposed a fine of 5s. and costs."
"Old Hill Police Court"
Birmingham Daily Post : October 13th 1887 Page 8
"The greatest consternation existed in Cradley Heath district during Sunday night, in consequence of upwards of 50 houses having subsided
in Grainger's Lane and Tibbett's Gardens through mining operations. The shock was felt over an area of three acres, and the damage done is so extensive that
families were compelled for their own safety to immediately quit the houses. Some of the houses are cut in two. The Primitive Chapel is greatly damaged, and the tower
has moved five or six inches. A brewery has been completely gutted, and the subsidence has removed two wells of water which were used for brewing. In one district it
is feared the houses will fall to the ground, as the rents in the earth are gradually becoming larger. Hundreds of people did not go to bed during the night, and great
alarm has been occasioned by the bursting of gas mains. The damage amounts to many thousands of pounds."
"Alarming Occurrence at Cradley Heath"
in Manchester Courier : July 3rd 1888
"There has not been any important development of the mining subsidence at Cradley Heath during the last two days, and the mischief that has
been done up to the present is attributable to what occurred on the two first days of the settling of the ground. Some slight widening of the cracks in a few buildings
are pointed out, but for the most part there is nothing sufficiently marked for the eye to detect. Actual measurements are the only things to depend upon where the
change is a small one, and it is so far satisfactory that things are not practically worse than they were after the first two days' disturbance of the strata. The
wild flight of a large number of families from the afflicted area on Sunday and Monday was perhaps natural under the circumstances, and people seemed to anticipate far
more mischief than has actually come. Now it is seen that whatever else may happen, any fresh subsidence is likely to be a slow and gradual one, there is a returning
feeling of confidence. The families, consequently, who did not see fit to remove when their neighbours did are still continuing to hold their ground, and, so far as can
be learned, they have not any intention to migrate. Nothing has been done yet to replace the fallen patches of plaster from the ceilings, or to stop up the cracks in the
walls of the houses, but as it happens to be summer weather there is not the discomfort there would be in a colder season of the year from this cause. The possibility of
further subsidence makes it doubtful what to do, but were it certain the matter would stay at its present stages plenty of work could be found for the bricklayers in
putting the damaged property to rights. In many cases the repairs required are only slight. A good number of strangers have been attracted to the locality to see the
houses affected by the subsidence, but externally there has not been as much to gratify their curiosity as some of them expected. One woman made her way to the
neighbourhood, enquiring for the houses that had "gone down, children and all," and she apparently expected to see a yawning chasm in the earth. There is happily
nothing of this for the sightseer, or anything approaching it. The area that is really disturbed is, roughly speaking, about four acres in extent, and it is something of
a quadrilateral. In what may be taken as the centre of the substance it is stated that the ground has sunk to the extent of about five feet. This is an estimate only, but
probably may be accepted as substantially correct. From the four sides of the area referred to there has been a pull of the ground towards the centre of the subsidence.
It is the wrench which has occurred in the direction of this centre that has cracked and disturbed the buildings. These cover the ground rather thickly, and altogether
there are about 100 houses. Mr. Tibbets, of the New Inn, has twenty-three houses besides the one he occupies, and he has been apparently the principal sufferer in
the matter. His malthouse floor has been puckered in one part by the movement of the ground, and the quarries have been thrust upwards. There has been a good deal of
damage to the house he occupies, as well as mischief to those he owns. There was yesterday only a few feet of water in his well, which is thirty-two yards deep,
and which used frequently to have twenty-six yards of water in it. The wells around still supply water, though, if tested, they would probably be found with a less
supply than used to be the case. The mains of the South Staffordshire Waterworks Company are laid along Grainger's Lane, on which a number of the damaged properties
abut, but they have not been affected by the subsidence, though one supply service taken off them was. In the case of the gas mains of the Cradley Heath Gas Company,
there was an escape of gas at first, but the main was put right as soon as could be. The Primitive Methodist Chapel has been seen to dip from back to front by the
subsidence, and it was affected to the extent of 21 inches by the first two days' sinking. From the length of the building this is not noticed so much as might be
supposed, and the effect is seen most by the flooring of the disused schools underneath being lifted by the pressure bearing on the foundations. The tower of the chapel,
which is between 50ft. and 60ft. high, was quite out of the perpendicular when tested with a plumb-line on Tuesday. It is stated that there is no indication that it
has gone further since then. Though as things are at present there would be no danger in continuing to hold services at the chapel, it has been deemed best to suspend
them for the present, and it has been arranged to hold the services at the Primitive Methodist Schools, a little distance away. Near the side of the chapel are the works
of Mr. Billingham, ship tackle manufacturer, which have been strained by the subsidence, but nothing to prevent the men going on working as usual.
"The Mining Subsidence at Cradley Heath"
in Birmingham Daily Post : July 6th 1888
"At the Petty Sessions, on Wednesday, Phoebe Dimmack was charged with having stolen 1s. 8d. from John Whitehouse. The prisoner is a waitress
at the Beehive Inn, Cradley Heath, and on Monday night week prosecutor went there and had several glasses of spirits, and, according to his statement, he gave her,
in payment for the last glass a two-shilling piece, from which he said she never brought him change. Defendant denied having received the two-shilling piece and
said the prosecutor paid for his last glass with a fourpenny-piece. Prosecutor said it was the last glass but one which he had paid for with the smaller coin; and
Mrs. Perks, the landlady of the inn, who gave the defendant an excellent character, said that there was not a glass of spirits drawn for the prosecutor after the one which
was paid for with the fourpenny-piece. The Bench had no doubt but that prosecutor had lost his money somehow, but they did not consider that there was any evidence
against defendant, who was accordingly discharged."
"Serious Charge Against a Waitress"
Birmingham Daily Post : August 8th 1862 Page 4
At the Beehive Inn, kept by Mr. J. Westwood, the cellars have been propped, and the house has been a good deal pulled and strained, leading to fissures in the walls and the fall of plastering.
The place, however, is frequented as usual, and in this, as in other cases where the occupants have held their ground, the ordinary daily avocations are going on. It may
be hoped that this will continue to be possible, but time alone can supply the answer as to whether this will be so. The rock that intervenes between the surface and the
mines below may possibly afford resistance to further subsidence after the recent cracking and settling. It can for the present, however, be only pure speculation as to
whether this will prove so or not. What the immediate cause of the subsidence is cannot be stated, but, in the opinion of some people who are familiar with mining, it
may have been due to the pillars in the mines below proving unequal to the strain upon them. The colliery from which the coal is drawn in the vicinity was formerly worked
by the Earl of Dudley, but of late years by Messrs. Parsons and Cooper. Subsidences from the working of mines are, of course, a common occurrence in all districts where
coal is won, and near Cradley Station, half a mile away, a subsidence has been going on for the last eight months, entailing constant ballasting of the Great Western
Railway, and extensive repairs in the works of Messrs. Wood-Aston and Co. At one spot the Stour has been more than doubled in width by the sinking of the bed of the
river and of the ground near it. Near the side of the railway the ground has gone down nearly 12 feet, and an enormous quantity of material has been used in keeping up
the line and sidings to the required level for their purpose. Returning to the question of the subsidences in Grainger's Lane, a meeting of property-owners and
owners interested in the matter was held at the Primitive Methodist Schools on Wednesday night, at which the Rev. Mr. Sheppard presided. A resolution was passed as to
the desirability of united action with regard to any steps to obtain compensation for the damage that has been occasioned. A deputation was appointed to wait on the
colliery proprietors who have been alleged to be responsible for the damage, and the meeting was adjourned with the view of receiving their report. A hope was expressed
that some amicable understanding might be come to in regard to the matter."
"The Mining Subsidence at Cradley Heath"
Birmingham Daily Post : July 6th 1888
"At the Rowley Regis Police Court yesterday Samuel Chatwin, chain manufacturer, Grainger's Lane, was charged with stealing a cup,
containing 11s. 6d., belonging to Jeremiah Westwood, landlord of the Beehive Inn. Mr. Waldron defended. Louisa Jones, who described herself as a "barman"
at the prosecutor's house, said she saw the prisoner lean over the bar counter on the night of the 11th inst. and reach a cup, which contained a sum of money. The
prisoner watched her, and afterwards hurried out of the bar. Witness followed him, and found under his apron the cup containing the money. She asked him to come back,
and, on arriving in the house, she said to those present, "Look what he has done." Prisoner said, "Put it back and say nothing at all about it." She
afterwards told the prosecutor's wife, and the prisoner was taken into custody. In cross-examination, witness said she was a "male impersonator," and
it was a matter of opinion whether she was an attraction or not. She sometimes waited in the bar in male attire, and sometimes in female attire. She was not engaged
as a singer, but when she was requested to sing she usually did. She was engaged as a "barman," and was prepared to do work in the house. It was true that she
said to the prisoner, "I might have been suspected of this." She was quite positive that she found the cup containing the money under the prisoner's apron.
She was known as Louis St. George and Georgie. Detective Ballance stated that when he arrested the accused he said, "I admit to reaching the cup down, but Georgie
told me to do so." Other evidence having been given, Mr. Waldron said his client strongly denied that he reached down for the cup with any felonious intent, and
stated that it was done for a "lark," and in consequence of something the "male impersonator" said. Prisoner was fined 20s. And [£2 6s. 6d.]
costs, or in default one month's hard labour."
"She Was a Male Impersonator"
Coventry Evening Telegraph : March 26th 1891 Page 4
"An alarming accident occurred on Sunday night at Spring Hill, Halesowen. It appears that Joseph Edward Foley, haulier, of Grainger's Lane,
Cradley Heath, was driving two horses and a waggonete containing seven or eight persons from the direction of Hagley. The party included Foley's wife and two children,
William Barnsley, his wife, and child, also living at Halesowen Road, Old Hill, and a young man named Benjamin Parkes, of Foxoak Street, Cradley Heath. Foley was driving
the vehicle down the steep incline at Spring Hill at a slow pace when the reins broke, and the horses became unmanageable and bolted. After travelling for some distance
the horses ran on to the footpath, with the result, that the vehicle collided with a lamp-post in front of the Red Lion Inn. This was knocked down, and the waggonete
was overturned. The occupants were pitched into the road. Mrs. Foley was discovered lying on the ground in an unconscious condition, and Norman Foley, nine years of age,
had also sustained severe injuries to his head. Both the injured persons were removed to an adjoining house, where they were attended by Drs. T. B. Young and Clark.
Inspector Brazier, who was summoned to the scene, obtained another vehicle, and the persons were removed to their various homes. Mrs. Foley regained consciousness upon
arrival at Cradley Heath, but the condition of the lad became very serious, and it was again necessary to call in medical aid. The front of the waggonete was smashed,
and the animals were also injured."
"Wagonette Accident at Halesowen"
Lichfield Mercury : August 2nd 1907 Page 2
This 1904 map extract shows the area around the Beehive Inn which stood on the corner of what was then known as Beehive Street. This was later changed to Southgate. Opposite the Beehive Inn was the Railway Works of Richard Sykes. The company were manufacturers of ship chains, cables and anchors. The business was acquired by Noah Hingley and Sons Ltd. in 1948.