Some history of the Hopwood House at Alvechurch in the County of Worcestershire
Serving travellers on both the road connecting Redditch and the Birmingham, and the Worcester and Birmingham Canal, this pub seems to have opened in the early years of Queen Victoria's reign and was formerly known as the Hopwood Wharf Inn. Having said that, it is hard not to imagine some form of tavern existing here, given that the canal reached Hopwood at the fag end of the 18th century.
The above map extract shows that the core of the contemporary building, with two bay windows, was in place by this period. I do not think this was the original tavern. I suspect that it was rebuilt in 1869 following which a concert and ball was held at the new house. The crossing of the canal by the turnpike road inevitably led to the development of businesses that catered for the traveller. On the northern side of the canal there was a smithy offering equine services and assistance to barges passing through the locale. An old clay pit can also be seen to the west of the Hopwood Wharf Inn.
There is, of course, an alternative route to the Hopwood House. Here we have parked up after cycling along Bittell Farm Road. Following a bit of hill climbing over the Lickey Hills, it is a pleasant ride from Barnt Green to this pub. From here we like to cycle along Lea End Lane and up the sharpish climb of Wast Hills Lane before heading out towards Forhill. The descent from West Heath along the old turnpike was the scene of many cycling accidents in days of old. Many a Brummie liked to 'scorch' down the hill towards Alvechurch but sometimes it could go wrong, resulting sometimes in death. Often it was simply the case of poor brakes being fitted to machines. In May 1905 Emma Brand, a married woman from King's Norton, was killed when she lost control of her bicycle on Darby's Hill, and swerved across the footpath into the gateway leading to the residence of Mr. F. J. Batchelor. She hit the brickwork of the gate pillar with terrific force, banging her head, and expired within a few minutes. The inquest was held at the Hopwood House Hotel as it was then known.
Richard Parkes was the publican of the Hopwood Wharf Inn during the 1840s. He was also trading as a coal dealer with the black stuff arriving at the wharf via canal barges. The wharf was south of the Wast Hills Tunnel which opened for canal traffic in 1797, this providing a key trade link with Birmingham and the Black Country. It was from the latter that coal was brought in from Netherton and Wednesbury.
The son of a grocer, Richard Parkes was born in Curdworth in 1798. He married Mary Reeves at Birmingham in September 1827. The couple kept what was seemingly a busy hostelry as they employed three servants. Mary's elderly mother, Mary Reeves, lived in an adjacent property with her grandson Thomas Merry. Born in the Derbyshire village of Hathersage, he was also recorded as a coal dealer.
The Hopwood Wharf Inn hosted a good number of auctions in the late 1840s. Some sales were for land and property, others for timber. However, they were chiefly for crops grown in the locality. Indeed, Richard and Mary Parkes would themselves operate a nearby farm after their spell running the Hopwood Wharf Inn. The aforementioned Thomas Merry took over at the pub. In 1847 he had married Jane, daughter of Richard and Mary Parkes so there was continuity at the house. Like his father-in-law before him, Thomas Merry traded as both innkeeper and coal merchant.
This advertisement for a concert and ball appeared in the Bromsgrove & Droitwich Messenger on Saturday 20th, February 1869, and suggests that the Hopwood Wharf Inn had been rebuilt. Tom Merry, licensee for many years, stated that the event would take place at his 'new' house. Assuming that this was indeed a celebration of a new build, the premises would have been under construction during 1868.
One can only speculate on the reasons, but in 1870, Thomas and Jane Merry decided to make a new life by moving to run the Vale View Hotel at Rhuddlan in North Wales. The tenancy of the Hopwood Wharf Inn was advertised in March 1870 and this provides some detail on the business activity associated with the premises.
It is possible that a new build would have meant higher rent, one possible reason for the Merry's moving on. Indeed, their successor, Elizabeth Arthur, remained here for a very short period before handing over to James Terry. She was the licensed victualler when the census enumerator dropped in during 1871. Born in Kinlet in Shropshire, she was listed as a 56-year-old widow living on the premises with her son and daughter, Edward and Frances. Along with her husband John, she had formerly kept the Hundred House Hotel at Great Witley. The couple made the move to Hopwood but John Arthur died soon afterwards. Interestingly, the very next entry on the 1871 census recorded a beer house-keeper named John Withey. This port-of-call may have evolved into the post-office and stores on the opposite side of the road.
The licence of the Hopwood Wharf Inn was transferred from Elizabeth Arthur to James Terry at the Redditch Petty Sessions held on June 7th, 1871. If the house did not have a grocery store prior to this then he may have been the person to open such a facility, a welcome place for food supplies to those travelling on the Worcester and Birmingham Canal. However, the rogue was hauled before the magistrates in September 1872 for having unjust scales or deficient weights thereby ripping off his customers. The publican was fined 10s. and costs by the magistrates.
With his reputation being damaged, James Terry moved on quickly, the licence of the Hopwood Wharf Inn being transferred at a special sessions to George Jones in June 1873. Five months later the publican died suddenly at the age of 40. An inquest was held at the pub during which it was disclosed that "he had been feeling unwell several days previous to his decease, and especially during the night before his death." On the Friday morning he was in his closet and his wife, thinking his absence unusually long, became alarmed for his safety, and going to ascertain the cause, found the publican dead. After hearing the medical testimony, the jury found a verdict of "Death from natural causes." His wife was granted a temporary licence for the Hopwood Wharf Inn, with the magistrates imposing a condition that "she makes arrangements for disposing of the business to some person better qualified to undertake the responsibility."
The turnover of licensees during the 1870s does suggest it was difficult to turn a profit, possibly due to rent increases. John Rouse came and went in a relatively short space of time. He was succeeded by Thomas Malin, the publican being granted the licence in February 1875. Hailing from Broadway, the former agricultural labourer kept the Hopwood Wharf Inn with his wife Louisa. The couple employed Mary Ann Amphlett as a domestic servant. It was through her that the Malin family made the newspapers in April 1876 when the publican charged her with having stolen a two-shilling piece.
During the court case Eliza Malin, the publican's daughter, deposed to having previously missed money, and being suspicious of the servant, she, in the presence of her mother, marked the two-shilling coin, and placed it in a glass on the mantel piece of her bedroom. On the next Thursday Mary Ann Amphlett got very tipsy, and while in that state was very abusive. She at last had to be carried upstairs, and while being so carried, the marked coin fell from her pocket. During this episode Louisa Mallen, her mother, had travelled to Birmingham market. On her return the daughter informed her of what had taken place and, consequently, the police-constable was sent for, and the servant given into custody.
After consideration, Louisa Malin requested to withdraw the charge, but on being told she would have to pay the expenses amounting to £1 1s. 10d., she refused to do so, and so the matter went to court. Appearing before the Bench with a severe black eye and other bruises, Mary Ann Amphlett denied the charge, and stated that she had been beaten and knocked about by Eliza Malin and a man servant. The publican's daughter denied this and stated that Amphlett had sustained her injuries by falling down the cellar steps when tipsy. The Bench fully committed Mary Ann Amphlett to take her trial at the ensuing quarter sessions but was told she could prefer a charge against those whom she said had beaten her.
By the time the case was due to be heard Thomas and Louisa Malin were in a financial pickle of their own making, the publican being bankrupt. The family were forced to leave the Hopwood Wharf Inn, moving to Badsey where Thomas went back to his former role as agricultural labourer.
William Pettifor was granted the licence in June 1876. Originally from Huntingdonshire, his career took him to Oldbury in the Black Country where he met Sarah Ann Hipkiss. The couple married and set up home in her hometown where William worked as an engine fitter. After their very brief spell at Hopwood the couple moved to Bilston where they kept the Horse and Jockey in Church Street. Their daughter would later marry William Raybould and run the Bear Hotel at Bearwood.
In June 1877 the licence of the Hopwood Wharf Inn was transferred to Edward Tranter, formerly of Tipton. In April 1880 he appeared in front of the magistrates at the Petty Sessions on a charge of threatening to cut the throat of Sarah Ann Rose, on the Easter Monday. She was engaged as a servant at the tavern, but left after just a fortnight. On the Easter Monday she went to receive her money and, following a verbal exchange with Mrs. Tranter, she claimed that the publican threatened her. Her mother and a young man named Wilkes gave corroborative testimony as to the threats. However, after two other servants denied the offence The Bench dismissed the case.
Licensing records show that John Ward was the publican in December 1880. However, although he was living on the premises at the time of the census in 1881, the enumerator also recorded eleven members of the Bayliss family in residence. I am not sure of the relationship between the two men. William Bayliss was granted the licence three years later in July 1884. At the time of the census he was recorded as a manager of a button works. This was the Excelsior Works at Green Lane in Small Heath, copper rivet and nail manufacturers, trading under the title of E. Bayliss and Company. However, this enterpise had failed by June 1881 with William and Edward Bayliss, along with Thomas Allart, appearing in the Birmingham Bankruptcy Court. William Bayliss told the court that he was residing at Hopwood and carrying on the trade of a licensed victualler. This is possibly the reason why he was flying under the radar with the licence being held by John Ward. He was documented as a 43 year-old widow and boarder.
Having salvaged his financial affairs, William Bayliss applied for a transfer of the licence to himself in July 1884. There was a delay in the proceedings as the magistrates waited to approve some alterations to the Hopwood Wharf Inn. The licence was finally granted in September 1884. It would seem that William's heart remained in manufacturing rather than the licensed trade and the following year he had given up the hostelry. He and his wife Harriet later moved to Stechford where he was again recorded as the manager of a button works. By the end of Queen Victoria's reign, he was living at Copeley Hill whilst working as a manager for a steel manufacturer.
In 1885 the licence of the Hopwood Wharf Inn was transferred from William Baylis to Thomas Southan.
MORE TO FOLLOW ON THE HOPWOOD HOUSE
"Yesterday se'nnight William and Jane Scobourgh, were apprehended Police-Sergeant Rodman, at Alvechurcb, for uttering two
counterfeit shillings. The prisoners had been in Redditch in the morning, at the Crown Inn, where the male prisoner had two pennyworth of peppermint, for which he gave
the barmaid a counterfeit shilling, and received the change. Soon after the prisoner left, she noticed it was a bad one, and immediately locked it up in cupboard by
itself. The prisoners were at Alvechurch at two o'clock, and the male prisoner called at the Red Lion Inn. and attempted to pass another bad shilling, but Mr.
Holliday, the landlord, detected and returned it. Both prisoners went towards Birmingham, and the policeman followed them to the Hopwood Wharf Inn, kept by
Richard Parkes, where the male prisoner attempted to pass another counterfeit shilling, but here the landlady refused to receive it in payment, and gave the
prisoner into custody. Hodman found on his person several small pieces of paper, in which it appeared something about the size of a shilling had been folded, and
also a powder or composition used for polishing silver. Rodman then followed the female prisoner, who had proceeded a short distance on the road, and, on searching
her, found concealed on her person in a quantity of small papers, seventeen counterfeit shillings. They were then brought to Redditch, and on Wednesday
underwent an examination before William Hemming, Esq., who remanded them until Friday last, in order to ascertain if the authorities of the Mint would
"Uttering Base Coin"
Worcestershire Chronicle : March 12th 1845 Page 3
"On Wednesday last a man named Adams, alias Johnson, was apprehended by Sergeant Manton for stealing from the
Hopwood Wharf Inn a flannel frock, and has been committed by Mr. Mynors for trial."
Worcestershire Chronicle : September 27th 1848 Page 4
"The members of the Alvechurch Association For The Prosecution Of Felons held their annual dinner at Mr. Thomas Merry's, Hopwood
Wharf Inn, on the 7th instant, which was numerously attended. A subscription was entered into for the purpose of presenting P.C. Martin, with a new year's gift,
for his indefatigable exertions in preventing offences, which the association was formed to prosecute. The accounts were examined and passed, no expense having been
incurred during the past year."
"Alvechurch Association For The Prosecution Of Felons"
Worcester Journal : January 19th 1856 Page 8
"Early on Wednesday morning last, a man named Joseph Hobbis, who lives by the canal side close to the mouth of the King's
Norton tunnel, was found dead, lying in the turnpike road, near Hopwood. The body was removed to a cottage near the Hopwood Wharf Inn, to await the coroner's
Bromsgrove & Droitwich Messenger : April 2nd 1870 Page 2
"An inquest was held at the Hopwood Wharf Inn, on Saturday last, before R. Docker, Esq., coroner, to inquire into the cause of death
of Joseph Hobbis, whose sudden death we reported in our last issue. From the evidence produced it appeared that Hobbis had been, on Tuesday, the 29th of March, to
repair a pump, at Hay Green, near Northfield, and had indulged freely in drink. A witness named Higgins, walked with him some distance on his way home, until they reached
Higgins's house, when witness asked Hobbis to leave his pump tools there, but he replied that he should want them. Deceased did not complain to witness that he felt
unwell, and witness did not notice anything unusual in him. Another witness saw a man lying on the road-side about twelve o'clock on Tuesday night, but thinking
it was a hoax, he did not render any assistance. A man named Grantham, living at the West Heath turnpike gate, a little before six o'clock on Wednesday morning,
found Hobbis lying with his face downward, by the road-side, quite dead, and not far from where he left the witness Higgins. Mr. J. S. Gaunt, surgeon, said he had
examined deoeased externally, but did not find any marks of violence about him that would tend to show that death had been caused by foul treatment. The jury returned
the verdict that "Deceased died from natural causes." It is remarkable that the father and grandfather of deceased both died very suddenly."
Bromsgrove & Droitwich Messenger : April 9th 1870 Page 4
"Old Tom Merry" has now left this inn, his farewell dinner having taken place on Monday, the 25th ult., when Mr. S. Willetts presided,
and Mr. John Davis was vice-chairman. Nearly fifty sat down to dinner, which was first-rate, including all the delicacies of the season, capitally served up,
with excellent wines, which were well appreciated. The company was afterwards largely augmented in number, and harmony and jollity prevailed till the hour of
breaking-up, which was not one of the "long" ones."
"Hopwood Wharf Inn"
Bromsgrove & Droitwich Messenger : May 7th 1870 Page 4
"A very melancholy event occurred at Alvechurch last week - the suicide of a person belonging to an old Alvechurch family, well known
and much respected. The particulars will be best related in the facts which transpired at an inquest held on Friday afternoon, at the Hopwood Wharf Inn, before
Ralph Docker, Esq. The evidence went to show that, on Wednesday morning the 27th, the deceased, Charles Herdman, was rescued from the canal by two young men who
were mowing near; he having evidently attempted suicide by drowning; after getting him out, they took him to Mr. Hanson's, farmer, at Hopwood, and Mrs.
Hanson got him to bed, and did all she could to make him comfortable; and, while attending to the drying of his clothes, heard a noise in his bed room;
thinking he was ill and sick, she went to see if she could assist him, when she was horrified to find him standing up, cutting his throat. Of course an alarm was
given, and medical aid obtained, but the unfortunate man had so far succeeded in his intent that he lived only about an hour. When brought in from the canal, Mrs.
Hanson asked him what induced his attempt at drowning himself; and he answered that he "had done something very bad;" but did not say more. [It
seems pretty certain that the poor fellow was suffering under an attack of delirium tremens]. The Jury, after hearing the evidence produced, returned a
verdict - "That deceased died from a wound in his throat inflicted by himself while in a state of unsound mind." The deceased was one of many instances
of the great misfortune it is to possess the ability - dangerous to the possessors - of amusing or delighting the public. When very young, his talent for
amusing a social private party, gradually drew him to more extended display of powers is this way, until he adapted it as a profession - a profession of which
the temptation and dangers are so proverbially well-known."
Redditch Indicator : August 6th 1870 Page 4
"An inquest was held at the Hopwood Wharf Inn on Friday, the 14th instant, by R. Docker, Esq., coroner, on the body of a man named
George Cox, who was found drowned in the canal near that place, on Thursday evening, August 6th. The evidence went to show that between nine and ten o'clock
on the night of August 6th, a Mrs. Whitby passing by heard a splash in the canal and went to the Hopwood Wharf Inn to enquire if anyone had gone out, when it was
assertained that deceased had shortly before left the house. Some men went out with a light and found deceased in the water quite dead. The jury returned a verdict of
Bromsgrove & Droitwich Messenger : August 22nd 1874 Page 1