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Here is what we think is the only comprehensive record of pubs and beerhouses within the Coventry city boundaries going back as far as available records allow. This is an ongoing project so contributions, corrections or additions to this archive, especially anecdotes, photos and media are most welcome. Feel free to contact us for a pint and a chat anytime.

The Freehold Tavern

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NAME FREEHOLD TAVERN
ALTERNATIVE NAMES later FREEMASONS TAVERN
ADDRESS FREEHOLD STREET
ALTERNATIVE ADDRESSES JEFFREY WOOD CROSS
The name of this pub came from the Freehold Land Society. This was an organisation founded by a Birmingham artisan, James Taylor (1814 - 1887). He was a Baptist, Liberal and member of the temperance movement, who had purchased his own home and so obtained the right to vote. At the General Election of 1847 he was appalled to see the number of working men who were dis-enfranchised because they did not own property.Taylor's answer was to provide the working man with his own property. The votes thus gained would, Taylor fondly hoped, be used to further his political aims, particularly in favour of the Liberal Party.

Taylor's scheme was a complicated system to provide the workers with mortgages to purchase a plot of land previoulsy purchased by the Freehold Land Society. Much of the housing developement to take place in Coventry in the mid-nineteenth century was carried out by the Freehold Land Society. Six separate estates were developed by the Society, starting with Freehold Street in 1848, then Upper Stoke, Red Lane, Lants Estate, Earlsdon and finally Spittlemore (Lower Ford Street) in 1855.

However, as a political movement the Freehold Land Society was a failure. Many used it as a means of obtaining a house without any intention of voting. Over the years the franchise was gradually extended until eventually it covered every adult, irrespective of property ownership, whilst housing was extended through building society mortgages and council provision, so that the Freehold Land Society became irrelevant and redundant.

Although the Freehold Land Society had temperance leanings, at this time it did not mean the banning of pubs or teetotalism. At this time temperance meant the avoidance of spirits and the positive encouragement of beer as a good wholesome drink for the worker! Hence pubs were allowed on these estates, but perhaps fewer than have occurred elsewhere. The Freehold Tavern appears to have been established soon after the completion of Freehold Street and named to recognise the work of the Freehold Land Society.

On 21st Septmeber 1860 a company dinner was held here. By 1879, 30 plus years after the estate was laid out, many of the occupants would have paid their mortgages off and the Freehold Land Society would have been much less important in the area. Perhaps some occupants would rather not acknowledge the means by which they became property owners! So it is not difficult to see why the Freehold Tavern's name became less relevant and the temptation to change it to a name with wider general appeal - in 1879 it became the FREEMASONS TAVERN.
Known Licensees are;
1861 Thomas Elton ( with his son, John Elton, a butcher and licensed victualler )
1868 J. Pollard
1868 - 1869 R. P. Baker
1869 Arthur Friswell
1871 John Burns labourer
1874 T. Iliffe

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