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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 Spirit Vaults

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Smithford Street 1939

NAME SPIRIT VAULTS
ADDRESS 17 SMITHFORD STREET
THIS PREMISES WAS KNOWN BY DIFFERENT NAMES DURING ITS HISTORY FROM TO KNOWN AS
1861 1868 LIQUOR VAULTS
1868 BOARD VAULTS
    VAULTS
1874 1881 SPIRIT VAULTS
1881 1886 OLD VAULTS
1886 1940 THEATRE VAULTS

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 when 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;
? M.A. Wittem wine/spirit merchant
1861 - 1868 William Morris Liquor merchant
1866 J. Dell
1874 William Morris, Wine & Spirit Merchant
1881 J. Wade
1886 - 1896 H. W. Thomas
1903 - 1905 G. Lawford
1909 - 1912 William Frederick Hodgkins
1912 - 1913 C. H. Scattergood
1919 Fred Wooton
1921 - 1924 J. Revitt
1929 - 1940 S. Marston
smithford street bomb damage

Smithford Street after bomb damage only one year later

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