The Jolly Crispin’s history so far
In 1842, Pigot’s Directory for Staffordshire tells us that “Upper Gornall is a village in the Parish of Sedgley.” It lies north west from Dudley on the road to Wolverhampton. The village consisted of one long street, “the houses comprising which are chiefly detached,” and that “quarries of excellent free-stone are in this village.” The free-stone mentioned here was not free to all, but means that the stone can be easily worked into building stone without a tendency to split into layers. Much of this, Devonian yellow sandstone, is evident in many buildings today, especially those of earlier origins.Most of the people were employed in making firebricks, nails, augers, fire irons and bellows, or were coal miners. In 1842 there were 10 pubs named and a further 9 retailers of beer, which served to slake the thirst of the population. One of these pubs was the Jolly Crispin.
Amongst the residents in 1831 was one John Lewis. He was a builder and joiner by trade, and had constructed his own dwelling, which fronted what was then the Turnpike road. He had, by this time, diversified by converting part of his house into a beerhouse.
By 1842, James Meanley was listed as being at the Jolly Crispin, a year later it was merely the Crispin Inn. Meanley had acquired the pub from John Lewis back in 1832, and kept it until retiring in 1846. In 1845 the pub was listed as the Jolly Crispin And Carpenter Inn.
James, when he retired, passed the pub to his son Elisha. Elisha was also a carpenter, and was mine host until his death on 14th January 1875, aged 71. He was succeeded by his wife Ann, who kept it for a further 4 years.
In 1879 the pub passed to William Griffin for another 4 years and thence to Charles Evans, and in 1891 to Reuben Bennett. By 1896, Isaac John Mills was licensee for a short period, before the pub again changed hands, to John Short. John Short was an ex-professional jumper, much in the same vein as Joseph Darby, the famous, Netherton born, Champion Jumper of the World. However, John was obviously better at jumping than he was in business. He gave up the pub in 1901 and by 1903 was declared bankrupt.Sedgley born Luke Dovey and his wife Emily ran the pub from 1901 until 1909. In February 1908 the pub was referred to the Compensation Authority. The Licensing Act of 1904 set up compensation procedure for the extinguishment of un-necessary on-licences. The licence of the Jolly Crispin was, however renewed after an appeal. The pub passed to Luke Dovey’s brother in law, Charles Henry Guest for a further year.
In 1910, Isaac John Mills was back, and was succeeded by his wife Alice in 1925. She kept the house until 1927, when it passed to her son William Isaac Mills.
James Clarence Guest arrived in 1929. It was during his ten year’s tenure that the pub suffered a major fire. On 29th December 1936 the fire, which started in the oak-panelled smoke room, destroyed much of the pub. He moved to the Hilly House in Corser Street, Dudley in April 1939.William R Easthope, saw the pub through the war years, and continued until 1953. Whilst he was here, in 1940 the pub was acquired by the Simpkiss Brewery of Brierley Hill. The licensee from 1953 until 1976 was Sidney Eugene Morris, who had married Molly Isobel Haden. He died in November 1985.
The next 8 years the pub was in the hands of Percy Leslie Skitt and his wife Jean. Les to his friends, he became a well known figure in the Black Country licenced trade. He was succeeded in 1984 by former World 24 hour marathon record holder, Gordon Bentley. Jonathan Simpkiss inherited the brewery and its 18 pubs, from his father Dennis, in 1981, and sold them to Greenall Whitley. Greenalls, were, at this time acquiring other breweries around the country, and closing them down.There followed a succession of licensees, who rarely lasted twelve months each, and the pub was often closed for long periods between them. The fabric of the building deteriorated and the custom dwindled. Then along came Phil Bellfield, who bought the pub in 1997, and restored the pub and reopened it in September 1997. Philip Charles Bellfield is well known in the Sedgley area for resurrecting pubs from the doldrums into very successful ventures. One of his main tactics was the introduction of a good selection of real ales not readily available in the area. In 2000 he sold the pub on.
Six licensees later, and renewed dwindling of custom, it was bought by Stuart Griffiths and Julie Lowe in 2002. They set about reviving the pub’s fortunes. They introduced a very successful policy of serving up to nine guest beers at one time. This led to the pub being voted Dudley and South Staffordshire CAMRA’s Pub of the Year for 2005 and again in 2006. In 2005 it went on to win the West Midlands Regional title too.
In 2006, Julie and Stuart left for Scotland, and sold the pub to the Newport Pub Company, and under the guidance of new licensee, Rob Carey, continues its successful guest beer policy.
Here’s a health to the Jolly Crispin!
© Tony Hitchmough