The Carpenters Arms was a pub on Christ Church Lane, sadly demolished before I moved to Lichfield.
Back in 1841, the premises wasn’t listed as a pub. The census entry just names James Page, Carpenter, his wife Maria and their family. Twenty years later, in 1861, Maria is the head of the household and a beerhouse keeper. The premises is known as the Carpenters Arms, Leomansley.
I understand that premises like the Carpenters Arms existed all over Britain, thanks to the Beer House Act in 1830. In order to promote beer drinking, seen as a healthy alternative to gin and of course untreated water, the duty on beer was removed. In addition, for a small fee of two guineas, anyone could brew and sell beer. According to John Shaw, this is where we get the term ‘Public House’ from, along with terminology such as lounge (for upmarket customers) and bar (which stopped customers going into the private part of the house).1 The law did tighten up again in 1869, with the introduction of the Wine and Beer House Act, which meant a license for the premises had to be acquired from the local magistrate, who would of course refuse to renew a license for a beer house that was disorderly or unsuitable.
It seems the Carpenters Arms remained a beer house until February 1949, when a full license was applied for. Supporting the application, one customer said there were a lot of elderly people in the district who liked a short drink for medicinal purposes. Also, he explained that when a person took his wife, they liked a short drink, and you could not offer ladies a glass of beer!
Another customer reported how for whisky or other shorts, you had to go into Lichfield and if you weren’t a regular, it wasn’t often you got one.2
The application for the Carpenters Arms was granted and so, the Leomansley old folk didn’t have to go without their medicinal whisky and the ladies of Leomansley were able to drink in a ladylike fashion.
However, as previously mentioned, the pub closed in around 2002. The Rise apartments now occupy the site and unless I’m mistaken, I don’t think that there is an acknowledgment of the site’s history, which is a shame. It also seems a shame that, given the huge increase in population in Leomansley in recent years, the Carpenter’s Arms may have had a new lease of life had it managed to survive another few years. We’ll never know.
I’d be interested to know if any other Lichfield pubs started off as beerhouses….
Edit: This morning I remembered that there was some information about another Lichfield Beer House on the excellent BrownhillsBob’s Brownhills Blog. Sadly now also demolished, the Royal Oak started life at Sandyway Farm, Walsall Rd, now in the process of being redeveloped into residential properties. There had been an application to turn it back into a pub a couple of years ago, but I think it was rejected.
The pub moved up the road to the top of Pipehill in around 1868, but closed in the 1960s. Have a look at Bob’s post The Lost Pub of Pipehill for more information, plus photos and a really interesting discussion.
1. The Old Pubs of Lichfield – John Shaw
2.The Lichfield Mercury archives accessed at Lichfield Records Office