Our November 2018 talk - reviewed by Rosemary Doman

For lack of existing research on Woolton pubs, our speaker Stuart Rimmer had done his own. In 1815, the population of 500 involved mainly agricultural workers, blacksmiths, those in service and shopkeepers. From two taverns in 1820 the pubs increased to thirty by the 1850s, as the population swelled through the demand for stone. The Woolton Quarry workforce, and the development of other trades, resulted in a population of over 6,000 by the 1890s. The Beerhouse Act in 1830 made it easier to open a pub selling just beer, judged to be a safer option than the scourge of gin. It required two persons to stand recognizance in the courts and a suitable building, with a licence issued yearly.

By the 1870s homes could operate as pubs. The Quarry Street area was densely populated with tiny houses, some with two rooms only and no sanitation. Without facilities, these pubs, with cellars as tap rooms and urinals outside, were subject to full licensing laws regarding hours, keeping order and the police. One such was the Horse And Jockey, another the Skinners Arms, and, at the top of Quarry Street, Biddy Berks.

Breweries owning Woolton pubs in the 1860s-70s included Greenall Whitley, Walkers, and Higson's. The breweries installed professionals, who sometimes moved around the pubs. The 1861 Census shows licensees had other trades, such as the watchmaker who ran the Duke's Vaults. Some pubs owed their names to the beerhouse keeper or a local incident. For instance the Gardener's Arms was run by a gardener, and the Blazing Tub, rebuilt from 2 houses in the 1840s, was so named because one of the houses burnt down. This, a very noisy pub, lost its licence in 1847.

Complaints there were too many pubs in lower Quarry Street and Allerton Road, and of the ensuing noise and drunkenness, aroused the opposition of the police, Church, employers  and other local notables, who pressured Parliament into the 1869 Wine And Beer House Act. Only two, the Victoria and the County Court, were granted full new licenses. Improvements were imposed by the 1902 Licensing Act, but these were inadequate. There was still one pub for every 180 people. Pastor William Redman complained to local magistrates of poor hours keeping, drink on trust, back-door trading, unfit premises, licensees having other trades and transferring licensees to others unchecked. Under the 1903 Licensing Act, premises were closed if they were redundant to needs or in an unsuitable condition, with compensation paid to owners and licensees.

By 1912, only twelve pubs were left. The Old Fellows Arms closed in 1921. Four beerhouses remained: the Grapes, the White Horse, the Cobden and the Gardeners Arms. The history of Woolton's famous Elephant is disputed. A notice incorrectly states it was renamed the Elephant in 1934. Its name had changed from the New Inn in 1837 to the Woolton Hotel in the 1850s. In the 1860s its entrance portico had a full elephant statue and it was renamed the Elephant in 1875. A Woolton Times 1910 photograph shows the Woolton Hotel signage, though 'The Elephant' is painted on the portico.

A fascinating, well illustrated talk which whet our appetite for Stuart's guided walks, wet or dry. (Details on his website,

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