Pubs of Lichfield

Let me take you back to 1800 in Lichfield. The railway has not arrived and Lichfield, as our December speaker, John Shaw explained, was the 'Birmingham New Street' of the coaching era. Coaches arrived from many parts of England and Wales, changing horses and disgorging passengers for rest and refreshment at the City's coaching inns. So as the railway era dawned in 1834, the City possessed no fewer than 72 public houses, taverns and inns, about one for every 64 residents!

This large number of drinking establishments was not solely due to the busy coaching industry. The Beer Act of 1830 had been passed to deflect citizens from the sins of drinking gin and attract them to drinking 'healthier' ale. For a licence costing 2 householders could open their homes for the consumption of ale. These public houses sprang up rapidly all over the country, as well as in Lichfield, in the early part of the nineteenth century. Public houses were not solely places to drink ale. They became both a focus for social activities and created jobs for the family.

It was against this background that John gave us an illustrated guide of pubs around the city. Starting in, the busy commercial heart of Greenhill, with its markets, coaching inns and cock fighting events, we saw pictures of existing, converted and long gone pubs. Names like The Smithfield, Jolly Gardens, Spread Eagle, Duke of York, The Bald Buck, The White Hart and The Blue Bell will bring back memories for many members. On we went into the City, visiting The Bulls Head (closed by 1900), Wagon & Horses, Golden Ball (closed as a disorderly pub in 1901), Kings Arms (gone by 1901), Coachmakers Arms, The Mitre, The Acorn (now Wetherspoons), The Old Crown (pulled down to make way for The Spires Shopping Centre), The Levett Arms (demolished to make way for Levetts Square), George IV, Old Golden Ball (previously called The Old Goats Head), The Dolphin (which gave way to The Co-op, but now is Burtons store), The Goats Head (Barclays Bank) and The Woolpack (now Salloways). Bird Street gave us famous coaching inns: The George, The Kings Head, The Wheatsheaf, The Lamb and The Angel. The latter two specifically catered for Cathedral visitors. Beacon Street, Market Street and Breadmarket Street were host to over twenty more pubs, of which The Three Crowns Hotel adjacent to Dr. Johnson's house was probably the most well known.

John has published a book on the pubs of Lichfield. This note cannot do justice in the space allowed to the comprehensive information John provided in the course of such an interesting talk. If members' interest has been aroused in this fascinating topic of social history, speed to the Public Library and enjoy a captivating read.

Roger Hockney
December 2009