Lost Leamore I: A Horse of a Different Colour

This article has its birth, like many other articles I have put on Wyrleyblog, in the records of the Walsall Coroner; however, as I read the case notes I also became intrigued by some of the incidental background to the story and, as such, I intended to write two articles under a ‘Lost Leamore’ banner. The case that started it all dates to 1910 and dealt with a terrible and somewhat bizarre tragedy – the apparent suicide of publican Robert Walker Hall. Hall was the publican at the Black Horse in Leamore, his death was a little peculiar and a few unanswered questions clearly remain; it is the Hall family’s tenure at the pub that is the subject of part II of the article, which ironically was written first and is already on Wyrleyblog.

A view the Bloxwich Road at Leamore, Harden Rd and the Butler's Arms to the right c1925. (Walsall Local History Centre)

A view the Bloxwich Road at Leamore, Harden Rd and the Butler’s Arms to the right c1925. Click to enlarge. (Walsall Local History Centre)

When the incident occurred the servant girl, Elizabeth Stones, ran to fetch the publican from the pub opposite – a pub also called the Black Horse. Initially, I thought this was an error for two reasons: firstly, I only remember the Butler’s Arms being over the road from the Black Horse, and secondly, Hitchmough’s Black Country Pub Guide, a superb site, lists two Black Horses in Bloxwich – one at Leamore and the other at a place called Mount Pleasant (http://www.longpull.co.uk/HBCPdownloads/HBCP%20Walsall%202.pdf); however, as I investigated, it became clear that prior to the building of the Butler’s Arms that the pub on that site had in fact also been called the Black Horse. Further, that the site of the Black Horse was also known in the 19th century as Mount Pleasant.

I was intrigued as to how all this came about and so part I is all about the relationship between the pubs (and the Leamore cross-roads) from the murky past of the 1820s through until the 1920s, when one of the Black Horse pubs vanished for good…

Our story really opens in 1819, with our first source – the map and description of the Foreign of Walsall by Henry Jacobs. For those that have not heard of the term ‘the Foreign’ before it was really an old Poor-Law term (pre-1835) for all of the part of the parish of Walsall that was not in the Borough. The Borough covered just the town of Walsall – one border being at Intown Row for example; therefore the ‘Foreign’ covered from just outside the town all the way up to Bloxwich. Jacobs’ map and description were copied in 1835 by HS Brindley, but not added to it appears.

The completely separate hamlets of Harden, Blakenall and Leamore in 1819/20. (Walsall Local History Centre)

The completely separate hamlets of Harden, Blakenall and Leamore in 1819/20. (Walsall Local History Centre)

The landscape, shown above, is very different to that of today, although the road pattern can still be made out. Harden, Blakenall and Leamore are clearly separate and defined. The area is clearly a rural one, with a scattering of farms and cottages, although local industry was beginning to come alive. The roads are likely medieval in date, with the main Walsall to Bloxwich road being turn-piked in 1766. It is possible that this elevated status of the road attracted the business acumen of locals that decided to offer hospitality to the passers-by.

The Leamore cross-roads (Walsall Local History Centre).

The Leamore cross-roads, as approached from the Walsall direction. Click to enlarge. (Walsall Local History Centre).

In 1819, the Leamore cross-roads had little in the way of buildings. The plan shows, if one approaches from the Walsall direction, that on the corner of what is now Bloxwich Rd and Harden Rd there is a building numbered 652: this is the current site of ‘ASK Motors’ and previously the Black Horse pub. In 1819 it belonged to and was occupied by Walter Horton. It was described as ‘farm buildings’. What is interesting to note is that the he also owned the large field behind (654, House Close). Horton also rented a swathe of land (now under the flats and shopping precinct) from a Mr Curtis.

Over the Harden Rd from the farm was building 655, which stood on the site of the Butler’s Arms and the current petrol station; this was described as a house and garden belonging to William Heath. It is interesting to note again that the large field behind (653, Kiln Close), and from which Heath’s property seemed to have been cut from, was also owned by Horton. A Roman Catholic chapel is also in this field.

Opposite, on the corner of Leamore Lane and Bloxwich Rd was building 882, which is now the car park for the shopping precinct: this was simply described as a cottage with no owner/occupier listed. Across the Leamore Rd and now the site of the old Rosum Cinema stood buildings 676, described as a cottage, and 677, described as the Rose and Crown public house. The pub was occupied by a John Mayo and it seems that this was the first pub that we can currently prove which existed at the cross-roads.

Before we continue, one major piece of legislation is passed in 1830 is vital to our story. The brewing process killed bacteria then present in all water, so even children would be encouraged to drink a ‘small beer’ (now classed as 2.8% and below) as it was also considered nutritious. As such, the weaker beers had been seen as a solution to the drunkenness caused by gin-mania, which is represented by Hogarth’s etchings of ‘Gin Lane’ and ‘Beer Street’ as early as 1751. The legislation came in the form of the Duke of Wellington’s, the then Prime Minister, ‘Beer-house Act’.

The Act meant that two guineas would secure a beer-house licence which allowed you to sell beer or cider on your own premises, but not wines and spirits. Within a few years, 46,000 of these so called beer-houses were registered and the solution then became the problem. These beer-houses became so profitable that the owners would end-up extending them or they became full ‘alehouses’ and sold the very gin they were supposed to replace. We know that by 1871 the Black Horse (ASK Motors) was trading on an alehouse licence, whereas the Black Horse (Butler’s Arms) was a beer-house – which mean’t that it could not have opened until 1830 at the earliest.

In 1830 we get the first evidence of a Black Horse public house – when an auction is held near there and advertised in the Birmingham Gazette. In the White Directory of 1834 and the Pigot Directory of 1835, a Black Horse is listed as an alehouse under the occupation of publican and butcher, John Kirk. I am confident that this is was the Black Horse on what is now the ASK Motors site, as every publican that followed at that pub, until around 1868, was both a publican and a butcher.

On 18 March 1837 an advert was placed in the Stafford Advertiser regarding the sale of what was called Black Horse Farm, with its proved mines of coal and ironstone, including mining equipment, and three shafts are also mentioned. Further, ‘that old established’ Black Horse Inn, fronting the main turnpike road was also up for sale. This was clearly the Black Horse on the site of ASK Motors and would indicate that it had been in operation way before 1830 – although this cannot be currently proven. Further, it seems to indicate that its own agricultural and mining workforce (small scale, of course), as well as the passing road traffic, may have been the target clientele. The land was being sold as a building opportunity.

The area was subjected to another mapping exercise around 1843, this time for the Tithe Commutation Act in 1836. This Act valued certain lands in order to assess a monetary value for the payment to the Church – up until that point people had paid their tithe to the Church in chicken and eggs 🙂 . This new map showed significant growth around the cross-roads, where part of Elizabeth Curtis’ field (next to their farm) had been used for development by Thomas Adams.

The 1838 Tithe Map (1920s copy) that shows significant growth at the Leamore cross-roads (WLHC)

The Tithe Map (1920s copy) that shows significant growth at the Leamore cross-roads and the sale of part of Kiln Close. (WLHC)

Building 652 is now 813. The same Thomas Adams that had developed the field next to Curtis’ Farm was holding this farm from owner Thomas Bastock – possibly the purchaser in 1837 – and, significantly mentioned separately, was the Black Horse Inn. Adams, 40 year-old from Bloxwich, had married into the Horton family who had occupied the farm in 1819. It is worth mentioning that a part of Kiln Close had been sold off by this stage.

The Rose and Crown had closed, now becoming a private residence for a Joseph Mayo (number 849); however, a new build had taken place on a small plot of land to the rear and building 848. Owned by John James and occupied by Samuel Birch, who also ran the Trooper in Harden, this became the new Crown Inn – a site it still occupies today. The buildings on the old Butler’s Arms site, now 845, were still described as a house and garden and were owned by a John Whitgreave; they were occupied William Wilcox, a snaffle-bit maker.

The 1819 buildings can still be seen (WLHC)

The 1819 buildings can still be seen (WLHC)

The 1841 census shows a William Wilcox and a Thomas Adams of a ‘Leamore Lodge Farm’ rather than Black Horse Farm, in close proximity on what was then called Leamore Lane. Samuel Birch was described as being a bridle bit maker in Harden. Sadly, this census gives no information as to the names of the pubs or if Adams actually operated the Black Horse himself. So, at this point, we know that the Leamore cross-roads hosted the Crown and the Black Horse on the ASK Motors site, but there is still no evidence that a second Black Horse, or any other named pub, is on the Butler’s Arms site.

In 1841, Kirk is living and butchering in Blakenall – his wife, Sarah, having died of consumption at the pub in 1835. On the same census, a 55 year-old publican by the name of Benjamin Boulton was running the Black Horse and his son, the 15 year-old Benjamin, was a butcher. We know this is Leamore as it is listed next to Broadstones (as in Broadstone Avenue). He is still there in 1845, when he is found in the Post Office Directory – this time under the Black Horse, Mount Pleasant.

1841 census for the Black Horse, Leamore (Mount Pleasant). Benjamin Boulton occupies the pub (National Archives)

1841 census for the Black Horse, Leamore (Mount Pleasant). Benjamin Boulton occupies the pub (National Archives)

We do know that another attempt was made to auction off the Black Horse’s mining property in 1845: the advert describes it as such, ‘containing 18 acres or thereabouts; comprising of the Yard Coal and the Four Feet Coal (seam names), a small portion of which has been gotten [proving mining had taken place]. The Thick Coal remains whole, together with six seams of Ironstone known by the names of the Robins, the White Ironstone, the Blue Gubbias, the Blue Flats, the Silver Threads and the Diamond Ironstone.’

In 1847 the Black Horse hosted an inquest into the death of a child, Henry Birch. Birch, a four year-old, was struck and killed by a cart being driven by his uncle, Richard Allen. A verdict of accidental death was recorded.

All we can say is that sometime between 1845 and prior to 1851, Simeon Bird appears to take over both the pub and the butchery shop that must have been attached. Bird had been born in Bloxwich around 181o. He and his wife, Elizabeth, had four children when they moved in: the eldest at 19 years was John, who was a brewer according to the 1851 census; next was George at 13 years, and he was a butcher. Simeon Bird also seemed to use the pub as a base for 100-yard sprint matches in the 1850s, his son George being one of the participants. The census shows that Thomas Adams is also listed as a licensed victualler and while both are located on the turnpike road near the Leamore cross-roads, it isn’t clear as to which order the census was taken and if the two were occupying the Inn and the farmhouse or whether Bird lived nearby and worked at the Inn.

Simeon Bird and family, near the Leamore cross-roads in 1851. (National Archives)

Simeon Bird and family, near the Leamore cross-roads in 1851. (National Archives)

On the same 1851 census, the 34 year-old Samuel Birch was now described as a victualler and while the pub isn’t named, he is living on Leamore Lane – so it seems certain he is at the Crown. He and his wife, Lucy, have three children, all at school, and a couple of domestic assistants. In 1861, their residence is described as the Crown Inn and of his two children remaining at home, both were listed as being scholars – at 21 and 17. Clearly they had plans for their children. This is where the Crown leaves this story on the Black Horses, saving to say, out of interest, an inquest was held there in September 1865 on a boy named Charles Dyke: Dyke had collapsed during a fight with other boys and was actually declared dead in the Black Horse yard.

1854 supplies a potential clue as to there being a second Black Horse, when on 30 May of that year Thomas Adams or Thomas Bastock (Adams is still living there) puts the land around and the ‘Old Black Horse’ up for auction at the George Hotel in Walsall – however, I have seen the ‘old’ being used before in sales, as it perhaps gives a little pedigree to the building. It isn’t known if it was sold or to whom but if it was it was most likely to the Williams family from Wolverhampton.

1857 is an interesting year: the owner of a ‘newly erected and commodious dwelling house, now used as a public house, comprising of tap room, parlour, kitchen, bar, pantry, club room, sleeping rooms, cellars, garden, yard, water pump, brewhouse, stable, piggeries, with a blacksmith’s shop and other out buildings… situate on the road leading from Walsall to Bloxwich near the ‘Black Horse Inn’ and now occupied by William Birch’  decided to auction it at the Horse and Jockey down the road.

These premises were on the corner of Bloxwich Rd and Leamore Lane (as shown be the adjacent houses sold in the same lot), opposite the Black Horse. It seemed to be offered several times for sale over the next year or so and was called the ‘White Lion’ in 1858, when it was occupied by John Birch. This pub is non-existent by 1871, which suggests that it was converted back into a house. I think it likely appeared and disappeared before the second Black Horse pub appears on the corner of the Harden Rd. The building can be seen on the 1886 25″ OS Map further below.

Walsall Free Press, June 1858 - the sale of the White Lion at the Black Horse - I cannot trace this pub - is it the original name for the other Black Horse?

Walsall Free Press, July 1858 – another attempted sale of the White Lion, this time at the Black Horse. It was located on the corner of Leamore Lane and Bloxwich Rd and seemed a failure.

Another interesting article appears in the Walsall Free Press in September 1859. Simeon Bird, described as a ‘beer-house keeper’ (he would have been an alehouse keeper, technically) had had an application refused by the Licensing Committee. We don’t actually know what it was, but it was turned down as it was seen as a ‘non-necessity for such an establishment in the locality’. One wonders if this was an application for a new beer-house and as the White Lion was still in existence, it was turned down. Frustrating.

While John had flown the nest, the Birds would still be in occupation of the Black Horse in 1861 (although Adams would be listed as at the Black Horse in one directory that year – but likely meaning the farm). Adams would be dead by 1863. Simeon would be declared bankrupt in 1865, while he was at the Red Lion on the edge of Bloxwich – although he seemed to pass the Black Horse pub and business onto his son, George.

The 1860s give several indications of a second Black Horse pub. A tea party is held at the Old Black Horse in 1864, for example. In the Post Office directory for 1868, Simeon’s son, George Bird, is listed as the publican of the ‘Old Black Horse’ and butcher, Leamore. No ‘New Black Horse’ is listed, but a Richard Marshall is as a beer retailer both in that directory and in a hand-list, of the same date, of publicans in the Licensing Authority records at the Walsall Local History Centre. This directory is a very important piece of evidence, as it gives us continuity of ownership for the original Black Horse Inn  – also proving that it is older – and gives a date that the Black Horse on the Butler’s Arms site is in operation by. The 1871 census would prove Marshall as being in occupation of a ‘New Black Horse’.

At this stage, I could find no link between the two pubs regarding ownership or the tenure of any of the publicans. I cannot offer a reason for the duplicity in the name, just a suggestion or two: the first two are obvious, that it was done as a jest or to annoy those of the ‘Old Black Horse’ in some way. Another possibility is that a licence was secured and that no real name had been attributed to the beer-house and that it became known unofficially at first as the Black Horse as that was the closest landmark. The pubs were always registered as the ‘Black Horse’, the old and new epithets seem to only have been used locally to distinguish between them.

The Changing Landscape: 1886 – 1930s
I now intend to follow the stories of the two pubs separately, looking at the ownership and development of the buildings themselves; however, the wider landscape in which they stood was of course the same. The New Black Horse was likely opened in the 1860s as the Leamore area was developing quickly: transport-wise the railway had seen Bloxwich and Birchills Stations open-up, the latter just the Walsall side of where the Railway Inn is today, and the main Walsall – Stafford road would be de-turn-piked and made free to use from the mid-1870s. Leamore Board School would be opened in 1873 to accommodate the need for children’s education – which was now required by law.

OS 25" Map 1886. (Walsall Local History Centre)

OS 25″ Map 1886.
(Walsall Local History Centre)

Industry was everywhere, replacing the old agricultural community; we know the Black Horse itself had small mining operations as far back as 1837. By 1886 the Leamore cross-roads would  be surrounded by a series of old and current pit shafts operated by the Harden and Forest Collieries to name but a few. The Forest Colliery (think of the location of the Forest Arts Centre) had a series of tramway lines that ran up to the rear of the Black Horse Inn. The Black Horse Beer-House would have a couple of shafts located right behind it and I can only speculate that sating the thirst of the increasing number of workers have been the raison d’etre for the place.

Further afield were the Hatherton furnaces, next to the Wyrley & Essington canal on Leamore Lane, as well as the Walsall Glue Factory and Birchills Iron Works to the south. Housing had crept up the main road and what is now the shopping precinct car-park had been lost under housing too.

By 1900 a couple of brick works had also opened locally and further housing had been built. By 1914, development had increased yet further, including on the Harden Rd, with the cross-roads becoming a clear hub for the area.

The massive housing developments between the Wars are very visible at Leamore. 25" OS Map 1938. (WLHC)

The massive housing developments between the Wars are very visible at Leamore. 25″ OS Map 1938. (WLHC)

By 1938, the mines had long-gone and the post-industrial landscape had been turned-over wholesale to housing. The community hub now even supported its own cinema- the Rosum – which opened on 24 August 1936, a library reading room and there was also a Methodist Church.

In the 1960s the flats and shopping precinct were built to reflect housing and shopping needs of the time. Christ Church school was also opened. A garage was in existence, but has since moved to its current site and there were a couple of doctor’s surgeries. The cinema passed away in 1966, being replaced for a while with a bingo club; it is now a supermarket and bookmakers, reflecting the shopping and leisure needs of today.

The Roseum Cinema, opened in 1936 as a part of the inter-war development of Leamore. (WLHC)

The art-deco Rosum Cinema, opened in 1936 as a part of the inter-war development of Leamore.

The Black Horse Beer-House
Richard Marshall was born around 1806, within the Walsall area. In 1841, he was married to Mary and they already had a family, with the 6-year old Thomas being relevant to our story later. At this time they were in the Leamore area, I believe near where the Leamore School would later appear. Richard was a coal miner.

By 1851, the family had grown and Marshall was now described at an ironstone miner, possibly at the mines that were a part of the Black Horse Farm estate – if he was employed by them, and there was a pit behind the beer-house at one time on land that was a part of the Black Horse Farm estate (Kiln Croft), then this must be considered a plausible suggestion for the naming of the beer-house after the Black Horse.

In 1861, the family were living on Victoria Terrace (later becoming ‘The Terrace’ and now surviving only as Comwall Close – entrance to the Leamore flats from the Walsall Road). Thomas had followed his father into ironstone mining. We know by 1868 the family were living and operating the ‘New Black Horse’ Beer-house. They were licensed to sell beers and ciders. What is not surprising, as many beer-house keepers and publicans of the time did it, was to see that Richard was described on the census as both a miner and a beer-house keeper. In short, the beer-house would be a family concern that added to the family revenue and not aimed at replacing the mining income. Richard was around 68 at this stage and, of course, there were no old age pensions.

Richard Marshall and the 'New Black Horse' in 1871. (National Archives)

Richard Marshall and the ‘New Black Horse’ in 1871. (National Archives)

Interestingly, the 1872 licensing register shows the owner of the premises to be J Whitgreave, of Ribley Terrace, Kirkham, near Preston. If you remember, the Whitgreave family had owned the site according to the Tithe apportionment of the 1840s.

Richard died in June 1877 and the pub licence was passed over to his widow, Mary. Mary, herself from Darlaston, followed her husband to Bloxwich cemetery in February 1881 and the pub passed onto their son, Thomas.

It appears that Thomas also became the owner of the premises. The licensing registers show that ownership was transferred to Thomas from a Mrs Badger (no address given), but no transfer was ever noted between Whitgreave and Badger. This becomes important as a Mr Badger was listed as the owner of the Black Horse Inn at that time (around 1882). If correct, and it may be an error, this would seem an obvious link between the two properties and a source for the name of the Black Horse for both – the problem is, is that the pubs carried their names before the Badgers owned them, if indeed they ever did.

Whatever the truth, the potential ownership by the Badgers is the only other connection I can find and may, somehow, be behind the duplicity in name.

Thomas Marshall had left home in the 1860s, although he stayed in Leamore; he had married Margaret, started a family, and was working as a coal miner when his father passed away. In 1881, we find him at the Black Horse Beer-house with his family, although he too remains a working miner. By 1891, the family was complete, with the eldest, Alfred (22), being a saddler; Jabez (21) being a collier; Thomas (18) and William (17) being curriers; George (15) a clerk and Laura (10) a scholar. Thomas is still a miner and Margaret must have carried the pub to a large extent.

The Marshalls at the Black Horse, 1891. (National Archives)

The Marshalls at the Black Horse, 1891.
(National Archives)

By 1901, Marshall had ceased to be a miner and was described as a ‘licensed victualler’. All but George had left the pub. In 1902 Thomas was elected into the Walsall & District Licensed Victuallers’ Beer Retailers’ Friendly and Protection Society. Marshall was described as being from the ‘Old Black Horse Inn’, Walsall Road. This is because the original Black Horse Inn was considerably remodelled in 1899 and became the ‘New Black Horse Hotel’. Confused?

In the early months of 1911, Thomas Marshall died. On 26 April the pub passed to his wife, Margaret. She stayed as the publican until her death at the age of 80 in 1922, after which her eldest son, Alfred, took over. Alfred had married Clara Davies in 1896 and set-up home with her and her mother 😦 in Portland St, Leamore. Over time he gave up the saddling trade and became a brewer – and I think it was likely him that was supplying the pub with home brewed ales, as shown by the pub signage. Alfred was certainly on the premises when Lizzie Stones sought help on 20 July 1910, after Robert Hall was found shot in the Black Horse Hotel (see Lost Leamore part II).

Margaret Marshall outside the front of the Black Horse - with Alfred and Clara? Alfred became a brewer and I bet he supplied the beer advertised. (WLHC)

Margaret Marshall outside the front of the Black Horse (off Walsall Rd) – with Alfred and Clara? Alfred became a brewer and possibly supplied the beer advertised. After 1911. (WLHC).

As far as we know, they didn’t own it before, so it appears to have been Alfred that sold the pub off to the Bloxwich Brewery Company on 21 November 1922. Alfred himself seems to have ran the pub from around then until when Joseph Wall as installed as the publican on 4 February 1924. The Bloxwich Brewery Company, based at Elmore Green, were taken over along with its tied-houses by Butler’s Brewery the following year. It is likely that the anachronistic beer-house was seen as out of date for the new post-industrial clientele and it was replaced in 1925 with a mock-Tudor building by the then owners, Butlers.

The end of the Black Horse - the last of the publicans prior to deolition under Butler's Ales in 1925. (WLHC)

The end of the Black Horse – the last of the publicans prior to demolition under Butler’s Ales in 1925. (WLHC)

What evidence do I have to suggest this? Well, there appears to be no development at the pub from when started operating until its closing in 1925. A line in the Walsall Free Press on 18 October 1924 suggests that plans to revamp the existing buildings were turned down by the Licensing Committee, who felt that only a rebuild would suffice. Further, the only building plan at the Walsall Local History Centre – which date from 1877 – is for a bay window was inserted in 1896, when it was still the ‘New Black Horse’. The 1886 25″ OS map shows quite clearly that extensions had been built since the Tithe Map of the 1840s and 1877 (due to the lack of a plan at the History Centre), although it isn’t clear if this was done by Richard Marshall and specifically to accommodate a pub.

1886 25" OS Map. It shows that the Black Horse Beer-house has been significantly extended since the image from the Tithe Map in order to accommodate the pub. (WLHC)

1886 25″ OS Map. It shows that the Black Horse Beer-house has been significantly extended since the image from the Tithe Map, possibly to accommodate the pub. (WLHC).

We have little idea as to the internal layout of the pub, other than it was reported that in 1901 there was an out-door, where beer was served through a small hatch – in this case it was served to an on-duty policeman, which nearly landed the both the copper and the Marshalls in trouble 🙂 .

The small yard, the frontage and the front extension to the left can clearly be seen to help orientate the viewer to the map. (WLHC)

The small yard, the frontage and the front extension to the left can clearly be seen to help orientate the viewer to the map. After 1911. (WLHC)

This new flagship of Butler’s Ales was operated by the same Joseph Wall who ran the Black Horse before it. It would at least have a longer life span, but as drinking habits were forcibly changed through the divorcing the brewing companies from owning too many pubs, prices shot up and punters left. After a period of closure it was demolished in 2009 – the space currently left acts as a memorial to the vanity of inter-War grandeur.

Demolition of the Butler's Arms, as the Black Horse watches , 2009. (Peter Barker)

Demolition of the Butler’s Arms, as the Black Horse watches , 2009. (Peter Barker)

The Black Horse Inn
In 1871 the Black Horse was owned by John Williams, a victualler from Wolverhampton. The same year saw Lydia Jones described as a victualler in a property where 1 Harden St was next door. Lydia was 23 and living wither her brother in the home of her married sister, Ann. Ann had married Henry Farrow in Aston in 1859 and now had a family. The fact that Lydia is described as the victualler isn’t surprising when you realise that she and Ann grew up in a pub in Bilston, where their father was the victualler.

By 30 Aug 1872 the Farrows had left. The occupier of the pub was Lloyd Smith. Smith was born in Kinnersley, Shropshire, around 1841 and had moved to Willenhall by 1861. He married Sarah Phillips there in 1864 and they settled down to have a family. Around 1870 the moved to Darlaston, Lloyd remaining a blacksmith. In 1872, they are at the Black Horse and the family grows. The pub is transferred to Sarah sometime prior to her premature death in 1878, at the age of 48. Lloyd is still at the pub in 1881 and a licence under Sarah’s name appears to have been granted in 1882, when the pub was supposed to be owned by Mr Badger.

Lloyd left the pub not long later and leaves our story too. He was replaced as publican by Thomas Chidlow, certainly by 1884. We get the first dated transfers of the pub from 1888, when on 26 November a Joseph Stackhouse took charge of the pub. My suspicions regarding the ownership of the pub by a Mr Badger are heightened when the pub has a change of owner at some stage in the 1880s: it moves from Badger to a Mr Thomas Williams of Vale House, Goldthorn Hill, Wolverhampton; yet a Williams family of Wolverhampton had owned it previously – was it the same one and so an error?

The pub would be taken on by the Wedges in May 1890. Josiah Wedge was born in Walsall around 1830; his wife, Elizabeth, was from Wednesbury and 11 years his junior. Wedge was a harness manufacturer and doubtless, Elizabeth ran the pub. No children were living with them at this stage. Josiah died in the pub in early 1898 and his wife vacated the pub by July 1899, passing away a few years later.

The new publican was Jephthah Wilkinson. Wilkinson was also the owner and had been since at least the tail end of 1898. In November of that year he submitted plans for what was basically a complete rebuild of the pub. Wilkinson had gone into business with Tomas Henry Bill and, trading as Wilkinson & Co, decided to invest in the pub. He had been born in Dudley around 1833 and he had by 1871 taken on the running of the Hare & Hounds pub there, with his wife and family. He was still in the pub in 1891. By 1901, he was living in Edgbaston.

Wilkinson first oversaw the pub’s rebuild. Two shops were built into the pub, which existed at the front. All the domestic accommodation was off to the one side. The bar was at the back, and served and outdoor passage and a smoke room at the rear. The yard can also bee seen.

Ground plan of the Black Horse Hotel, showing the small pantry room . (Walsall Local History Centre)

Ground plan of the Black Horse Hotel, showing the two shops that were at the front, domestic accommodation to the side and the bar, smoke room and outdoor at the back.
(Walsall Local History Centre)

The original front entrance can still be seen on the photo below, with the boarded-up rounded window being for the second shop. The pub was renamed the New Black Horse Hotel and a couple of bed rooms did exist on the first floor, with the room under the gables and the round tower being a ‘club room’.

The New Black Horse Hote, rebuilt in 1896, fallen on hard times and now demolished. (Stuart Williams)

The New Black Horse Hotel, rebuilt in 1899. The shop entrance can be seen, as well as the rebuilt outdoor entrance. (Stuart Williams)

Wilkinson’s plans continued. After the pub was rebuilt, he looked to brewing. He had run his own place for many years and was possibly skilled himself in brewing techniques. He submitted plans, which were approved, to build a brewery behind the pub. This was nothing out of the ordinary at that time, after all, the Crown Inn had its own brewery at that time.

A section of the Brewery built by Wilkinson in 1900 at the New Black Horse Hotel. (WLHC)

A section of the Brewery built by Wilkinson in 1900 at the New Black Horse Hotel. (WLHC)

Bill and Wilkinson would retain the pub and brewery for another few years. What generally happens is that individual owners sell to small brewery chains that in turn sell to bigger ones – as seen with the Black Horse Beer-house, which was sold to the Bloxwich Brewery Company, then onto Butlers. Wilkinson sold the Black Horse to Eley’s Brewery of Stafford around late 1904 (itself acquiring small breweries). I believe the brewery behind the pub had a short life-span, and may have been closed upon take over by Eley’s. Eley’s would, ironically, be taken over by Butler’s in 1928, but it offloaded the Black Horse onto the Wolverhampton & Dudley Brewery (now Banks’s Brewery, which own Marston’s) around 1907.  They held it until it was demolished in 2011.

A flood of publicans came in for short periods, the first of these being Frederick Webster Chinn. He arrived in 1902, but was gone by 1904. He was replaced by Ernest Whitehead. Whitehead was the last of Wilkinson’s appointments it seems and was from Moseley in Birmingham. He lasted a year.

Eley’s appointed a Wallace Jones as manager of the pub at a salary of £3 per week – although domestic help and certain other expenses came from this. Jones’ wife, Nellie, was not paid for what she did. What is interesting is that Jones, originally from Ross-on-Wye, was not a publican but a butcher and was living very nearby at the time. Jones appeared not to have taken to it and the family had left after a year – although in 1911 he is butchering and holding a license at his shop in Bescot St, Walsall.

In April, David Charles Lawrence was appointed. He was from Clarendon St, Bloxwich. He stayed a few months, possibly as they appeared to be paying him a lot less. In July 1906, John Walsh then took over. Walsh was a publican and had most recently been at the Thatched House in Bloxwich. Saying that, despite his wages going up to £3, the 33 year-old from Bilston only lasted a year.

Around this time the pub changed hands – going to the Wolverhampton & Dudley Brewery. Also, the pub had a rifle range built at the back – likely on the land behind the houses on the map below. It was a miniature rifle range, for small calibre rifles. These were shot at 25, 50 and 100 yard ranges. Miniature rifles became popular after the poor British showing in the Boer War. The pub ran a team in the local league in Walsall.

1914 25" OS Map - showing the brewery, pub development - including the rifle range, and local development. (WLHC)

1914 25″ OS Map – showing the brewery, pub development – including the rifle range, and local development. (WLHC)

1907 saw Enoch Astley arrive, but not without a little controversy. He was initially refused a licence due to problems between his sons and the Chief Constable in the past, but eventually was granted it. Again, he did not stay long. He was replaced by Yorkshireman Robert Walker Hall. Hall was to take his own life with the miniature rifle that was used by customers on the range behind. He had fallen down the cellar steps a week before and this was seen as the cause at the inquest, but I am not so sure and Lost Leamore part II covers the story in more depth.

Hall was followed by his widow, but she and her daughter left in the following January when she married her fiancee – they moved to a pub in Bilston. William Hodges was installed as the new landlord in February 1911. He operated the pub with wife, Annie. He was 50 and from Birmingham, she 49 and from Barnsley, Yorkshire. They had no children. They stayed just a year before moving to the Red Lion in Park St, Walsall.

Finally, a landlord arrived that stayed for longer than a year. It seems likely that Edward James Perry was previously a bag frame maker in Bloxwich, but I cannot be certain. Perry would remain at the pub until 1922, when he was succeeded by George Henry Merrett. Merrett remained until 1929, but is the last publican in our story as he would preside over this Black Horse as the Black Horse Beer-house closed, was demolished and re-emerged as the Butler’s Arms.

At some stage between 1899 and 1925 the two shops at the front of the pub were converted into a bar room and a ‘vaults’ – a snug or lounge. Merrett would also preside over a further extension, when the old smoke room at the rear became a billiard room, with space for a couple of  tables. The brewery building is still there, but marked as ‘the old brewery’, indicating it hadn’t been used for some time.

The 1925 (WLHC)

The 1926 extension to the smoke or billiard room, creating a larger billiard room. It appears the shops had become pub rooms by this stage. (WLHC).

The Hotel continued, being extended again – the outdoor passage being lost and the billiard room being enlarged (later changing use). It would see off its old rival, now the Butler’s Arms, in 2009. Sadly, this would not save the once proud Hotel and after a couple of failed publicans and a few periods of closure it was torched by some troubled soul that cared more for a thrill than a century of history – much more if you think of the previous buildings on the site. While the pub was lost in 2011, a part of the structure of ASK Motors is that from the pub and so it will live, in part, longer than that troubled soul.

The demolition of the Black Horse, 2011 The digger reaches around the pantry room, where Hall shot himself. (Peter Barker)

The demolition of the Black Horse, 2011. The digger reaches around the area of the old pantry, where Hall shot himself in 1910. (Peter Barker)

This article has aimed, through two pubs, to introduce to Walsallians and Bloxwegians alike, a little history of a once important cross-roads and centre of an agricultural and mining estate. Nobody bats an eyelid there anymore; and while these buildings have mostly gone, like the miners and the farm workers, the area in many ways is not so different. This article is dedicated to the one constant in our story – the people of Leamore. Salut.

My Thanks to:
Walsall Local History Centre
Peter Barker
Stuart Williams
Libby Warren
National Archives