The other day I had a wander round Nantwich, Cheshire, to capture images of pub signs, with the intention of finding out a little about them. They are in no particular order, and my list may not be comprehensive.
This is a bit of hard core local history research, but it might be the sort of project that appeals to other family historians with heritage to do with pubs and beer houses.
For several years I have been building a dataset of public houses, inns and beerhouses, with particular focus on their proprietors, managers and keepers. I have focused on the areas inhabited by those ancestors who lived near to my home, that is mainly Brownhills and Chasetown. I have been in many of them at one time or another, those that were still open in my adult life. Some were run at one time by Andrew’s Kindred – the “Pub Dennises“, some were, doubtless, frequented by others, and some grew up there.
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It is said that eight pubs close every day in this fair land. The reasons are complex, but the plainest is that fewer people are frequenting local pubs in villages and suburbs in favour of drinking at home, buying booze from supermarkets, discount suppliers and direct from micro-brewers.
In my own experience over the last fifty-odd years I can recall many pubs that have closed, and there were many more before that. In The Pub Dennises (2) is a map showing 5 pubs on the short 500 metre length of Chasetown High Street. There were at least two beer houses and two other pubs within 100 metres. This was not an unusual setup. Along, or very near to, the Watling Street, Brownhills, were no fewer than eight pubs and more beer houses operating between 1900 and 1912 along a stretch of 2.3 km (1.4 miles), see map below. And there were others within easy walking distance. Continue reading “The Decline and Fall of the English Public House”→
Part one of this tale concerned my search for information about Thomas Dennis, who ran the Railway Tavern (or Inn), Lichfield Road, Brownhills, but I had not worked out how he was related, or, indeed, whether there we other publicans in the family.
Again, something turned up: family Bibles, kindly loaned by my cousin Martin. One of these listed a number of children of second great grandparents Henry and Dorothy Dennis along with their birth dates. Among them were William, July 6 1839 and Thomas June 24 1842. So that confirmed Thomas’s relationship, he was brother of great grandgfather John.
Publicans and Beer Sellers
As my research into local publicans advanced, albeit at a snail’s pace, I learned much more about this mysterious branch of the Dennis clan. All were related to William and Thomas. Sadly, all but one of the pubs they ran are long gone and even that has not been a pub for some time.
William’s son James kept the Lodge Inn, Rugeley Road, Boney Hay (north of the map above), and this is shown on the 1888 Ordnance Survey map on the north west quadrant of the junction with High Street. According to Kelly’s Directory and censuses, James kept the Lodge from at least 1900 to 1912, but he died there in 1926. The area has been redeveloped, but the name is remembered in a nearby cul-de-sac named Lodge Road.
The same sources, together with the local press, show another Thomas Dennis at the Triangle Tavern, Hammerwich, from May 1902 to 1912. Newpapers often reported changes to licenses. I recall the pub, but for a long time it was a restaurant and has recently been redeveloped for housing.
There was also in Kelly’s 1912 edition a John E Dennis, beer seller, High Street, Chasetown. Was this another establishment? There were several public houses or beer houses in Chasetown High Street (see map), but I was having difficulty identifying which belonged to William and John E Dennis. Through the sources already noted, I was able to identify who kept some of the other watering holes for example the Uxbridge Arms, Junction Inn, and Staffordshire Knot (now a house). The 1901 census placed William, licensed victualler / publican, between records for New Road and Church Road, but I was still stuck. Could it be The Crown or The Swan? The Crown I found was run by a John Donaldson, so of the pubs I knew about it must be The Swan, but I then found it was kept by a man named Perry. Stumped.
The local press, Lichfield Mercury, came to the rescue with three articles providing information that I could combine to reach a firm conclusion. First was that in January 1910 the license of the Royal Oak was transfered to John Dennis from his father, whom I knew to be William Dennis. I now knew the name of the pub, but not its location. In August 1894 the license of the Royal Oak, Chasetown, was granted to William Dennis. Finally, there was a report about alleged damage to the Royal Oak Inn, Chasetown, “situate at the corner of High Street and Union Street“. I went to have a look and here is a recent image.
Oddly enough, Dad and I actually went to this place, where we ended up buying a wheelbarrow. When it stopped being a pub I have yet to discover, but at least I can say this mystery is resolved.