The Pubs of Madeley, Past and Present

One of the lost pubs of Madeley – the Prince of Wales, photographed shortly before its demolition to make way for road improvements in 1968.

Click to enlarge.

The pub was sited near the present day Madeley Roundabout (left foreground) opposite the bottom of High Street.

We have had many requests for information about Madeley’s pubs – often from relatives or descendants of the people who kept them. So far we have found details of a total of 34 (we are sure there were at least a few more – let us know!). This section consists mainly of information provided by Kevin MacLean of Madeley, who has done a great deal of research on the subject, and has lent us the manuscript of a book he has been trying to get published.

[Note 2010 Рthere is now much more information available, and much of the detail on following pages is from a booklet about the Pubs of Madeley, produced by the Living History Project and available from the Town Council at Jubilee House. Most of the information is from the work of Kevin McLean, with later additions and extra photos]

The licensed house in Madeley, like elsewhere, was more than just a drinking place. It also functioned as a meeting place for friendly societies and benefit clubs, which supported their members in times of illness or other trouble; and local sports clubs, many of which took their names from individual pubs. The drinkseller was only too willing to allow a society or team to use a room as a clubhouse free of charge, confident of the return in beer sales. Many sports teams were formed at or used a licensed house as a base. Madeley Town Football Club held its dinners at the Hearts of Oak. Madeley Cycling Club was formed at the Royal Oak in 1896. Two sports that both rose to prominence in local drinking places in the late 19th century were airgun shooting, with Madeley Airgun Club first reported in 1904, the match being between the All Nations (landlord George Baguley was a team member) and the Bird in Hand, Madeley Wood, and quoits. Both games have now largely disappeared from their early roots in drinking places.

The names of many of the local drinking places indicates their association with local occupations – the Miners Arms, the Three Furnaces and the Hammer being the most obvious, while others were connected with local events or landmarks – the Royal Oak, after King Charles II hid in an oak tree during his flight after the Battle of Worcester, and the Six Bells, after the original peal of six bells (nowadays eight) in the nearby St Michael’s Church.

The number of pubs in Madeley increased significantly through the 19th century, from just 5 in 1829 to a peak for the century of 27 in 1870, two thirds of which were beerhouses, only licensed for the sale of beer, as against public houses, which had a full license allowing the sale of spirits etc. This increase in numbers paralleled the increase in population, from 5,379 in 1821 to 9,475 in 1871.

Many of the landlords were prominent figures in the local community, and as well as providing meeting rooms for political groups were themselves active as local councillors, aldermen and magistrates.

Evil Influence

Despite the cultivation of respectability by many drinksellers they were faced with increasing opposition on some public bodies as a result of temperance activity and the effect it had on local attitudes. In 1906 the Madeley Board of Guardians resolved by 7 votes to 4 that no child would be boarded out to anyone living on licensed premises, and if a foster parent subsequently moved to such a place, any children would be withdrawn. It was felt that the children should be removed from “the evil influences of the public house”. The drinksellers who were members of the Board protested that they had raised their own children in such places. Mr T. Roden, who had kept a public house for 16 years, called it “contemptible slur” against publicans, who were “as a rule very prominent and respectable people”, and accused the proposer of “simply trotting his teetotal hobby out”.

Drunkenness

In March 1870 the Committee on the Evils of Excessive Drinking reported to the Shropshire Quarter Sessions that “in matters of drunkenness some parts of this county have unfortunately attained a most unfortunate notoriety”. The committee had been established to see how the magistrates could use their new powers under the Wine and Beerhouse Act of 1869 to ‘diminish the evils of intemperance”

One practice that had been put forward as a contributory factor in the level of drunkenness was that of paying wages in drinking places. They noted that miners were often paid for overtime in drink ordered for them at a drinking place, and this had led to prosecutions for drunkenness – the committee drew the attention of employers to fines of ¬£10 for this practice, suggesting that the employer’s name should be entered into the court minutes. However, despite the reputation of the area, the committee concluded that ‘it is believed the workmen in mines and ironworks are less drunken than at former periods and it is hoped that the different agencies now at work, may tend to render the population of this county more sober”.

Decline and Closure

The close association between the licensed trade and local industry that led to the rise in the number of drinking places during the earlier part of the 19th century was mirrored by the depression that came to the area at the beginning of the 20th century. This set the scene for a formalised closure procedure for licensed houses, with a compensation fund for those affected (paid for by the trade). The growth of the tied house (pubs owned by breweries) and the decline in the number of pubs brewing their own beer were also important factors in the gradual reduction in the number of licensed houses in the area. Between 1907 and 1921 eleven licences were extinguished in the Ironbridge and Madeley area. As trade declined it often became necessary for the licensee to find another source of income (the forerunner of today’s ‘part time landlords’ ?)

Please use the menu on the right to read about the individual pubs.