Some history of the Loyal Lodge at Halesowen in the County of Worcestershire
This is a pub with an interesting background. On the first floor of the building there is a stone tablet inscribed with the date 1736 so it is a structure of some antiquity. However, the early history of the place is rather sketchy and a number of erroneous articles have appeared, both in print and online, regarding the opening date as a public-house. For example, in 1983, when discussing freemasonry, the Black Country Bugle stated: "in 1736 a headquarters was built at the bottom of Furnace Hill and christened The Loyal Lodge of Freegivers .... the order flourished for more than a hundred years from its Furnace Hill headquarters but was disbanded in the early 1850s and the Loyal Lodge then became a public-house." However, in the Shropshire Alehouse Recognizances of 1822 Reuben Parsons is listed as licensee of the Loyal Lodge at the Furnace - note that at this time Halesowen was a detached part of the county of Shropshire but was incorporated into Worcestershire in 1844. Perhaps because of this administrative anomaly other folks writing about the history of the Loyal Lodge have been looking in the wrong place?
So, how old is the Loyal Lodge in terms of being an alehouse? Well, I do not have a firm answer but it is certainly much older than some had previously thought. In terms of the building the stone tablet does at least provide a date of 1736. But who is represented by the letters G.I.M?
In the Spring of 2019 I asked Chad Hudson, licensee of the Loyal Lodge, to ask Heineken, who own the freehold, if they have any records for the building. In the digital age the historic deeds have often been scrapped but an electronic summary is generally produced in their place. Such documents are the easy way to determine the individuals represented by the initial letters. Generally, the upper initial represents a surname, with the two lower letters being the initials of a husband and wife occupying the property. The date usually represents the construction date of the building but can also be the marriage date of the couple or a year in which they moved into the property. If luck prevails, the names can often be found in the parish register.
Local historians suggest that the initials on this stone tablet represent members of the Grove family. This surname was certainly prevalent in the township of Hawne but I have yet to find a record with all three of these initials. Of course, the early occupants of the house could have attended another church or, indeed, worshipped at a non-conformist chapel so the parish register is not guaranteed to reveal their identity. If only Heineken would bother to look up their records!
It is thought that this was the building in which a freemason's lodge was established in the early-mid 18th century. This is also not easy to research as Masonic Provinces generally adopted the geographical boundaries of historic counties. As mentioned above, Halesowen was once a detached part of the county of Shropshire but was incorporated into Worcestershire in 1844. Certainly, the first lodge to be formed in the Worcestershire Masonic Province was at Stourbridge. The inaugural meeting was held in 1733 at the Talbot Hotel. Indeed, hotels and taverns were often intertwined with the early Masonic movement. The Grand Lodge of England itself was started in 1717 at the Goose and Grid Iron Tavern in London. Just a thought when considering a lodge being established at The Furnace!
I would have thought that some form of refreshment house was located near the furnace which roared next to the River Stour in earlier times. The site of the furnace can be seen on the northern side of the river on the above map extract dating from 1887. The pub, then known as the Loyal Lodge of Free Givers, is on the opposite side of the Stour. Hales Furnace at the foot of Furnace Hill was one of three in the township of Hawne, the others being at Hayseech and Hawne Forge. The blast furnace was established by the Lyttelton family in the early years of the 17th century. The river was dammed to facilitate the installation of a water wheel that powered the wooden and leather bellows forcing air into the furnace. The Lyttelton family owned plenty of woodland from which charcoal was made and then fed into the furnace along with iron ore. Sir Thomas Lyttelton leased the furnace to Richard Foley, the ironmaster who monopolised the trade in the local area. His support for the Royalist cause was underlined by his supply of weapons for Prince Rupert during the Civil War.
Colloquially known as Giddy Bridge, there was once a three-arched brick structure across the River Stour but this was replaced by the more plain and unadorned bridge when the road was widened. However, if one looks over the railings today it is possible to see the remains of a mill leat or part of a wider weir that dropped water on the blades of an overshot water wheel. This action would rotate an axle that powered the bellows to force air into the furnace. To illustrate this action I have included a photograph [below] of an overshot water wheel at Goyet in Wallonia.
Philip, grandson of Richard Foley, renewed the lease on Hales Furnace in 1669 and appointed John Downing as manager. The latter lived in a dwelling house next to the river. Philip Foley paid an annual rent to Sir Henry Lyttelton for Hales Furnace and also agreed to buy coppice wood from his estate. The finished pig iron was sent to forges operated by the Foley family in Birmingham and the Black Country where it was refined into bar iron. Declining profits resulted in Philip Foley leasing Hales Furnace to Birmingham ironmaster Humphrey Jennens during the mid-1670s. The furnace was later leased by Edward Knight of Cookley by which time over 800 tons of pig iron was being produced each year. Charcoal-fired furnaces were eventually replaced by those burning coke and the furnace ceased to operate in 1771-2. A forge hammer was powered by the traditional water wheel for some years.
In 1873 the Lyttelton family sold the site to tenant Joseph Sidaway [see above advertisement], a spade and shovel manufacturer. Seen on the above map extract, the works was still in operation after the First World War. A cluster of buildings, including the Loyal Lodge of Free Givers Inn, is marked on an earlier tithe map - most of which occupied the site of the present pub car park. Between the Loyal Lodge and the river was an orchard. Furnace Coppice was located to the west of the Loyal Lodge, much of which is still wooded with Shelah Road cutting through it.
In 1822 Reuben Parsons was licensee of the Loyal Lodge. The son of Jason Littley Parsons and Sarah Baker, he was born around 1773. He married Ann Harris at Clent in June 1793. The Parsons family kept the house for several decades. In 1825 the ironworks with forge and rolling mill was put up for sale after the failure of John Burr who was declared bankrupt. Two lots of the auction dealt with the ironworks and associated buildings. However, other lots also held under a lease from Lord Lyttelton, included dwelling houses, one of which may have been the Loyal Lodge of Free Givers Inn.
Born in the summer of 1802, Reuben and Ann's son Samuel was in charge of the Loyal Lodge by 1837. In November of that year he was mentioned in a newspaper notice advertising the sale of an adjoining house. He was designated as the person to show interested parties around the property that included a gun welder's shop and outbuildings. During the 1850s Samuel's niece Anne Bate lived on the premises and worked as a housekeeper. Her mother had once held this position. Samuel's younger brother Reuben worked as a farm labourer, possibly up the hill at Hawne Bank. However, most people living around the pub in the locale known as 'Furnace' were engaged in the nail trade. This included other members of the Parsons clan.
In 1861 the unmarried Samuel Parsons and his sister Eliza Harris were the only occupants of the Loyal Lodge. If the house was fairly quiet then all around was certainly noisy as a whole host of industrial activities were being conducted around the crossroads at Furnace Bridge. A new clatter emerged in the 1860s when the railway extension from Old Hill to Halesowen was opened. The line was first proposed by the West Midlands Railway. However, this company was absorbed by the Great Western Railway in August 1863 and construction of the track was undertaken by them. The project was completed and the line opened on March 1st 1878. The Victorian contractors, even with a tunnel to dig through Haden Hill, knew how to get a job done and deliver on time.
Samuel Parsons supplemented his income from the sale of beer by supplying groceries to the local populace. He died in November 1866 and the licence of the Loyal Lodge of Free Givers passed to his brother Reuben. Another brother, Phineas, was running the Royal Exchange, a beer house in Wednesbury. Reuben Parsons had stuck at his farming career and had risen from labourer to farm bailiff. He had married Susannah Colwood at the Church of St. Thomas in Dudley. He was 54 years-old when he took over the reins at the Loyal Lodge. It was clearly a tough slog to turn a profit at the tavern because Susannah had to work as a nail-maker. Although born in Dudley, her family had moved to the Black Country from Shropshire.
Confirmation that the Loyal Lodge was a homebrew house came via a newspaper advertisement of June 1873 when it would seem that Reuben and Susannah were leaving the trade. The couple advertised the "Household Furniture, Brewing Plant, and Effects, consisting of 7 Hogshead, 4 Half-Hogshead and other Casks, Old and Fresh Ale, Mash Tub, Gathering Tub, 100-Gallon Copper Boiler, Oak Dresser, 2 Eight-Day Clocks, in oak cases, 30-hour ditto, Oak and Painted Cupboards, Lot of Ware, 3-pull Beer Machine and Piping, Mahogany Horsehair-seated Sofa, Mahogany Horsehair-seated Windsor and other Chairs, Mahogany 2-Leaf Table, three Oak ditto, Mahogany Chest of Drawers, Mahogany Bureau, 2 sets of 4-Post Bedsteads and Furniture, Feather Beds, Mattresses, Blankets, Sheets and other Articles, all to be sold by Mr. S. Leonard, at the Loyal Lodge on July 1st 1873."
The sale of the contents was prior to the auction of the Loyal Lodge itself, the freehold of which was sold on September 2nd, 1873, along with the cluster of adjoining properties. The advertisement [above] provides good detail and an excellent picture of the pub and surrounding cottages that were sold in separate lots. Bundled in with the public-house as part of Lot 1, the adjoining cottage was occupied by the coal miner Josiah Nock and his wife Sarah. The couple's son Alfred also worked as a miner. The people renting properties as mentioned in Lot 2 were Daniel Jones who worked in the former iron works as a spade-maker as did George Male. Jason Tromans slogged away making nails for a living, whilst Phineas Parsons was a vice maker. All of these men had around three or four children living with them and their wives - most were born in this location.
The sale of the Loyal Lodge seemed to mark the end of the Parsons family running the house. Reuben continued to work in the grocery business until his death in October 1878. I am not sure of the exact date that Thomas Williams took over as licensee of the Loyal Lodge but he was listed as publican in the 1876 Post-Office Directory for Worcestershire. He had two spells at the pub as his wife Harriet held the licence in the late 1890s. Although at that time he was recorded as a retired publican, he no doubt assisted in the business. There was another notable Thomas Williams making a living nearby. He was in the business of nail-making, a trade in which he made more money than most. By the end of the decade he was employing 12 men in his manufactory. He later expanded his business into chain-making. The Williams family enjoyed cleaner air up the hill as they resided in Newfield House, ironically not far from the modern-day Masonic Hall which was established in December 1951 by former pupils of Halesowen Grammar School. The Williams family had interests in other licensed houses in the area. Frederick Williams, the youngest son of the nail and chain manufacturer kept the New Inn on Birmingham Road for many years.
Richard Cooper was the licensee of the Loyal Lodge of Free Givers Inn throughout the 1880s. Within the Halesowen division at this time there were 53 old-licensed houses and 20 beer houses. There were also 15 persons licensed to sell beer for consumption off the premises, and two persons holding wine licenses. The total number of licenses was 90. Born on the Rubery side of Frankley in 1832, Richard Cooper moved to Old Hill and married Hannah Poppett. The couple established a home in Wright's Lane from where he worked as a labourer at a local pit. By the early 1860s they had moved a short distance to Cherry Orchard where they lived with four children. They also spent some years in Netherton. When Richard and Hannah Cooper were running the Loyal Lodge they were helped by their younger daughters Charlotte and Martha. The Cooper family remained in charge of the house until the early-mid 1890s; Richard and Hannah then retired to a cottage near Corngreaves Hall at Cradley Heath. Richard Cooper lived a long life; he died in May 1912 at the age of 87.
Richard Cooper almost certainly continued the tradition of home-brewing at the Loyal Lodge. The brewery plant was not sold off until 1900. The last person to produce ales behind the house was probably Harry Letts. He had a dubious track record in terms of accounting and was fined heavily by the Inland Revenue in 1890 for not declaring the amount of malt and sugar he was using at the Beech Tree Inn on Gorsty Hill. He was found guilty of brewing more beer than he declared and of producing ale of a higher strength than that on which duty was paid.
Harry Letts was born in Halesowen in 1860. After serving an apprenticeship in the drapery trade, he married Ellen Weobley at Stourbridge in 1883. Born in Dudley, she had moved to Halesowen to work for her uncle Ephraim Ball, a nail merchant trading in Great Cornbow. The couple went into the licensed trade soon after they were married. They kept the aforementioned Beech Tree Inn for a number of years before moving down the hill to run the Beehive Inn at Old Hill. It was at that house that Ellen Letts was violently assaulted by a customer. In the subsequent court case held in September 1898, she told the magistrates that Henry Howell came into the Beehive Inn and asked for a bottle of soda water. She said that he was very drunk and refused to serve him. Demanding a drink from her, she told The Bench, Howell jumped over the counter and struck her in the face. Harry Letts who was outside at the time came into the house and, together with some other men, prevented him from striking his wife again. It was stated that Howell then left the bar but went into the smoke room and threw a glass through a window. He was arrested outside the Beehive Inn when Police-Constable Beech found him being disorderly and using bad language. The drunkard, by this time, had several marks on his forehead and was bleeding. His defence solicitor claimed that undue violence had been used by some of the customers when ejecting him from the house. The Bench found Howell guilty of assaulting Ellen Letts, for being drunk and disorderly and also for refusing to quit the premises. He was fined a total of £2 for the offences, an amount that put quite a dent in the wage packet of a working man in those days.
When running the Loyal Lodge, Harry and Ellen Letts took on Thomas Thompson as a pot-man in September 1900. Rather naively in my view, within nine days of employing him, Harry Letts sent him to put over £9 in the cash box upstairs. He also lent Thompson his pocket knife. The next morning the publican missed £3 12s. from the cash box. He also noted a quantity of cigars missing, along with his pocket knife. It transpired that the pot-man had drugged the landlord, took the money and cigars, and afterwards spent the money in having a spree at Malvern. It was reported that he returned to Kingswinford Workhouse in a destitute state, and was subsequently arrested. At the court case David Withers, a wagoner, told the magistrates that about 7.45 on the morning that Thompson was missed, he and another man were going up Haden Hill, when the pot-man asked for a lift. The wagoner stated that Thompson treated them to a drink, and gave them two cigars each. He also showed them a quantity of money. They took the absent employee to Old Hill Railway Station, as he said he was going to Smethwick, and Withers said he did not see him again. Following his arrest, Thompson told the police that he had spent the money, comprising of two sovereigns, three half-sovereigns, a shilling, and a shilling's worth of coppers. He also confessed to stealing about forty cigars. He also said, "Letts thought he was an honest chap, but he was mistaken." He was committed to the Quarter Sessions where he was sentenced to 15 months' hard labour.
Harry Letts probably took on Thomas Thompson as a replacement for another employee who died in the pub some days earlier. An inquest was held by Mr. E. Docker at the public-house regarding the death of 48 year-old Joseph Priest who died suddenly at work. From the evidence at the inquest it appeared that Joseph Priest rose early on a Saturday and went about his work as usual. However, at mid-morning he complained of feeling unwell, and the landlord and another man placed him in a chair. Harry Letts gave him some brandy before bathing his forehead and hands. However, the man expired almost immediately afterwards. Dr. Arkwright made a post-mortem examination, and attributed Joseph Priest's death to heart disease. A verdict of "Death from natural causes was returned."
Harry and Ellen Letts only remained for a short spell and, leaving the licensed trade, later moved to Smethwick.
In May 1900 an auction was held at the Loyal Lodge for "the whole of the Brewing Plant and other effects, comprising two Brewing Boilers, Doors and Bars, Oval Mash Tub, nearly new Collecting Square, two nearly new Wood Vats and Frame, Collecting Tubs, Round Tubs, Hogshead and half hogshead casks, all clean and sweet, Banjo Wort Spout, Wort Ladle and Skimmer, nearly new Sykes' Hydrometer in mahogany case and numerous other effects." This marked the end of home-brewed ales at the house. The Loyal Lodge was now supplied with beers from a common brewer. Ownership of the property had passed to William Oliver and Sons Ltd., a brewery based at the Talbot Hotel at Cradley. The Loyal Lodge was one of 17 public-houses the company would operate.
Under brewery ownership, the licensees running the Loyal Lodge in the early 20th century were managers rather than tenants. In 1901 the pub was being kept by William and Ann Browning. He had moved north from his native Hampshire and married Wednesbury-born Ann Bate at Lye in November 1896. They had previously lived in Old Hill where their son Herbert was born.
At times William Browning had some problems keeping an orderly house. On the Whitsun holiday in 1902 Joseph Bateman, a 23 year-old labourer from Blackheath, was charged with refusing to quit the Loyal Lodge and also with assaulting the landlord and also attacking Police Constable King. It was alleged that Bateman visited the house on Whit Tuesday, created a disturbance, and refused to leave when requested to do so by William Browning. The labourer was ejected, but he assaulted the landlord in a violent manner. Police Constable King, who took Bateman into custody, was also badly assaulted. The troublesome punter was fined £4, including costs, or two months' imprisonment. Perhaps the Browning family decided that the licensed trade was not for them and they later emigrated to the United States. Ann Browning died in 1920 at Aiken, South Carolina.
Henry and Hannah Hampton were running the Loyal Lodge during the mid-Edwardian period. Both hailing from Cradley Heath, the couple had previously kept the Malt Shovel at Romsley. Henry was a shoemaker by trade and he continued in this line of work when not pulling pints. Hannah died at the Loyal Lodge in February 1908. Henry re-married in the following year to Elizabeth Smith. The couple continued to run the Loyal Lodge along with Henry's daughter Gladys.
Had the Loyal Lodge remained in the ownership of William Oliver and Sons Ltd., the pub would have become part of Darby's Brewery Ltd. as the West Bromwich firm took over the Cradley-based business in 1935. However, the Loyal Lodge was acquired by Thomas Plant and Co. Ltd. of Netherton. This brewery was taken over by Ansell's Brewery Ltd. and, accordingly, the Loyal Lodge was operated by the Aston brewery for decades.
A large crowd gathered at the Loyal Lodge on July 30th 1921 when Sammy 'Pigiron' Whitehouse completed a four-mile walk carrying a hundredweight of pig iron. It was one of many feats of strength that the strongman from Darby End carried out during his life. Undertaking heavy work on canal barges and in a foundry, he earned the 'Pigiron' nickname following this walk from Dudley's Top Church and following a route through Netherton along the Halesowen Road. He was no doubt in need of a beer at the Loyal Lodge following his exploit. The publican at this time was William Powell. This may be the publican with his family outside the building when the frontage was covered in stucco.
Albert Hadley was licensee of the Loyal Lodge from the late 1920s until his death in 1936. His wife later re-married to Cyril O'Rourke and it was under this surname that she held the licence at the start of World War Two. Cyril O'Rourke may have helped to run the pub when he was not out-and-about working as a postman. Elizabeth's two sons, George and Frederick, lived on the premises. Involved in the war effort, they both worked within aeroplane manufacturing, possibly travelling on the train to the Austin car plant at Longbridge.
The Loyal Lodge can be seen here in the livery of Ansell's in 1973, though the company had become part of Allied Breweries. The licensee at this time was George Armitage. A sign of the changing times of industry during the early 1970s was that a computer centre was erected close to the site of the old blast furnace. On the other side of Furnace Hill some buildings have survived from the days when it was the Oak Lodge Haulage Yard.
On March 3rd 1987 Allied informed the licensing justices that they intended to close the Loyal Lodge on April 27th for a major refurbishment. This work cost almost £200,000 as it involved taking the pub back in time as part of the Holt, Plant and Deakin brand. The interior was made to look Victorian - or at least how the marketing department considered what a Victorian pub looked like. The great thing however was that the pub, along with the other houses trading under this banner, were supplied with beers produced in a small microbrewery at the New Inn at Langley. I used to drink in the Loyal Lodge with friends on a Sunday evening during the early 1990s and the beer was great.
The good times lasted until the approach of the new millennium when, like the remainder of the Holt, Plant and Deakin mini-empire, it went pear-shaped. The Loyal Lodge joined the queue of former Allied Domecq properties to be refurbished. Following another refit, the pub was reopened in July 2000.
In April 2006 a couple named Dave and Mandy took over at the Loyal Lodge which was then operated by Punch Taverns. They combined entertainment with pub grub and carvery meals. They introduced live music on Friday nights with customers providing the, er, entertainment on Saturday nights via a Karaoke. The couple also held raffles to raise funds for The Children's Hospital.
In August 2017 Heineken completed their acquisition of Punch Taverns resulting in the takeover of 1,895 public houses, including the Loyal Lodge on Furnace Hill. Chad Hudson and Sarah Price were running the pub during the transition. The couple greeted customers to the new-look pub that had been refurbished at a cost of £250,000. Sarah's mother had worked as a relief manager in a number of pubs and some of her family are in the licensed trade. Conversely, the Loyal Lodge was Chad's first experience of being on the other side of the counter. Hailing from nearby Brandhall, he had previously worked as a transport manager for the Automobile Association. In April 2019 I asked him if he was enjoying life as a publican and he told me that he loved it. Certainly, he and Sarah had proved to be succesful pub operators and were about to take on their second outlet, the New Inn at Bournheath.
This signboard hung outside the Loyal Lodge when the house was operated by Holt, Plant and Deakin. The sign certainly bestows a patriotic flavour though I am slightly confused by the use of what looks like an officer in the Royal Air Force set against a London skyline. Perhaps a post-war publican of the Loyal Lodge had served in the R.A.F.?
Following the pub's days as a Holt, Plant and Deakin outlet, the sign in the new millennium retained its military theme. In this case, a soldier from what looks like the Napoleonic period is making a bugle call.
It was not until recent times that the Loyal Lodge had a signboard bearing the Square and Compasses, key symbols of Freemasonry used in rituals as emblems to teach symbolic lessons.
"Mr. Docker, Coroner, held an inquest on Tuesday at the Loyal Lodge of Free Givers Inn, Furnace Hill, on the body of Thomas Gibbons,
about 70 years of age, who had been found dead in the River Stour. The deceased came from Birmingham to Halesowen on Friday, and on the same evening he visited a
public-house, and was not seen again until some boys found his body lying in shallow water on Saturday morning. Dr. Ker stated that he was of opinion that death
was not due to drowning, but to either heart disease or dropsy. The jury returned a verdict of "Found dead."
Worcestershire Chronicle : February 16th 1884 Page 7
"A woman named Mary Smith, residing at Furnace Hill, near Halesowen, Worcestershire, has met with a terrible death. While in the act of
reaching an article from the mantelpiece over the kitchen fire her clothes became ignited, and she was speedily enveloped in flames. The neighbours were unable to enter
the cottage owing to the doors being fastened. A door was eventually forced open, and the unfortunate woman was found lying on the floor literally roasted to death."
"Roasted to Death"
Worcestershire Chronicle : December 5th 1903 Page 1
"On Thursday morning a labourer, named William Hackett , living at Furnace Hill, Halesowen, and employed at the works
of Messrs. Somers and Co., Halesowen, was badly crushed by a fall of iron. His injuries were very serious, and he was at once conveyed to the Queen's Hospital,
Birmingham, but died shortly after admission."
"Halesowen Man Killed"
County Express : July 15th 1911 Page 5
"On Wednesday Joseph Walker, of Furnace Hill, Halesowen, was riding along Halesowen Road, Old Hill, when the horse while passing a
tramcar turned a complete somersault falling in front of the car. The driver, William Klee, pulled up smartly, but the life-guard of the car was smashed. The horse
was bruised, and Walker had a narrow escape."
County Express : November 30th 1912 Page 5
"An historic Halesowen pub has been saved with a £250,000 refurbishment creating 14 new jobs. The Loyal Lodge has been transformed by
pub operator Punch and publicans Chad and Sarah Hudson. The Furnace Hill pub was closed for six weeks during the refurbishment and the Mayor of Dudley Councillor
Steve Waltho attended its official opening. A dining area has been created and a traditional pub-grub menu is now available including Director's Ale Pie and
Director's Ale Sausages. The pub's layout has been altered to include two new snug areas with open fires and booth seating, the beer garden upgraded and extended.
Publican Sarah Hudson said: "We are a family run business and our aim is to provide a welcoming, friendly environment for our customers. We are excited about
introducing food for the first time and have appointed an excellent chef who has a wealth of experience in getting new restaurants up and running. We have some great
dishes on the menu that will offer a value for money dining experience." She added: "Chad and I are delighted with the transformation, and thanks to the
support and investment we've received from Punch, we have a pub to be proud of. We've had a great response from customers old and new and are looking forward
to building on the pub's success going forward." A new entertainment programme has started including a designated darts area, quiz nights, poker nights, open
mike sessions and live music entertainment. Becki Hewson, new business development manager for Punch, said: "The work carried out at The Loyal Lodge represents
a significant investment for both ourselves and Chad and Sarah who have approached the refurbishment with boundless energy and enthusiasm. They are both very passionate
about their business and I have no doubt that they will continue to listen to their customers' needs and make further improvements and changes in the future. I wish
them every success and look forward to continually supporting them as they do so."
"Halesowen pub given new lease of life
with £250,000 refurbishment"
by Adam Smith in
Halesowen News & Star : July 21st 2018 Page 18