JOB TOON – Brush maker, jockey, horse trainer and publican!

April 8, 2016 § 2 Comments


Although Job Toon, the central character in this story was not originally from Walsall he did live in the town in his early life and also ended his days there.  In the years in between he became a jockey, head lad, assistant trainer, trainer/stud manager and finally, the licensee of the New Inn, John Street, Walsall. How many other Walsall publicans can say they came second in the Irish Derby as a jockey and then won the same race a few years later as a trainer?

Job Toon

Thought to be a young Job Toon, an image taken from the German book,  Album des Deutschen Rennsport published in 1900. Courtesy of Tim Cox.

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Murder or manslaughter on Church Street?

July 29, 2014 § Leave a comment


This is really part two of the previous post, Three Drinking Dens of Church Hill. Having previously shared with you the brief outcome of an inquest into the death of John Springthorpe in August 1858, I found the case to be intriguing and decided further research was required. The original charge of murder had been changed to manslaughter which, on the surface seems fair…..but is it? You decide.

I had my doubts as to how the authorities viewed a case of this description in 1858 but upon reading the extremely detailed newspaper reports I changed my mind. It would seem the police and the Coroner made a great effort to find out exactly what happened on that Tuesday morning in Church Street and I for one find the outcome to be anything but fair. This has nothing to do with the professionalism of the authorities in Walsall, the problem for me is the proceedings that occurred at Stafford Assizes a couple of months later.

Church Street today, just the cobble stones remain.

Church Street today, difficult to think this was once teeming with people instead of trees. In the middle of the picture the light area is approximately where the fight took place.

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Three drinking dens of Church Hill

July 14, 2014 § Leave a comment


Barley Mow

The Barley Mow c.1895 in a watercolour titled “Shove off nipper”. The original is in J. D. Wetherspoons St. Matthew’s Hall pub.

Another illustration from the pubs of old Walsall, this one features the Barley Mow that stood opposite St. Matthew’s Church. Salvation was near at hand but temptation was all around! You will see from the accompanying O.S. map the public houses that were around the St. Matthews area. This area around Church Hill has always been of interest to me ever since childhood, living at the bottom end of Sandwell Street this was our usual route into Walsall town centre. When accompanied by my mother or grandmother in my early years they used to tell me stories about Gorton’s Yard and Temple Street and the hardships endured by the poor families that lived there. I think it was well-known that some of the poorest people in Walsall lived around this area until it’s demolition in the 1930s. « Read the rest of this entry »

The wheels of progress

July 8, 2014 § Leave a comment


During the Middle Ages travel from place to place had not really been necessary as most villages and towns produced the majority of things that they needed themselves. As the population grew in Tudor times and towns began to specialise in particular trades so the need for better roads arose. Although improvements did occur in the area, Walsall’s roads remained in a poor state. After the Turnpike Act of 1747 was passed by parliament turnpike companies built several new roads around the town. For the privilege of continuing on your way travellers either paid up or remained where they were!

Local charges were:-

  • Coaches and four wheelers                12d (5p)
  • Chaises and two wheelers                 6d (2.5p)
  • A horse                                                  1d (o.5p)
  • A drove of oxen                                   10d (7.5p) per score
  • A drove of pigs, cows and sheep       5d (2p) per score

Inevitably some people were exempt from paying the toll; these included Members of Parliament travelling to and from London (now there’s a surprise!), serving soldiers, funerals, voters on election day and road menders…..charging the latter would be rubbing salt in the wounds!

At the bottom of the map shown below can be seen “Dog Kennel” referred to in the Bull’s Head details later in this post. The lack of detail is due to the fact that the map this section is taken from was drawn up to show the boundaries of Walsall Borough only. Anything outside the perimeter, i.e. Hammerwich Brook and Mr Darwall’s bridge, was in the Foreign.

A section of an 1814 map showing the new road, Bridge Street .

A section of an 1814 map showing New Road (Bridge Street) highlighted in red, the watercourses that ran through the town are shown in blue.

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The Woolpack Inn and Ye Olde Woolpack

June 27, 2014 § Leave a comment


A watercolour painting of the original Woolpack Inn c.1890.

A watercolour painting of the original Woolpack Inn c.1885 with the licensee Mrs Emily Eliza Ross standing on the doorstep.

Above is a watercolour of one of Walsall’s oldest inns, The Woolpack, which stood approximately where the entrance to the Old Square is today. The painting shows the original Woolpack which was a late medieval timber framed building and certainly one of the oldest pubs in Walsall, it was demolished in 1892. It is reputed that local Royalists under Colonel John Lane congregated at the inn in September 1651 before continuing to Worcester to join Charles II. During my research for the history of Walsall Races, the Woolpack was mentioned numerous times as it was one of Walsall’s most important venues for cock-fighting. In June 1756 a year after the earliest announcement for Walsall Races in 1755 there appeared in Aris’s Gazette an announcement that read:- « Read the rest of this entry »

Minerva Inn, Paddock Lane

June 23, 2014 § Leave a comment


The Minerva Inn on the corner of Paddock Lane and Union Street.

The Minerva Inn on the corner of Paddock Lane and Union Street, c.1930.

In an earlier post I mentioned a project of mine a few years ago was to illustrate some of the old pubs of Walsall that are now long gone. This post features the Minerva Inn that was situated on the corner of Paddock Lane and Union Street. This watercolour painting was based on a black and white photograph taken around the 1930s. I always liked the photograph for the way the perspective of the narrow street pulls the eye onto the Parish Church of our town, St. Matthews standing proudly on the hill. « Read the rest of this entry »

The White Swan and Seven Stars Inn

June 16, 2014 § Leave a comment


The White Swan and on the left, The Seven Stars. The road to the left is Bath Street with Dudley Street on the right.

The White Swan and on the left, The Seven Stars. The road to the left is Bath Street with Dudley Street on the right.

Several years ago whilst researching family and local history I decided that I wanted to see how the long gone pubs of Walsall would have  looked to my ancestors. I embarked on a series of watercolour and gouache paintings of hostelries based on black and white photographs. One of the first paintings I did was of The White Swan that sat on the corner of Bath Street and Dudley Street, where the Mercedes garage is now situated. This turned out to be two paintings in one as on the opposite side of the street stood the Seven Stars Inn, but first the White Swan. « Read the rest of this entry »

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