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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 Old Vaults

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Smithford Street celebrations for the coronation of George V in 1910

NAME OLD VAULTS
ADDRESS 17 SMITHFORD STREET
THIS PREMISES WAS KNOWN BY DIFFERENT NAMES DURING ITS HISTORY FROM TO KNOWN AS
1861 1861 LIQUOR VAULTS
1866 1866 BOARD VAULTS
1868 1868 VAULTS
1874 1876 SPIRIT VAULTS
1881 1881 OLD VAULTS
1866 1940 THEATRE VAULTS

This pub opened as a wine/spirit merchants. There is an 1861 transfer of license showing a liqour vaults at the bottom of Theatre Yard was transferred from M.A. Wittem to William Morris. Buchanan lists it as BOARD VAULTS in 1868, a license having been granted to John Dell in 1866, but by 1874 the establishment was known as the SPIRIT VAULTS and seven years later in 1881 was called the OLD VAULTS. That remained until 1886 wwhen the name changed again to the THEATRE VAULTS. In 1889 the THEATRE ROYAL became the EMPIRE PALACE OF VARIETIES accesible through the THEATRE VAULTS.

Although this was a period of music hall boom, audiences gradually dwindled to the point where the theatre became uneconomic to run. Competition from two pub music halls did not help. Ellen Terry played there in November 1880. Even stars like Charles Coborn and Arthur Lloyd in 1895 could not reverse the financial state and the Empire closed permanently at Christmas 1895 and was demolished in 1903 - but not the THEATRE VAULTS which remained trading until destroyed by enemy action in 1940.

Known Licensees are;
1881 J. Wade

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1874 JA100 Opened originally as a wine merchant but by this time known as the OLD VAULTS. Previously in 1874 the SPIRIT VAULTS and from 1881 the THEATRE VAULTS.

28.8.1878 LJ Vol 1 P22 BOARD, Smithford Street Alehouse Owner J. B. R. Ball, Hill Street, Coventry, later of Park Side
Licensee : Thomas Heap ( Old Vaults )
7.11.1878 TOL to William Brough
23.1.1879 TOL to Frederick Heap
20.1.1881 TOL to Thomas Wade
26.4.1883 TOL to Arthur Henry Masser
31.5.1883 TOL to James Eaves
13.3.1884 TOL to George Johnson
6.11.1884 TOL to Thomas Horley
11.1.1886 TOL to James Whitaker ( Theatre Vaults )
11.3.1886 TOL to Harry William Thomas
27.4.1888 TOL to William Growcock Wright
5.1.1899 TOL to John Henry Gee
27.4.1899 fined 10/- & costs selling to drunken person

LICENSEES

1878 LJ Vol 1 P22 Thomas Heap
1878 LJ Vol 1 P22 William Brough
1879 LJ Vol 1 P22 William Brough
1879 LJ Vol 1 P22 Frederick Heap
1881 LJ Vol 1 P22 Frederick Heap
1881 LJ Vol 1 P22 Thomas Wade
1881 C&B J. Wade ( Thomas ? ) Wine & Spirit Merchant
1883 LJ Vol 1 P22 Thomas Wade
1883 LJ Vol 1 P22 Arthur Henry Masser
1883 LJ Vol 1 P22 James Eaves
1884 LJ Vol 1 P22 James Eaves
1884 LJ Vol 1 P22 George Johnson
1884 LJ Vol 1 P22 Thomas Horley
1886 LJ Vol 1 P22 Thomas Horley

OWNERS

1878 LJ Vol 1 P22 J. B. R. Ball, Hill Street, Coventry, later of Park Side
1886 LJ Vol 1 P22 J. B. R. Ball, Hill Street, Coventry, later of Park Side

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