Some history of the Fitters' Arms at Pershore in the County of Worcestershire
The Fitters' Arms was accessed from Bridge Street, along Bachelor's Entry. Perhaps walking down a narrow entry from the main street was the reason that the tavern was dubbed The Hole In The Wall. Or maybe there was a serving hatch from which a jug of ale dispensed ale to patrons holding on to their measured pots? In days of old, pedestrians would use Bachelor's Entry as a cut-through footpath from Bridge Street to Defford Road, passing Mason's Ryde. Perhaps this journey would take longer than expected as there was always the temptation to call at the Fitters' Arms.
The beer house was recorded in the census of 1851 when the enumerator wandered along Bachelor's Entry. The tavern was then being run by William and Hannah Falkner. The couple were living in Bachelor's Entry ten years earlier but William was simply listed as an agricultural labourer. There was no mention of them running a tavern.
William and Hannah Falker were certainly running the beer house by the summer of 1846. In June of that year the couple appeared at the Petty Sessions when the coal merchant, William Hodgetts, charged them with assault. The florid language of the Worcestershire Chronicle's report is rather lovely. The journalist wrote: "The complainant having borne the burden and heat of the 18th day of June, called at defendant's house when night had resumed its reign, to refresh his inner man: but defendant's better half, who is by the bye a fiery little body with a great spirit, very rudely closed the door in his sun-burnt face, and pertinaciously refused his entrée; this was an insult which complainant could not patiently brook, and therefore on seeing others most graciously admitted he also forced his way in, but before he could take a seat he was collared by defendant and his pugnacious helpmate, and "Ere he from the house came, alack! His shirt was torn off his back." Stating that beer house-keepers are not like innkeepers, who are bound by law to supply refreshments to anybody, the magistrates decided that the complainant had no right to force his way into the house, and therefore dismissed the case."
For those researching this pocket of Pershore it is worth mentioning that the spelling of the thoroughfare drifted from Bachelor's Entry to Batchelor's Entry, the extra 't' producing different results. There was a cluster of cottages here that survived for many years, though there was a right hoo-ha over their unsanitary condition during the inter-war years. A Dr. Morgan, an inspector for the Ministry for Health, had visited the site in 1925 and a closing order was obtained. However, the owner of the properties opposed this action and commissioned an architect to convert and modernise nine cottages in Bachelor's Entry.
Following William Falkner's death, his wife, the fiery widow, continued to run the beer house for a while. It may be that the Hole In The Wall name was official rather than simply a colloquial term. However, the tavern would gain a new inn sign when it was taken over by Richmond Amphlett.
Born in 1827 at Tewkesbury, Richmond Amphlett was working as a millwright when he married Caroline Davis on Christmas Day in 1848. In 1861, after they had relocated to Pershore, the couple were recorded at Lunn's Yard where Richmond Amphlett was recorded as a brass and iron fitter, clearly the source of the new inn sign when they moved into the premises.
Richard and Caroline had two daughters, Annie and Delia, living at the Fitters' Arms. Their mother, Caroline, died at the end of September 1879 at the aged of 58. Richmond Amphlett continued to run the Fitters' Arms, helped by his daughter Delia who was also a dressmaker. Elder daughter Annie would go on to enjoy a long life. She was an expert milliner and went to work in London. She returned to her native town towards the end of the Victorian era and worked for Messrs. Peake and Son, a firm based in the High Street. She was living at her home, 49 Bridge Street, when she died in the spring of 1937, aged 88. She had lived with her sister at Bridge Street, Delia died ten years earlier. They had remained spinsters and the death of Annie Amphlett ended the family connection with Pershore.
The freehold of the Fitters' Arms was sold at an auction held at the Angel Hotel on June 15th, 1886. The beer house was Lot 2 of a group of properties sold following the death of William Averill. He had also owned the Butchers' Arms in Church Street. The sale particulars provide an insight into the interior of the Fitters' Arms. Tenant Richmond Amphlett paid a modest annual rent for the house.
Richmond Amphlett died in August 1892. He was possibly succeeded by Thomas Newman. He and his wife Elizabeth were certainly running the Fitters' Arms in 1895.
The licence of the Fitters' Arms was transferred to Frederick Champken in 1896. He was the son of the nurse and midwife Ann Champken. This clan are among the oldest to be found in the parish registers of Pershore. He was the youngest of eight children by James and Ann Champken. He retired from the Atlas Works to become landlord of the Fitters' Arms. It was at this time that he married Charlotte Moule, a servant working at the Crown and Sandys Arms Inn at Ombersley. The couple were at the Fitters' Arms at the time of the 1901 census but soon left to run the Talbot Inn. Frederick Champken would hold the licence of that pub for 28 years. Throughout his life he was a noted angler and started up an angling club based at the Fitters' Arms. He became well-known in the fishing world after he caught a monster pike weighing over 23lbs. The fish was preserved in a glass case at Cornberton House, the house on Bridge Street in which he died, aged 82, in 1942.
The departure of Frederick and Charlotte Champken did not spell the end of the clan's involvement with the Fitters' Arms. In the early Edwardin period the house was kept by Harry and Ada Champken. Harry was a twin son of George Champken who was a baker and confectioner for the firm of Messrs. G. Phillips and Sons, The Stores, High Street, for 54 years. After leaving school Harry Champken was apprenticed as a cabinet-maker to James Spiers of Bridge Street. It was while working as an improver in Birmingham that he met Ada White, daughter of Charles and Emma White of the Railway Tavern on Kywick's Lane at Sparkbrook. They tied the knot at Sparkbrook Parish Church on Christmas Eve, 1899.
Harry and Ada Champken would be the last couple to run the Fitters' Arms, the beer house being referred for compensation at the end of 1909. They moved to the White Hart Inn and kept that until it too was closed. After his spell in the licensed trade Harry Champken returned to his trade as a cabinet-maker and was apparently never short of work in this field, though he was later employed by several builders who were short of carpenters. By the time of the couple's golden wedding in 1949 they had five sons and two daughters, 17 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. They celebrated their diamond wedding at their home, 8 Newlands, with a family party. Harry lived to the nice old age of 88. Oddly, his twin brother, William Percy Champken, died much earlier in 1941. It is interesting to note that he was a chef for upwards of 30 years for the staff of Mitchell's and Butler's.
Along with the Butchers' Arms in Church Street, the Fitters' Arms was referred for compensation by the local justices to the County Licensing Committee in December 1909. At the hearing the solicitor called Thomas Walker, valuer, who gave the barrelage profits capitalised for 10 years at £732, and those for bottle goods at £82 odd. The committee allowed £819, some £300 short of the amount claimed. And that was that, the end of the Fitters' Arms. I wonder how long the building lasted before it was pulled down? I notice on the Ordnance Survey map that the footpath, despite being gated-off, is still marked as a public right of way. The locals should appeal to have Bachelor's Entry back.
"Harry Gould, labourer, Eckington, was summoned for being drunk and disorderly and refusing to quit the licensed premises of Mr. F.
Champkin, Fitters' Arms, Pershore, on 1st inst. Supt. Cope read out three previous convictions, and defendant was fined 16s. 6d., including costs."
Worcestershire Chronicle : September 21st 1901 Page 6