Some history of the Municipal Hotel at Tamworth in the County of Staffordshire
The Municipal Hotel opened its doors to the public on Wednesday December 2nd 1903. The licence for the newly-constructed house came from the Rose and Crown on the opposite side of Church Street, a pub that was closed for trading on the previous evening. Considering some of the pub palaces that were being erected in the late Victorian and early Edwardian periods, the building's exterior is fairly understated. However, at the time it was considered an asset to the townscape and an improvement to the appearance of both Church Street and Corporation Street.
In order to create a public-house with rooms serving different roles, and with a club room and billiard room, the architects had to work with some constraints as the building plot had to be reduced in order to facilitate a proper footpath for pedestrians, a stipulation by the local authorities. Notwithstanding, they succeeded in accommodating a bar parlour and comfortable smoke room, along with an apartment specially set apart for the sale non-intoxicating drinks and food. The latter was seen as an innovation for Tamworth. The billiard room was on the first floor and featured sliding doors that the room could be extended. Further along the corridor and on the next floor were the bedrooms for guests. Good cellaring was installed and the yard featured a stable block that could hold six horses.
The Municipal Hotel was erected by Charles Clarson and Son, a local building firm based in Aldergate. The firm were commissioned by James Eadie Ltd. of Burton-on-Trent. Decoration of the building was undertaken by Mr. Henry Hicklin of Church Street in Tamworth.
Eadie's no doubt wanted to get the Municipal Hotel off to a good start so signed a tenancy agreement with James and Janet Gregory who had operated the New Empire Vaults and Music Hall on George Street. However, what they did not realise, nor did most people until the stories started to leak out, that the couple's short-lived marriage was on the rocks and that Janet "Nettie" Gregory had developed a drink problem that, combined with her fiery and unpredictable temper, was to create carnage in their new hotel. Click here to read about the early career of James Gregory who was a respected theatre manager before hooking up with Nettie Buckland.
A former circus performer, Nettie was a housekeeper of James Gregory before they married in November 1900. The couple moved to the Municipal Hotel following the closure of the music hall attached to the New Empire. In addition to co-managing both houses, Nettie conducted a separate business as a posting mistress. Her role at the New Empire was front of house, with James Gregory primarily having a more administrative position.
By the time that they moved to the Municipal Hotel she had developed a taste for brandy and sherry which, combined with her fiery temperament, led to several explosive incidents. Indeed, on the night that the couple moved into the brand-new hotel she was the worse for drink and rode into the establishment on her horse. She then rode around the rooms performing her old circus tricks which inevitably led to breakages of glass and mirrors, with tables being overturned. Objecting to her husband lining the walls with framed photographs of actresses, she smashed many of them in a fit of temper. It was only when she attempted to take the horse up the stairs to the billiard room that James Gregory, along with Fred Lawson, forcibly carried up the stairs to a bedroom. It was later reported that he had sat on her for five hours to prevent her from completely wrecking the hotel.
The details of Nettie Gregory's behaviour whilst under the influence of alcohol were disclosed in a court case of July 1906 in which the couple contested the custody of their young daughter. In the courtroom, James Gregory stated that his wife was a habitual drunk and had been sent by a doctor to Llandudno to "dry out." On her return to the Municipal Hotel she accused one of the barmaids of flirting with her husband and turned her out of the house.
Nettie Gregory was not convicted in a court case of 1905 in which the local police accused her of being drunk whilst in charge of the house. Although the case was dismissed, the testimony of the witnesses suggested that Nettie was a violent woman. And in the courtroom in 1906 James Gregory stated that she had whipped many of the staff and had also thrashed him with her whip. He also stated that she often slept in her clothes as she was too drunk to undress herself. The publican also claimed that she had thrown plates at him and had broken three scuttle loads of crockery in a fit of temper. She had also broken the front bedroom windows by throwing her dinner at him.
Ultimately, the couple failed at the Municipal Hotel, James Gregory blaming it on her drinking and not being able to pay the bills. The brewery eventually had to take out a court action to remove them from the house. They moved to a cottage a few miles out of Tamworth. After some weeks James Gregory left her, blaming his desertion on constant rows over her son. Nettie subsequently took lodgings at a house run by Miriam Johnson in St. Luke's Road in Birmingham. They were reunited for ten tumultuous weeks before James Gregory again left her. He claimed that he had letters proving adultery on her part. By this time he was 70 years-old and she was 34. Nettie gained custody of the child and James Gregory moved to North Wales to join his son. Following in his father's footsteps in the theatrical world, Bill Gregory had been appointed General Manager of the Pier Pavilion at Colwyn Bay. For a period he had managed the Municipal Hotel. James Gregory died in 1912.
MORE TO FOLLOW
"Janet Gregory, wife of James Gregory, landlord of the Municipal hotel, was summoned for being drunk on the licensed premises of her husband
on April 2nd. Mr. W.H. Breton, Longton, prosecuted on behalf of the Chief Constable; Mr. J. Matthews, Tamworth, defended, and Mr. A. W. Barnes, Lichfield, watched the
case on behalf of Messrs Jas. Eadie Ltd., owners of the house. Mr. Breton in opening the case, said a dispute arose over some change. He suggested that Mrs. Gregory was
in such a state that she was unaware whether she had received a shilling or a six-pence from the barman. There were a number of soldiers in the bar, and she turned
them all out, and then the civilians. She was disorderly, rapping the counter, and swearing, using bad language, and generally misbehaving. Her husband was there, but
seemed to have no control over her. P.S. Richards deposed to visiting the hotel at about 9.45 p.m., when he saw Mrs. Gregory behind the bar. Shortly before he entered
he heard a commotion and he went inside. The place sounded all in disorder. He noticed Mrs. Gregory looked dazed, and had the appearance of being drunk. He went to the
back of the counter and looked at Mrs. Gregory and satisfied himself that she was drunk. He said to her: "Mrs. Gregory you are not capable of conducting
business; you are drunk." Upon that Mr. Gregory came from another room, and Mrs. Gregory said to him, "Papa, this gentleman says I'm drunk."
Witness said: "Most certainly, you are drunk." Mr. Gregory then invited him into a private room and Mrs. Gregory accompanied them. Mr. Gregory said:
"Well, what is to be done?" Witness replied: "Do what you like. During the time they were in the room, Mrs. Gregory was walking about making some
statement of her and her husband having been up a number of hours, but he could not understand half the words she said, owing to her drunken way of speaking. About
10-20 p.m., in consequence of a message, he visited the hotel, and found Dr. Fausset there. Mrs. Gregory was present at the time. The doctor said a constable had
been in that night, and he [witness] said: "I have been in and found Mrs. Gregory drunk." Mrs. Gregory then said to him [witness] :
"Well, what do you think of it now?" He answered: "Nothing more than I have told you before." Mrs. Gregory then walked up to the doctor and
said: "Am I drunk or in the intermediate stage, or what? Tell me." The doctor said: "You leave it to me, Mrs. Gregory." At that time there
was not much improvement in defendant's condition. The doctor asked defendant if she had been taking anything that day, and she said she had had four or five
sherries, and a brandy and soda. After a pause she said: "I cannot remember how many sherries I have had." He visited the house again in company with
Inspector Marson at about 10-25 or 10-30 p.m. Cross-examined by Mr. Matthews: No complaint had been made to him before he went to the house. The
soldiers appeared to have been turned out after his first visit. He called defendant Mrs. Robertson? Mr. Matthews: You were mixed up? Witness:
Slightly [laughter]. Do you think your calling her Mrs. Robertson before a room full of people was calculated to smooth or ruffle her? I did not call
her Mrs. Robertson before a room full of people. Witness did not think anyone would hear him call her Mrs. Robertson, and he apologised to defendant. Mr. Matthews
: When you called her Mrs. Robertson, she fired up did not she? Witness: No, she was very cool. Did not Mr. Gregory tell you his wife was perfectly sober
and that his wife was very excitable? No. How did she get through the word "intermediate?" Fairly. A pretty good word to get through was not it?
Mary Lunn, married, 5 Marmion Street, Tamworth, deposed that she was employed at the hotel where she went at 9-40 p.m. The sergeant came in and accused Mrs.
Gregory of being drunk, and she was drunk, at the back of the bar. Cross-examined: She heard the sergeant call defendant Mrs. Robertson three times. There
were nine to a dozen people in the room. Mrs. Gregory was not sober. She was not in Mrs. Gregory's employment now. She was a bit fiery herself sometimes. Mrs.
Gregory discharged her. Re-examined: Since the offence defendant's husband had given her a good character. Joseph Charnell, 10 Hall's Row, Tamworth,
said a soldier changed a sovereign for a pint of ale and a bottle of bitter, and got the right change. They repeated the order and gave the waiter a shilling and he
brought him a half-penny back. His mate asked for the other sixpence. Mrs. Gregory then came in. She was drunk and staggered. She wanted to know what the bother
was about, and the barmaid said someone was short of 6d. Defendant called the waiter, and asked where the change was, and what the bother was about. Mrs. Gregory
picked up a pint pot and threatened to split the waiter's head open. The waiter brought the sixpence and his mate went out while he [witness] remained
and drank the pint and bottle of beer [laughter]. Mrs. Gregory then took up a small mallett and rapped the counter saying, "I'm mistress of this
house, I'm Mrs. Gregory, out you all bloody well go." Several went out. Mr. Gregory came in and she said: "You go into the kitchen; you are dead
in this act." Mr. Gregory went like a lamb [laughter]. The people who were ordered out were all sober. Cross-examined: He did not hear any of the
soldiers use a filthy expression. Mr. Matthews suggested to defendant that the bad language was not used by Mrs. Gregory but by the soldiers in the house. Witness
did not hear Mrs. Gregory say "I will not have language like this in my house." John Fitzpatrick, corporal, 1st Cheshire Regiment, Whittington Barracks, said
he went to the Municipal Hotel about 9-15 p.m. with two other corporals. He saw Mrs. Gregory, and thought she was drunk. She turned the soldiers out in consequence
of the dispute over the change. Cross-examined Mrs. Gregory remonstrated with the waiter about the change, and said she would pay the 6d. out of her own pocket.
Mrs. Gregory said she would not supply any drink till all the soldiers had cleared out of the house. He did not know of anything else except the change to cause her to
do so. Corporal Buxton, Cheshire Regiment, said Mrs. Gregory was drunk. Cross-examined: He was not ordered out for using bad language and did not hear any of
the customers use any. Corporal Drury, also of the Cheshire Regiment, said he had no doubt whatever that Mrs. Gregory was drunk, and Drummer Charles, of the same
regiment, also said Mrs. Gregory was drunk. The latter added that he saw Mrs. Gregory on the following evening and asked her about the change dispute, as she seemed
to put on him. She told him she felt sorry for what had occurred, and he was to say nothing more about it. She was that drunk and excited that she did not know what
occurred. William Lunn, waiter at the Municipal hotel at the time of the alleged offence, said Mrs. Gregory had four "scotches and sodas" between seven and
eight o'clock. Cross-examined: He was not in Mrs. Gregory's employment. By the Ex-Mayor: He was told to clear out on the Tuesday morning.
Inspector Marson stated that he accompanied P.S. Richards to the hotel at about 10-24; pm. He saw Mrs. Gregory, who put her hand out and asked him to shake hands.
He declined, and she then said: "Won't you shake hands with me." She was drunk. Cross-examined: He was in the house only about four minutes.
Defendant did not offend him by asking him to shake hands [laughter]. The sergeant did not tell him Mrs. Gregory was drunk before he went to the hotel with
him. Mr. Matthews said it was the weakest case he had ever had to defend. The only sole evidence before the Court was the evidence of the sergeant of police,
because he really could not take the evidence of the Inspector seriously, and he suggested he went to the hotel at the invitation of the sergeant with the pre-conceived
idea that Mrs. Gregory was drunk. In refusing to shake hands the Inspector did not act with that civility and fairness which was to be expected of an officer in that
position. Of the other witnesses, there was not a single one whose evidence was worth a straw. Everyone had a grievance and were annoyed at being ordered out. He
suggested that Mrs. Gregory took the only step which a self-respecting woman could take. Some of the men must have spoken falsely because Mrs. Gregory had had a
good deal to put up with in the course of the evening, by their bad language and the dispute over the change, and she felt there was no bona fide dispute at all, but
simply a trick to get 6d. out of her. One of the soldiers used a very foul expression, which aroused Mrs. Gregory, who as a person of natural nervous, and
excitable temperament. Some months ago she met with a serious accident and sustained a blow on the head, and since that time she had suffered very much and showed more excitement
than ever. He urged that the sergeant calling defendant Mrs. Robertson was insulting, and Mrs. Gregory very properly told him what she thought of him. To tell a married
lady in a public room that she was drunk and not capable of conducting her business was abominable and he hoped it would not meet with the approbation of the Bench. They
could dismiss the evidence of the discharged potman with contempt. Three doctors came and the Inspector of Police was sent for. Was it within the bounds of possibility
that if Mr. Gregory had any belief whatever in the statement of the sergeant in regard to the condition of his wife, that he would send for the police? He submitted
that Mrs. Gregory was perfectly sober, but excited from natural causes, and he also claimed that the majority of the witnesses for the prosecution were biased. The
defendant, sworn, said there was some bad language used about the change and it was suggested that the waiter Lunn had put the sixpence in his pocket. She paid the
money out of the till. One of the soldiers used a filthy expression and she reported it to her husband, who was in the smoke room, and he told her to get the soldiers
out. Her husband was content to leave her to manage that bar. She brought back the mallett and the soldiers were not giving such order as she could wish, and she ordered
them to leave because of the noise, the bother over the change, and the filthy expression. Her husband had to get three of the soldiers out. Soon afterwards P.S. Richards
came in and in a loud, insolent voice he said "Mrs. Robertson, you are not capable of managing this business, you are drunk." She told the sergeant what she
thought about him, and that they had had his character before he came from Lichfield and were going to watch him [laughter]. There were sixteen persons in the
house who could hear the sergeant. She balanced up the cash. There was not the slightest truth in the statements that she was drunk. She had four sherries and sodas
during the day. She denied having partaken of any scotch and soda as stated by the waiter. She was very excited. Cross-examined: She was seen by Dr. Fausset,
Dr. Joy, and Dr. Richardson, and Dr. Sculthorpe came the next morning. She had not called either medical man, because she did not think it necessary. She denied telling
Dr. Fausset that she had had four sherries and a brandy and soda, but said she told him she had four sherries and soda. She did not use any bad language, and denied
threatening to throw a pint pot at the waiter's head. She did not tell her husband to go into the kitchen, but told him she thought she could manage the soldiers
better. Dr Fausset sent her some soothing medicine but she had not taken it, because it was nasty. The statement of Drummer Charles of what was alleged to have been
said on the following night was incorrect. The soldiers were taken to the Police Station by P.S. Richards the same night, and their statements were taken. She had not
asked Mrs. Lunn to say as to what her condition was, but had said she would not be at the mercy of her discharged servants. James Gregrory, landlord of the Municipal
Hotel, was next called, and Mr. Breton objected to his evidence as he had been in Court all the time, and witnesses were ordered out of Court. Mr. Gregory said he was
a defendant in the case and consequently did not leave. The Bench decided to hear the evidence, and Mr. Gregory said there was a dispute over some change. His wife was
decidedly not drunk, nor the worse for liquor. The language reported to him by his wife was sufficient to warrant her turning all the soldiers out. When the sergeant
shouted "Mrs. Robertson," he asked him who he was addressing. The sergeant replied: "Your wife." Witness replied that was not her name and the
sergeant apologised. Witness asked the sergeant to fetch the Inspector but he said he was not at home. If he had thought she was drunk he should not have sent for the
Inspector, he should have sent her to bed. His wife was in a perfectly fit condition to manage the business. Cross-examined: The doctor was sent for to see
whether his wife was drunk or sober. He did not send for three doctors. He had not summoned a doctor. Mr. Matthews said he advised that a doctor's evidence was
unnecessary, and he challenged Mr. Breton to ask Mr. or Mrs. Gregory what the doctor said and he would accept the answer. Mr. Breton declined to put the question.
Alice Clews, barmaid at the Municipal hotel, said Mrs. Gregory was perfectly sober. One of the soldiers used a bad expression. Joseph Smith, banksman, Kettlebrook,
said he was in the Horse and Jockey at about 9-30 p.m. and saw Mrs. Gregory there. She spoke to him. She was sober, and had nothing to drink. At five minutes to
ten he saw her at her own house, when she was very excited. She asked him if she was drunk or sober, and he said he was prepared to swear she was sober twenty minutes
before. He was surprised to hear that the sergeant had accused her of being drunk. Cross-examined: He was an old servant. Thomas Sprigg, clerk, in the employ
of the Midland Railway Co., said while he was in the smoke room he heard the sergeant accuse "Mrs. Robertson" of being drunk. Mrs. Gregory asked the company
generally and him personally if she was drunk, and they were all unanimous that she was sober. After ten minutes' private deliberation, the Chairman said the
decision of the Bench was that the case be dismissed. The was one dissentient, but that was the decision of the majority. Mr. Breton withdrew summonses against the
landlord for permitting drunkenness and violent conduct on his licensed premises."
"A Case Dismissed"
Tamworth Herald : April 22nd 1905 Page 8
"About two years ago the Municipal Hotel in Corporation Street was opened under very favourable auspices. Recently the tenant [Mr.
James Gregory] and the owners [Messrs. Jas. Eadie, Ltd.] had a falling out, and the former was served with notice to quit. As the tenant failed to give
up possession an action to recover possession of the house was entered in the High Court. The case was before that Court on Tuesday, and has since been adjourned
till next Monday. On Tuesday the house was closed, and the following notice was displayed on the doors : "This house is closed indefinitely as a licensed
house. By order, [per William Gregory, manager]." Tuesday was the latest period for renewing the license with the Excise authorities."
"The Municipal Hotel"
Tamworth Herald : October 28th 1905 Page 7
"On Monday, in the Registrar's Court of the High Court of Justice, at Birmingham, an action was brought bu Messrs. James Eadie Ltd.
against James Gregory, for the recovery of possession of the premises of the Municipal Hotel. Plaintiffs were represented by Mr. Hurst, barrister [instructed by
Messrs. Nevill, Atkins and Matthews, Tamworth], and Mr. Richardson, solicitor, Birmingham appeared for defendant. After reading the affidavits filed on behalf
of both parties, the Registrar gave judgment in favour of the plaintiffs for possession, but stayed execution pending appeal to be heard within six days. We
understand the appeal was down for hearing today [Friday] and possession was ordered forthwith."
"The Municipal Hotel"
Tamworth Herald : November 4th 1905 Page 5
"A smoking concert recently held at the Municipal Hotel, Tamworth, realised £5 10s. for the refreshment buffet at Tamworth Station,
conducted by the Tamworth Ladies' Working League."
Tamworth Herald : March 3rd 1917 Page 4