Some history of The Manor Arms at Rushall in Staffordshire
During my visits to the Manor Arms I noticed that there was a framed history panel mounted on an interior wall. The opening paragraph stated that the Manor Arms is "one of the oldest pubs in the country, dating back to 1104, and with a licence to sell ales since 1248. It is thought to have been used as a mill house at some stage, and in the 14th century, might have been inhabited by monks." No name was attributed to this article but the silliness of the piece spread online via popular sites such as "What Pub?" and, accordingly, many people think that this is the truth. It is, of course, utter nonsense. Mind you, it does not alter the fact that the Manor Arms is a unique hostelry, one of only a handful in the country that has no bar counter. It was only in the post-war years that a cellar was built. Personally, I would still like to see the beer casks stillaged, but it is a unique experience in the Midlands - and one to savour.
Around the time of this photograph I used to call into the Manor Arms quite regularly and I really enjoyed my visits. The couple running the pub kept the place well and the beer was always good. They stocked the guest ales available from the portfolio of Wolverhampton and Dudley Breweries Ltd who were the pub's operators.
The building dates from the 18th century and was formerly a farmhouse. Richard Anson was the first licensee. He paid his two guineas to the excise for a beer house licence. This was for off sales only. He combined his role of farmer with that of beer retailer. The Anson family would remain at the premises for a century.
This photograph shows an inglenook fireplace with boxed bressummer. A brick fireplace has been inserted into this old feature. Note the cupboard which has the remains of a bread oven.
Richard Anson chose the sign of the Manor Arms in deference to the Mellish family, lords of the manor and owners of the building. The manor had passed from the Leigh family to Reverend Edward Mellish, Dean of Hereford, whose executors became the principal proprietors and lords of the manor.
Richard and Ann Anson were the occupiers of the farm in the mid-1830s. Born in Perry Barr in 1804, he was the son of James and Margaret Anson. He farmed some 90 acres at Daw End and was assisted by his sons Charles and John.
In the 1850s Richard Anson is documented as a farmer not beer retailer and farmer. However, by June 1861 he was retailing beer. A newspaper article not only described him as a beer seller, but the item made Richard Anson sound a bit of a rogue as he was fined 2s. 6d. for having two weights for one pair of scales, a dodgy practice in which he was caught. I assume he was selling farm produce to barge operators.
The retailing of beer would be a spin-off trade from the farm. Potential customers were the men operating barges on the Daw End Branch Canal, a branch off the Wyrley and Essington Canal, that carried coal and lime from the nearby works. In the 1850s the works on the opposite side of the canal was operated by George and Edward Strongitharm. This business would develop during the 19th century. The limestone at Rushall was of high quality and was used as flux for smelting iron in the Black Country. There were several works in the locality. Just to the north of the Royal Oak Inn was the Winterley Lime Works. The quarries near Rushall Hall flooded and the walkers enjoying the nature reserve form part of today's customer base.
Richard Anson died in 1877 and the licence passed to his wife Ann. She was originally from Trentham in The Potteries. In old age, she handed over the reins to her son John. Along with his wife Mary, he farmed 103 acres of land. He employed two men and two boys in the agricultural side of the business.
A key date for the Manor Arms was in August 1894 when the Manor Arms was granted the full licence of the nearby Miners' Arms at Daw End, NOT the other Miners' Arms on the old turnpike road to Lichfield. At the annual licensing sessions John Anson applied for the full licence of the Miners' Arms to be transferred to him, the latter house, only 100 yards away, having been closed for several months and subsequently let as a private dwelling. The magistrates were concerned about the Miners' Arms and had insisted on structural alterations to the building that was also owned by the Mellish family. It was at these sessions that the Manor Arms was described as an off-beerhouse. Mr. Mellish, the Bench were told, had thought it better that the license should go to his other house. John Anson told the magistrates that the accommodation he provided was mainly for boatmen. The Bench granted the application on the distinct understanding that no renewed application was to be made for the Miners' Arms.
John Anson died in 1898 and was succeeded by his son Richard. He had married Sarah Asenath James in April 1890. In 1901 Richard and Sarah had four children living with them at the Manor Arms. The couple employed a housemaid and a general servant.
On becoming publican Richard Anson joined the Walsall and District Licensed Victuallers' and Beer Retailers' Friendly and Protection Society, an organisation that he would later serve as President.
Richard Anson died in May 1920 and the licence passed to his wife Sarah. She continued to run the farm. Indeed, she was a noted pig breeder. She is pictured above tending to her chickens. She passed away in January 1929, leaving everything to her son Bernard. He took over the tenancy and licence of the Manor Arms. He was the last of the Anson family line to run the pub.
The farm had a dairy operation and Bernard Anson supplied milk to the locality via a delivery route. In 1927 he was employing Reginald Doudie to undertake the deliveries. In March of that year the pony pulling the cart was startled when some of the harness tackle broke and touched its leg. The pony bolted and set off pulling the milk float near Cartbridge Lane. The pony careered madly along the main Lichfield Road to The Square at Rushall, where it ran full tilt into the front of Liberty House, a building which had become the Rushall Labour Club. The poor pony was so badly injured that it had to be destroyed. The vehicle also grazed the standard of the public clock in The Square. The driver, Reginald Doudie, had tried desperately to stop the animal but failed. The subsequent report stated that "seeing that it ran madly for a quarter of a mile along a train track, and on a road where there is a great deal of traffic, it is fortunate that no one was injured." However, a child who was sat on the steps of Liberty House, did suffer grazing on the forehead.
Bernard Anson had married Mildred Ward in January 1922. The couple spent just over a decade running the place. The Manor Arms, along with 175 acres of land, was advertised in March 1933 on a tenancy basis. Sarah Annette Ferguson was licensee after this date and remained until the Second World War by which time Bernard and Mildred Anson had moved to a bungalow on Winterley Lane at Aldridge.
Alfred William, or Billy Harley as he had become known, took over as publican of the Manor Arms during January 1941. Not one to undersell himself, he splashed out on advertisements to announce his arrival at Daw End. As can be seen from the notice, the Manor Arms was still a free house at this date. At this time the property remained under the ownership of the Mellish family. It was towards the end of the war that the Rushall Estate was sold off.
By all accounts Billy Harley could be described as a bit of a character, or a right card. The son of a pencil-case manufacturer, Billy Harley was recorded as a music hall artiste when he married Doris Skipp at Handsworth in May 1915. She was only 16 at the time. However, I do not think it was a shotgun wedding as their daughter, also named Doris, was not born until March 1916. Doris was the daughter of the licensed victualler Frederick Skipp.
Billy and Doris Skipp became a noted husband-and-wife theatre act. There are advertisments for appearances around the UK during the 1920s. For example, in August 1923 they appeared in "High Heels and Stockings" at the Hammersmith Palace. They had earlier performed at Liverpool's Hippodrome in "Bits and Pieces." After tramping the floorboards, they went into the licensed trade. By 1930 they were running the Billesley Arms at Wheeler's Lane near King's Heath. By the end of the 1930s they were running the Parson and Clerk Hotel on the Chester Road at the edge of Sutton Park.
The above advertisement stated that Billy Harley had "taken over his own house" - I imagine that Doris had given the philanderer his marching orders. Later in the year she successfully petitioned at the Birmingham Assizes for divorce on the grounds of his adultery. I wonder if "Bert" was the new love in his life? In July 1942 he married Wendy Walton at Southend-on-Sea.
The Rushall Estate was sold off in 36 lots at an auction held in Walsall Town Hall on March 23rd 1945. The freehold of the Manor Arms was knocked down at £6,100.
In May 1945, when seventy people were inside the Manor Arms celebrating V-day, a "deafening explosion occurred and many of them were suddenly lifted from their feet." The report in the Walsall Observer stated that "they might well have thought that the war had been resumed. The best guess of a few was that a long-hidden bomb had exploded for it was near this inn that the first bombs to fall in this district had been dropped by the enemy nearly five tears ago." In actual fact, a thunderbolt had struck the Manor Arms and a chimney crashed through the roof to the ground floor. The newspaper reported that the crash "enveloped everyone in soot, so they looked immediately afterwards like members of a minstrel troupe, the whites of their eyes contrasting with blackened faces." Sorry, but this is how it was reported. Apparently the worst injuries were merely bruises and scratches. There was one terrible outcome - one customer told the reporter that "there must have been at least twenty pints of beer spilt in the confusion." Most of the roof was damaged with missing tiles. Many of the windows were smashed and the gas main was severed. The escaping gas ignited and the first floor started to burn but the fire brigade were quickly on the spot and extinguished the flames. Despite the pub looking like it had been blitzed, Billy Harley demonstrated true Dunkirk spirit and got the place up-and-running whilst repairs were carried out. The locals were of great assistance and they carried on celebrating the following day!
"On Wednesday morning, a man named Joseph Bradbury, whilst proceeding along a field footpath near the Park Lime Pits, Daw End, a
secluded spot situate just outside Walsall, came across the lifeless body of a young man who lay on the ground with a revolver clasped in his right hand, and a bullet
wound in his head just over the right eye. Death appeared to have taken place a very short time previously, as the body was still warm. Information of the discovery
was given to Police-Sergeant Heath, at Rushall, who removed the body to the Manor Arms, Daw End, to await an inquest. The revolver had five chambers, only one of
which had been discharged, and the four others were still loaded. All the evidence pointed to suicide, deceased having a number of cartridges in his pockets. Two
photographs were found in his possession, one being that of a young woman, and from the names on these it is surmised that deceased had lived at Walsall.
Police-Sergeant Heath accordingly made enquiries there, and as a result the body was identified as that of Walter Davis , saddle-tree
maker, who resided with his parents at Wisemore Villa, Walsall. Deceased had been in the employ of Mr. W. Cox, Lichfield Street, and it is understood that he had
been keeping company with a young woman who was employed at an adjoining factory. The couple appear to have had a slight disagreement, and it is stated that deceased
subsequently told a fellow workman that he should blow his brains out. He was engaged at his employment during the morning, but left about 10 o'clock, and it is
believed he went straight away and committed suicide. The inquest was held on Thursday evening at the Manor Arms, before Mr. H. A. Pearson, county coroner. Deceased's
father, a porter, said his son had small-pox a short time ago, prior to which he had pneumonia. Since coming out the small-pox hospital he had appeared strange
in his manner, but witness never heard him threaten to take his life. A girl of 19 named Ada Owen, a stitcher, Hale's Yard, Stafford Street, said she had
kept company with the deceased for over a year. They were in the small-pox hospital at the same time. Last Saturday deceased went on a gipsy party, and on Sunday
he had dinner with her. She asked him if he had not been with some other girls at the party on the previous day, and he replied, "Yes. I am going with them again."
Witness told him that he could, and did not say anything more about it. Before deceased left her home the same evening he asked her to put her hand on his head and feel
how it burned, saying he "thought he was going mad," and that his brain was "all of a whirl." She felt his head, and it was very hot. She saw him on
Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday morning he took her some strawberries and cake between 8.30 and nine, and asked her to forgive him, which she said she would. The
deceased then took a watch out of his pocket and said "take care of this, and don't let anyone have it," also saying the watch had been in the family for
some time. They parted on friendly terms. Witness, replying to the coroner, said that when they came out of the small-pox hospital deceased took her to Sutton Park,
where he said to her, "Do you know what I have brought you here for? I am going to kill myself, and I don't want to leave you on earth." He then pulled
a revolver from his pocket, but after a struggle she got it from him. She then had a talk to him, and he eventually threw the revolver and a number of cartridges into
a pool. Frederick Tapper, of Whitehouse Street, a fellow workman of deceased's, said that on Tuesday they had a drink together, after which deceased asked
him to buy a revolver for him, which he pointed out in a shop window, but he refused. The same evening, however, deceased showed witness a revolver and six loose
cartridges, remarking "I am going to do it." He did not say what he meant. The next morning witness showed him the revolver again, which this time was loaded
in each chamber; and pointing to one cartridge with a dent in it, said it had missed fire, but "he would settle it once and for all." Joseph Bradbury
spoke to finding the body, as detailed above, and Police-Sergeant Heath, who removed the body, said deceased had ten loose cartridges in his pocket. The Coroner
said deceased was evidently weak-minded, and the jury returned a verdict of "Suicide whilst Temporarily Insane," several of the jurymen expressing the
opinion that some restriction should be placed on the sale of cheap firearms. The Coroner remarked that there was a Bill on this subject now before Parliament."
Walsall Advertiser : July 18th 1903 Page 8
"At the Rushall Police Court on Tuesday, Thomas Holmes, of Teddesley Street, Walsall, was charged with having damaged a quickset
hedge, to the vales of 6d., on the 6th inst., belonging to John Anson, farmer, and also with having assaulted prosecutor on the 10th inst. Complainant stated that on
the 6th inst. defendant was in witness's field gathering watercress. When he was spoken to he ran away, and began to throw stones at witness. There was no road
through the field, and he merely intended to have cautioned him not to come there again; but on the 10th inst. he saw defendant fishing in the Park Limepits,
and when witness told him he had no business there, defendant struck him on the face. Defendant stated that in the first instance he was going along the road, when
complainant struck him with a stick; while on the second occasion he only pushed complainant away when he again attempted to strike him. Mr. James said some
people called a push an assault, whilst others considered an assault was a push. Frank Edwards, Hatherton Street, was called for the defence, and stated that
on the 10th inst. he was with Holmes. They were poking some frogs out of a hole, and complainant came up and smacked defendant on the face. The Bench considered both
cases proved, and fined defendant 1s. and costs, in each, amounting to 24s., or one month's imprisonment. Defendant said he should not pay. Mr. James advised him
not to make such a fool of himself as to go to gaol."
"Assault and Wilful Damage"
Walsall Observer and South Staffordshire Chronicle
April 26th 1884 Page 6
"At the Police Court, on Monday, the magistrates had before them a case in which Ezekiel Fryer, miner, of Clare's Buildings,
Daw End, was summoned for refusing to quit the Manor Arms Inn, Daw End, when requested by the landlord [Richard Anson]. Evidence was given by the complainant
that Fryer was in his house at nine o'clock on the 28th of the last month, and commenced to quarrel with the other customers. He was asked to leave, but refused
to do so, and he was ultimately ejected. He returned afterwards, and was put out a second time. A fine of 5s and 8s 6d costs was imposed, the imprisonment in default
being 14 days."
"A Quarrelsome Customer"
Walsall Advertiser : January 11th 1902 Page 8
"Thomas Hemmings, a canal boatman, of Horseley Heath, Tipton, told the Bench that he had a little boy who, every time he saw another
child on a tricycle, cried because he had not one himself, and it was because of this longing for a toy that the father stole a tricycle belonging to a little boy
at Rushall. Hemmings was charged with stealing the tricycle [valued at £1] the property of Bernard Charles Anson. of Daw End Farm, and he pleaded guilty.
It was stated that the machine was placed in a store room on April 21st, and was missing the next day, and when the police visited Hemmings' home they saw his boy
sitting astride it in the kitchen. Defendant told them that he thought of the child, and took it because he thought it would suit him. It was also revealed that the
stables in which the defendant left his horses adjoined the store room in which the tricycle had been placed, but he maintained that it was in the stable. He told the
magistrates that that was the only way he could get a machine for his son, because he could not afford to buy one, as he was getting only 30s. a week. The Chairman,
imposing a fine of 20s., described the theft as "contemptible" and mean, but added that the Bench had taken a lenient view, because it was his first
"Stole To Satisfy Child's Longing"
Walsall Observer, and South Staffordshire Chronicle
May 2nd 1931 Page 14