Some history of the Railway Tavern on Hewell Road in Redditch in the county of Worcestershire.
The old beer house that stood here was known as the Railway Tavern after the Evesham & Redditch Railway was constructed, the line of which passed close to the building, passing over Hewell Road via a bridge. The line officially opened on 18th September 1859. However, the tavern in this location pre-dated the railway. The house would have had a different sign when it first opened but no trade directories or census enumerator recorded it. I have searched newspapers in vain to determine the old name, if indeed it had one - some old beer houses traded with no sign. However, I think Joseph Allbutt, publican during the 1850s, would have called it something or other.
The rebuilt house has generally been known as the Railway Inn rather than Railway Tavern. The public-house was erected by Mitchell's and Butler's after they successfully applied for the transfer of a full licence from the Lamb and Flag Inn on Unicorn Hill during May 1937. The Cape Hill brewery told the magistrates that they intended to build new premises, partly on the site of the old beer house, and partly on the site of two adjoining cottages that they were going to demolish. The value of the old licence was set at £2,278. 11s. 9d. which was added to the capital account of the Railway Inn, a property that the Cape Hill brewery had acquired from Cheshire's Brewery Ltd. just before the First World War. The value of the property in 1914 was £2,384.
Cheshire's, a local rival to M&B, had themselves made improvements to the former building. Mr. Hobson, on behalf of the brewery, asked the magistrates to sanction plans for structural alterations at the Railway Tavern in March 1909. At the meeting it was stated that "the question of the renewal of the license was thoroughly gone into some four years ago. Since that time the magistrates suggested that there should be some improved domestic accommodation provided if it were possible. The house, they said, was small, and it was agreed two or three years ago that the tenant should be allowed to live in the adjoining cottage."
The Chairman of the meeting remarked that he visited the inn that morning, and the tenant did not say anything about living in the adjoining cottage. Mr. Hobson described the plans. He said "the new Children's Act came into operation on April 1st, and Messrs. Cheshire proposed that they should make an outdoor place in one corner of the front room, as shown on the plans. They also proposed to make an alteration in the smoke room and bar, taking out the counter and making alterations to the staircase so that they could get from the downstairs to the upstairs of the licensed premises."
The Smethwick-based brewery proposed to ask the Bench to allow the bedrooms over the cottage and over the licensed house to be made accessible the one to the other. Mr. Hobson added that "he had talked the matter over with Superintendent Hayes, and he suggested whether it would not be better for police supervision if the cottage was used for domestic purposes, and the yard at the back fenced in. In other words, to allow the cottage to be frankly used in connection with the house, not for the sale of beer at all, but solely for domestic purposes."
Mr. Morgan said when he went to the inn it occurred to him that "it was a kind of house which, for structural reasons, they would not dream of granting a license to." Mr. Hobson said "probably they would dream of doing it if they were re-building the house. It might come to that some time."
The Chairman remarked the position at Redditch was this: There was plenty of drinking accommodation, but it was improperly distributed about the town. If they were to come to the justices with a proposal to reduce the drinking area in some other place they might feel disposed to consent to the putting up of a decent house there. The present building was obviously unsuitable for a licensed house." Mr. Hobson pointed out that Superintendent Hayes had on a previous occasion said he would like to see a bigger and better house there. The alterations which they proposed to make would be for the better supervision of the house.
In reply to the Chairman, Superintendent Hayes said he had no objection to the plans as presented. He suggested, however, that a doorway in the fence be filled up, that water closets be provided and that instead of there being an ashpit, ashbins be used and the refuse carted away once a week. Mr. Hobson said "the only difficulty about that was that the coal would have to be carried through the cottage, and also the ashbins." He gave an undertaking, however, that the doorway should not be used except for domestic purposes, and that the other suggestion should be carried out.
The Chairman remarked the more he saw of the place the less he liked them as licensed premises. Mr. Hobson said "We wish to try and improve them." The Chairman : "You cannot do so." Colonel Bartleet spoke of the "wretchedly low rooms," and said he would not like to sit in them himself. The Chairman asked Mr. Hobson before any money was spent on the place could not he produce some better scheme than this. From what he could see of it the place might be scheduled again. However, after much deliberation the Bench approved the plans.
No doubt the state of the building and its "fearfully stuffy rooms" was discussed at future licensing sessions. However, it was not until the scheme hatched by Mitchell's and Butler's that the old tavern was finally replaced in 1938.
Aesthetes are rather stuffy about mock-Tudor but I rather like the look of this inter-war frontage. Admittedly, I would rather have seen something more attuned to the 1930s with a few splashes of art deco but, as a solid retro-styled building, it has its merits.
The above photograph is undated but I suspect that it was taken on completion of the building. Firstly, the place looks brand-new. Secondly, there is no plate bearing the name of the licensee above any of the doors, suggesting that the new manager had not moved in. Leslie and Elsie Griffiths were the first couple to run the house for Mitchell's and Butler's. They opened the doors to the public in July 1938. Trade was steady at first, the average weekly takings being less than £100. By the time they left in September 1939 they had almost doubled the takings and were shifting just over eleven barrels per week.
Leslie Griffiths was a local lad. Many of his family worked at the cycle works, probably that of the New Enfield Cycle Company Limited, a business that moved into motorcycle production in the 20th century. Indeed, the Railway Inn would have been a popular port-of-call for many a worker at Royal Enfield.
The first definite evidence I have seen of the old building trading as a beer house is within a trade directory of 1855 in which Joseph Allbutt is listed as a beer retailer. He may have traded earlier. He was certainly at this location at the time of the census in 1851 when he was recorded as a needle maker living at Spring Vale Cottages with his wife Mary. The couple had a young daughter named Mary Ann. Forming part of a row of cottages, the house was licensed to sell beer before 1855.
The reputation of the house, along with the quality of the beer, was no doubt enhanced when George Ames became the publican at the end of the decade. An experienced maltster and brewer, he had formerly kept the Shakespeare Tavern on Walford Street. Earlier in his career he had worked as a journeyman maltster, producing ales for public-houses that relied on the external expertise in the fine art of brewing.
William Hollington was both needle finisher and publican when living at the Railway Tavern with his wife Annie. He remained in this field after leaving the licensed trade. Later in the Victorian period the couple lived in Clive Road.
Norfolk-born Robert Yallop was mine host by 1881. His first position at an early age was in service to the farmer William Clark at his birthplace in Southacre. He came to the Redditch area at a relatively young age and married fish hook maker Mary Thomas in November 1860.
The map extract above dates from the time of Robert and Annie Yallop running the Railway Tavern. Only a few doors away was the Metropolitan Works, a factory producing needles and fish hooks operated by Harrison and Bartleet. The company would specialise in all manner of fishing tackle, particularly reels. Resident of Derrington House, Arthur Bartleet died in April 1901.
The Yallop family suffered a tragedy in May 1886 when Robert and Mary's son, also named Robert, was killed whilst working on the railway at Camp Hill in Birmingham. He was one of a gang of bricklayers working on the Kyrwick's Lane Bridge for the Midland Railway. He was acting as a look-out for the other men but, when directing one of his colleagues, was hit by a passenger train travelling from Saltley. He was killed instantaneously and another man, Henry Hooper, was seriously injured.
Elizabeth Yallop continued to run the Railway Tavern following the death of her husband. She died a few years later in June 1889. She was succeeded by George and Elizabeth Guest who moved from Red Lion Street. George was another publican to die at the Railway Tavern, his passing came in August 1896. Widow Elizabeth Guest continued to keep the house and married the coach builder Edwin Dudley in March 1897. He subsequently took over the licence.
It would seem that Edwin Dudley launched himself into his new career as publican and was keen to advertise his business in local directories. He also produced his own tavern check to the value of 3d. However, he was to become another licensee to die whilst holding the licence of the Railway Tavern. The licence once again passed to Elizabeth who later traded as a fishmonger following her move to Rednal.
Thomas Blackford joined the growing list of people who died whilst holding the licence of the Railway Tavern. Following his death, a sale of the household furniture and effects was held at the Railway Tavern in October 1910. Thomas Blackford had operated a lock-up shop at the ground of Redditch Town Football Club. This was robbed by five youths on 29th September 1908. He had taken over the licence of the Railway Tavern in June 1908.
Charles and Alice Stanley kept the Railway Tavern during the early reign of King George V. The son of a shoemaker, Charles Stanley was born in Albrighton in Shropshire. Alice Preston hailed from Birmingham and the couple were married at St. Martin's Church near the Bull Ring in November 1895. They were tenants of Cheshire's Brewery.
Running the pub for Mitchell's and Butler's, former nickel plater Harry Clements kept the Railway Tavern with his wife Dorothy for a few years before moving to the Sportsman's Arms on Peakman Street, another M&B public-house.
The next couple, Horace and Dorothy Grove, also moved to another public-house in Redditch. After a short spell here in Hewell Road, the couple took over at the Fleece Inn on Evesham Street.
Taking over as licensee in January 1934, John Holmes was the last publican of the old Railway Tavern which was demolished in 1937.
"On Tuesday morning a fatal accident occurred on the railway between Camp Hill Station and Birmingham. Three men - two bricklayers
and a labourer - employed by the Midland Railway Company, were at work on the bridge over Kyrwick's Lane, repairing the parapet. Below the Birmingham end of
the bridge there is a curve in the line which would prevent anyone seeing the approach of a train, and the driver of the locomotive would also be unable to see
anybody on the bridge in consequence of his view being obstructed by some hoarding which had been erected over the parapet to prevent passing trains frightening
horses as they passed along the street below. The labourer, Robert Yallop , who resided at the Railway Tavern, Redditch, therefore was told off to
watch the trains and give the bricklayers Henry Hooper , 76, Watery Lane, and Henry Hemmings, Alcester - the signal when it was
necessary to suspend operations. Work had proceeded satisfactorily for some time, but while the labourer, who was standing a few yards from his companions, was
otherwise engaged than on the look-out, a passenger train from Saltley, due at Camp Hill at six minutes past 10 o'clock, suddenly dashed round the curve,
and before the men were aware of the fact the labourer Yallop was struck on the head by the buffers of the engine and knocked down. His skull was badly fractured,
and he died immediately. The other men were on the near side of the train, and were unable to get out of the way. Hooper was also struck on the head and knocked down,
while Hemming escaped with a severe scalp wound. A doctor was sent for and every assistance was rendered to the injured men. Hooper was found to be suffering from
concussion of the brain and other injures, and he was removed to the General Hospital, where he remains in a critical condition, but slight hope being entertained
of his recovery. The body of Yallop was taken to the mortuary at Moseley Street Police Station, where it will remain pending an inquest. Hemming's injuries were
"Fatal Accident on the railway at Birmingham"
Weekly Independent [Bromsgrove] : May 29th 1886 Page 4