The Black Country Arms

    

High Street, Walsall, West Midlands, WS1 1QW
Tel: 01922 640588
   
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The changing face of one of the oldest inn's in walsall...
A brief history of The Black Country Arms from 1627 to the present day.
The History of The Black Country Arms...
 

The Black Country Arms, originally named 'The Green Dragon Inn' and often referred to by locals as simply the 'Dragon Hotel' or 'Dragon Inn', is a Grade II listed building and is situated near to the junction of High Street and Goodhall Street, at the top end of Walsall Town's market hill. The hostelry is one of the town’s most ancient and historic, and has been used as an Inn from as early as 1707 when the building was leased from the Corporation of Walsall by Ephraim Deykin. Originally part of the town's Guildhall, the establishment was first mentioned as a separate entity in 1627 and may have been in existence prior to that.

By 1769 the hostelry was known as the 'Green Dragon Inn' and had become both the social and political centre of Walsall due to its close association with, and in fact being part of the Guildhall, the predecessor to the Walsall Council House. At this point in time the lessee had been required to rebuild the Inn within five years, incorporating a 'sashed front', 'a parapet' and a 'stone cornice’. This work was completed circa 1773 with further alterations being made in the early part of the 19th century.

An early edition of 'Aris's Birmingham Gazette' mentions 'an unusual public breakfast in fair week 1771, held on the bowling green of the 'Green Dragon', admittance 1 shilling each, a good band of music is engaged'. Mason's Map of 1832 shows the bowling green flanking Goodhall Street, reaching almost as far as Freer Street, some 55 yards in length, 15 yards longer than a modern standard bowling green. In his 1813 History & Directory of Walsall, Pearce described the bowling green as 'excellent'. The Directory also goes on to reveal that 'the parish was perambulated again in 1805, 1806, and 1807' and mentions 'Dinner at Mr William Bagley's Dragon Inn'. This tour of the town boundary was a tradition in most parishes, usually conducted by the Mayor and Burgesses.

At that time, the 'Green Dragon' was the foremost Inn in Walsall and an upstairs room was used by the Mayor and Corporation and was familiarly known as 'The Town Hall'. In the early part of the 19th century the old corporations in the UK were investigated by a Royal Commission, resulting in the introduction of Municipal Corporation Act of 1835, sweeping away the corporations to be replaced by new local councils. Excluding poor relief and road repairs, the corporation accounts of 1810 for example, showed an expenditure of £591, a third of which was spent on wine bills, paid to Mr Thomas Wakeman of the 'Green Dragon'.

 

The Inn’s original Assembly Rooms were being used from at least 1787 to 1803 as a temporary theatre, at which local historian Billy Meikle claimed Sarah Siddons (left, circa unknown), married to the son of a Walsall Licensee and the most famous actress in the country, had played. The Assembly Rooms were used prior to the building of Walsall’s first permanent theatre in the (Old) Square, taken by one Samuel Stanton for many seasons, erecting within the same, a temporary theatre consisting of a pit and gallery in which his company used to perform to ‘many and overflowing house’. In 1819 the Inn’s owner, William Farmer, leased the Assembly Rooms to Father Francis Martin, who equipped the rooms for use as a Catholic Chapel.

 

At one time or another, the Inn was also used as a Methodist Chapel, Masonic Lodge and as a meeting house for groups of breakaway Particular Baptists and seceding Congregationalists.

James Bullock had the premises by 1834 and by 1851 the proprietor was Edward Parker, replaced in 1861 by Mark Parker. The Guildhall next door was rebuilt in 1865-1867, yet the old Inn remained, with new Assembly Rooms built to the rear in Goodhall Street in 1851. On the roof of the Inn was the market bell, which rang for many years to sound the close of the once famous Walsall market.

By 1880, William Parker was leasing the premises, later followed by William Cooper who left the 'Dragon' in 1902 for the 'Spotted Cow' in nearby Bloxwich. Selwyn Hawkins was the hotelier there from around 1900, but by 1905 the Inn was de-licensed, later becoming the office of the Magistrates Clerk.

Sadly, the premises was left derelict for many years in the late 20th century, but in 1976, the 'Green Dragon' was once more, following extensive rebuilding and re-licensing by Banks's Brewery. Similarly the adjoining Guildhall was also restored and converted into a shopping centre, restaurants, and offices. The main structure still looks much the same as it would have in Victorian times, despite the considerable changes made in 1976, when the Assembly Rooms in Goodhall Street were removed to provide a rear service area for both the re-opened 'Green Dragon' and the 'Guildhall' (now an Italian restaurant).

After the comings and goings of numerous managers and following  many years of difficulty, the 'Green Dragon' finally and sadly closed its doors for one last time, although the story doesn't end there. A short time afterwards, the Inn was re-opened, this time under the name of the 'Cobra Lounge', a privately owned Lap Dancing Club which was not well accepted, nor welcomed by the townsfolk of Walsall. Thankfully the club was far from a success and lasted only a matter of months before closing down.

In November 2008, the pub was taken over by Black Country Ales, who beautifully restored this historic property back to its former glory, renaming it The Black Country Arms. Many temporary managers have come and gone since its opening, that is until Debbie Humphries and Richard Goode took over the reins in late July 2009, quickly earning the award for Walsall CAMRA Pub of the Year 2009, 2010 and 2011, as well as being Regional Pub of the Year Finalists 2011.

In August 2012, Debbie and Richard moved on to pastures new making way for the current Landlady Kim Langford and hubby Roy. Kim was the former Licensee at Walsall CAMRA's landmark pub, The Pretty Bricks (also Black Country Ales), which she and Roy successfully put back on the real ale map, following a long period of closure.

Under Kim and Roy's tenure, the good name and high standards at The Black Country Arms have been more than maintained - indeed the pub has gone from strength to strength. Kim and Roy have worked hard to put their own stamp on this great town centre pub, which has paid dividend. In 2012, they earned the honour of Walsall CAMRA Pub of the Year runners-up award, only four months after taking over and since then they have gone on to win a multitude of awards, including Walsall CAMRA Pub of the Year in 2013, 2015 and 2017 and West Midlands County Pub of the Year in 2016. Click here for a complete list of Black Country Arms accolades.

 
 

      

Images through the years

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
© The Black Country Arms, Walsall 2012

www.blackcountryales.co.uk

For the facts: www.drinkaware.co.uk