History of the Bell Inn at Lapworth in the county of Warwickshire.


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Some history of the Bell Inn

The Bell Inn was not, as one would expect with such an inn sign, located next to the church. However, it was not too far away from the sound produced by the village campanologists. A historic tavern, the Bell Inn traded as a roadside hostelry on the Warwick turnpike that connected Hatton and Hockley Heath. An Act of Parliament for turnpiking the highway was passed in 1767 and the improved road surface brought more traffic through the parish. The increase in numbers presented an opportunity for a wheelwright and smith to make a living by offering a roadside service to the traveller. Oh, and why not offer refreshments too. Consequently, all of these things were made available to the traveller by those who lived within or next to the Bell Inn.

The route of the turnpike was of great importance for the establishment because, prior to the Act of Parliament, travellers had a choice of two roads to reach Warwick. Of course, a choice still remained but travellers would, despite the toll charge, favour the road improvements made to the turnpike. From Hockley Heath, the turnpike followed the route to Kingswood, Rowington, Shrewley and Hatton. The alternative road to Warwick followed a more southerly route along Lapworth Street to Lowsonford and Pinley Green. Those not wishing to pay the toll would still toil along this higgledy-piggledy road.

Lapworth : Former Bell Inn [c.1920]

James and Mary Staples kept the Bell Inn at the turn of the 19th century. Following the death of the publican in 1810 the licence passed to his wife Mary. She re-married to John Green in September 1812 and he took over as licensee of the Bell Inn. He was recorded as a retail brewer so was responsible for the homebrewed ale sold at the tavern. The publican did have a sticky patch in the 1830s and was insolvent at one point. However the Green family would remain at the Bell Inn. Joseph Green succeeded as licensee at a time when there were many coaches and waggons coming along the turnpike from Birmingham to Lapworth. Thomas Hanker operated waggons specifically to the village on Monday and Thursday from the Spread Eagle on Spiceal Street. Joseph Bunn offered a service to Lapworth and Rowington from the Rose Inn on Edgbaston Street twice a week. Other waggons left from the Castle and Falcon on Digbeth.

The busy turnpike would have resulted in plenty of work for Joseph Green who was both victualler and smith. The wheelwright William Rose was a neighbour and the two men probably worked in unison for those who had difficulties or repairs needing the attention of specialists. When working the anvil, his wife Harriet, who had a young son named Henry, kept the tavern. The couple employed William Lane and Elizabeth Smith as servants. They also offered accommodation at the Bell Inn which would mean extended opening hours.

Passing trade was not restricted to the turnpike. Just along the lane from the Bell Inn was a wharf where coal was brought into the locality for onward distribution by carriers and coal merchants. Many of the local residents worked up a thirst in agricultural work so the combined trade would have resulted in a busy hostelry during the mid-19th century.

After what was reported as "a short illness," Joseph Green passed away in July 1850. Not only did the licence pass to his wife Harriet but the duties at the anvil too! In the census conducted during the following year, the dexterous woman was described as a victualler and blacksmith. Son Henry was now a young man so probably had plenty of duties to carry out. Harriet also employed young Rebecca Philpot as a servant. At this time Thomas Baldwin was recorded as a farmer and coal dealer.

Thomas Ingerthorpe [sometimes recorded as Inglethorp in trade directories] was the licensee of the Bell Inn during the 1860s. He continued the tradition of working as a blacksmith and licensed victualler. However, when he married Elizabeth Clayton of Packwood in 1850 he was described as a builder. Prior to taking over the Bell he had previously earned a living as a blacksmith when the couple lived at Bentley Heath. Despite these trades developing his arms like those of Arnold Schwarzenegger, his chivalrous action when visiting Birmingham, could not prevent him from being seriously assaulted and robbed in December 1862.

A local Farm labourer named Humphrey Barratt was on the receiving end of Thomas Ingerthorpe's temper in April 1873 when the publican was giving up the Bell Inn. Barratt brought an action against the pub landlord and in his statement he said that "Ingerthorpe hired him to assist in removing his household furniture and stock, and when he returned from taking a load of goods, the landlord complained of his long absence." He further stated that "after an altercation, the publican struck him, and afterwards kicked him." Barratt's leg was allegedly broken by the kick and he was carried into an adjoining stable, and after receiving some refreshments, supplied by the neighbours, he was taken to the hospital.

Advertisement for Charles Palfrey as Landscape and Jobbing Gardener of Warwick [1879]

The Ingerthorpe's moved a short distance to Kingswood where Thomas concentrated on his blacksmith skills. The arrival of the railways altered the role of the Bell Inn. The 'service station' function of smith and wheelwright was in decline and publicans in the latter half of the 19th century did not bring these skills with them. Charles Palfrey, licensee between 1873-8, did however combine his role as publican with that of gardening. As can be seen in the advertisement above, he continued to combine these roles when he later kept the Vine Inn at Packmores in Warwick, the licence for which was transferred to him in October 1878.

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The son of an agricultural labourer, Charles Palfrey was born in 1837 at Bishop's Lydeard in Somerset. He had moved to the Midlands and was working as a gardener at Edgbaston when he married Taunton-born Sarah Bale Hartnell in October 1861. However, the marriage was conducted at Cheddon Fitzpaine in Somerset where she was in service to the Barrowforth family. She was the daughter of the gardener William Hartnell so it is possible that he worked alongside Charles Palfrey and this is how the couple met. After a spell living at Knowle, the couple, along with four children, moved to Lapworth by 1871. Sarah Palfrey died at Warwick in 1882 and Charles re-married to Sarah Faulkner two years later, by which time he was recorded as a florist. In what was a varied career, the publican had become a grocer and provision dealer by the end of the Victorian period and had a shop in Hockley Street in Birmingham. When he died in 1910 he was documented as a refreshment house keeper.

Recorded as Clara Beck in trade directories, Clarissa Beckinsall succeeded Charles Palfrey as licensee of the Bell Inn. She was born Clarissa Power in 1812 at Birmingham. In July 1841 the daughter of an umbrella-maker married John Bullivant at St. Martin's Church. As a widow, she re-married in March 1870 to Joseph Beckinsall, a canal boat owner and beer retailer at the Crown in Withybed Green, Alvechurch. Just over a year later she was widowed again. Conjecture on my part but I guess she inherited a boat that she could sell and move on to Lapworth. However, she did not stay for too long and, perhaps yearning for her hometown, she moved to Sparkbrook. The licence of the Bell Inn was transferred to John Avern in July 1881. Indeed, a pattern was set during the early-mid 1880s and they may as well have fitted a revolving door at the front of the building because there was a high turnover of licensees. This is generally a sign that a pub was struggling for trade or had problems of one sort or another.

Advertisement for the sale of the household furniture at the Bell Inn at Lapworth [1882]

John Avern lasted less than a year before he handed over to C. E. Burdett on April 19th, 1882. This publican lasted an even shorter term and, in January 1883, Walter Betts took over the licence of a house now listed as the Blue Bell Inn. Walter Betts set a new record for the shortest length of service when he was succeeded by Matilda Heath on April 11th, 1883. At least she put a three year shift in!

Hannah Birch took over the licence in July 1887 and, although she kept the Bell Inn for three years, she struggled to maintain any sort of order in what was becoming a house of rambunctious behaviour. Hannah Birch was summoned for keeping open her house during prohibited hours on the 19th August 1888. The landlady was represented by the Birmingham solicitor Mr. Tanner. During the case, heard by the magistrates at Henley-in-Arden, Police Constable Ravenhall stated that "about 10 p.m. on the day in question, he visited the Bell Inn when he heard singing and a piano playing." The constable told the Bench that "five men left the house about a quarter-past 10, one of them being very drunk and was assisted by two others." He added that "at 22 minutes past 10 he went inside the house and saw two men standing by the bar. He had a conversation with the landlady, and soon after four men came out." Mr. Tanner examined the police constable with reference to the clock in the bar, which he suggested had been put back. However, the magistrates were not falling for that old ruse and Hannah Birch was fined £1, and costs of 13s. 6d.

What did for Hannah Birch was a report in August 1890 on the 54 public-houses in the division. Superintendent Simmons stated that "all of the houses, with one exception, had been well conducted, and he had no objection to the renewal of these licenses." However, the senior police officer drew the attention of the magistrates to the Bell Inn kept by Hannah Birch. He told the Bench that she had "held the licence of this house for about three years, during which time the police had received many complaints of disorderly conduct in the house and in the grounds adjoining." He spoke of "parties of men, mostly from Birmingham, who frequented the house, and there were violent scenes, and a good deal of disorderly behaviour and that Hannah Birch had been twice fined." Superintendent Simmons said "it was his intention to oppose the renewal of this licence, but he had received an intimation that a change of tenancy was about to take place." He suggested that "the renewal should be held over till the adjourned licensing meeting, and if in the meantime a suitable tenant was found, who would undertake to conduct the house respectably, no further objection would be offered by the police for the renewal of the licence." The magistrates ultimately adopted this course of action.

Despite Hannah Birch's problems with licensing, it is clear that trade at the Bell Inn had picked up during her time at the house. It is also evident that it was a popular destination pub for those on a day trip from Birmingham.

George and Elizabeth Billingham were caretakers of the Bell Inn during 1891 before William Cooper became the publican. There was another objection to the licence at the Brewster's Sessions, not by the police but by the retired merchant William Dugard, resident of the neighbouring Lapworth House. He complained to the magistrates that, because his house was only 12 yards from the publican's residence, the swing that had recently been erected in the garden was a "continual source of annoyance, owing to the bad language of the visitors." At the sessions William Cooper promised to remove the swing, and as the police had no objections to him as publican, the Bench renewed the licence "expressing a hope that there would be no more complaints from any residents in the future."

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Tom Briscoe was mine host at the Bell Inn during the mid-1890s and was succeeded by Henry Jones in September 1898. He was only at the tavern for a few months when he was brought before the magistrates on a charge of starving a horse to death. During the court case a number of witnesses were called, the contention of the prosecution being that this animal, which was one of two horses owned by the publican, was turned out near the beginning of January on a piece of ground, about half an acre in extent, at the side of the canal. The horse was found dead on January 18th and the ground on which the horse was turned out was described as completely bare. There was diversity of opinion in the veterinary evidence, and the defendant maintained that he had sent for hay for the animal to eat and that it refused food. The Bench fined Henry Jones £2. 16s, 6d., including the amount of the costs, which were considerable.

Just two months after being found guilty of animal cruelty, Henry Jones was back in court on a charge of adulterating the whiskey sold in the Bell Inn. In March 1899 the publican was summoned by Inspector Bennett for "selling whiskey adulterated 19 per cent, below the authorised strength." Henry Jones pleaded guilty, and said "he was quite ignorant of the matter, as his wife had the management of the bar." The publican was fined and £2 and costs of 10s. 6d.

The census enumerator for 1901 recorded the house as the Blue Bell Inn so it was trading under this sign for a number of years. In that year the house was kept by Arthur and Gertrude Round. Born at Bulwardine in Shropshire in 1865, Arthur Round had previously worked as a grocer when living with his parents on Moseley Road in Birmingham. He and Gertrude had a young daughter named Dorothy living with them at the Bell Inn. The couple also employed Leah Parsons as a servant.

On the last day of April 1902 the licence of the Bell Inn was transferred from Mr. Harford to Frederick Spraggett Summers. The son of a draper, he was born in Leamington in 1850. He learned the trade of a butcher and worked as a journeyman in this field for a number of years. In 1832 he married the widow Charlotte Eccleston at Edgbaston. The couple once kept the Horse and Jockey at Inkford Brook, a popular hostelry on the Birmingham to Redditch turnpike road. At this tavern Frederick Summers was also recorded as a farmer.

Following the death of Charlotte, Frederick re-married in October 1896 to Catherine Corbett at Ullenhall. At the end of the Victorian era, the couple were running the Lamb and Flag on Unicorn Hill at Redditch.

In April 1903 Frederick Summers applied for consent to carry out structural alterations to the Blue Bell Inn. His application had been adjourned from the previous petty sessions to enable two of the Magistrates and the Superintendent of Police to inspect the premises. The Chairman said "they were satisfied that the proposed alterations would be an improvement." He remarked that the premises, previous to Mr. Summers taking the licence, "had not borne a very good character, but they were pleased to note that since Mr. Summers' occupancy there had been a great improvement, and with not a single complaint having been made against him, they would sanction the alterations."

Edwardian cyclists were attracted to the 'improved' Bell Inn. On one Sunday in May 1904 23 members of the Benacre Cycling Club ventured out to the Bell and it was reported that "they were all back for dinner!"

In July 1907 the licence of the Blue Bell Inn was transferred to Henry Chedham who was a tenant for the brewers Meade & Co. Limted of Perry Barr in Birmingham. This was a period when a major cull of licensed houses was being carried out throughout the region. The Blue Bell Inn had survived closure in 1906 but it was being considered again in June 1908 and the licence was refused by the Warwickshire Licensing Committee on July 20th. Bizarrely, the public-house hobbled on under a provisional licence until April 1909 when it was referred for compensation, the amount being paid to Meade & Co. Limited being £1,016. The Bell Inn finally closed to the public on May 22nd 1909.

Licensees of the Bell Inn

1801 - James Staples
1807 - James Staples
1810 - 1812 Mary Staples
1812 - 1814 John Green
1814 - 1816 James Staples
1816 - John Green
1828 - John Green
1841 - Joseph Green
1851 - Harriet Green
1861 - Thomas Ingerthorpe
1873 - Charles Palfrey
1879 - Mrs. Clara Beck
1881 - Clarissa Beckinsale
1881 - John Avern
1882 - C. E. Burdett
1883 - Walter Betts
1883 - Matilda Heath
1886 - Mrs. A. H. Parsons
1887 - Hannah Birch
1892 - Thomas Wells
1896 - Tom Briscoe
1898 - Henry Walter Jones
1901 - Arthur Round
1902 - Mr. Harford
1904 - Frederick Spraggett Summers
1907 - Henry Chedham
Note : this is not a complete list of licensees for this pub.

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Related Newspaper Articles

"A man named James McCue, chandelier burnisher, residing Park Lane, was charged with having violently assaulted a man named Thomas Ingerthorpe, licensed victualler, residing at the Bell Inn, Lapworth, near Hockley Heath, and robbed him a pair of blankets and 7s. in cash. It was stated that between ten and eleven o'clock on Tuesday night the prosecutor was passing along Park Lane, when, hearing a woman scream a short distance behind him, he went back and asked a man, whom he believed was the prisoner, and two other men who were with the woman, what was the matter. McCue at once sprang upon him, and striking him a severe blow in the face, felled him to the ground. One of the other men then held him down, while the prisoner stole from him a parcel containing two blankets, and the third man rifled his pockets. They then all decamped. A search was then made for the men, but for a long time without success. At length, whilst the prosecutor and Police Constable Beckley were talking together near the place where the assault took place, McCue came by, and being identified by Mr. Ingerthorpe as one the thieves, was taken into custody. The prisoner said he was not guilty, and his master, who stated that he had been in his employment several months, and had, far as he knew, conducted himself properly. McCue then called a witness who had seen the prosecutor on the evening in question, and who said he believed him to have been drunk. Mr. Kynnersley, remarking that there was too much doubt in the matter to send the prisoner for trial, discharged him."
"Mistaken Identity"
Birmingham Journal : December 20th 1862 Page 5

"A charge of drunkenness was preferred by P.C. Cotton against Solomon Mortiboyes. Thomas Lea, and Henry Grimmell, all of Tanworth, which was supported by Thomas Inglerthorp, a publican Lapworth, who very commendably refused to allow them to enter his house. Fined 5s. and expenses 12s. 4d. each, or twenty-one days' imprisonment. They elected to go to prison, but thinking Warwick would be cold quarters for Christmas festivities, they afterwards found the cash and were released."
"Mistaken Identity"
Leamington Spa Courier : December 31st 1864 Page 10

"Charles Hodgkins [48], labourer, was indicted for feloniously breaking and entering into the dwelling house of Joseph Wardle, on the 15th October, at Lapworth, and stealing 12s. 1d. and a purse. Mr. Colmore prosecuted. Prisoner had been seen loitering about the house prior to the day of the robbery. The house was entered whilst the prosecutor and his wife were out. Amongst the money stolen was an old English copper coin, and this was presented by the prisoner on the day of the robbery in payment for beer at the Bell Inn, Lapworth, but was refused. On the same day prisoner called at the Blue Bell Inn, Waring's Green, and changed half a sovereigrn. When arrested on the 29th December he had the copper coin in his pocket, which was identified as the prosecutor's. Prisoner was found guilty, and was sent to gaol for nine months' hard labour."
Birmingham Daily Post : February 18th 1886 Page 5

"Hannah Birch, of the Bell Inn, Lapworth, was summoned for supplying three young men with beer, on Sunday, 25th May last, at 12 noon. Mrs. Dugard, who lives at house, stated that she saw Miss Birch's manager supply the three youths with a jug containing drinkable over the hedge, and received money for the same. George Lowe, an assistant to Mr. Walter Billings, butcher, Hockley Heath, one of the three youths, said he was out with two companions on the 25th May; they called at the Bell Inn, and Mr. Allport supplied them with drink. He invited them inside, but they refused to go. Richard Allport, for the defence, said he refused to supply Lowe, knowing him, but the other two, who said they came from Birmingham, he supplied with stout and ginger beer. In reply to Mr. Muntz, he said he did not ask them if they came from Birmingham that morning, not thinking it necessary. This being a second offence, defendant was fined £4 and costs £1. 0s. 6d., which was paid."
"Offence against the Licensing Act"
Alcester Chronicle : June 14th 1890 Page 8

"On Tuesday, William Leggitt, employed on the telephone work in the neighbourhood of Lapworth, was charged with wilfully damaging a window of the Bell Inn, Lapworth, on the previous day. From the evidence of Mrs. Jones, wife of the landlord, it appeared that the defendant while in the house became very abusive, and was ordered out. He immediately became very violent and broke the window. Defendant admitted the offence and was fined £1, including costs."
"Police Court"
Warwick & Warwickshire Advertiser : March 18th 1899 Page 3

"George Griffin, labourer, Wharf Lane, Hockley Heath, was charged with refusing to quit the Blue Bell Inn, Lapworth, on December 12th, and also with assaulting the landlady, Mrs. Chedham. Henry Chedham, landlord of the inn, said the defendant was making a disturbance is the tap-room on the evening of December 12th, and refused to leave the premises when requested by Mrs. Chedham. Witness went and, after a struggle, ejected him. He then struck at witness, whose wife intercepted the blows and was struck on the face, and had her knuckles badly hurt. Mrs. Chedham corroborated. Defendant, who denied the assault, but admitted the refusal to quit, was fined 40s."
"Refusing to Quit and Assault"
Alcester Chronicle : January 11th 1908 Page 8

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