The county was first recorded in 1016 when it was known as Staeffordscir. The name of Stafford comes from the Old English 'ford by the landing place' [staeff being landing place].
Staffordshire is bordered by Cheshire in the north, Derbyshire and Leicestershire to the east, Warwickshire and Worcestershire to the south, and Shropshire in the west. The hills to the north of the county are a continuation of the Derbyshire moors and, in places, rise to 1,500ft above the River Trent. In-between are some of the most beautiful valleys in the land - the Manifold, Milldale and Dovedale. A wonderfully varied county, the northern part of Staffordshire is known as The Potteries, the middle is dominated by Cannock Chase and the southern part is occupied by the region called The Black Country.
Prior to the Roman conquest, the county was occupied and inhabited by the tribes of the Cornavii in the east and the Ordovices in the west. In the 7th and 8th centuries, Staffordshire formed part of the Saxon kingdom of Mercia and was ruled by Penda, a champion of heathenism against Christianity and later by Offa. A cathedral was built at Lichfield in 669 and the see rose to become second only in importance to Canterbury. Lichfield was also the location of Richard II's imprisonment [though he was also held at Pontefract]. He escaped by jumping into the castle's moat but was recaptured and carried to his death. In 1459, during the Wars of the Roses, the Battle of Blore Heath ended in defeat for the Lancastrians, despite the Yorkists numbering only half as many men. It was industry that shaped the county of today - The Potteries, the region known also as 'Five Towns' where pottery has been made since the 17th century. Rich coal and iron resources lead to rapid development and industrialisation in the south of the county and earned the region the name of The Black Country. Wool formed the basis of Wolverhampton's earlier wealth - the moorlands to the north of the town were prime sheep pasture.
To the north, the valleys of Dovedale, the Manifold and the Churnet offer some of the loveliest scenery to be found anywhere in England. Cannock Chase is an area of 'outstanding natural beauty.' Conifers, silver birches, heathland and little valleys cover a wide area of countryside that was for centuries a royal hunting forest. Today a large communications tower looks down on the German Military cemetery where the dead of two wars lie buried, including the crew of the first Zeppelin shot down in World War One. To the south, Kinver Edge is a locus for walkers because it is here that three long distance footpaths meet - the Staffordshire Way, the Worcestershire Way and the North Worcestershire Path. The views from here are quite spectacular.
Lichfield Cathedral - England's only medieval three-spired cathedral. Tamworth Castle - a Norman castle built on a mound raised in 913 by Ethelfleda, daughter of Alfred the Great, Tutbury Castle - Mary Queen of Scots was twice imprisoned in this fortress built on a steep rock. Chillington Hall - the seat of the Giffard family since the 12th century. Alton Towers - a neo-Gothic mansion that was the home of the Earls of Shrewsbury and now a leisure park attracting over two million visitors every year. Wightwick Manor - a half-timbered manor house built between 1887 and 1893. Eccleshall Castle - the remains of the 13th century castle includes a nine-sided tower. Moseley Old Hall - an Elizabethan house in which Charles II was sheltered following his defeat at the Battle of Worcester. Shugborough Hall - a white colonnaded mansion home of the Anson family, Earls of Lichfield, since the 17th century.
James Eadie Ltd.
Established in Burton-on-Trent in the middle of the 19th century, this company operated an extensive estate of public-houses throughout South Staffordshire. Born in Perthshire in 1827, the young James Eadie travelled south in 1842 to work for his uncle John Eadie, a tea dealer trading in Fazeley. Once settled, James Eadie started a business supplying malt to homebrew houses and common brewers in and around Fazeley. This enterprise proved very successful and the firm's sales area extended to Burton-on-Trent.
Making frequent visits to the brewing capital of the Midlands, James Eadie decided to implement a forward extension strategy for his business and established a brewery in Cross Street in 1852. Despite fierce competition, the brewery flourished and the company's growth was rapid. However, the company foundered shortly after it was registered in 1893 and went into liquidation in the summer of 1896. The brewery survived following restructuring. James Eadie was a benefactor of Fazeley and Burton and was responsible for the construction of chapels in both towns. When he died in June 1904 his personal estate totalled £337,966. The company and its tied estate of 308 public houses was acquired by Bass, Ratcliff and Gretton Ltd. in 1933.
Frank Myatt Ltd.
The wall advertisement [see photograph above] is the only tangible evidence I have seen of this brewery, a company that ceased production of beers in 1928 following its takeover by the Holt Brewery Company. The advertisement was painted high on the wall of The Star at Willenhall, a pub that had also ceased to trade as a boozer following its conversion to industrial use.
This photograph shows the company's No.2 Brewery in Raglan Street, Wolverhampton. As can be seen in the image, it was quite a substantial affair - not surprising given that it once served the company's estate of more than 100 public houses.
The company's origins can be traced back to 1900 when John Francis Myatt started his own brewery concern at the Cross Keys in Wolverhampton. This was Myatt's home town. He was the son of house agent John Myatt and Constance Cassere. His early years were spent at the family home in Dudley Road. The 1891 census shows that the family moved to Talbot Road and, by this time, John Francis is recorded as a Solicitor's Clerk, the same job as his father. He married Sedgley-born Sarah Caswell in 1900, the same year in which he set up in business at the Cross Keys. It is said that he gained his experience within the licensed trade when working for the Willenhall wine and spirit merchant A. E. Leary.
Registered in December 1900, the Midland Home-Brewing Company Limited was established as the formal business name for the entrepreneurial activities of John Francis Myatt. The company name was short-lived and in 1902 the trading name was changed to Frank Myatt Limited. I am curious how such a young man raised the capital for this business venture that enjoyed immediate growth. Outgrowing the original brewery premises, the company acquired the Albany Brewery to expand production. However, in 1909 this brewery was sold to Eley's of Stafford.
Frank Myatt went into beer production again when he established a brewery behind the West End Inn at Peel Street, Wolverhampton. A modest estate of public houses was acquired in order to retail the ales produced at the West End Brewery; these were formerly operated by the Manchester Brewery Company Limited. In 1919 Frank Myatt applied his name to a public company that acquired an estate of 124 public houses that were tied to the Old Wolverhampton Breweries Limited. The pub estate was re-shaped through a combination of legislation and rationalisation and the enlarged brewery at Raglan Street supplied 94 properties in 1927 when the company was bought out by the Holt Brewery Company. The Raglan Street brewery was closed during the following year.
Frank Myatt continued to work in the brewing industry. He took a seat on the board of the Holt Brewery Company but resigned when they were acquired by Ansell's Brewery Ltd.. This was around the time that he bought the Broadway Brewery at Shifnal. Like many leading figures within the brewery industry, Frank Myatt held public office; he served as the Mayor of Wolverhampton between 1917 to 1918. He died in 1938 at Hill Lodge, the family home at Compton.
J. P. Simpkiss and Son Ltd.
Following the sale of the Home Brewery at Quarry Bank, Joseph Paskin Simpkiss bought the Foley Arms at Silver End [between Brierley Hill and Amblecote[ in 1921. Within four years he had increased production of beer to the rear of the pub to 145 barrels per week. In 1934 the brewery was rebuilt to the designs of son Dennis Simpkiss and it was even named the Dennis Brewery. A five quarter brewery, production of 40 barrels a day was now possible. The company acquired more pubs in which to sell the popular Simpkiss ales.
In 1936 a bottling plant was installed at the Dennis Brewery and two years later the business was registered. Joseph Simpkiss died soon after this and Dennis Simpkiss took over the company. His son Jonathon Simpkiss would later lead the company which, in the 1970s, even had a kegging line installed by Ansell's.
As managing director, Jonathon Simpkiss sold the Dennis Brewery in 1985 to Greenall Whitley in a cash a share deal worth £1.9m. Simpkiss beers were last produced in July 1985 and Greenall's demolished the brewery three years later. In July 2003 John Richards reported that Jonathon Simpkiss was a tax exile living on the Isle of Man.
Have Your Say
If you would like to share any further information on Staffordshire - perhaps you drank in one of the pubs in the past? Or maybe knew a previous publican running one of the boozers? Whatever the reason it would be great to hear of your stories or gossip. Simply send a message and I will post it here.