Chrimes publicans in The Black Country

Samuel Chrimes, prior to coming to America, was a publican in Dudley, England. The photo of him with his extended family and friends in front of the Grand Turk (below, 1902) is one of the most interesting of family photos. But why did Samuel Chrimes decide to become a publican? As it turns out, he was not the first Chrimes to do so.

In England in the 1800s, a major problem was gin. It was an inexpensive but highly alcoholic drink that was destroying the lower class. In an effort to combat this condition the government added tax to the sale of gin, restricted the manufacture and charged high license fees to establishments that served gin. In addition they reduced the constraints on ales and beer in an effort to switch the lower classes to a less alcoholic beverage. Fees to open an ale or beer house were reduced drastically. It was so inexpensive that many people bought a license and served beer in their parlor. This legislation led to a huge boom in the opening of pubs. In some areas of the Black Country, the area surrounding Dudley, there was a pub for every 115 people in the village or town. The Black Country even today is noted as having the best pubs in England. It appears the Chrimes Family recognized the opportunities available and became publicans.

There were at least three Chrimes in the pub business in the Black Country, and they were cousins. Two of these cousins had the first name Samuel, so it gets confusing, so let's start from the top. The link between the three publicans is Samuel Chrimes b.1784, head of the Staffordshire Chrimes branch. Samuel had five sons, Richard b.1814, Thomas b.1818, John b.1821, William b.1824 and Henry b.1828. Richard's second son Walter b.1843, William's oldest son Samuel b.1848 and Henry's oldest son Samuel b.1869 all were publicans at sometime in their lives.

There is no evidence as yet that any of these gentlemen ever owned a pub. They were listed as the licensee. Some of the pubs were owned by breweries and the licensee ran the pub and paid the brewery a fee. Often the brewery would pay the licensee fee. The publican had to live at the pub, but he could also hold another job. He would have a family member or employee run the pub while he was at work. The first and most experienced publican was William's son Samuel. He is the recorded licensee of the Bulls Head Pub in the village of Lower Gornal, from 1873 to 1883. Samuel was the licensee for Grand Turk in Dudley in 1884, the same pub his younger cousin would have 20 years later. In the 1891 English Census, Samuel was a wire manufacturer. Richard's son Walter would be the licensee for The Britannia Inn, in Dudley from 1888 to 1895. He also held a job as a "mill furnace man". The younger cousin Samuel was the licensee of the Grand Turk for 1903 and 1904. Samuel had is son ,Samuel Jr, age about 6 years, as the licensee of the White Swan in Dudley in the year 1904. So to be truly accurate, there were four Chrimes who were publicans.

Samuel Sr immigrated to America, arriving on July 21, 1905. The reason for his departure and his source of funds is widely rumoured. One rumour, which circulates in England, is that he took money from his brother David, whose wife Eliza appeared to be operating a shop out of Samuel's previous residence on Charlotte Street. It has also been said that money he took was that of his wife (the family version). Possibly she actually owned the shop at their former residence. His family, in any case, followed him the next year, arriving in September 1905.

What happened to these pubs?

  • The Bulls Head in Lower Gornal still exists, though it is now MAD O'Rourke's STEAK AND PIE FACTORY
  • Walter's Britannia Inn lost its license and closed December 31, 1937
  • The Grand Turk also lost its license and closed 30 September 1961
  • Sam Chrimes Jr's White Swan still exists, though the original building was demolished and a new building opened in 1969

There is some evidence that there may have been two other Chrimes publicans in the Black Country. One document lists a Richard Chrimes to be licensee for the Churchhill Tavern in the village of Wednesbury in 1892. I have not been able to confirm this. This may have been the first son of Richard Chrimes. Also in 1936 -1940, William Rowlinson Chrimes was the licensee of the Golden Cup in Tipton. He was a member of the Warrington Chrimes branch. Interesting to note, Tipton is where Samuel and Jane returned to in 1926.

Ken White
.

Footnote:
There have been several other CHRIMES and CRIMES publicans, including:
Samuel CHRIMES b.1788 publican of "The Spinner" at Comberbach, Cheshire in 1841
John CRIMES b.1793 publican at Hulme, Manchester in 1833
William CHRIMES b.1835 publican of "The White Horse" at Neston, Cheshire in 1871
John CHRIMES b.1837 publican of "The Wheat Sheaf" at Weaverham, Cheshire in 1891
Sarah Jane CHRIMES b.1859 publican at Chester in 1901
Charles CHRIMES b.1862 publican of "The Eagle & Child" at Hanley, Staffordshire in 1901
James Foster CHRIMES b.1862 publican of "The Criterion Hotel" at Sydney, Australia in 1896
David Chrimes

Return to List of Stories