The Old Bush

A Proud History

The Old Bush February 2018

As The Old Bush stands today, it is hard to believe that it was first used as a public house in 1818, making it one of the oldest public houses still standing today.

The Old Bush  - Sketched in 1890

Courtesy of Mr A Weller, Pelsall History Centre

The Old Bush first opened its doors as a public house in 1818 at which time the Landlord was Thomas Stanley. It is likely that The Old Bush was kept by the Stanley family up until 1841 at which time it changed hands to William Wright.  The Old Bush remained with William until 1851 after which it changed hands to Joseph Wright in 1870 then Samuel Wright in 1881.

In its early days, The Old Bush had a thatched roof and was a favourite spot for local carters from Walsall.  Outside the pub at that time was a trough for horses, which would inevitably draw in passing customers.

The above 19th century sketch of The Old Bush by N G Benton was discovered in archive material held at Pelsall History Centre on Church Road, Pelsall.  The sketch gives a fascinating insight into what The Old Bush must have looked like in the early days.

The Old Bush in 1892 with the Landlord John Hughes

In 1900 The Old Bush changed hands to Harriet Thomas, followed by John Webb in 1914 then Frederick Cash in 1925.

By 1940 the Landlord of The Old Bush was Ernest A Bott, following which there is an absence of records until 1971 when the pub landlords became Albert and Phil Bott who were likely to be relatives of Ernest A Bott.   

The Old Bush in 1949 with the bowling green advertised on the side of the building

Based on the sketch, which dates back to 1890, Pelsall Civic Society called for The Old Bush to be added to the list of protected buildings as there were so many others like it which had been cleared to make way for housing.  Several organisations including Campaign for Real Ale and Pelsall and Rushall Local Neighbourhood Partnership called for Walsall Council to place the public house on its locally protected list.

In his book, Pelsall  Early Years of the 20th Century, Harry Farmer states that there were three public houses in Heath End, The Old Bush, The Red Cow and The Royal Exchange as well as an off licence.  He goes on to describe how these drinking places were well patronised by locals.  The miners and furnace workers who lived in the area were known to be great drinkers.

More evidence of the popularity of this public house at that time can be seen in Flora Pearce's book 'No Work Today' where she often refers to The Bush and events taking place around the pub, such as Four Aside Tipcat whereby scores were chalked upon the side wall of The Bush.

For those unfamiliar with the author, Flora's parents kept a local shop in Pelsall and her father George was a miner and coal merchant.  As she states in the beginning of her book, it was her father's wonderful recall which supplied the background for the novel.  'No Work Today' was published in 1987.

In her book, Flora refers to the bowling green behind The Old Bush and a game of football being played at The Bush Field.

In 1989 Ansells brewery spent £170,000 refurbishing the 171 year old coaching inn and pub regular, Harry Neale (seen above) was an honoured guest at the re-opening of The Old Bush.

Harry was bought to The Old Bush by a horse drawn dray from his home in Avon Crescent, Pelsall and pulled the first pint on behalf of the licencees, Dave and Pat Cope. Harry who had been a regular of The Old Bush for more than 20 years was presented with an engraved tankard by managing director on Ansells Retail, Mr Peter Harwood.

In 2002, The Old Bush as seen above was a very popular public house and a hive of activity.

The upstairs room was used as a function room and often accommodated folk singers as seen above.

In February 2009 The Old Bush stood empty and calls were being made to safeguard the future of this historic building and to enter it onto the list of protected buildings to stop it from being demolished.

With much support locally and further afield, in April 2009, The Old Bush was added to the list of historic gems in Walsall giving it extra protection for the future.

After a £70,000 makeover, The Old Bush was saved, reopened and back in business in May 2009.

The photographs above and below were taken in 2017 and 2018

by A Bates - Pelsall Times

The photographs below show the sides and rear of the building

For further information about the history of public houses in Pelsall why not purchase a copy of Last Orders Please! which are available from Kind Thoughts, High Street, Pelsall and R W Print, Norton Road, Pelsall.

In 1918, there were 21 pubs in Pelsall!

If you would like to find out about the resident ghost at The Old Bush, details can be found in Ghosts around Pelsall which is also on sale at the shops mentioned above.