Pubs of Clent

Pubs of Clent: A History

Taken from ‘Extracts from “Lost Treasures and Pub Histories of the Midlands” by John Richards’ . The extracts were published in 2002 in Clent Clarion no 12 (available from Clent History Society)

The Hill Tavern
Spring Tavern
The Fountain
The Bell & Cross
Crown Inn
The Vine
The Gate Inn
The Woodman
Extract from “My Early Life in Clent”

The Hill Tavern

The story of the Hill Tavern can be traced back to 1839 when on 15 February bricklayer John Waldron was granted permission to enclose a small plot of land on Clent Hills Common. Permission was given by the local copy holders and the Lord of the Manor, the Right Honourable Lord Lyttleton. The agreement allowed John Waldron to build a dwelling house and outhouse on the site. The building work was completed and he occupied the property in 1842. He immediately applied for, and was granted, a licence to convert the dwelling into a beer house (Perhaps this had been his original plan).

The Duke of Wellington’s Beer House Act had been recently established and this enabled anyone to open a beer-house provided they could raise three guineas to pay for a licence.
John Waldron named his one-room beer-house, The Hill Tavern. In the 1851 census he is recorded as living there at age 39 with his wife Mary Ann and their four children.

The Hill Tavern. Date Unknown

The Beer

John Waldron brewed his own ales here. Using water from the Clent Hills he would have produced ales to meet the demands of local farmers and of the thousands of visitors who came to Clent from the Black Country. The latter group normally drank a dark strong mild and expected a similar brew on their day off  in Clent. Typically for the period the beer would have varied in both strength and colour from brew to brew.

Beer production was always popular in the village. A now forgotten event in Clent was the annual cattle and cheese fair where inhabitants were allowed to sell beer without a licence. Whatever the standard of the ales produced, this must have been a marvellous time in the village. Unfortunately the practice proved too successful and was discontinued.

John Waldron- Licensee for 39 Years.

An incredible innings for the time, considering that opening hours were from 4am- 10pm, often with an extension to midnight!

When John died in 1881 the Hill Tavern was left to his wife and family who installed a tennant, Richard Lee. Nine years later the Hill Tavern was sold to John Rolinson & Son, Five Ways Brewery, Netherton for £1,075 – a considerable sum! Brewing at the Hill Tavern ceased and Rolinson’s range of beers was introduced. Although less imaginative they probably appeased the locals by offering beers with a higher level of consistency.


By the late Victorian period Clent was becoming an enormously popular tourist destination for the local industrialized regions. To meet this demand for ‘refreshment on the hills’ , Rolinsons built an extension on the north side of the building.

Wolverhampton & Dudley Breweries took over Rowlinsons in 1910, although the latter continued trading until 1925. The Hill Tavern was offered for sale at auction just before the First World War. Ernest Instan bought the pub on 17 March 1914 for £560. * The low price raises questions about how Clent fared during Edwardian times, the village was by this stage sustaining a large number of pubs which meant increased competition.

However The Hill Tavern survived, tenants and owners managing to offer what the consumer wanted. In 1979 Graham Stewart Bennett became licensee when he bought the premises. John was still running things in 2002 when John Richards was researching his Clent Pubs. Many further changes to date.

The Hill Tavern operated the famous ‘donkey ring’


Licensees of the Hill Tavern

1842-1881 John Waldron
1881-1890 Richard Clee
1890-1897 William Yates
1904-1910 Harriet Bromley
1904- 1910 Walter Bridgman
1910-1912 William Aston
1912-1947 Ernest Cowell Inston
1947-1973 Charles Palmer
1973-76 Winifred Dora Palmer
1976-1979 Hazel Saunders (nee Bennett)
1979 Graham Stewart Bennett

The Spring Tavern

Located midway between the Hill Tavern and the Fountain Inn was the Spring Tavern, now a private house. The earliest records I have found date from the 1870s, but the pub is older than that. In 1900 it was owned by Caroline Jordan of Wollaston and later passed to William Bevan and then to his son. It was bought by Julia Hanson’s Brewery of Dudley in 1920. However judging by its name the earliest licensees would have produced their own ales in the same way as The Hill Tavern and The Vine. The pub closed on 30 December 1940.

Spring Tavern

Spring Tavern, Adams Hill


The Fountain Inn

Originally the pub was part of a Georgian terrace dating from the early 18th Century. Fountain Cottage was the home of a Clent builder, William Phillips, who was recorded in the 1851 census as ‘aged 79 a retired widower’.  The census gives details of his son William (born in Birmingham) a carpenter with his wife, born in Leicestershire and their three children all born in Clent- twins John and Henry and Samuel. The family employed a 12 year old servant, Elizabeth Kidson.

The welcoming entrance gates to The Fountain on Adams Hill

It appears that William Phillips junior opened Fountain Cottage as a ‘pleasure garden and tearoom’ to cater for the many visitors from the Black Country. In 1855 he was granted a full alehouse licence by the Stourbridge Magistrates and the cottage subsequently became the Fountain Inn . William had died by 1861 with his son now recognised as inkeeper and documented as such in the census of that year.

The attractions of Clent in general, and the Fountain Inn in particular were advertised in May 1869 when the innkeeper declared, “William Phillips begs to thank parties and the public generally who have favoured him with their kind support for so many years, and begs to inform them that the premises having undergone a complete renovation to suit the requirements of visitors, he is prepared to provide Dinners and Teas on the Shortest Notice.” William also offered wines and spirits plus extensive stabling.

James Phillips had inherited the pub by 1891. He and his wife Hannah, from Blakedown and their three children enjoyed the services of a cook and a domestic – a busy house. A widow by 1896, Hannah held the licence of the Fountain Inn for 17 years until 1913. Following Hannah Frederick Charles Phillips held the licence until 1919 when the business was sold to Julia Hanson & Sons Ltd, of Dudley, who were taken over by Wolverhampton and Dudley Breweries in 1943.

In 1950 Norman Tiptaft, formerly Lord Mayor of Birmingham, toured the Midlands recording the history of the region’s pubs. He visited the Fountain Inn that year and was told by the then licensee, Joseph Timerick, that they intended to refurbish the 300 year old pub in period style. Mr Tiptaft believed the fireplace dated from the late 17th or early 18th century but it had actually been installed just before his visit. Interestingly he reported that the Timericks had converted a small lounge into an aquarium.

In more recent years there was a succession of licensees until 1998 when Richard Macey and his wife Jacque took over the pub. The Fountain Inn has since then become well known for the excellence of its restaurant. The skittle alley above the pub still exists and can be hired for private functions


1855-1891 William Phillips
1891-1892 James Phillips
1892-1896 Alfred Phillips
1896-1913 Hannah Phillips
1913-1919 Frederick Phillips
1919-1922 Thos. Chambers
1922-1923 Samuel Silk
1923-1925 Elizabeth Ingram
1925-1929 Ernest Moseley
1929 Penelope Moseley
1929-1944 Beecher Price
1944-1948 Albert James Harris
1948-1968 Joseph Timerick
1968-1973 Peter Edward Russell
1973-1983 Donald Saunders
1983-1994 Michael Dickenson
1994-1997 Terence MacMaster
1997-1998 William Worwood
1998 Richard Macey

The Bell and Cross

In the late 18th century only three cottages, four farmhouses and The Cross Inn- ( The ‘Bell’ prefix was added at the turn of the century) – straddled the busy medieval northbound Saltway from Droitwich.

A brewer, Ambrose Wall, was the first recorded landlord in 1810. He was succeeded by Elizabeth Heathcock in 1845 when the Cross also doubled as a shop. Doubling in this way was common Victorian practice, particularly in rural areas.

Cassaw’s Directory 1886 mentions Holy Cross and recommends the Holy Cross Inn, kept by Mr George King, describing the inn as ‘a comfortable and respectable house.’ Forty one year old George King was a widower and lived there with his five year old daughter, Emma. However the fact that he employed two servants indicates that business was good at the inn.

In 1869 the tenant was Charles Cox from Halesowen, aged 57. He was helped by his 33 year old son, Charles(a butcher) and daughter Alice who acted as housekeeper.

In 1900 the Cross was rated at £40, which was then high for the area. The owner was William Thatcher of Clent Hall and he leased the property to Mitchells & Butler Ltd,  Cape Hill brewery, Smethwick in 1914 when brewing ceased at the inn. The executors of William Thatcher sold the inn to the brewery in 1932.
Francis Wigley kept the pub for 33 years, covering both the first and second world war period, with only a brief break in 1925. Mary Wigley kept the pub for another 15 years until 1964.


1810-1845 Ambrose Wall
1845-1852 Eliz. Heathcock
1852-1869 George King
1869-1880 Charles Cox
1880-1897 William Phillips
1897-1907 Alfred Wilson
1907-1909 William Sayers
1909-1912 George Jackson
1912-1916 George Scott
1916-1924 Francis Wigley
1924-1925 Walter Hudson
1925-1949 Francis Wigley
1949-1964 Mary Wigley
1964-1985 Nora O’Grady
1985-1992 Donald Turner
1992-2000 Peter Bates
2000- Joanne Narbett

The Crown Inn

Standing very close to the Cross was the Crown Inn which is believed to have been located at the former ‘Enterprise’ – the ‘Roberts’ shop’. This was run by a widow, Mary Hiatt. Mary’s son James opened a beer-house in Lower Hagley known as the Railway Inn, (now known as the Station Inn.)

The Vine

The Vine Inn dates from the early 1800s and is the only documented licensed premises in Upper Clent. It once formed part of the Clatterbach Water Mill property. (The mill leat still runs through the cellar).The water source not only powered the mill but also acted as the key ingredient of the pub’s home-brewed ales, first produced at The Vine Inn by George Haines in 1851.

The Vine Inn when it was part of Clatterbach Mill

The pub’s sign has always been a vine : this symbol dates from the 14th century when a wreath of hops at the end of a hop pole indicated that beer was on sale. ( A similar sign, a bush was first introduced under Roman rule.)

The Vine Inn provided a service for farmers and the scattered population. George Haines, born in Kidderminster is the first innkeeper I have traced.He is listed as such in the census of 1851. In 1851 he was 50 years old and lived at the inn with his wife Elizabeth, who was born in Clent, and their two children. George produced his own ales in the brew-house at the rear of the pub. As in other inns at this time the beer would have varied from brew to brew and no doubt the Vine Inn supplied its own unique ales to Clent’s annual cattle and cheese fair mentioned earlier.

The Vine Inn, 1920s

A widow, Mary Jarvis, ‘miller and victualler’, held the tenancy of the Vine Inn from 1870. She was helped by her children, Matilda, Mary and Alfred. William Green was appointed tenant in 1873 and he moved in with his wife Harriet and their six children. The Clatterbach Mill became separate from the pub which was rated at only £18 per year, indicating that it was a relatively small commercial building.

John Amphlett of Clent House sold the Vine in 1933 to Peter Walker and Company Ltd. This Liverpool based company traded locally from a depot in Park Lane, Tipton. They later sold the pub to WilliamButler of Wolverhampton and this firm was taken over by Mitchells and Butler of Cape Hill brewery in 1960.

The Vine Inn


1836-1855 George Haines
1855-1870 William Phillips
1870-1873 Mary Jarvis
1873-1894 William Green
1894-1923 Samuel Pearsall
1923-1942 George Lester
1942-1943 John Myatt Brown
1943-1968 Howard Barber
1968-1972 Francis Richard Smith
1972-1974 Victor Bird
1974-2000 Anthony Cox
2000 Mark Wells

The Gate Inn, (St Leonard’s Church)

In his book, A Short History of Clent, (1890) John Amphlett records:
“In 1858, the churchyard was enlarged by taking in a portion of the glebe field on its south side, at an expense of £49.4s.4d, the vicar giving the land; and again in 1884, when a plot was added to it at the north-east corner which had formerly been the garden to a public house called ‘The Gate’, which had been pulled down some years previously by the owner, Mrs Durant of Clent Hall.”

The Woodman Inn

In May 1861, the Lord of the Manor, the Right Honourable George William Lord Lyttleton, sold the Woodman to John and Edward Price who owned it jointly. Twenty -three years later, in 1884, John passed his half share to Elijah Price (presumably his son or nephew) who inherited the remaining half when Edward Price died in 1893. When Elijah Price sold the pub he was living in Beeston, Staffordshire and the pub was ‘in the occupation of Henry Gill.’

The Woodman operated as a Coaching Inn

Earlier in 1871, it had been in the hands of one Edward Wheeler ‘landlord’ who was summoned in July that year by Superintendent Freeman for keeping his house open for the sale of beer during prohibited hours. The Bromsgrove Messenger reported that – “Police constable Hall said he had visited the defendant’s house at half-past four. He found six men in the house, five of whom were strangers, and the other man belonged to the village. They had ale and porter to drink…..The Bench said they had received a very good character of the house from Superintendent Freeman, who was willing to withdraw the case, on payment of costs. The defendant expressed his willingness to do so, and the case was withdrawn.”

The Woodman was sold in September 1899 to William Hackett and changed hands at least twice before it was bought in 1908 by Mary Veron of The Dragon Hotel, Bromsgrove. At this time it was ‘in the occupation of John Pugh.’ in October 1925, Mary Veron sold the Woodman to Mitchells and Butlers Ltd of Cape Hill Brewery, Smethwick.
The Society has no further information until 1984 when Frank Gallaway became the licensee and managed the pub with his son Steve and daughter- in- law Karen. The family gave up the pub in February 2000. After this date it was extensively altered and named ‘The French Hen’

In the 1960’s a Victorian pub also named the Woodman, located at Holloway Head, Birmingham, was demolished. A larger than life statue of a woodman had stood on a ledge above its front door. On the pub’s demolition the statue was sent to the Woodman Pub in Clent and erected in its grounds until after several years the statue decayed and was eventually removed.

A extract from Derek Hookways “My Early Life in Clent”

A Pub related extract from an article by Derek Hookway which was written for Edition 23 of Clent Clarion.
Carole Hodgson has edited and produced the Clent Clarion regularly for Clent History Society since 1997 as a way of sharing the many wonderful stories which make up the history of this area. Derek’s account of My Early Life in Clent (1934-1955) is a particularly vibrant and fresh account full of interesting detail of how things looked then and what was going on around from early childhood to the age of 21.

Derek’s parents worked at Sunfield and the family lived at Jasmine Cottage on Adams Hill.

“In the early years, prior to the Spring Tavern pub, opposite us closing, a row of large boat swings with rope pulls, was permanently installed in the pub’s foreground; this was adjacent to a small stream that took excess water off the hills. I remember my father used to have a Sunday lunchtime drink at the Spring Tavern, and providing I had been a good boy that week, he always took me with him to sit in the front entrance porch with a bottle of pop and a packet of crisps.
A fair visited Clent every summer, using both the Spring Tavern and the Fountain Inn grounds for the various rides, like bumper cars, a carousel, coconut shy, hoopla stalls, slot machines and so on. As a small boy I looked forward to these exciting fairground activities because it was like being at the seaside, but without the sea. When the fair moved on the swing boats remained to be used by visitors to the Clent Hills, though in the winter months these boats were taken down for maintenance. Ready for the next season. A bungalow now stands where the carousel once stood.

Sugar was in short supply during the war years so mum exchanged her cheese(which few of us liked anyway) for sugar at the Fountain Inn. They needed the cheese for sandwiches.
Once a week, on Wednesday evenings mum sent me to the Fountain Inn with a large brown earthenware bowl and lid, to buy pigs trotters and peas all nicely cooked and ready to eat for our evening meal.
The function rooms at the Fountain Inn were where parties and wedding receptions and such were held.
During the 1930s and up to 1944, Beecher Price was the licensee of the Fountain Inn. He was a very popular man in the village and always made the locals welcome rather than looking for city folk, especially courting couples who spent a lot more in the pubs than locals did.
The rear of the pub is where Beecher kept quite a number of livestock including geese, poultry and pigs. The geese were left to run free range on the unfenced waste ground behind the Fountain Inn and were very good at chasing people off.”

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