The Red Lion Hotel, Crich Tramway Village

By: shortfinals

Nov 10 2011

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Category: British Isles, canals, Derbyshire, England, Great Britain, military, Museums, Second World War

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Focal Length:18mm
Shutter:1/0 sec
Camera:NIKON D40

The Crich Tramway Village is home to many superb exhibits which form the National Tramway Museum. However, as well as the preserved trams – many of which run – and associated memorabilia and photographs, there are also restored buildings, a number of which have been brought to Derbyshire from all over the country, and this includes the Red Lion Hotel.

In the 1880s the Crosswells Brewery, owned and operated by Showell’s Brewery Co Ltd, Oldbury, established the Langley Maltings, which produced malted barley for the brewery, using the traditional ‘floor malting’ method. The maltings were constructed close to the Titford Canal, Oldbury for ease of bulk delivery of the grain. This traditional form of malting was continued until quite recently. William Showell had founded the Crosswells Brewery, using a local water source which had been prized since the Middle Ages for its ‘healing properties’ (‘Crosswells’ refered to ‘the well of the Holy Cross’). Soon, Showell’s Brewery was expanding, with a branch in Stockport, Cheshire and many ‘tied houses’ in and around the area of Stoke in the West Midlands. The public houses and hotels which sold Stowell’s Ales were noted for their impressive Victorian architecture and decor. For example, despite the fact that the identity of the brewery itself has long since disappeared in the wake of several mergers, until 2006 there were a pair of beautiful etched glass windows advertising ‘Showell’s Ales’ in the ‘Old Hop Pole’, 474 High Street, West Bromwich, West Midlands. Sadly, they were removed in mid-2006.

The ‘Red Lion Hotel’ used to stand in the south-eastern corner of St. Peter’s churchyard in Oldbury. It was directly opposite the depot of the Potteries Electric Traction Tramway Co. Ltd., a line which operated 115 single-decker, 4 foot gauge, trams over a system comprising 42 miles of track. These trams, in their scarlet and primrose livery, provided cheap and regular transport for the rapidly expanding population of the Potteries region. Tram crews used to gather in the Red Lion, not just to quaff their thirst after a long shift, but to receive their weekly wages, for the P.E.T. used the pub as an impromptu wages office.

By 1973, the Red Lion had closed, and it was due to be demolished in a road-widening scheme, which would see the A500 road through the centre of town become ‘Queensway’, a major thoroughfare. However, the members of the Crich Tramway Society dismantled this Victorian gem brick by brick and removed it. One of the members, a West Yorkshire architect, Jim Soper, took damaged bricks home in his car, and carefully repaired them! The landlord of the Red Lion at the time of closure was Derek North. After the building had been painstakingly re-built on site at Crich, (using as much original material as possible), at a cost of around £500,000, Mr North was there to perform the ceremonial ribbon-cutting, and open the pub, complete with its magnificent tile and terracotta decoration, and life-sized lion sculpture on top of the facade!

The Tramway village holds an Edwardian Weekend each year, and the Red Lion features strongly in the celebrations. The period tramcars rattle by the pub, over the cobbled street, just as they would have done in their heyday. Also, this year has featured two ‘1940s Weekends’ (24th/25th April and 13th/14th August), with military vehicles, re-enactors in World War Two uniforms and period cars. The Red Lion served ‘real ale’ and offered a genuine 1940s menu.

I am extremely glad that this handsome structure was saved; too many buildings like this have gone under the wrecking ball.

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