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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 Windmill

photo
NAME OLD WINDMILL
ADDRESS 20-23 SPON STREET
This is probably Coventry's oldest and best-known pub. It is Grade II listed and described as follows:
'Sixteenth century or earlier. Colourwashed stucco front, old tiled roof. A timber frame of two storeys with first floor oversailing, corbels encased behind wooden fascia'. It is not dated any earlier than the sixteenth century because of the absence of any trace of a hall.

Still, it has been claimed to have been built in 1451 and, during the renovation of 1985, a Victorian fireplace was removed to expose an open stone hearth which was also claimed to be fifteenth century.

In 1756 four soldiers were billeted here. Until the mid- nineteenth century, these were was two premises with the partition being the passageway from the central front door which ran through the whole site. The site of the present bar was a yard with outside toilets at the end. To the left of the passageway was a shop where an assortment of goods, including toys, was sold. To the right was the pub. When the property was united, the left hand side was domestic quarters until recently whilst domestic quarters also covered the entire width upstairs.

The pub is known as Ma Brown's as this lady kept the pub until her death at the age of 84 in 1967. The Brown family's association with the pub began in 1931 when Sydney Brown became licensee. Previously he had run the Lamp Tavern in Cook Street and before that he had been a carpenter and coffin maker in Hillfields. Sydney Brown died in 1940 and his wife, Ann (Ma) Brown took over the tenancy. It is said that she 'ran an orderly and efficient house, did not suffer fools gladly and would not allow gambling on the premises'. After her death her son Ted and his wife Dora took over and ran the pub until retirement in 1975.

The pub was a home-brew house until 1930, so brewing appears to have ceased with the arrival of the Browns. The brewhouse still survives to the rear of the pub, although there is seating there now.

In 1985 the pub was extensively renovated. The yard was enclosed and became part of the building; the bar was placed here. The old bar, of tiny proportions, only being 2 feet 6 inches wide, was retained as a snug and the front room with its range remained unchanged. Only one wall was removed to open up the lounge into the new bar area.
Licensees
1835 John Welch
1841 Thomas Hazell
1850 John Bayliss
1850 - 1851 James Cooper
1868 - 1893 William Cattell
1894 - 1905 William Cattell junior
1911 - 1913 R. B. Twyneham
1914 Charles Hitchcox (see also at the Horse and Jockey, Much Park Street in 1916 and the Toby's Head, Pepper Lane 1924 - 1927) (Thanks to Malcolm Croft for info)
1919 - 1922 Edith Elizabeth Twyneham
1924 - 1929 C. E. Twyneham
1931 - 1940 Sidney Brown
1940 - 1967 Mrs. Ann Brown
1967 - 1975 Edward Brown
1977 Terry Jones
1982 Mike Woolmer
1985 Mick Blackburn
Brewers
to 1910 William Cattell
1910 - 1930 Mrs. Catherine E. Twyneham 
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Listed Building (II) 16th century or earlier, altered. Colour washed stucco front, old tiled roof. Timber frame of two storeys with 1st floor oversailing, corbels encased behind painted wooden fascia, 3 modern and 19th century ground floor windows, 4 panel 2 fold door. 2 1st floor casement windows with glazing bars.

News 17 Renovation in 1985 uncovers old fireplace ( 15th century ? )

c1800 COC P40 Mentioned in Napoleonic Poem

1851 Source 49 Board of Health Map

1.6.1858 CR 368/127/44 Francis Bayliss ( son of John, landlord of Old Windmill ) attends Katherine Bayley's School.

21.12.1867 JA141 CS Transfer of license from Joseph Cattell to William Cattell

28.8.1878 LJ Vol1 P9 Owner : William Cattell Snr
later William Cattell Jnr
Liensee : William Cattell
5.12.1895 TOL to William Cattell Jnr

1910 ACov P25B Photo

1910 CovAIW Photo 33

COC P31 Used by Algy the rag and bone man

1915 GH P31 Photo

to 1930 Friedrich Home brewery

CS1 Photo

29.1.1970 News 2-6 Up to a century ago the left side of the yard was a shop where an odd assortment of goods, including toys, was sold.

The lay-out is simple. The central paved yard divided the 'resedential' on the right. Domestic quarters upstairs cover the entire width.

4.7.1977 News 36 Manns bitter launched here

1977 WRAG1 ( Ma Browns's )

1979 WRAG2 Very crowded pub of character

1982 WRAG3 One of the oldest pubs in Coventry. Very small and very crowded most nights. Food is very good.

1984 Pubscrawl 5 Built in 1451

Ma Brown kept the pub from 1931 till she died at the age of 84 in 1967.

Arguably the smallest bar in the country, just 2' 6" wide, The walls and ceiling of the pub are packed with hops, obviously the medaeval version of cavity wall insulation. Mike Woolmer, present licensee, is an ex-policeman

1985 Pubsrawl 139 The interior designers, the builders, the joiners and decorators ..... they've not only left much of the internal structure intact, they've also improved and enganced it to produce the sort of pub that should prove a magnet for local and visitor alike. Only one wall had been knocked sown to give some much-leeded breathing space to a lounge that tended to become claustrophobic when you shared it with some 20 students and a stag night party. The wall was impregnated with hops - not so much cavity wall insulation as remnants from the days when beer was brewed on the premises and the raw materials were stored in upstairs rooms.

There were probably more hops in that wall than you'd find in several kegs of Watneys. The old bar serving area was one of the smallest in the country. Little more than 2 ft 6 in wide and not much longer. Thankfully there's been no attempt to knock through to the bar next door. Instead its been preserved as a little nooky corner.

The ladies who used to peel the Sunday lunchtime spuds in Ma Browns front bar would be glad to know that the range is still there, gleaming spick and span. In fact the room has hardly changed. One fireplace has been ripped out - the Victorian one in the lounge. Behind it builders found the original open stone hearth. Needless to say that has been turned into an attractive focal point in the room where Ted Brown, son of the legendary Ma used to weave through the packed bodies with trays full of pints.

Spon P23-24 Probably the ,ost famous building in the whole of Spon Street is what was Nos 22 & 23 and now one building - the Old Windmill public house affectionately known as Ma Brown's and dating back to Tudor days. The Townscape brochure shows that ' Beneath the colour washed stucco is concealed a timber framed building. It consists of two bays and the upper floor is jettied over the pavement. The central dorway leads to a paved courtyard which formerly divided the property into two...... internally many historic an old brew-house, an open-range fireplace in the bar and old wall benches and oak panelling.'

During the early years of the twentieth century No 21 was a shop with the pub just occupying one property. The amalgamation took place at a time when another well-known name, the Twyneham family, was in residence. The Brown's association with the pub began in the 1930's when Sydney Brown became licensee. Earlier he had been a carpenter and coffin maker in Hillfields before joining the licensed trade in 1910. Prior to moving to Spon Street he had been licensee of the Lamp Tavern in Cook Street. When he took over the Old Windmill there was about twentu gallons of home-brew in stock and along with - trade fixtures, fittings, stock-in-trade, licenses and effects ' he paid £ 257 7s 10d. Syd died in 1940 and his wife Ann Brown took over the tenancy. The rent at this time was £ 75 per anum and the owners Charles Southam & Co, Ale and Porter Merchants of nearby Windsor Street agreed to allow the tenant ' a discount of ten percent off the company's current trade list price for all accounts of Ale, Beer, Porter, Stout and Malt Liquors in casks.' Ma Brown ran a strict but orderly and efficient house, did not suffer fools gladly and would not allow any gambling on the premiesis. there was an immense trust and respect beyween landlady and customer and there was never any trouble at the pub - this was unusual for Spon Street. Ann Brown died in 1964 and her son Ted and his wife Dora took over by which time Watney Mann were the owners. Ted and Dora followed family tradition and worked hard. They had no holiday until 1974. In 1975 they decided to retire to a private house in Wyken, sadly both have died in the last few years.

P25 Photo

Spon P104 A frequent visitor to the Old Windmill was Algy, the rag ang bone man. He would ' fetch the house down ' with his exhibition of shadow-boxing. He was a perpetual whistler and he could be seen regularly about the street with his splay-footed gait and an old pram full of scrap and rubbish. His populkar name was ' Whistling Rufus '.

BOC P59 Further west along the same side of Spon Street is the Old Windmill whgich. along with others in the street. gives a good idea of how the appearance of timber-framed buildings was changed over the centuries. Its alterations include rendering over the timber, the insertion of windows without respecting the frame and the use of a board to hide the projecting jetty. As there is no trave of a hall, this building has beewn dated to the sixteenth century. ther is a later brew-house preserved at the rear. It has been a tavern for many years ( Ma Brown's ) and is favoured for its historical atmosphere.

WB P20 Popularly known as ' Ma Brown's ' in tribute to its long-serving landlady, This is a seventeenth-century home-brew house, with brewing continuing here up to the beginning of the twentieth century. The brew house at the rear has survived, though seating has extendesd into it

P21 2 photos c2005

1914 - 1930 P23 Brewer Mrs Catherine Edith Twyneham

LICENSEES

1828/29 Pigot John Welch

1835 Pigot John Welch

1841 Pigot Thomas Hassell

1841 Census Thomas Hassell 50 yo Not b Wks m Elizabeth, 45 & 2 kids

1845 Kelly J. Rowe
1850 CR 368/127/44 John Bayliss

1850 CS James Cooper

1851 Census James Cooper 38 yo b Wolston m Mary Ann, 30 & 2d, 1s

1867 JA141 CS Joseph Cattell

1867 JA141 CS William Cattell

1868 Buchanan W. Cattell

23.11.1868 Lantern William Cattell

1871 Census William Cattell 40 yo dyer & licensed victualler b Coventry

1874 C&B W. Cattell [ m Harriett, 40 & 3d, 1s

1878 LJ Vol1 P9 William Cattell
1879 Stevens William Cattell
1881 C&B W. Cattell
1886 C&B W. Cattell
1890/91 R&G W. Cattell

1893 Reporter W. Cattell

1894 R&G W. Cattell junior
1895 LJ Vol1 P9 William Cattell Jnr
1896 R&G W. Cattell junior
1903 R&G W. Cattell junior
1905 R&G W. Cattell junior
1911/12 Spennell R. B. Twyneham
1912/13 Spennell R. B. Twyneham
1919 Spennell Edith Elizabeth Twyneham
1921/22 Spennell Edith Elizabeth Twyneham
1924 P. James C. E. Twyneham
1926/27 P. James C. E. Twyneham
1929 P. James C. E. Twyneham
1931 News 2-6 Sidney & Ann Brown
1931 Pubscrawl 5 Ann Brown
1933/34 P. James S. Brown
1935/36 P. James S. Brown
1937/38 P. James S. Brown
1939/40 P. James S. Brown
1967 Pubscrawl 5 Mrs A. Brown
1967 News 2-6 Ann Brown
1967 News 2-6 Edward Brown, son of above
4.7.1977 News 36 Terry Jones
1982 Pubscrawl 5 Mike Woolmer
1985 Pubscrawl 139 Mick Blackburn

BREWERS

to 1910 Freidrich William Cattell

1910 Freidrich Mrs Catherine E. Twyneham

1930 Freidrich Mrs Catherine E. Twyneham

OWNERS

1878 LJ Vol1 P9 William Cattell Snr
later LJ Vol1 P9 William Cattell Jnr

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