TOO frequently these days local pubs have been forced to run the gauntlet between success and failure, and either have to respond deftly to a change in circumstances dictated by modern social behaviour, or face possible closure with little chance of redemption.
Providing good food, reasonably priced drinks and offering a haven for community spirit, are three of the main ingredients for success down at the local, but sometimes even this isn’t enough if the watering hole is situated in a prime location. There have been numerous examples over recent years of landmark pubs being demolished and replaced by houses, flats or businesses and only occasionally are the original buildings retained and used for other purposes.
Across the length and breadth of the Black Country you will find a disheartening trail of pub closures, with some reduced to rubble so long ago they have all but been forgotten.
But memories of one local pub, that was demolished sometime in the 1960s to make way for road improvements, have recently been revived through a combination of local historical interest, genealogy, and a great deal of enthusiasm. Using help and information from several sources, including local historian Stan Warner, the Bugle has attempted to reinstate the memory of a Black Country pub called The Mazeppa.
The Mazeppa Inn was situated on the main Willenhall Road in Moseley Village, near the turning with Chapel Street (renamed Tyburn Road), and sandwiched in between Willenhall and Wolverhampton, and may well be a familiar watering hole to Bugle readers who either lived in the area in those times, or were regular travellers past its door.
Connie Smy (nee Stewart) from Barnstaple in Devon is an old chum of Stan’s from their days together at St.
Giles School in Willenhall, and she provided some information when he asked if she had any memories of the old pub: “I was talking to my cousin Tony Legge who lives in Teignmouth and he recalls the Mazeppa Inn was in Chapel Street. There was a Methodist or Wesleyan chapel on the corner of Chapel Street with a corrugated tin roof, a pawnbrokers on the main road, and another pub close by called the Traveller’s Rest.
“In Deans Road there was an electricity station, a large area of waste ground, then a row of pre-war houses, followed by the church hall, the church and Moseley Village Junior and Infants School.
Mrs Thompson’s fish and chip shop was on the main road at the corner of Deans Road.
The Mazeppa has certainly revived some old memories down here in Devon.” From our own research we have discovered that The Mazeppa Inn definitely existed in 1900 because it was included in Kelly’s Staffordshire Directory with Joseph Bould as the licensee. However, the pub was probably built many years before as investigations into the origins of its name might suggest.
There is no definitive answer as to why it was called the Mazeppa, but we have two possibilities. In 1819 the English poet Lord Byron wrote a romantic narrative poem called “Mazeppa” which was based on a popular legend about the early life of Ivan Mazepa (1639-1709), a Ukrainian gentleman who later became military commander of the Ukrainian Cossacks. According to the poem, Mazeppa had an illicit love affair and when discovered was punished by being strapped naked to a wild horse that was then set loose.
The second possibility concerns the location of a bay in Eastern Cape, South Africa.
In 1842 a ship called the Mazeppa, commanded by Captain C. J. Cato, was on its way to Delagoa Bay from Port Natal in search of a British man-o-war that had been sent to rescue a garrison besieged by the Boers. The Captain sought shelter in the bay, but ran aground, and from that time onwards the bay has always been known as Mazeppa Bay. It may well be that soldiers from the Black Country, returning home from fighting in South Africa, brought the name Mazeppa back with them as a reminder of their days serving near the Cape.