The Robin Hood

Siting and Naming
This history of the Robin Hood follows on from an earlier article on this blog that covered the general pub history of Churchbridge, William Gilpin and the now lost Red Cow. As Gilpin, the Cow and the Robin are all inextricably linked, I make no apology for repeating myself a little.

The Victoria County History says that William Gilpin’s edge-tool works were in full operation at Churchbridge by 1817. By 1838 there were two pubs and a ‘brewhouse’ in Churchbridge, all of which can be linked to Gilpin. We know he owned the pubs and brewhouse (this could be simply a kitchen rather than a brewery) even if he did not operate them, as he is listed as such on the tithe schedule. Both pubs were located at the gates of his factory.  Further, there was also a Tommy Shop operating in Churchbridge by 1871 that was located near the Red Cow (and so Gilpin’s entrance). This means Gilpin paid his workers part in-kind, with tokens redeemable is his shop – it had to be his, or ran in conjunction with someone, as he is the only employer in the area. The Tommy Shop  may well have been operating for long before its first mention on the census.

Churchbridge, 1838 (Lichfield Record Office)

Churchbridge, 1838
(Lichfield Record Office)

So seemingly, Gilpin controlled everything. He was no fool, he knew his earlier works at Wedges Mills and those at Churchbridge were large employers and he sought to reclaim his wages through the truck system and by brewing his own beer and selling it in pubs he owned. We know he brewed beer (even if not in Churchbridge), as the Pigot directory for 1842 lists the firm as William Gilpin Co (& Brewers), Churchbridge and Wedges Mills.

So, why call the pub the Robin Hood? Well, the obvious inspiration would be the figure of folklore – which I would assume was plucked from the air, as I wouldn’t suggest Gilpin saw himself as some kind of hero in ‘giving to the poor’.  Saying that, and whilst I can’t prove otherwise, there just maybe more to it. I stress there is no actual evidence for this, but it is fun, so I will offer a story…

Hood isn’t a common surname and if you take a look at the 1841 census below, living in the next property assessed to the pub (then occupied by Abraham Trubshaw) is a family called Hood. In 1842, we get the first evidence of the pub’s name being the Robin Hood in the Pigot directory – which also has a Charles Hood listed as a beer retailer in Wyrley. Maybe, just maybe the name has more to do with a neighbourly  dispute or purchasing dodgy beer rather than some guy in tights.

Ownership of the Robin Hood
The pub was likely built by, but by 1838 was certainly owned by William Gilpin. It remained the property of the Gilpin company until sometime between 1875 an 1877, when the licensing register states that ownership of the Robin Hood was passed to a Percy Burnett. Bernard Gilpin, head of the company, had invited his son-in-law, Ernest Wildman Burnett (possibly Percy’s nephew) into the company. Their partnership started in 1872 and Burnett became the head of the company. The partnership was dissolved in 1874, but Burnett kept overall control, having a majority stake-holding. He did not retire until 1912 when his son took over.

Licensing Register showing the change of ownership in 1878. (Staffordshire Record Office)

Licensing Register showing the change of ownership c1876.
(Staffordshire Record Office)

The big ownership change would occur in 1904 when the pub sold to the Highgate Brewery, which is based in Walsall. From this point onward the pub’s ownership follows a familiar pattern as the smaller chain is eaten by a larger one. It remained with Highgate until 1930, when it was taken over by the William Butler & Co and the Springfield Brewery. In 1960, Butler’s was taken over by Mitchell’s & Butler’s Ltd of Cape Hill, which later became Bass, Mitchell’s & Butler’s Ltd. As the big breweries were forced to sell off their pubs, the pub is now owned by a private concern.

The Robin Hood, in M&B livery. Undated. (Great Wyrley Local History Society)

The Robin Hood, in M&B livery. Undated.
(Great Wyrley Local History Society)

The Publicans, 1834-1940
Back in 1838 the pub was in the occupation of one William Webb, who had been listed in White’s directory as early as 1834 as a beerhouse keeper. This is the earliest reference we have to both the Robin Hood pub and to its publican. A beerhouse licence mean’t that Webb could only sell beers and ciders on the premises, but not wines or spirits – so pretty much in keeping with the clientele that you would expect from the factory; foundry men and tool makers.

The Robin Hood, garden and stable (188-190), 1838. (Staffordshire Record Office)

The Robin Hood, garden and stable (188-190), 1838. (Staffordshire Record Office)

By 1841 the new canal basin was completed linking Churchbridge to the wider canal network at Calf Health, bringing with it increased trade for the Robin Hood. In that year Abraham Trubshaw was the publican. He was listed in this census as a publican but he, like many publicans of the time, had dual occupations – later census’ would show he was also a butcher. Trubshaw, I believe, may have married a Jane Goodwin at Wolverhampton in November 1835. Jane was a native of Stone, Staffordshire and Abraham was from Cannock. They were clearly a loving couple, as they produced children yearly! Jane jnr. appeared around 1837, Ann 1838, Isaac 1839 and Esther around January, 1841. There were two domestic helpers also employed.

1841 census for the Robin Hood - under Trubshaw. Note Thomas Hood Next Door (Staffordshire Record Office)

1841 census for the Robin Hood – under Trubshaw. Note Thomas Hood next door
(National Archives)

The Trubshaw family were still in occupation in 1851 – in fact, they were resident for 30 years, something unlikely to happen these days. Isaac and Esther are both listed as scholars – so are receiving education at a Church or dame school, likely in Cheslyn Hay, where there were several. Sadly, Ann had died in January 1844.

1851 Census for the Robin Hood (National Archives)

1851 Census for the Robin Hood
(National Archives)

The Robin Hood would see increased competition in trade in the early 1860s, with the opening of the White Lion and the Churchbridge flight of locks. In 1861 both Trubshaw and Isaac, his son, are listed as being butchers – indeed, victualler isn’t even mentioned. Interestingly, there are three ‘servants ‘ at the Robin, two of which must be a part of Abraham’s extended family. As we move towards the 1870s we find Trubshaw being declared bankrupt in March 1867. In 1871, Abraham Trubshaw appears as the publican, however, within months he was dead. He was described as being ‘paralysed’ in that census, which suggests he was fairly ineffective and the pub was likely ran by his son, Isaac and his family (his wife, Susannah, being married before) – as they were all listed as being at the pub.

1871 Census for the Robin Hood, Trubshaw would be dead within months. (National Archives)

1871 Census for the Robin Hood, Trubshaw would be dead within months.
(National Archives)

Trubshaw’s successor as licensee was William Henry Hughes – and a year later, with the first surviving entry in the Licensing Registers, the pub was trading as an alehouse – that meaning it could sell wines and spirits too. The first we pick-up of the pub under Hughes is that it had the dubious honour of hosting the inquest of Benjamin Littler. The Lichfield Mercury reported on the inquest on 1st October 1880; it said that Littler died at ‘Churchbridge Edge-Tool Works’ after being thrown against a circular saw whilst it was in motion. Littler, who had recently lost his wife, was nearly decapitated – a verdict of accidental death was returned.

In 1881, the 48 year-old Hughes was a brick manufacturer from Kingwinford. He was married to Ellen, 3-years his senior and from Dudley. They couple had two children living with them; Annie and Elizabeth, as well as William’s father, Aaron, an 83 year-old brick maker. Hughes was also a long term publican. Funny, a Thomas Hood was listed in the neighbouring assessed property.

In 1891, Hughes was described as a ‘contractor, farmer and publican’ – clearly an entrepreneur. Annie and Elizabeth (Isabella E. in this census) are still at home. Hughes stayed at the pub until 1904, when a George Turner took over – who may have been a relative – and which coincided with Highgate taking over the pub. This was an interesting time; Hughes was fined £5 both 1903 and 1904 (after he had left the pub at the age of 70) for selling diluted whiskey, while Turner was fined £5 in 1904 for selling diluted rum – funny, I have often heard the phrase the watering hole used as a euphemism for a public house, but in this case, it was spot on.

Fines for the victuallers of the Robin Hood - 1903-1906.  (Staffordshire Record Office)

Fines for the victuallers of the Robin Hood – 1903-1906.
(Staffordshire Record Office)

By 1906 the landlord was Soloman Hames and he continued the tradition of being dragged in front of the Cannock Petty Sessions. In April he was fined £3 for allowing John Mellor to drink himself into a state where he said to his brother, according to the Lichfield Mercury, that ‘kid it’s no use, I can’t walk a yard’. In the November, he was acquitted of licensing after-hours. Not surprisingly, by 1907, George Stanton was landlord. Stanton was himself replaced within a year.

Robin Hood publicans, 1907-1915. (Staffordshire Record Office)

Robin Hood publicans, 1907-1915.
(Staffordshire Record Office)

In February 1910, the 39 year-old Robert Perry was at the pub. He, and his wife Charlotte, were from Bloxwich and had no children. Perry was to be fined for permitting drunkeness in February 1912. The August of that year saw the second grizzly inquest to be held at the pub – that of Joseph Thacker. Thacker was a miner and a Churchbridge man, living on the Walsall Road. He had slit his own throat in a fit of a depression from which he had suffered ever since the loss of his wife the previous year. Thacker had been in Bridgtown the year before and left a family of eight children, ranging from 17 down to just 2. Sad.

Perry was to be succeeded in February 1914 by another pub stalwart – John Perks. He remained until early 1934, when he was followed by Fred Perks, who remained until the 22nd April,1951. Perks was followed by John William Jones. Jones we know remained the publican until January 1962, when Reginald Carter took on the pub. He remained until at least 1966, when the last licensing register in the public domain (and open for inspection) ceases; and so the succession of publicans from 1966 to current landlords, Tim and Gemma Love, will have to wait for another day – or for me to go through every electoral register. In the meantime, any readers that wish to comment on this, pleased do.

The Pub: Frontage and Outbuildings
In 1838 the tithe schedule says the pub had a garden and stable. The map below shows these (numbers 188-190), but no other outbuildings.

Red Cow in 1838 - no 194 on the tithe-map.

The Robin Hood in 1838 – no 188-190 on the tithe-map. (Lichfield Record Office)

What is interesting is that the the pub was originally an L-shaped building, with a stable nestled in the join of that ‘L’. Presumably the pub was to the side (where the current serving bar is) and the domestic accommodation behind. The garden is off to the side. The key to placing this into today’s pub landscape is the curved boundary at the front of the pub, which is still there.

The Robin Hood, showing the curved boundary present in 1838.

The Robin Hood, showing the curved boundary present in 1838.

One last thing to notice is that in 1838 the pub was a part of a row of buildings, while today it is isolated. If one looks closely at the chimney for what was the old Bar Room, there is evidence, in the form of a blocked opening, where the cottage next door used the same chimney breast.

The blocked part of the chimney used by the former neighbouring cottage. 2014.

The blocked part of the chimney used by the former neighbouring cottage. 2014.

The 1884 OS Map suggests the shape of the pub is as we know it today. This would mean that Trubshaw or Hughes had extended the façade of building to the frontage shared by that part of the pub with bay windows (the current entrance). Initially, I was unsure – after all the map could be simply wrong – but looking at the frontage it would explain a few niggles I had, baring in mind that I am no builder: namely the thick wall between the original and the new frontage (this would have been an exterior wall), the significantly lower floor level in the extension, the fact that the beams don’t align between the two parts of the building, the fact that I have been told that the cellar doesn’t extend into the extension and finally, the step-up to the original part of the building from the extension.

Uneven floor surface and thick walls  between the old part of the pub and the extended frontage. 2014.

Uneven floor surface and thick walls between the old part of the pub and the extended frontage. 2014.

The step-up to the original frontage of the 1830s. 2014.

The step-up to the original frontage of the 1830s. 2014.

So who had the frontage extended? Well, for most of the period between 1838 and 1884, Abraham Trubshaw was the proprietor. This, along with the addition of a larder complete with meat-hooks, considering Trubshaw was a butcher, suggests that it was him.  Trubshaw and his son may have extended the building to use part of it as a butcher’s shop.

The tithe-map indicates that this was the early frontage before the stable was demolished and the rest of the pub was extended. 2014.

The tithe-map indicates that this was the early frontage before the stable was demolished and the rest of the pub was extended. 2014.

It wasn’t the only change. The side garden area has been lost to the expanding Gilpin works and a new boundary fixed at the rear of the pub – which now clearly incorporates a range of outbuildings.  There have also been significant alterations to the rear of the pub.

25" O/S map, 1884. It shows the Robin and the former Cow can be made out on the photo above.

25″ O/S map, 1884. It shows the Robin and the former Cow can be made out on the photo above.

There is a plan of the pub dating to September 1907 to be found in Cannock Magistrates records at Stafford. Despite being for internal alterations, the plan shows that the pub was supported by a number of out-buildings, all of which have now been knocked-down.  The angled boundary to the side of the pub, with its wide entrance, was there and led to a private yard. The back boundary wall is now straight and modern, but once, along this, in the private area was an earth closet (not water flushed), an ash-pit and in the right corner, a stable and wagon-shed.

The Private Yard, consisting of a stable, ash-pit and an earth closet. 1907. (Staffordshire Record Office)

The Private Yard, consisting of a stable, ash-pit and an earth closet. 1907.
(Staffordshire Record Office)

The Private Yard, 2014

The Private Yard, 2014

The other part of the yard was for the pub and contains a strangely angled boundary that is still there. This part of the yard also had a stable, but also had a couple of piggeries, the public urinal and an earth closet – which I think is a little unfair on the pigs 🙂 .

The pub yard, as at 1907

The pub yard, as at 1907, showing the pub stables, piggery and earth closet
(Staffordshire Record Office)

The irregular shaped Public Yard, 2014.

The irregular shaped Public Yard, 2014.

There is one other thing to mention, and it can be seen on this aerial photograph from 1926. The eagle-eyed will spot the rear buildings of the Robin Hood (double-click on the photo to enhance), but on this photo I am more interested in what is over the road – namely a bowling green. The pub had a successful team around this time – a photo of the 1930 trophy winning team hangs in the pub. Like with many bowling greens, the land was eventually turned over to become a car-park (rough ground) and I also seem to remember the odd bonfire being held their on November 5th. The car-park was lost when the road system was altered to accommodate the Birmingham Northern Relief Road, which also left the pub on a dead-end until the housing development behind the pub is finished – always assuming it survives.

Aerial photo of the Gilpin Works and lock system. 1926. (English Heritage)

Aerial photo of the Gilpin Works and lock system. 1926.
(English Heritage)

 The Robin Hood: Interior
The same 1907 plan shows that the interior has altered a lot. The alterations of 1907 created the public serving bar as it is today, but the plans also shows the room arrangement before the alterations.

The lay-out prior to the 1907 alterations. (Staffordshire Record Office)

The lay-out prior to the 1907 alterations.
(Staffordshire Record Office)

Around 1900 the entrance was in the same place, but it then took you into what was described as an Outdoor area. Off to the left of this was the small Bar Room (which has now been made open-plan, but only recently has most of the side wall come down, linking it to the former outdoor).

The former bar-room, now open-plan. Small rooms were common-place. 2014.

The former bar-room, now open-plan. Small rooms were common-place. 2014.

The current toilet block was the Tap Room and the chimney of the fireplace can still be seen from the outside. This must have been where the beer was poured, as the 1907 changes were done in part for better supervision of the pub – indeed, the alterations reduced the drinking area. It isn’t clear when the Tap Room, or former Tap Room was converted into the toilets.

The old Tap-Room, now the toilet block - note the chimney. 2014.

The old Tap-Room, now the toilet block – note the chimney. 2014.

There was also what was called on the plan a Bar Parlour room, which was where the current serving bar is now located. I assume that this would have been the slightly more up-market room. Off to the right and down a ‘slope’ was the Smoke Room. This is the former stable area and is still a public room.

The former stable area, which by 1907 was a Smoke Room. 2014.

The former stable area, which by 1907 was a Smoke Room. 2014.

At the rear of the pub, jutting out into the yard areas was a kitchen and scullery. This area was divided into two separate rooms – yes, a kitchen and scullery – as a part of the 1907 changes. There was also an old coal shed attached to the pub rear, next to the chimney. This has now gone but the doorway from the pub into the coal shed still remains, although this doorway wasn’t on the 1907 plan.

The old kitchen and scullery, along with the site of the coal shed. 2014.

The old kitchen and scullery, along with the site of the coal shed. 2014.

In September 1907, architects Hickton and Farmer, a Walsall company, drew-up the plans that were later carried out resulting in significant alterations to the pub interior. Their instructions to the Licensing Justices were still enclosed within the plan.

The instructions for the 1907 alterations. (Staffordshire Record Office)

The instructions for the 1907 alterations.
(Staffordshire Record Office)

The 1907 plan, showing the bar counter where the former Bar Parlour used to be and the divided kitchen and scullery. (Staffordshire Record Office)

The 1907 plan, showing the bar counter where the former Bar Parlour used to be and a divided kitchen and scullery.
(Staffordshire Record Office)

The intention, and what subsequently happened, was to replace the Bar Parlour room with a new serving bar (the current one), which presumably becomes a combined Bar Room and Outdoor, while the original Bar Room became the Parlour.

The 1907 bar, replacing the Bar Parlour room. This gave staff greater supervision of the pub. 2014.

The 1907 bar, replacing the Bar Parlour. This gave staff greater supervision of the pub. 2014.

Of the rest of the building, the Hall and staircase are where they are today. Where there was for a short time recently another lounge area (and once had a pool table) there was a once a store room, with a smaller store area within. This was a part of the original building. The Larder is still between the Smoke Room and the side wall. The Store Room on the plan may well have been a butcher’s shop – and it once had a large window on the side wall that is now blocked (see photo showing curved boundary).

Upstairs were the living quarters and what was then called the Club Room. I remember the Club Room having two pool tables in back in the later 1990s, when I played for the successful re-formed Robin Hood FC – it was successful only in so much as we avoided relegation…. from the bottom division 🙂 .

The upper floor arrangements, unaltered by the 1907 changes.  (Staffordshire Record Office)

The upper floor arrangements, unaltered by the 1907 changes.
(Staffordshire Record Office)

As yet, I have not been able to get into the old Store Room, Larder and Club Room to take photos. When I have, I will post them here.

All-in-all, the Robin Hood is a typical boozer. The pub’s birth comes from the growth of industry in Churchbridge from around the 1820 period onward. Long-term and part-time gaffers make way for shorter term, full-time ones and the ownership has seen it swallowed by ever larger brewery companies, until pub ownership became the preserve of property companies. The outbuildings, bowling green and car-park have long since gone and the interior has been hacked about, resulting in the loss of interior rooms and the outdoor.

Things looked bleak for the Robin Hood after first the canals closed, then all the industry disappeared back in the 70s and finally the road system changed around the pub. This took away its traditional working clientele and the left the pub shunted-off on a dead-end. What seemed to be an inevitable death seemed to have been staved-off as the land behind the pub was turned over for housing. Sadly, compared to the new housing the Robin Hood seems an anachronism and with rumours of demolition, I worry, I really worry.

The Robin Hood, likely in the early 1980s. (Stuart Attwood)

The Robin Hood, likely in the early 1980s.
(Stuart Attwood)

My thanks to:
The Staffordshire Record Office
The Lichfield Record Office
The National Archives
English Heritage
The Great Wyrley Local History Society
The Ordnance Survey
Stuart Attwood
Tim and Gemma Love

Comments
  1. Helen Ralphs says:

    Another great article – many thanks.

  2. I have heard today that someone has brought this pub and it will be knocked down within a week has anyone know the same this will be a sad loss of another pub, does Cannock heritage know about this or our local MP

  3. Phil Moran says:

    Thanks very much humphries bro,s for taking our much loved pub away from us real drinkers, this is a real sad time as it,s yet another real public house gone forever, no food just beer, what you see was what you got. Also a public house where my wife could walk in on her own and feel at ease with all around. Not just my opinion, but was the best pub in the village. Wolfie Phil.

  4. John Hyre says:

    heartbreaking to see the last pub in Churchbridge knocked down. Another nail in the coffin for local heritage! To see it flattened today is HEARTBREAKING! (edited).

  5. Martin Nova says:

    Today the Robin Hood is just a pile of rubble – all gone

    • Wolfie phil says:

      Yes. A terrible shame. My local gone forever. Still i have the original fire place up and running, a cpl of bar stools and table. And now i have the robin sign hanging in our garden with great pride

  6. diana rogers says:

    My grandfather was john william jones married to mary,he had the pub from 1951 to 1962,i used to spend most of the summer holidays there,sorry to see its now gone.diana rogers

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