Some history of the Coach and Horses at Weatheroak Hill in Alvechurch in the county of Worcestershire.
The Coach and Horses at Weatheroak Hill has enjoyed a period of tremendous popularity in recent times. Under the ownership of the Meads family, a brewery was established in an old stable building and, coupled with a range of guest ales, the pub won a number of CAMRA awards. I have enjoyed a few drinks in this pub which, although extended with the addition of a restaurant, has retained a small bar where one can soak up a little of the building's old character.
Few pubs in this rural area have retained a public bar that resembles the sort of drinking room enjoyed by farmers and agricultural labourers during the Victorian age. Admittedly, there have been some alterations and modern comforts added to the Coach and Horses, but the bar is not too far removed from the room patronised by previous generations.
I have fond memories of drinking in the Coach and Horses and coupling my visit with the Peacock Inn at the top of the hill. In the late 1990s the two pubs had the magical ingredients for a great night on the beer. Both had basic rooms with plain rickety furniture and both pubs stocked lots of interesting ales. The locals were spoiled for choice and it was no coincidence that they gained colloquial names - the "Top Pub" and the "Bottom Pub" and many locals would stagger from one boozer to the other. Sadly, The Peacock lost its bar and wide selection of beers when it was converted into a family restaurant. However, here at Weatheroak Hill, the Coach and Horses remains true to its old spirit.
It is perhaps surprising to learn that the Coach and Horses was originally a beer house as the building is so close to an important road junction. One imagines that an important coaching inn would have done good business at this location during the late 18th century. However, the tavern did have a role to play with passing trade in the 19th century. The Coach and Horses, which opened after 1830 government legislation, sits at the bottom of two steep hill climbs and its name may be derived from the fact that a pack horse would be available to help hauliers and carters pull their waggons to the summit. The pack horse would then be returned to the old stable building to enjoy a nosebag and rest before the next waggoner beckoned. This old stable block can be seen to the right on the above photograph and remains at the front of the Coach and Horses. The building has since been converted into a brewery.
The road running north-south, connecting the Coach and Horses with the aforementioned Peacock Inn, is one of the most important Roman roads in Britain. Icknield Street, or Ryknild Street, runs in a north-easterly direction from the Fosse Way at Bourton-on-the-Water in Gloucestershire to Templeborough in South Yorkshire. In this locality, the ancient route passes through Alcester, Studley, Redditch, Beoley and King's Norton on its way to Birmingham and the north.
The narrow lane from the crossroads next to the Coach and Horses rises steeply and waggoners would have found it very difficult to climb the sharp incline. It is possibly the reason why an alternative route was carved into the landscape. A more gradual climb rises up Hob Hill and around past the former Weatheroak Hall to rejoin the Roman road at Forhill. Interestingly, the Peacock Inn seemed to benefit from passing trade during an earlier period to that of the Coach and Horses.
The road that passes directly in front of the Coach and Horses offered better passing trade as it was a key road from Bromsgrove and Alvechurch. The route once formed part of a salt road from Droitwich to Coventry. It is the stretch from Radford to the top of Weatheroak Hill that created some difficulty for those pulling a heavy load. Little wonder therefore that a beer house should open for passing trade. A blacksmith also traded next to the pub and would have offered repairs and replacements to horse shoes and wheel rims. The village wheelwright's shop caught fire over Christmas 1849 and the locals had to abandon their beer jugs and turned out to assist with subduing the flames. The premises were saved but the shop, constructed of timber and "filled with dry materials and unfinished timber" was considerably damaged.
During the 19th century publicans of the Coach and Horses would have more than one revenue stream as the sale of beer only supplemented income from other another trade.
Locally-born around 1788, Stephen Martin was the licensee by 1840 and he was the publican until his death in 1870. He kept the Coach and Horses with his wife Sarah who hailed from Solihull. For more than a decade, the couple were helped by their niece Elizabeth Kirby who would later return to the Coach and Horses as landlady.
Weatheroak Hill may have been a peaceful haven in the early-mid 19th century but it was not without incident. In July 1848 burglars broke into the Coach and Horses and stole goods and property belonging to the Martin family. It was reported that the thieves made off with 40lbs. of bacon, a quantity of cheese, and a new pair of shoes. The latter were later found in a field at Redditch so assumedly they were the wrong size or the robbers were not enamoured with the design!
It would appear that Stephen and Sarah Martin did not have any children so perhaps they bestowed their affections on their niece Elizabeth. Officially recorded as a house servant, she was born in Ashby-de-la-Zouch around 1833. She was listed in the 1841 census at the pub so had moved south at an early age. Whilst living at the Coach and Horses Elizabeth Kirby met and married Alexander Impey a local farmer. He had grown up on Seal's Green Farm, a short distance to the north of Forhill, an area littered with clay pits during the 19th century. Most local men were engaged as farm labourers or worked in the clay pits.
Alexander and Elizabeth were married in June 1858 and soon afterwards moved into Red Hill Farm as tenants of a 10-acre smallholding. Their daughter Sarah was born in 1870. The couple also housed a teenager called Joseph Walker who was employed as a cow boy.
Following the death of Stephen Martin, the Impey family moved into the Coach and Horses with elderly widow Sarah. The licence was transferred to Alexander Impey who, by this time, was the father of four children. His time at the pub was brief for he died in 1876 when the licence passed to widow, Elizabeth, who had grown up in the pub with the Martin family.
Elizabeth Impey died within a few years of her husband and the licence of the Coach and Horses passed to Harvey Burman. He was born nearby in 1851 and spent his early years at Rowney Green Farm run by his parents Richard and Sarah. He kept the Coach and Horses with his wife Ellen who was born in Alderminster. The couple's sons, Charles and Harvey, also lived on the premises.
Harvey Burman remained as licensee for much of the 1880s. He combined his duties at the Coach and Horses with that of hay and straw dealer, a trade he continued when living on Portway Road near the Rose and Crown. The family later moved to Lancashire where Harvey and Ellen operated a farm at Newton-in-Makerfield.
Weatheroak Hill made the national headlines in February 1885 when James Davies, a policeman from Beoley, was murdered on Icknield Street and became the only Worcestershire policeman to be killed on duty. The 33 year-old police officer was stabbed when apprehending the notorious poacher Moses Shrimpton. Although 65 years-old, he was dubbed "the terror of East Worcestershire" and had previously committed a brutal assault on a gamekeeper and was imprisoned for seven years after previously attacking a policeman. He was arrested in Birmingham and, following his trial at Worcester Assizes, became the last person to be hanged at Worcester Jail.
The Coach and Horses returned to the stewardship of the Impey family when Stephen, son of Alexander and Elizabeth Impey, took over the reins of the pub that he partly owned. He kept the Coach and Horses with his sister Annie who also worked as a dress maker.
In 1895 Stephen Impey married Martha Smith. She was originally from Tipton but had moved with her father and mother to Hob Hill farm, a short distance to the south of the Coach and Horses.
Stephen Impey seemingly liked his ale a little too much. There is a newspaper article in which he was allegedly drunk at the Coach and Horses. In May 1894 he was also charged, along with a grazier called Barnett James, of being drunk at nearby Hopwood. Stephen Impey died in 1897.
The latter years of the 19th century was when the Savage family moved to the Coach and Horses. George Savage was born in Alcester in 1858. Growing up in Church Street, he attended the National School before his education at the Old Grammar School. This was almost probably a hardship for his parents for his father worked in the needle trade. He was apprenticed to a Birmingham corn merchant before 'running away' to Liverpool where he worked at the Post Office.
George Savage became a quite an athlete in Liverpool and won many local races, most of which offered prize money. Indeed, in the census of 1891 he was recorded as a professional pedestrian. It is thought that, over his career, he won around 400 guineas in prize money, a considerable sum in those days. George favoured middle distance running and won the Bootle Mile Race two years in succession.
On returning to the Midlands, George Savage joined the Birchfield Harriers where he shifted his attentions to cross-country running. This proved to be his forte and he won the Midlands ten mile championship, three gold medals in the Midland Counties races and one national gold medal.
In his hometown of Alcester, George Savage fell in love with Mary Elizabeth Fourt, daughter of the baker James Fourt who, presumably did not approve of their relationship. In 1890 the couple eloped to Birmingham where they married at St. David's Church in Bissell Street. Before the couple came to Weatheroak Hill, they kept the Lamb and Flag Inn on Unicorn Hill in Redditch.
George Savage was a keen follower of hounds and he became a familiar figure among hunting people throughout Worcestershire and Warwickshire. He walked puppies for packs of both counties and was also a judge of dogs.
George and Mary Savage had 12 children, some of whom moved to distant parts of the globe. George Savage Jr. moved to South America after taking a position with the Great Southern Railway in Argentina. Another son later served as a sergeant in the Calcutta Police Force.
Philip and Sheila Meads were appointed managers of the Coach and Horses in 1968. They signed a tenancy agreement seven years later. In 1980 they acquired the freehold from Bournville Village Trust. Together with their son Gary, they continued to run the pub for more than a generation and are were of the few families to have run the Coach and Horses. It would seem that this is a pub in which people are more than content to remain for many a year.
Following a mutual agreement with Philip and Sheila Meads, the Weatheroak Brewery was established in 1997 by Dave and Pat Smith in the old stable block at the front of the Coach and Horses. This was to prove a boost for the pub's real ale trade whilst inaugurating a fledgling brewery for the local area. The first ales were produced in January 1998 and were well received. An amber-coloured session ale called Light Oak was an early success, along with a ruby-coloured beer beer entitled Redwood. The brewery were ahead of a future trend when they also produced Keystone Hops, a strong pale ale in which American hops were used.
The Weatheroak Brewery opened an off-licence in nearby Alvechurch around a year after launching the business. The popularity of the ales resulted in the brewery supplying beer to the free trade. I can remember finding the beers in a number of my local boozers. The small stable block was also being used to produce ales for the Bricktop Brewery and sold in the Gate Hangs Well at Woodgate. Increasing the brewery's capacity ultimately resulted in relocation and, as a result, in August 2008 the Coach and Horses temporarily lost its home-brewed ales.
Following the departure of the Weatheroak Brewery a new production facility was established within eight weeks, and the Weatheroak Hill Brewery was born. The similarity in names was a little confusing at first. Mark Shepard was brought in as brewer and the new recipes proved to be successful. Icknield Pale Ale was the new session beer for the Coach and Horses, augmented by W.H.B. which won a Silver Medal at the CAMRA Redditch and Bromsgrove Winter Ale Festival. Two more beers, Radford Ale [named after the hamlet along the road] and Shires Ale, were added to the portfolio.
Related Newspaper Articles
"Moses Shrimpton, an elderly man, and a returned convict, was arrested late Saturday night in Birmingham, on a charge of wilfully
murdering Police Constable Davies, who was found on that morning with his throat cut a few miles from Alvechurch. A knife found upon the prisoner was stained
with blood, and some of his clothes were also covered with blood. A Police Sergeant of Redditch, upon receiving information of the murder, went at once to the
place and found the victim with his throat cut, besides other serious injuries indicative of a desperate struggle. The prisoner, who is a notorious poacher,
stole, it is believed, some fowls, and when arrested killed the constable, whose watch is missing. Another arrest was made subsequently. At the King's
Heath Police Court, on Monday, the two prisoners, Moses Shrimpton and Mary Morton were charged, the former with the wilful murder of Police Constable Davies
at Weatheroak Hill, and the latter with being an accessory after the fact. They declared they knew nothing about the murder, and were formally remanded until
Friday. The inquest on the body of the murdered officer was also opened at the Coach and Horses, Weatheroak Hill, before Mr. R. Docker [district coroner],
and immediately adjourned until Monday next, when it will be resumed at Alvechurch."
"Murder of a Policeman near Birmingham' Meet"
Lichfield Mercury : March 6th 1885 Page 6
"The adjourned inquest on the body of Police Constable Davies, who was found lying dead in a country road at Weatheroak Hill on the 28th
February, was resumed on Monday at Alvechurch. Frederick Whitehouse, Police Constable, stationed at King's Norton, stated that on the morning in question he met
Davies at one o'clock at Portway, and parted from him at 10 minutes past two at a spot about a quarter of mile from where they met. The deceased went in the
direction Weatheroak Hill, and told witness that he was going towards Weatheroak Hill to meet the Alvechurch man at four o'clock. He would meet the Alvechurch
man at Siecham. James Twigg, farmer, of Rowney Green, described the finding of the body in Eagle Street Lane about 8 a.m. on the same morning. The arms were thrown
back with the hands clenched. The left hand was near to the head of the body and tightly clenched. In it was a quantity of whiskers. The fingers of the right hand
were severely cut. There were severe wounds on the face. The wound on the throat witness did not see, it was hidden by white foam raised about 4in. above the
throat. The helmet of the deceased lay between the feet covered with blood and mud. There was a great quantity of blood on the road, much of it having flowed from
the throat. It was evident that a struggle had taken place in the road near where the body lay. Witness noticed footmarks of two persons, some of which he could
identify as those of the policeman. The other marks were much larger, and were the impressions of a long unnailed boot. narrow across the toe, wide across the
tread, and of a peculiar shape. There was one of these marks on each side of the body, and there were several distinguishable at the bottom of the embankment.
Witness was quite sure from the footmarks that only two persons had been engaged in the struggle. Superintendent Jeffrey, of Bromsgrove, to whose division the
deceased belonged, said that peculiar footmarks near body corresponded with those found near a fowl-house in the neighbourhood that had been robbed that night,
and when he saw them he felt sure they were the marks of Shrimpton's foot; had subsequently compared them with the impression of Shrimpton's boots, and
was convinced that they were the same. The inquiry was adjourned for a week for the attendance of Shrimpton, who is under remand of murdering the deceased."
"Murder of a Policeman Constable"
Worcester Journal : March 14th 1885 Page 6
"On Friday Moses Shrimpton , was brought up on remand at the Balsall Heath Police Court, before Messrs. J. F. Swinburn,
E. B. Phillips, and C. P. Lane [Magistrates], charged with the wilful murder of Police Constable Davies on the morning of the 28th of February last, at
Weatheroak Hill, near Alvechurch. Mary Morton , of the same address, and George Facer [on bail], maltster, of Dartmouth Street, Birmingham,
were charged with being accessories after the fact. Shrimpton was further charged with stealing a German silver watch belonging to the murdered man, and six fowls,
the property of Mr. Taylor, of Weatheroak Hill, on the same date. The Court was crowded. Colonel Carmichael [Chief of the Worcestershire Constabulary],
addressing the Bench, said he had to state that the Coroner for that division of the county was desirous that the prisoners should appear before his Court on the
following Monday. The magisterial hearing could not take place earlier than the 20th inst., as Dr. Stevenson, of Guy's Hospital, London, would not be prepared
to give the result of his analysis of the man's clothing until that date. He therefore would ask them to remand the prisoners to Winson Green until the 20th,
and also to make an order on the Governor of the gaol to permit the prisoners to be removed for the purpose of appearing in the Coroner's Court at the inquest.
He added that he thought it would be advisable to have a date set apart for the magisterial investigation, as there would be upwards of 25 witnesses to be examined,
and the proceedings would necessarily occupy a considerable time. There was still quite a day's work for the Coroner before Dr. Stevenson could be called.
Prisoners on being asked if they had anything to say why they should not be again remanded promptly replied "No," and they were then at once removed. Facer
applied for bail, and the sureties being forthcoming his application was granted, and he was allowed to leave the Court. Mr. Swinburn intimated that the magistrates
would grant the order asked for by Colonel Carmichael."
"Murder of a Worcestershire Policeman"
Worcester Journal : March 21st 1885 Page 5
"Moses Shrimpton, 65, was executed at Worcester Prison at eight o'clock yesterday morning for the murder of Police Constable
Davies, at Alvechurch, on 28th February. The prisoner, who made no allusion to his crime while in prison, walked to the scaffold with a firm step. A drop of 9ft was
allowed, and death was instantaneous; but the body presented a shocking spectacle. The long drop had the effect of partly severing the head from the body, and a
terrible gash appeared in the throat. Berry was the executioner."
"Execution of Moses Shrimpton"
Worcester Journal : May 26th 1885
"The Malvern Cycling Club have arranged for a meet of cyclists at Malvern on Whit Monday, to be regarded as a commemoration of the
Queen's Jubilee. It is proposed to hold the meet on the Wells Common at two o'clock, when a photograph of the company will be taken. A parade will be made
through the town to the Drill Hall, where a cold luncheon will be provided. It is expected, if the weather be propitious, that there will be between two and three
hundred cyclists present, including the Worcester, Cheltenham, Hereford, and Stroud Clubs. A hill-climbing competition for cyclists is to take place on Saturday
at Weatheroak Hill, near Alvechurch, which for years was considered insurmountable on a cycle, as it rises at the rate of the inch in 6½. Some of the principal
wheelmen of the kingdom have entered."
Worcester Journal : May 21st 1887 Page 5
"An action was brought by Edwin Ward, of the Bull's Head in Digbeth, omnibus proprietor, against Harvey Burman,
Weatheroak Hill, hay and straw dealer, to recover £13. 10s., damages to an omnibus caused by the defendant's negligence. Mr. Dorsett [instructed by
Messrs. Green and Williams] appeared for the plaintiff, and Mr. Bickley [Buller, Bickley and Cross] for the defendant. On the evening of the 18th of
October last plaintiff's omnibus was being driven along Pershore Road in the direction of Birmingham. When between Pebble Mill Road and Priory Road the driver
of the bus saw the defendant coming along the road in a hay and straw cart. The cart was being driven "all over the road," and the driver of the omnibus
in consequence drew his vehicle into the gutter to prevent an accident. The defendant however, ran into the omnibus, striking the lamp and smashing the front of
the vehicle. The driver of the omnibus and the guard stated that the defendant was on the wrong side of the road when the accident happened, and was lying down
in the bed of the cart. He was not quite sober, and when asked for his address refused it. He was asked what brought him on the wrong side, and he replied that
the accident served plaintiff right. The defendant was called and denied that he was on the wrong side of the road. The bus was in the centre of the road, and he
shouted to the driver to get on his proper side so that he could pass. He was not responsible for any accident that might have occurred. The horse was twenty-five
years old and incapable of going at the speed the plaintiff had attempted to make out he was travelling. An elderly witness was called to give corroborative evidence,
and in reply to Mr. Bickley said he had known the horse all his life. [Laughter.] Mr. Bickley : Then you were boys together. [Laughter.] His Honour
said the judgment would be for the plaintiff. If the evidence of both sides was to be believed it was quite clear the accident could not have happened at all. He had
no doubt the plaintiff was going on the right side of the road. The only question was that of the amount of damages. Some of the items in plaintiff's claim were
no doubt fanciful, and judgement would therefore be for £7.10s., and he should certify for counsel."
"A Running Down Case"
Birmingham Daily Post : February 11th 1890 Page 6
"Stephen Impey, part proprietor of the Coach and Horses, Weatheroak Hill, was summoned for being drunk on his licensed premises on February
16th. Mr. J. Ansell defended, P.C. Beddoes stated that on the day named he called at the defendant's house for the purpose of making an enquiry. He saw the defendant,
and came to the conclusion that he was drunk. Witness left the house, and within five minutes returned with a man named Blaney, whom he fetched to corroborate him as to
the defendant's condition. He went to Blaney's house to fetch him and found him standing on the doorstep. George Blaney, a gardener, stated that he went to defendant's house about two o'clock
in the day for some tobacco. He spoke to defendant, who could scarcely answer him on account of being drunk. Beddoes followed witness into the house, and said, "Just
notice Impey; what do you think of him? Witness replied: "He's as drunk as a mop." [Laughter.] He heard Beddoes tell defendant he was
drunk, and ordered him to bed. By Superintendent Wasley: He saw defendant get up from his chair and stagger across the kitchen. Mr. Ansell: Then the officer
overtook you on your way to the public-house? Witness: Yes, he walked down the hill with me. How far were you from your own house when he overtook you?
Witness: Two or three hundred yards. That was the first time the officer spoke to you? The first time that that day. Had you made up your mind to go for the
tobacco before you saw the officer? Yes. On your solemn oath, didn't you go to this public-house by the invitation of this officer? Certainly not -
no invitation at all. I went for some tobacco. Did the officer come to your house at all? No, not until afterwards, That was after you had been to the
public-house? Yes. Mr. Ansell : Very well: I won't ask you another question. Mr. Ansell, for the defence, said he had not often in his experience
to make such remarks, but he could not refrain from saying that he had seldom come across a more absurd or trumped-up case. If the witnesses agreed it might be
different, but when they differed so greatly as the constable and the witness Blaney did, it was a waste of time to discuss their testimony. The defendant and two
witnesses denied the drunkenness. After a brief consultation in private, Mr. Lane said that the evidence was so very conflicting the Bench could not convict, and the
summons was dismissed."
"Charge Against a Publican"
Birmingham Daily Post : March 2nd 1895 Page 8
"The Rev. Herbert Edward Worthington, a retired clergyman, Hook Norton, Banbury, has inherited from a woman cousin a public-house,
the Coach and Horses, Weatheroak, King's Norton, Worcestershire. By the will of Miss Emily Mynors, Weatheroak Hall, who died last August leaving £93,039, her
property at Alvechurch and King's Norton was left to her cousin for life. Miss Mynors was the elder daughter of the late Rev. T. H. Mynors, formerly vicar of St.
Patrick's, Wythall, and the estate around King's Norton and Alvechurch is a valuable one. The tenant of the Coach and Horses is Mr. George Savage, who was a
well-known long-distance runner 40 or 50 years ago, and the will stipulates that the house shall not be sold during Mr Savage's life, and that he shall
continue undisturbed in the tenancy. Mr. Worthington said last night that there will be no alteration in the running of the house. He added that he had helped his
cousin in controlling some her property, and the bequest did not come as a surprise."
"Public-House for Clergyman"
Gloucester Citizen : January 23rd 1936 Page 8