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    Cradley Links

    The Blue Ball Inn, Blue Ball Lane, Cradley

    The name Blue Ball probably came from a large blue ball attached to a pole at the front of the inn so that it was a recognisable inn sign in an age when customers were unable to read.

    The 1782 House survey of Cradley mentions three inns by name, Maypole Inn (43), occupied by William Harris, near Cradley Forge; Rose Inn (369) occupied by Ephraim Newton, in Cradley village; and Blue Ball Inn occupied by John Jones. These would have been more sophisticated than the alehouses and taverns in that they would have offered wine and spirits as well as beer, and supplied food and overnight lodging for travellers with stabling for their horses. It is not known when the Inn was built, but remembering that in 1770 John Wesley preached within yards of the Inn if it was built then, it's not inconceivable that he could have eaten here and stabled his horse here..

    The Blue Ball Inn
    The Maypole Inn
    The Blue Ball Inn
    Painting of Blue Ball Lane (Glen Billingham)

    There are four properties mentioned in the Survey that are associated with the Blue Ball. One is owned and occupied by John Jones (172). The other three were empty at the time of the survey (174) owned by Mark Jones and described as a tenement, smithy and garden, (177) owned by John Cox and described as Mansion House and building and 178 also owned by Mark Cox a tenement adjoining the Mansion House.

    In Pigot’s Directory of 1835 it is listed as Blue Ball John Beasley, Cradley.

    The entry for the 1841 census reads, 14 High Street, John Beasley aged 45 Publican, Maria his wife aged 45, sons John, 20 Sword blade forger, Josiah, 20, Math. 17, Neri, 14 labourer, Solomon 8 and daughter Louisa aged 10.

    Bentleys 1840/41 Directory lists John Beasley as a Sword blade forger & Victualler Blue Ball

    The Tithe map for Cradley of 1843 lists only 2 Inns or Public houses, The Maypole Inn kept by Samuel Leonard and The Blue Ball Public House and garden kept by John Beasley, who rented it from the estate of George Biggs deceased, trustee Thomas Philpots.

    John Beasley was born in Halesowen in 1795 and married Maria Mason at St Thomas Dudley on 7th October 1813, their first son Benjamin being baptised at Cradley church in May 1814 when John’s occupation was a Sword blade forger.

    Pigot &Co’s directory of 1844 describe John Beasley as a retailer of Beer.

    The Post office Directory of 1845 describes him as a beer shop and sword blade forger

    The entry for the 1851 census is Baptist Road, Beasley John 55 licensed victualler, wife Mariah 54, sister, Hannah Hingley 66 widow, Homer Caroline 17 servant and 2 lodgers Benjamin Powes 43 miner, James Page 52 pattern ring maker and Matilda Powes 14 visitor. His children all seem to have left home.

    John Beasley’s will was proved at London 1st July 1859, two of his sons John and Josiah being executors.

    In the Vicar’s notebooks of 1857 he lists John Beaseley with his wife Maria, and servant Elizabeth Round aged 14. Also his son Solomon, a machet maker, his wife Elizabeth, and their two daughters Emily aged 4 and Ann aged 2 who both attend the National school. (This was erected in 1854 on the site of the present Church school in Church Street.)

    By the second Vicar’s notebook of 1863 Josiah is now the publican and bayonet forger (Josiah was an executor of John’s will) with his wife Priscilla who attends church seldom, Josiah has no church, and their 6 children, Selina aged 17, Alfred 16, Ann 9, Louisa 6, Mary 3 and Sarah Ann 1 year old. Alfred the eldest makes chain, and goes to the ragged school, the other children go the Wesleyan Sunday school and the National school.

    Kelly’s Directory of 1864 lists Joseph (Josiah?) Beasley at the Blue Ball (John’s son)

    Jones Directory 1865 lists Josiah Beasley as a beer retailer and sword bayonet forger.

    In December 1865, the then licensee of the Blue Ball asked Stourbridge magistrates to transfer the licence to the Coach and Horses (a new house owned by Hingley) because “The house is so old it has become unfitted for the reception of travellers.” The Bench refused the application with some tart words: “The fact of the house falling down is not an unavoidable calamity. It is falling down because it hasn’t been repaired.” Repairs were evidently carried out: the Blue Ball lasted almost another hundred years. Peter Barnsley Cradley Looking Back

    Kelly’s Directory 1868 lists William Bennett at the Blue Bell (Ball)

    1872 Post Office Directory puts William Bennett at the Victoria and William Adams at the Blue Ball

    The entry for the 1871 census Licensee of the Blue Ball Inn, William Adams, wife Matilda, children, Edward 18, Agnes 17, Thomas 15

    Kelly’s Directory 1876, William Dunn, Blue Ball.

    Kelly’s 1880 Directory Joseph Cox, Blue Ball

    Kelly’s 1884 Directory Mrs Henrietta Cox Blue Ball, Ball St.

    Kelly’s 1888 Directory Mrs Henrietta Cox Blue Ball, Ball St.

    The Blue Ball Inn was sold to Joseph Tandy in September 1889 by auction for £830.

    Joseph Tandy was born in 1853 and died 2nd June 1893, his wife was Phoebe, they had three children, Kathleen Jillian 1881, Caroline Francis, 1885, and John 1885.

    Kelly’s Directory 1892 Joseph Tandy Blue Ball Public House Ball St

    Kelly’s Directory 1896 Mrs Phoebe Tandy Blue Ball Public House Ball St

    Kelly’s Directory 1912 Blue Ball Public House Church Lane John Woodall

    J W Woodall spent 20 years at the Blue Ball, he died age 47 in December 1914. He and his wife would host dinners for the Blue Ball sick and draw club. When the meal was over the evening was usually “spent in harmony.” Peter Barnsley Cradley Looking back.

    Joseph’s son John (Jack) Tandy took over the Blue Ball during the First World War.

    Kelly’s 1916 Directory Tandy John, Blue Ball P.H. Church Lane

    Kelly’s 1921 Directory Tandy John, Blue Ball P.H. Church Lane

    Kelly’s Directory 1924 Tandy John, Blue Ball P.H. Church Lane

    Kelly’s Directory 1932 Tandy John, Blue Ball P.H. Church Lane

    John Tandy died in February 1937 aged 51

    Kelly’s Directory 1940 Blue Ball P.H. (Gilbert. Willetts), Blue Ball Lane

    Extracts from The Blue Ball written for the church magazine in 1959 by Peter Barnsley.

    The Blue Ball had a roundabout means of access for anyone who might wish to get there unobserved. A secret drinker can stroll with apparent innocence down Church Street, turn sharp right at the Church gate and plunge into the Innage - the narrow passage which runs from that point down into Blue Ball Lane, and comes out almost opposite the Blue Ball front door. The Innage must have originally been built for an alcoholic parson who wished to get from Church to Blue Ball with the minimum risk of detection. It zig-zags between high walls, giving almost as effective shelter and concealment as a slit trench. Whatever its history, the Innage has certainly seen the passage of many worshippers anxious to quench the thirst which inevitably follows 75 minutes or so of community worship. One verger in past times even found himself unable to last the full service, but plunged down to the Blue Ball as soon as the sermon began, like a desert traveller who has spotted a distant oasis. Experience taught him how long any particular clergyman was likely to preach, and he learned to time his absence to fit the sermon. So, as the officiating parson walked out from the vestry to begin the service, his image was registered on the verger's brain not in the form of a figure in surplice and cassock, but as a glass or row of glasses, pint or half-pint in size, according to the known length of his sermons.

    The Blue Ball has a happy and regular trade. In fact, going into the Blue Ball on successive nights, you might suppose that the faces and figures in the bar were pictures on the wall, so unvarying is their appearance and position; there is the short, genial gentleman as round and red (and almost as bald) as a ripe apple; the tall, lean laconic one with his pipe at a downward slant of 45 degrees from his lips, one hand clutching his glass and the other deep in his trouser pocket; his glass and the other deep in his trouser pocket; the quiet gentleman in the corner gazing shrewdly out from beneath the peak of a capacious cloth cap which shades his brow and hides every hair of his head. Then there is the tall gentleman whose large nose supports a pair of horn-rimmed glasses, his hair cut as close as a Roundhead's from the nape of his neck to the crown of his head, but sweeping profusely back from his forehead in a mass of close, silver waves which gave him an almost professorial air. Opposite him, another tall man with swept-back, straight black hair, thinning a little in front, big ears sticking out slightly and a long face, whose thin compressed lips give him a gambler's air of impassive coolness and sardonic humour. This impression is heightened when he smokes, cigarette hanging half-forgotten from his lips.

    Charles Willetts

    Presiding over the assembly is Charles Willetts - a landlord of the unobtrusive school, who serves drinks from behind a small window, like a railway clerk issuing orders. He emerges only occasionally - usually when he wants to light a cigarette. A short, stocky figure, dressed comfortably in pullover and flannels, he crosses the bar to the old-fashioned hob grate (in which a fire burns brightly all night), puts a tightly folded paper spill into the flames, takes it out, bends his face to it, lights his cigarette, tosses the spill into the fire, and retires again behind his little window. He might pause to pass a few brief remarks, in a measured, surprisingly deep voice which seems to come from well down in his throat. His wavy grey hair and his black eyebrows, arched over horn-rimmed glasses, give him air of quiet wisdom.

    As more customers file in over the red square tiles and sit down at the bare wooden tables (their tops so spotlessly scrubbed that the grain in the wood stands out like veins) a murmur of conversation spreads round the bar. The talk may be on any subject, usually something with direct reference to daily life and experience - such as gardening.

    The Blue Ball Inn was demolished in the early 60’s?

    Jill Guest 2013

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