WE HAVE BEEN AROUND FOR A WHILE
Beginning its life as number one Albert Place in the early 1800s as a funeral carriage business ,Samuel Taylor (first landlord ) had the idea of selling ales to the public as well as serving the local council with carriages and horses to bury Wolverhampton’s dead . Born in Tettenhall in 1805 Samuel Taylor is still to date the longest serving landlord, beginning in 1845 until his death in 1865.
Miss Elizabeth Jones became the second licensed victualler notable, for having seven sons and six daughters between 1864 and 1882. Remarkably three sets of twins.
Listed in the 1891 census ,the Royal Oak became 48 Compton Road run by Mrs Margaret A Morris with her son Fred Morris ,a retired blind ,maker and her niece Florence Williams . She ran the public house with her husband from 1890 but her husband sadly died three years earlier .
Two more landlords followed (F Cross 1893-1895 and E Jackson 1896) before the inn had its first refurbishment from a simple two up two down with stables and stores into a what we see today . The First World War passed with Mr. James Turley in charge (1910-1923),the same Turley family who run the office stationery business on Newhampton road opposite the Summer House public house to this day . Later in the twenties the architect Joseph D. Wood oversaw the complete rebuild of the pub which would be run by Mr M Woodward until 1935.
Mr Wilfred Shaw saw in the war years (1935-1948),his family using the wine cellar as a bedroom during the bombing raids. Finally in 1948 he moved onto the Wheel at Codsall with his family .
Not much more is known of the next eight or so landlords apart from Sydney Jones who was a demon dominoes player, as proven with his two wooden shields which still hang on the wall today .
A Dutchman took the helm ( Arie Hoogen)in 1965 and carried on till 1972. Ivor Gethin famously appeared on the ATV news show with his “pie and a pint deal “. From there other landlords came along but not stopping more than four years or so until the current licensee ,Susan Fullwood ,with her husband Keith,who have continued to serve pints since 2006
The storyof Maurice Woodward.
He was born in Enderby in 1891, and played local football there before joining
Leicester Fosse as a centre-half in August 1912. Hampered by an ankle injury he only played two games for the Fosse. He signed for
Southern League Southend United in July 1914, but war broke out before he could play for them. When the First World War broke out, league football continued for the whole of the following season. Footballers came in for much criticism for ‘not doing their bit’. This led to the
‘Footballers’ Battalion’ (otherwise known as the 17th Middlesex Battalion)being created in December 1914 at a meeting at Fulham Town Hall. Quite soon professional footballers with connections to over 70 clubs, including Leicester Fosse, signed up. The Battalion was brought up to strength (about 1,000) by amateur players, officials and football fans eager to serve alongside their favorite players.
In November 1915, Maurice went to France with the Footballers’ Battalion where he served under Bradford City’s England international Major Frank Buckley, who later became a famous manager at Wolverhampton Wanderers. The battalion first saw serious action on the Somme, losing over 500 officers and men between 25July and 11 August 1916. On 24th July 1916, the day before his Battalion’s serious involvement in the battle, (which had already been raging for three weeks), Maurice, by now a sergeant, played for a team of NCOs against a team from ‘B’ Company. One of the players in the‘B’ Company team was Joe Mercer, the father of the famous player Joe Mercer,who later managed Manchester City against Leicester City in the 1969 FA Cup Final. The following day the Footballers’ Battalion moved up to the front with a fighting
strength of 38 officers and 872 men. They occupied some recently captured German trenches astride the Montuban-Carnoy Road, relieving the 10th Royal Welch Fusiliers. The trenches had been badly damaged by British guns prior to their capture, and were littered with the bodies and body parts of many dead German soldiers, together with many dead horses. Soon afterwards, the Battalion was involved in an assault on Delville Wood and Longueval. Over the next eighteen days, the Battalion lost over 500 officers and men. In 2010 a memorial to the Footballers Battalion was erected in this area (above). Four months later, the Battalion suffered another 300 casualties at Redan Ridge and
462 more at Oppy Wood, near Vimy Ridge, the following spring. Maurice was wounded twice during the war but survived and rejoined Southend United before joining Second Division Wolverhampton Wanders in April 1920 for a fee of£700. He was badly troubled by sciatica, but he was fit to play for Wolves in the 1921 FA Cup Final at Stamford Bridge against a Tottenham Hotspur side which contained his former Fosse team mate Tommy Clay as well as Jimmy Seed, the brother of Leicester Fosse’s Angus Seed, another member of the Footballers’ Battalion .
Tottenham Hotspur won the Final 1-0, their goal coming after the ball bounced off Maurice’s thigh into the path of the Spurs winger Dimmock whose 25 yard shot skimmed offthe very muddy surface before sailing over the Wolves goalkeeper into the net. His sciatica and a knee injury kept Maurice out for most of the following season. He was transferred to Bristol Rovers but was never able to play for them. Whilst
playing for Wolves, Maurice lived in Nuneaton and played as a batsman for Chilvers Coton Cricket Club alongside ‘Billy’ Barratt the Leicester City
full-back. In later life, Maurice kept the Old Bush Inn at Wall Heath nearWolverhampton and Royal Oak at Chapel ash .He died on February 17th 1950 at West Bromwich General Hospital.
Publican and undertaker who was killed at work
Black Country Bugle
16 Oct 2019
By DAVID COOPER
TAKE a straw poll amongst customers at the Royal Oak in Wolverhampton to gauge their needs and expectations, and chances are a funeral service is unlikely to feature.
Step back 174 years though, and enterprising landlord Samuel Taylor believed in providing a “public bar to burial” service from the back yard of the striking Victorian hostelry on Compton Road.
Thanks to many dedicated hours of research by current Oak publican Terry Cole, digging deep into the historic wealth of Wolverhampton City Archives, some intriguing glimpses of life through the door of a quintessential community public house have been revealed.
Beginning life as number one Albert Place in the early 1800s (the address probably relates to the row of adjacent terraced dwellings which was later demolished) the 1891 census records the Royal Oak as 48 Compton Road, at which time the building was a simple twoup and two-down alehouse with stables and stores.
Today, the brick-built stables and coach yard entrance from which Samuel Taylor ran his undertaker’s business are clearly visible at the side of the pub on the corner of Compton Road and Clarendon Street.
Sadly, his death in 1865 was caused by one of the horses he liveried at the pub’s stables. Whilst testing a new horse coupled to an open-topped fourwheeled landau, the creature bolted, wrecking the carriage and severely injuring his wife and the family’s servant.
Samuel died a few weeks later, leading to the sale of the funeral business. In the auctioneer’s catalogue of Messrs Skidmore & Barnett, apart from what are described as two valuable hearses with ostrich plumes, two
mourning coaches and six horses, the undertaker’s assets also included a quantity of horse manure.
By 1866 the name above the door tells that the stewardship of the pub was in the hands of a Mrs Elizabeth Patience Jones who in total contrast to delivering souls to the cemetery, spent time between serving ales and porter to give birth to seven sons and six daughters during a period of eighteen years. Remarkably including three sets of twins.
Forty years and nine landlords later, James Turley, a member of the wellestablished Wolverhampton business which today trades in office furniture from Newhampton Road, served the local Compton Road and Chapel Ash community with the pub having undergone a transformation. Local Architect John D. Wood contracted by Wolverhampton & Dudley Breweries (later renamed Marston’s) provided a splendid landmark building in red brick with stone and terracotta embellishments, much favoured by Victorian town planners, made all the more striking by lofty chimney stacks and a proud curved tower-like street corner elevation, with mock cupola.
It was a period of radical change for the public house. Whilst hitherto the local had been the one place of the working man’s recreation where he could enjoy a social glass and gossip with his mates, breweries were addressing a transformation of simple ale-swilling premises, with a new emphasis on social issues in pleasant surroundings. Some offered refreshments and entertainment, with larger pubs even having assembly rooms and dance floors.
Original plans for the 1906 rebuilding of The Oak carefully preserved in Wolverhampton City Archives reflect the changing community role of the local boozer, with new facilities such as a smoke room, coffee room and an upstairs book club room.
Climbing the staircase customers would have been impressed by an enormous, spectacular stained-glass window. Skillfully set within the dramatic colourful glazing is a decorative scene of the royal oak tree in which history tells us the future King Charles II of England hid from Cromwell’s roundheads in 1651 following his army’s routing in the Civil War battle of Worcester.
A short walk from the pub, a public pleasure park of the late 1800s known as the Molineux Grounds, which featured an ice rink, cycling track and boating lake, was to eventually become the home of Wolverhampton Wanderers FC.
The first match, played in 1889, saw a crowd of 4,000 enjoy a 2-0 win for the home side over Notts County. It’s a safe bet that the proximity of the Royal Oak to the ground will have attracted the Gold and Black fans for a preand post-match glass or two, which is certainly the case today on home match days – the difference being a ground capacity of 31,700.
Turn the pages back to 1923 and thirsty fans would certainly have recognized the man pulling the pints. It was none other than Maurice Woodward, publican and Wolves player who was included in the team of the FA Cup Final of 1921, against Tottenham Hotspur staged at Stamford Bridge.
Wolves were subjected to a one-nil defeat. No guessing the post-match mood in The Oak on that afternoon? There is probably no sensible comparison with then and now transfer fees. Sponsorship and televised sport were a thing of the future. For the record Wolves paid £700 to welcome Woodward to Molineux in 1921. He ended his stewardship of the pub after twelve years in 1935.
Woodward and Turley both served in France in the Great War. Woodward was wounded twice, seeing action as a member of the Footballer’s Battalion (otherwise known as the 17th Middlesex Battalion) which had been formed to combat critics of players not doing their bit as league football carried on during the war.
More than 70 clubs signed up to the voluntary call-to-arms, along with fans eager to serve alongside their idols. On arrival in France, Woodward served under Major Frank Buckley who later went on to become manager of Wolves.
Despite the front-line horrors of trench warfare, football became a vital recreation during lulls in the conflict, with Woodward – by then a sergeant – fielding a team of Noncommissioned Officers versus a squad from B company which included Joe Mercer, the father of the player of the same name who later managed Manchester City.
For James Turley, publican from 1910 – 1923, his military service took the precarious rank of aircraft gunner with 226 squadron based at Taranto Pizzone, Southern Italy. Flying in the legendary de Havilland DH9 single engine, two-seater, open cockpit bi-plane, Turley sat behind the pilot, armed with a Lewis machine gun. He was tasked with containing the threat of enemy naval forces and the destruction of enemy communication lines.
The aircraft carried 460 lbs. of bombs. Of American design, the Lewis gun was manufactured by Birmingham Small Arms at their factory in Armoury Road, Small Heath. Later known as BSA, the firm became popular worldwide for cycles and motorcycles, and a lesser known range of motorcars.
Statistically, millions of people live within easy distance of a Royal Oak. The Pubsgalor guide reckons there are 467 Royal Oaks in the UK – the most popular pub name being the Red Lion.
Of a trawl of several internet listings some place the Royal Oak in second place, with The Crown taking third slot, but how many regular pub-goers know the history behind the name? Fact or fiction, in the West Midlands it is English Heritage-owned Boscobel House close to the village of Bishops Wood, 9 miles north west of Wolverhampton that claims to have in a nearby field a magnificent oak which is a direct decedent of the original which concealed the fleeing prince.
So, what of the future for The Oak? Heritage experts at the Centre of Urban and Regional Studies at Birmingham University conclude that a large number, perhaps the majority, of Victorian city pubs were on a street corner. There is no precise explanation for this, beyond the idea that a pub on a corner will perhaps attract more custom. Add to this the dedication of current landlord Terry and wife Emma to provide good honest Black Country hospitality with the attraction of live music and seasonal festivals, and The Oak should continue to be mighty.