History of the British Queen at Oldbury in the county of Worcestershire.


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Some history of The British Queen

The British Queen is located on the corner of Birmingham Road and Popes Lane. With a large tube factory on one side and a motorway bridge on the other, along with other surrounding industrial buildings, it is not the most aesthetically-pleasing part of Oldbury but, to their credit, the people running the British Queen won the Sandwell Pub of the Year award in 2018 as featured in the Express and Star newspaper. One must remember that industry has been a key part of the locality throughout the 20th century. This was traditionally a house where factory workers would slake their thirst after toiling in a works nearby. Note the Spon Lane Glass Works in the top right-hand side of this map extract. Some of the people running the British Queen worked at this factory once called the British Crown Glass Company but more famously known as Chance Brothers & Co.

Oldbury : Map Showing British Queen and Blakeley Hall Colliery [1889]

This map extract dated 1889 shows the locality in which the British Queen traded in the late Victorian era. The pub was at the heart of a miniature community midway between Oldbury and Smethwick. Notice that there were still open fields to the north and south of the Birmingham Road. The pub would have benefited from some passing trade on this old road connecting Birmingham and Dudley. The road was turnpiked in the mid-18th century. Note the tram line had been laid on this route by the time of this map. Steam trams started to operate four years earlier in 1885. A tram depot was located to the east of the British Queen and its employees may have been patrons of the house. However, it was the Springfield Chemical Works and the Tharsis Sulphur and Copper Works that formed a large part of the industrial customers in the late 19th century.

Oldbury : British Queen and Jordan's Brewery Tap [1905]

The British Queen can be seen here in 1905 advertising John Jordan Ales. These were produced to the rear of the pub at the British Queen Brewery established by John Jordan in the mid-1860s. The firm produced beers for a number of outlets that John Jordan & Co. acquired over the years.

In addition to the British Queen, the brewery once operated the following public houses in the Oldbury area: New Inns, Halesowen Street; Bell Inn, Rood End; Old Barn, Church Street; Barrel, Nelson Street, Tat Bank; Beehive, Birmingham Street; and the Beehive, Bromford Road; Cross Keys on Tatbank Road; Royal Oak and Manchester Stores at Park Street; Spread Eagle in Brades Road and The Tiger in Eel Street. Just up the road at West Bromwich, the company owned the the New Inn at Ault Street off Spon Lane, the White Horse in Phoenix Street, the Smith's Arms on Pleasant Street, the Old Crown in George Street and The Lion in High Street. The Bird in Hand on Oldbury Road at Smethwick was also a Jordan's house. The firm also owned the Acorn at Cockshed Lane in Halesowen, the New Inns at Flood Street in Dudley and The Plough on Aston Street in Tipton. In Birmingham the brewery had a small presence at the White Horse in Summer Lane and the Beehive in Unett Street at Hockley. There was also an off licence at No.66 Blythe Street in Ladywood. Curiously, the company also operated the Four Counties Inn at No Man's Heath, near Tamworth, a fairly long journey for the dray!

No Man's Heath : Four Counties Inn [1949]

Whilst I am here, I may as well mention the Four Counties Inn. At first, it seemed an illogical acquisition on the part of John Jordan & Co. However, after a little research it turns out that Charles Jordan, brother of the brewer John Jordan, was the vicar at No Man's Heath. Accordingly, following church services, he and his parishioners could retire to the Four Counties Inn for a tipple of his brother's ales. From humble origins, Charles Jordan trained at the Church at Gloucester College and Queen's College in Birmingham. He was ordained deacon in 1879, and priest in 1882 at Lichfield. As his obituary states "His chief work was Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Rowley Regis, Quarry Bank, and Tipton. During his residence at Rowley Regis he had the unique experience of baptising 315 persons at one service, and 105 at another." In 1897 he was presented by the Bishop of Lichfield to the living at No Man's Heath where "his sympathetic and kindly disposition won him many friends."

The British Queen appears to have formerly traded as the Queen's Head. In the census of 1861 the house is recorded a short distance from the New Inn so ties in with addresses and location. The census enumerator recorded Edward Green as publican and provision dealer. He kept the Queen's Head with his wife Elizabeth.

The building faced the Blakeley Hall Colliery across the other side of the Birmingham Road. A timber-framed moated farm house had once stood in fields from around the 14th century. Blakeley Hall was a house of some importance and thought to be linked to the Abbey at Halesowen. The farm house was rebuilt and the moat was eventually ploughed over. Reuben Plant, a Wordsley mine agent, headed a company to exploit the coal seam under the Blakeley estate. However, combined with bringing up coal from the neighbouring Bromford Colliery, they got into financial difficulties. After much wheeler-dealing, takeovers and buy-outs, the Blakeley Hall Colliery Company was established in 1877. Several major faults made the economic viability of the mine somewhat precarious and, combined with legal wranglings over rent to the landowner, the company decided to finish coal extraction in 1884.

Whilst Edward and Elizabeth Green were running the Queen's Head, future owner John Jordan was starting out in business at the nearby New Inn. In the 1850s he had, like his Kinver-born father and most of his siblings, worked in a glass factory whilst living at Parsonage Place. His workplace was probably the Spon Lane Glass Works that can be seen on the map extract above. Indeed, when running the New Inn he was still working as a glass gatherer. His second wife Ann would have tended to the pub when he was working shifts. There were four young children living with them at the New Inn but the couple were able to employ Ann Hughes as a general servant. The children, William, Sarah, Mary and Ann, were from his first marriage to Catherine Baker. She had died in 1861.

John Jordan is thought to have moved his family from the New Inn to the Queen's Head in 1865. This was almost certainly when the sign was changed to the British Queen. As a brewer John Jordan enjoyed early success and the business grew during the 1870s. Like many brewers, once established in business, he took an interest in public affairs. In the late 1880s he was nomimated for a seat on the Worcestershire County Council. In business, he served as a delegate in the Licensed Victuallers' National Defence League.

Oldbury : Advertisement by John Jordan of the British Queen Brewery [1881]

The advertisement notice above appeared in the local newspapers during 1881 and stated that "John Jordan begs to return thanks to his numerous friends for past favours, and although he has not been able to supply all orders, now solicits a continuance of their patronage, and begs to inform them and the public generally, that after twenty-one years practical experience in the brewing trade, he has now completed an entire new Brewing Plant, one that there is nothing like in this country, whereby he will be enabled to execute promptly all orders with which he may be hereafter favoured. All customers are solicited to expect the same. Prompt attention in every case may be relied upon in future." Clearly John Jordan was not one to undersell himself or the business when stating that his new brewing plant was like no other! His statement also indicates that he had been brewing since 1860 so it would seem that he honed his skills at the New Inn.

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A maltings was erected in Simpson Street and this was in operation by 1881, the year of the above advertisement. This was determined by a local newspaper article that reported on three men who were found guilty of stealing a fowl belonging to Mr. John Jordan of the British Queen Brewery. At the court, Harry Smallwood, a labourer employed by the brewer, saw "all the fowls safe at the malthouse in Simpson Street." but later missed one of them. The men were spotted picking up one of the birds and arrested by Police Constable Williams. James Watson and Samuel Smith were each fined 10 shillings and costs but Rodger Burns was sent to gaol with hard labour for one month.

Oldbury : Advertisement by Jordan & Co. Brewery [1907]

Increased brewing capacity was achieved by using the No.2 Brewery at Crosswells Road in Langley. John Jordan meanwhile moved out to the countryside, leaving his son William in charge of day-to-day operations. In 1891 the brewery's founder, along with his wife Ann, his father James, and his brother David, were residing at The Laurels, a residence located between Wood's Farm and Whitlock's End Farm on Bill's Lane near Shirley in Warwickshire.

Taking over from his father, William Jordan lived close to the British Queen Brewery with his wife Alice. Joseph Archer came in to run the British Queen pub. He was not simply a manager but had become a member of the brewing clan. In 1888 the former labourer had married Mary, the daughter of brewery founder John Jordan. This was her second marriage - her first husband, Tipton-born Joseph Davis, had died in 1881. The couple had two children, Elizabeth and Florence, before she passed away in 1890. Joseph continued to live at the British Queen with his two children, along with Annie and James Davis, the children from Mary's first marriage. William Spiers, clerk to the family brewery, lived next to the British Queen.

In 1892 Joseph Archer, publican at the British Queen, re-married to Harriet Mason at the West Bromwich Register Office. Born in nearby Tividale, she had been living in Birmingham Street whilst working as a hollowware packer. The couple had three children in the 1890s but left the licensed trade. In the early Edwardian period the family were living at Smethwick from where Joseph worked in the glass industry, almost certainly at the Chance factory.

Edgbaston : Former Home of the Brewer John Jordan at No.15 Frederick Road [2018]

Perhaps we will never know the reason, but in the late 1890s John Jordan had returned to Oldbury from his country home near Shirley. Perhaps he longed to be back working in the Black Country, or maybe he just missed the brewery and everything associated with the trade. Although he held the licence of the British Queen, he did not live at the pub. With his increased status and affluence, he and his wife resided at No.15 Frederick Road in Edgbaston. Son William and his wife Alice were living locally at No.67 Vicarage Road. The Jordan family appointed Charles Underhill as manager of the British Queen.

Born in Smethwick in 1844, Charles Underhill kept the British Queen with his wife Emma. He had spent much of his working life as a clerk at the Chance glassworks. Indeed, following his short spell at the pub he returned to this career whilst Emma found work as a sewing machinist. Their daughters seemed to be doing well towards the end of the Edwardian period. Florence was training to be a nurse, Edith was working as a school teacher, and Lilian was the manager of a boot shop. Whilst the Underhill family were at the British Queen, James Taylor, the brewery drayman and driver, was living around the corner in Popes Lane.

Oldbury : Ground Floor Plan of the British Queen [1905]

This plan affords a glimpse of the interior of the British Queen during the early Edwardian period. A central doorway on the Birmingham Road frontage led to a passage with the tap room to the left and a public bar with servery to the right. The passage led to a smoke room to the rear of the main building. The British Queen had a club room on the first floor. This was directly above part of the smoke room, and the whole of the coal house and kitchen. The accommodation for the publican's family was above the tap room, bar and sitting room.

The licence of the British Queen changed in 1913 following the death of the brewery founder John Jordan. The brewer passed away when staying at the Hydro Hotel at Llandudno. His will is a measure of the success of his career. He left over £56,570, a considerable sum in 1913. In today's money that amount would make a millionaire of someone. The estate was divided between his daughter Ann, granddaughter Mary Ann Davis and son-in-aw Nathaniel Sadler. The latter was a brewer at the nearby Windsor Brewery in Brades Village. He had married Ann Jordan at Quinton in 1883. Although the Windsor Brewery ceased production in 1927, descendants of Nathaniel Sadler would emerge as brewers many decades later at Lye.

Edward Carpenter was the new name on the licence plate in 1913. The former brewery labourer kept the British Queen with his wife Elizabeth. At the end of the Edwardian period, the couple were running the Crown Inn at the Bull Ring in Halesowen. Between 1911 and 1913 they kept the New Inn at Ault Street in West Bromwich, another house operated by Jordan & Co. So, the move to the British Queen was through their link to the brewery. Following their short spell at Oldbury they moved to the Crown and Anchor at Charlemont where they remained for two decades.

Oldbury : Map Showing the British Queen and Brewery [1919]

Edward Carpenter was succeeded by David Round as licensee of the British Queen. He moved the short distance from the King's Arms in Birmingham Street. He was publican at a time when the brewery was somewhat in decline. The business was affected by the death of its founder and son William Jordan was getting on in years. The climate was compounded with poor trading conditions and excise duty increases. Moreover, the company had lost some of its tied estate as part of the pub reform movement of the early 20th century. The large breweries, keen to expand their property portfolios, started to sniff around companies such as Jordan's. The general strategy was to buy the company, sell off the brewery and other assets, then retain the public houses as additional outlets for their own products.

In 1920 Mitchell's and Butler's acquired some, if not all, of the houses of John Jordan & Co. Some sources state that the brewery was wound up and the tied houses sold to the Cape Hill brewery rather than a total sale of all assets. In the case of the British Queen the executors of John Jordan opted to lease the property rather than relinquish the freehold. On March 1st 1920 Mitchell's and Butler's agreed to pay the sum of £2,429.1s.6d. on a lease ending in September 1958. The Cape Hill brewery also paid £68.10s.6d. for the fixtures of the British Queen. In addition there was an agreement to pay an annual rent of £20 to William Jordan who had moved to a house called Meadowcroft at West Hagley.

The lease agreement lasted until January 3rd 1936 when Mitchell's and Butler's paid a further sum of £1,250 for the freehold. The sale was not only for the British Queen but also for Nos.135 & 137 Birmingham Road, along with Nos.2, 4 & 6 Popes Lane. These houses had, in the past, been used by John Jordan & Co. to house some of their workforce at the brewery. These properties brought an annual rental income of £70.4s.0d. However, these dwellings were demolished in May 1939 when the brewery made alterations to the British Queen.

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David Round was the manager of the British Queen during this transitional period. He was succeeded by Alfred Beasley, an M&B employee who had earlier kept the White Horse Cellars on Constitution Hill at Birmingham. After his short spell at the British Queen he took over at the Lee Bridge Tavern on Dudley Road in Winson Green. Alfred Beasley had served in the First World War, as did his successor Isaac Hulse who was in the Royal Engineers.

Bert Slim, licensee between 1926 and 1928, was injured in the First World War. Born in Great Bridge in 1891, he spent his early years at Cradley High Street where his parents, George and Louisa, kept the Holly Bush Inn. They left the pub during the Edwardian period and operated a greengrocery shop, also on Cradley High Street. By this time, Bert was working as a conductor for the Dudley & Stourbridge District Tram Company. His parents went back behind a bar servery when they managed the Bridge Inn and the Waggon and Horses, both houses being on Reddal Hill Road between Cradley Heath and Old Hill. During the war Bert Slim served with the Coldstream Guards but had to return to England to undergo an operation at Cambridge Hospital after being hit in the groin by a piece of shrapnel at La Bassée in northern France.

La Bassée in ruins after World War One

One of the first pubs Bert Slim managed was the Spring Meadow at Old Hill. Prior to managing the British Queen he was manager of the Holly Bush Inn on Cradley Heath's High Street between 1920 and 1924. He then kept the Queen's Head on Corngreaves Road in Cradley Heath for two years before moving to Oldbury. After his spell running the British Queen he would manage The Crossways in College Road at Erdington in the early 1930s. However, he married May Lyndon and returned to the Black Country before the Second World War and took over the Waggon and Horses at Reddal Hill, a Banks's pub that his parents had kept when he was injured during the war. He and his wife May remained at the Waggon and Horses for a lengthy spell, he was the licensee between 1938 to 1955.

Oldbury : Ground Floor Plan of the British Queen [1934]

Bert Slim was succeeded at the British Queen by Leslie Suckling who, after five years at the helm, moved to the Army & Navy, another Mitchell's and Butler's house in Great Brook Street at Ashted in Birmingham. However, Leslie Suckling was the licensee when the Cape Hill brewery made changes to the ground floor layout of the British Queen. The plans were drawn up by the brewery's survey office in September 1934. The plan [above] shows that the central passage was removed and the front bar enlarged with an extended servery. An outdoor with a new corner entrance was created in the former bar. Serviced by a hatch counter, the tap room was moved to the old smoke room which now occupied the former sitting room of the publican. Overall, there was more drinking space in the building, though the publican and family lost a private sitting room. The club room on the first floor was, however, disused by this point so some use could be made of that interior space - at the personal expense of the licensee no doubt!

Oldbury : Will of Harry Griffiths of the British Queen [1939]

1933 saw the start of a long spell at the British Queen by Evelyn Griffiths. For the first six years her husband Harry held the licence but he died in 1939 when she became the landlady. Harry, a former brass dresser, was born in Birmingham in 1882. Evelyn hailed from Handsworth. When the couple took over as managers, the British Queen was selling 491 barrels per year but by 1939 this had increased to 582, a significant improvement in sales. Evelyn Griffiths may have badgered the brewery to improve the living conditions at the British Queen and may have used her good sales record as leverage. Accordingly, in 1939 Mitchell's and Butler's submitted plans for further alterations at the British Queen. The object of the alterations was to improve the living quarters, a new kitchen and larder to be built onto the existing kitchen, which became a private sitting room. It was also proposed to fence in as a garden and private yard those portions of land belonging to the brewery, and formerly occupied by the cottages that had been demolished.

Evelyn Griffiths remained as landlady of the British Queen until 1952 before she was succeeded by Thomas Dunn. He was licensee for five years before moving to the Perry Hill Tavern, a pub that had been built on the site of Cooper's Farm and opened in 1956 by Mitchell's and Butler's.

Kenilworth : Ford [c.1930]

The 1960s was ushered in by George Insley and John Geobey. The latter kept the British Queen with his wife Phyllis. The couple were married just after the Second World War and had previously lived at Hay Mills from where John Geobey worked as a lorry driver. In this line of work he was hauled before the magistrates during October 1956 in a rather odd case in which he was charged with drenching a chauffeur at Kenilworth. He was fined when it was found that he had driven his lorry without consideration by travelling too fast through the Kenilworth Ford. Mr. J. H. Cawley, chauffeur, of Grounds Farm, Kenilworth, told the magistrates that " he was driving his car slowly through the ford when the defendant's lorry, coming in the opposite direction, went through the water at speed. He and his wife were drenched by the big splash that was made. Cawley said he turned his car round and chased Geobey and stopped him in Warwick Road, Kenilworth, where Geobey told him: "Go to hell." John Geobey denied the offence and said his speed was slow because he was keeping an eye on a child paddling in the ford. He thought the trouble must have been caused by a vehicle in front of him. The Bench did not believe his story and fined the lorry driver £3.

Cyril Morrall had worked as a butcher in Smethwick in his early career. Herbert Tarbet, his successor at the British Queen, was also from Smethwick and worked in an iron foundry before the Second World War. At this period there was a pattern of publicans running pubs towards the end of their working lives. A bit of an old blokes pub for working blokes. Nothing wrong with that - many boozers in this industrial region were like this. Men would come to a place like the British Queen for a quiet pint, maybe a game of darts or dominoes. Herbert Tarbet, by the way, had married Marion Smith in 1947.

There was quite a high turnover of licensees in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Until Gerry Foden that is. He was licensee from 1973 to 1985. He would later run the nearby Cottage Inn on Tat Bank Road. Meanwhile the British Queen was re-branded as Hillbillies. Licensee Angela Branigan was served with a breach of noise abatement notice in August 2002 and was fined £1,500 and £5,036 costs in June 2003. It was the end of the venture. I think the pub actually closed for a period.

Oldbury : British Queen on Birmingham Road [2019]

The British Queen name was restored when Sukhdev Singh Sidhu acquired the British Queen in 2003. He had previously run a wholesale milk business. He gradually improved the pub over the years, investing in refurbishments and introducing Indian food to the menu. In 2018 his efforts were recognised when the British Queen was voted Sandwell Pub of the Year by the readership of the Express & Star.

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Licensees of this pub

1861 - Edward Green
1871 - John Jordan
1891 - Joseph Archer
1894 - Samuel Allen
1897 - 1913 John Jordan
1913 - 1915 Edward Carpenter
1915 - 1923 David Round
1923 - 1924 Alfred Ernest Beasley
1924 - 1926 Isaac Hulse
1926 - 1928 Bert Adrian Slim
1928 - 1933 Leslie Howard Suckling
1933 - 1939 Harry Griffiths
1939 - 1952 Evelyn Griffiths
1952 - 1957 Thomas Arthur Dunn
1957 - 1957 Arthur Hoult
1957 - 1958 John Thomas Pratt
1958 - 1960 George Henry Insley
1960 - 1962 John William Geobey
1962 - 1963 Oliver Edward O'Gorman
1963 - 1964 Cyril Frank Morrall
1964 - 1968 Herbert Tarbet
1968 - 1969 Arthur Stephen Pratt
1969 - 1970 Michael Arthur Alfred Hampton
1970 - 1970 Charles Webb
1970 - 1971 John Carlton Adams
1971 - 1972 Malcolm Ernest Minshull
1972 - 1973 Raymond Harry Swinson
1973 - 1985 Gerard Desmond Foden
1985 - 1986 Lawrence Albert Seymour
1986 - Jacqueline Meades
2003 - Angela Branigan
Note : this is not a complete list of licensees for this pub.

Mitchells's and Butler's

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Related Newspaper Articles

"An inquest was held yesterday, at the British Queen Inn, Oldbury, before Mr. R. Docker, coroner, touching the death of William Robert Reed, the illegitimate child of Sarah Reed, a domestic servant, residing in Fraser Street. Jemimah Thomas said that Sarah Reed, mother of the infant, had been residing until lately at Dr. King's, Smethwick. Reed was confined on the 30th of August. She saw the child on the 9th ult., and it then appeared to be in a healthy condition. She was afterwards informed that the child was dying, and went to see it. She found the child dirty, and looking as though it had not enough to eat. It continued to waste away until it died. Witness, in reply to the Coroner, said she believed the child was "clammed" to death. Witness said the mother of the child was dependent on her brother for support, both for herself and the child. She could not say that Reed showed any affection for the child, but she never heard her express any wish to get rid of it. Mary Ann Lowe, midwife, stated that the child when born was healthy. She heard afterwards that it had wasted away, and that medicine had been obtained for it. William Henry Hayward, surgeon, said he saw the deceased on the 2nd inst. The child seemed to be several weeks old. It was extremely emaciated, and he considered it a clear case of starvation. The child weighed only 41bs., and measured but eighteen inches. A child five weeks' old should weigh from 151bs. to 20lbs. The Coroner remarked that the case involved a very serious charge against the persons who had had the care of the child, and the result would depend very much upon the medical evidence. He suggested that additional medical testimony should be obtained. The enquiry was then adjourned."
"Supposed Death from Starvation"
Birmingham Daily Post : October 7th 1879 Page 6

Oldbury : Winners Sukhdev Singh Sidhu, Tulak Regmi, and Laxuman Regmi from The British Queen [2018]

"Bottoms up! The winner of the Express & Star's Most Popular Pub of the Year for Sandwell has been announced. The British Queen, Birmingham Road, Oldbury, won the award after fierce competition. The competition now in its third year, saw a number of pubs enter the search to find the most popular pubs in the Black Country and Mid-Staffordshire. Sukhdev Singh Sidhu, who has owned the pub for 13 years, said it was "wonderful" to win the title. He said: "It was amazing. Last week someone mentioned that we're on the top so it was amazing." "We're very grateful for the customers for choosing us and we are thankful for them. It will be good to get more business and we'll try our best to give customers what they require as we're already doing." Mr Sidhu, who previously ran a wholesale milk business from 1990 to 2012, purchased The British Queen pub in 2005. He said: "Someone bought it in 2004 and he ran it for five or six months, then I bought it. It was only a small business so I ended up biding my time, spending a lot of money on refurbishments and the beer garden to build it up and slowly it comes to this." He added: "You have to do the hard work. All the staff and myself, we try to do hard work to keep our customers and give them what they require so that we do our best." Gerald Lloyd, joint licensee of runner-up pub The Knights Quest on High Street, Rowley Regis, said: "We're absolutely delighted. We realised that out of the number of pubs that compete and the standard of the pubs that compete, it means something to become runner-up to them. The winner is very well-run and a prominent business and we feel honoured to have come second to them."
"Pub fit for a Queen crowned the winner"
by Thomas Parkes in
Express & Star : July 21st 2018 Page 18

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