WHEN we think of our Victorian ancestors and the lives they led in the Black Country, a common image would be well turned-out prim and proper gentlefolk, who likely were exemplars of the much famed high Victorian morality, writes Emily Warren.
But these images reflect just the surface of Victorian society, and do not account for the increasing affinity for ale and beer and merriment in the region.
Back in 1886, drinking on a Sunday remained illegal in respect of the Sabbath.
Sundays in the Victorian era were supposed to be a quiet day of reflection and worship, with many households befitting their Sunday best for a family outing to the local parish church.
In 1886 one of Walsall’s best known pubs, the Fullbrook Inn, was run by Solomon Perry and his wife Mary. The area was very different to today, with the Fullbrook situated at a busy crossroads. Back then the Fullbrook area was almost rural with only a few houses and farms. Solomon was a local farmer and beerhouse keeper, who was in his mid sixties and owned the pub from 1871-1886.
Solomon’s time in the pub came to an abrupt end when on an August Sunday in 1886, the full weight of the Victorian law and its heavy morality fell on Solomon. He and his wife Mary were caught serving beer by a passing policeman, a Constable Bowen. The story is recorded from the Court session in the Walsall Observer and states Solomon Perry was summoned for having had his house open at 10:45am for the sale of intoxicating drink.
Constable Bowen had heard ‘merry’ voices in the kitchen, and so knocked on the door asking to be admitted. He then asked for a pint of ale and upon being given the pint, revealed himself to be a police officer. If this wasn’t bad enough, a further four men were caught in the house. Thomas Jones, Arthur Jones (father and son), Thomas Smith and Daniel Bottimer each gave constable Bowen false names and addresses and saying they came from Oldbury and Gornal, when in fact they came from Walsall.
When asked in Court later that week, Solomon said, he did not know about the men being served drink as ‘his wife was in charge of the house’. Each were fined 20 shillings each and costs, having been warned they may have been liable to pay a whole £5 which was a small fortune in 1886.
Unfortunately for Solomon his licence to keep a beer house was revoked by the court and he returned to farming, a far less troublesome occupation.
I wonder if your readers may be able to help me? I am currenltly researching the Perry/Malpass branch of my family. The Perrys as far as I know were from Walsall.
Solomon Perry married Mary Robinson at St Matthews Church Walsall on 11th September 1836. Solomon kept the Fullbrook Pub from approx 1871 to 1886 and also farmed on land known as Botany Farm, where Yew Tree estate now is. I know very little about the farm which remained in the family until it was subject to a compulsory purchase order in the 1930's. Solomon's daughter Charlotte married Samuel Malpass, born in Dudley, to John and Phoebe Malpass, and he worked at the Sand Hole in Walsall, but I'm unable to find out anything about the Sand Hole.
Any help on the Malpasses, Perrys, Botany Farm, or the Sand Hole much appreciated.
Emily Warren E-mail: Emily_yam@hotmail.com