November 8th - Nipping down into Stonnall on my way home, I noted The Old Swan was in darkness. I know it had been up for let for a while, and do hope this apparent closure isn’t terminal - after all, housebuilding land in Stonnall is at a premium, and the pub stands on what would be a large site.
It’s always been a fairly popular, community pub, one of two in the village. But for those, it’s a long walk for a beer anywhere else - either Mill Green, Lazy Hill, Shenstone or Shire Oak; none short walks.
I hope The Old Swan finds a new lease of life, I really do.
February 18th - In Lower Forster Street, Walsall, there’s a quiet revolution firing up. The Backyard Brewhouse - one of two microbreweries in Brownhills - has bought this closed pub, The Fountain, and reopened it again. By all accounts, it’s a fine house.
It’s an interesting, old-style back-street boozer, sadly surrounded by the remnants of the Jabez-Cliff building, but none the less lovely for that. There are few enough real ale houses left these days, so it’s a real pleasure to see a new one - especially when it’s selling good, local, Brownhills-brewed ale.
I wish the folks behind TheBackyard Brewhouse the best of luck in their venture.
December 9th - Brownhills still has some good pubs, even if they are somewhat thinner on the ground than they used to be. At the one end of the scale, there’s the large, family chain pub as exemplified by the Hussey Arms, Smithy’s Forge and Crown. At the other end, there are still a few traditional back-street boozers, like The Prince of Wales. On a dark, cold Sunday night in december, they all look very bright and welcoming…
October 17th - The Boatman’s Rest pub, in Walsall Wood High Street is an old building, and has been a pub for many years. Originally called The Red Lion, it changed it’s name in the 90s for reasons unspecified. The last remaining old building on the north side of the High Street (other than the church), we’re lucky it survived. It’s not been without controversy, however, and several attempts by the pub to expand onto the nearby land have been stymied by the local authority and objections by nearby residents, who tried (and failed) to get the adjacent grass verge designated officially a ‘Village Green’. I think that’s rather sad, really. Successful pubs are few and far between these days…
September 13th - On my way home tonight, I popped to Asda in Walsall for a change. On my way out, I noticed that the old Highgate Brewery Stores, on the corner of George Street was still derelict. I find this very sad; it must have been vacant for at least 4 years now. In my youth, I used to attend gigs here and had some great nights; back then, it was called the ‘Punch and Judy’. It’s a crying shame, because with the right ownership, I think it could be special again.
August 19th - It’s too late now, it’s gone. The Pear Tree Inn, on the corner of Pear Tree Lane, Albutts Road and Hednesford Road in Brownhills West will be fondly remembered by many, me included. At various times in its life this pub was a fine house; I drank here several Christmas lunchtimes and often took a walk up from town to get a decent pint. Derelict for 4 or 5 years now, the owners sought permission to demolish, citing the building as being beyond repair. An application to build a store here has been refused, but rumours abound of a new express-style store opening.
It’s sad the pub could not live on. Another part of my past gone under the bulldozer’s tracks.
June 8th - The devastation of the Great British public house continues unabated. In recent weeks two pubs have been lost at Longdon, Staffordshire, the Railway at Pelsall has closed and Brownhills own Royal ‘Middle’ Oak is up for sale. The Hatherton Arms closed some weeks ago, and now stands as a forlorn gateway to Walsall. Once a lovely little community boozer, it is interesting architecturally, and had a George V memorial brick set into the lounge wall. Sadly, it doesn’t look like reopening anytime soon, and would tenure that it’s probably awaiting the ultimate death by fire that so many abandoned Walsall buildings seem to succumb to.
A great tragedy.
May 24th - Loss seemed to be a bit of a theme. I saw with some sadness that the Red Lion at Longdon Green had shut again. This pretty pub, on a lovely traditional village green, should have been rammed, the grass in front teeming with folk enjoying the summer. Sadly, it has closed in a dispute over £17,000 of rent claimed by the owners that the tenant is disputing. Recently, the Swan With Two Necks up at Longdon has closed too. It’s a bad time for country pubs, this one only having reopened last July. I love this place. Let’s hope it can reopen soon.
February 14th - Hidden away in back street of Walsall, surrounded by factories, sits a real gem. The New Inn - or Pretty Bricks, as it is known, is a real, bustling Black Country boozer. Offering a variety of real ale, a real fire and a lively bar, this pub has been a staple of traditional ale aficionados for years. In the late sixties and early seventies, there was a folk club upstairs where acts like Billy Connoly and Jasper Carrott gigged. It closed for a while, but the hostelry has reopened, and seems to have a good future ahead. The ‘Pretty Bricks’ name stems from the attractive, tiled frontage. This is a pub worth journeying to.
February 8th - Two very snatched pictures, proving that some pubs can have a life after death. Both houses were blighted by tough reputations - neither Pleck’s Brown Lion, with it’s gorgeous glazed-tile frontage, nor Darlaston’s Three Horse Shoes, at the Bullstake, were considered salubrious places. Both closed, and spent time derelict. However, after a time, both inns have been converted to dwellings, maintaining their pub character. Much better than losing them altogether.
January 22nd - Still forlorn, abandoned and decaying to dust is The Rising Sun, at Brownhills West. One of Brownhills’ oldest pubs, it’s sad to see this place slide away. It doesn’t even appear to be for sale. Survivor of several arson and vandal attacks, the building clearly has some pride left. Can nobody be found to do something - anything - with it?
We’re gradually losing our history and culture, and it breaks my heart.
December 17th - For the first year in ages, Brownhills actually gained more pubs than it lost in 2011. The Hussey Arms - reopened by Greene King as a family pub - always seems rammed, and is getting good reports, although I’ve yet to visit. The Swan, also revitalised, renovated and reopened, is thankfully doing well, too. A traditional boozer, I had the pleasure of trying this fine pub a few weeks ago. Both are excellent additions to the social life of Brownhills, and I wish them well. Nice to see a full bike rack at The Hussey, too…
December 11th - Shenstone is a great little village at any time, but at night it is particularly remarkable, and at this time of year, somehow festive. I love the lights of the village, and how they highlight it’s mixed bag of architecture. These are two starkly different pubs - The Fox and Hounds, with it’s cosy, snug bar, and the more expansive Railway, with it’s high ceilings and airy atmosphere. The railway is particularly interesting, as during it’s life parts of it have been a chapel and a butchers. An interesting place.
November 14th - Although Lichfield has lost many of it’s public houses, the rot doesn’t seem as bad in the city as elsewhere in the Midlands, possibly due to the tourist trade. There are many bars scattered about the centre, often with individual styles, quirks and features. I’ve never drank in the Horse and Jockey in Sandford Street, but it sure looks gorgeous at night.