Some history of the Three Witches at Stratford-on-Avon in the county of Warwickshire.


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The Three Witches, along with the Yard of Ale, opened on December 14th, 1962. Together, they were the first public-houses to have opened in the town since 1930 when the Salmon Tail was completed. After a short opening address by Sir Fordham Flower, the brewery chairman, and the Vicar of Stratford, the Rev. Thomas Bland, the pub was formally opened by the Mayor, Councillor W. H. Huxley. All three poured the first pints of beer. It was reported that the vicar was completely hopeless in this task and half-drowned himself in ale.

Stratford-on-Avon : Advertisement for the Three Witches on Alcester Road [1962]

The Three Witches was located on the corner of Alcester Road and Church Lane. The pub replaced the Coach and Horses on Henley Street, a public-house that closed during the previous week. The Yard of Ale replaced the Falstaff on Birmingham Road, also closed at the same time.

Designed by the Stratford-on-Avon firm, Messrs. Earp, Badger & Harrison, the pub was designed to cater for the needs of the residents in the locale, with some passing trade on the Alcester Road. The building included an off-sales shop that provided an added amenity for local residents.

Although it was designated a Flower's house, the brewery was, by this time, owned by Whitbread, who had acquired J. W. Green Ltd. during the previous year.

Built by the local firm of Smith & Unett, the Three Witches was built in golden brown rustic brickwork with contrasting painted panels in black and yellow, and natural cedar boarding. Interest was created by the green Westmorland slate on the end wall facing Alcester Road, forming a background to an abstract sculpture, representing three witches, by Peter Ball of the Coventry School of Art.

In conjunction with the architects, the interior decor was by David Lloyd, a director of Flower's Breweries Ltd. The Zodiac bar had an interesting central chimney breast in brickwork with black terrazzo inserts and a two-way fireplace. The walls were painted in mushroom with a pale blue ceiling. The fixed seating was of mahogany, with squab cushions covered in orange and black tartan material. This was the 1960s after all! The tables had black ebonised frames with plastic laminated tops. There were a number of black ebonised saddle stools. The unusual light fittings were designed to give character to the room. The walls were decorated with an amusing set of cartoon pictures featuring the signs of the zodiac, by Mr. Fish of Nottingham.

Stratford-on-Avon : Advertisement for Ball Bros. [Engineers] Ltd., manufacturers of the Cauldron at the Three Witches on Alcester Road [1962]

The Cauldron lounge, so named after the witches' cauldron suspended under a copper canopy in the inglenook fireplace, was planned with seating alcoves along one side. The walls were in exposed facing brickwork and the ceiling in natural timber. The floor was of Afrormosia blocks with marbled terrazzo paving around the bar counter. There was an extension section of the lounge that could be divided off from the main part of the room with a folding door in cardinal red. There was also a separate entrance to this room, provided for use by small private parties. This was a very popular venue for local couples who used the room for their wedding reception before heading off on their honeymoon. The fitted seating was in mahogany with squab cushions, some in red and some in blue material. The chairs were covered with megget green material. Similar to the Zodiac bar, the tables in the lounge had black ebonised frames with plastic laminated tops, with black ebonised saddle stools.

The Cauldron lounge was lit by a number of copper wall brackets and two central pendant fittings. There were electric heaters under the fixed seating, and fan heaters to boost the temperature if necessary. An amusing feature was the painted cutouts over the bar counter, again by Mr. Fish of Nottingham, with a "Bar in the Sky," along with three besoms carrying the witches and their cats.

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Rediffusion Reditune

Both the Zodiac bar and Cauldron lounge were served by Rediffusion Reditune, a relatively new background music system with a massive 10 watts of output. The pub would be issued with six tapes, carrying around 200 tunes, all produced at the company headquarters at Orpington in Kent.

The Three Witches had a new-fangled temperature-controlled cellar, and bottle-cooling shelves to both bar and lounge. The pub became the first licensed house in the Midlands to have a self-service soft drink dispense machine. This was installed to enable customers to draw their own tonic water and ginger ale. I have never seen such a machine in a pub so I assume the public could not be trusted with such a device.

The grounds of the Three Witches were not completed by the time of the winter opening but it was planned to have large grassed areas, flower beds and ornamental shrubs. Patrons could enjoy these features on the paved area on either side of the lounge wing and in front of the bar.

The first managers of the Three Witches were Thomas and Doris Almey. They moved from the Coach and Horses to run the replacement pub. They had only run the Coach and Horses for a year, having moved from the Plymouth Arms, the first licensed house they managed. Hailing from Leicester, Thomas Almey, a former foreman dyer, was new to the licensed trade prior to taking on the Plymouth Arms on Wood Street. However, his wife Doris, whom he married just prior to World War 2, was the daughter of a Cleethorpes licensee with four brothers and sisters in the trade. The couple had four children, the second was a hotel manager in Grimsby.

Stratford-on-Avon : Advertisement for the Three Witches Grill Room [1968]

I believe that the Three Witches was demolished in the late 1990s, perhaps 2000. A housing development of flats stands on the site of the former pub.

Stratford-on-Avon : Plans for the sale of the site of the Three Witches [1999]

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Stratford-on-Avon : Music Machine Competition at the Three Witches on Alcester Road [1984]

Licensees of Three Witches Inn

1962 - Thomas Almey
Note : this is not a complete list of licensees for this pub. The dates of early licensees are sourced from trade directories, census data, electoral rolls, rate books and newspaper articles. Names taken from trade directories may be slightly inaccurate as there is some slippage from publication dates and the actual movement of people.

Whitbread's Enamel Sign

Whitbread's Pale Ale and Extra Stout

Inn Sign

Stratford-on-Avon : Inn Sign of The Three Witches [1972]

The Whitbread inn sign of this pub featured an illustration of the Three Witches, also known as the Weird Sisters, characters in William Shakespeare's play Macbeth. Note the traffic cone-like witch's hats affixed to the sign bracket. The Three Witches represented evil, darkness, chaos, and conflict, and led Macbeth to his demise. Oh dear, plot spoiler. But people have had four hundred years to read or see the play!

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Related Newspaper Articles

"A waiter from the Royal Shakespeare Theatre restaurant was fined £10 at Stratford Magistrates Court yesterday for stealing a £1 note from a parked van. Before the court was Frederick James Dubois [59], of 9, Hathaway Hamlet, Shottery, Stratford, who pleaded guilty. Inspector T. Barr, prosecuting, told the court that on June 22 Mr. R. F. Cole. a vegetable seller, parked the van in the car park of the Three Witches Inn, Stratford. He then went into the public-house and stood at a point where he had a clear view of his vehicle. The inspector said that in the back of the van was a till which contained a single £1 note and some silver. A little later he saw a car draw up beside his van and the driver get out. The driver then walked over to the van and began peering through all the windows. He then walked off but, after going only a few yards, turned round and retraced his steps to the van. Mr. Cole then saw the man reach through the rear door into the back of the van, the court was told. Dubois was stated to have previous convictions, the last in 1936."
"Took £1 Note From Till Left In Van"
Coventry Evening Telegraph : July 17th 1965 Page 11

Stratford-on-Avon : Debora Newitt, Barmaid of The Three Witches [1983]

""Flower's Fairmaid" of 1983 is 22-year-old Debora Newitt, from Alcester. Debora, who is a barmaid at the Three Witches in Stratford, won the national title in a competition held at Cheltenham. As Flower's Fairmaid, Debora will travel around the country helping to promote Whitbread Flower's pubs."
"Flower's Fairmaid"
Stratford-upon-Avon : August 19th 1983 Page 1

Whitbread's Forest Brown

Whitbread's Pale Ale

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