Black Horse, 73 Spon End
I have seen claims that the pub dates from c1750 and c1800. In 1803 the annual 'Gooseberry Feast' was held at Mrs Bant's Black Horse in Spon End. This was won by Mr Eyre's 'Spon Nocket' at 13 lbs 4 oz, which seems a feast on its own to me, as long as you like gooseberries!
In 1818 it was kept by Mary Twigg and at this time was the centre of the Court of Charles Lilley. Lilley was a silk ribbon weaver by trade and a Director of the Poor Relief Board and was very well respected. He frequented the Black Horse and while his white horse and carriage waited outside he would settle disputes. Although he lived in lower Spon Street, he elected to pass nearly a dozen other pubs to drink in the Black Horse. His unofficial title was 'King of Spon End' and he held court at the Black Horse where he adjudicated in disputes between local residents. Lilley and his courtiers were serious drinkers and woe betide any man who couldn't keep pace and 'pay for his chair'.
In the early years of the twentieth century, the landlord was one of Coventry's best known entrepreneurs, John Dutson. His trade was nickel plating for the cycle industry. He secured business from most of the principal cycle companies as well as from a flourishing overseas market. So why go into the pub trade and why not retire to your country pile with your wealth ? It is said that the Black Horse was brewing its own beer at this time.
In 1926 the Black Horse was sold by its then owners, Charrington's, and at some time became an M&B pub. In recent decades the pub has come under threat because of yet another road widening scheme. In 1982 it was said to have a cosy bar with a distinct slope; only a skilled carpenter could have made the door fit the lopsided doorway. The lounge was a beautifully restored Victorian room with traditional wood and wrought iron tables. Over the fire was a brass-mounted oval mirror set into dark panelling, which was not made of wood but of stained alabaster. On the end outside wall, the one facing the city centre, there was a painted representation of Mitchell & Butlers trade mark 'leaping stag' symbol. Their Cape Hill brewery was situated in a place called Deer's Leap. In May 2012 Punch Taverns sold the pub to a property developer, Tony Harris, who owned the nearby Arches Industrial Estate. His intention was to demolish the pub and sell the land to the next door car dealership to extend their forecourt. In September 2011 the pub had been given Grade II listed building status by English Heritage, who described it as 'a rare surviving example of a relatively simple and modest urban Victorian public house, a type of public house that was once common throughout England but is now very rare'. They praised 'the intactness and good quality of the 1920s decorative scheme, particularly the lincrusta work (deeply embossed wall covering invented in 1877) in the lounge'. But Punch Taverns challenged the listing and after consideration English Heritage concluded the pub should be delisted. The pub was sold and on 17th May the city planning authorities locally listed it. However, that was too late, as within days of purchasing the building Mr Harris had gutted the interior, with what seems indecent haste. The pub is now boarded up awaiting future developments.
The Black Horse in 2010. (Photo courtesy of Cliff Jones.)
This is a popular sign dating from at least the fourteenth century. Its use appears to be a reflection of its convenience as a visual symbol. By the seventeenth century, the phrase had become the nickname of the 7th Dragoon Guards who had black collars and cuffs on their jackets and rode mainly black horses. The sign was also by this time being used by goldsmiths in Lombard Street, London.
LICENSEES:1803 Mrs Bant 1818 Mary Twigg 1822 - 1823 W. Stonier 1828 - 1835 John Rammage 1835 M. Twigg 1841 - 1845 Edward Swetnam 1847 - 1849 Ann Horsfall (widow of John Horsfall of the Half Moon, Earl Street. Ann died Oct 1849) 1849 - 1851 Elizabeth Price 1861 - 1871 John Keene maltster publican 1874 Mary Keene 1879 - 1896 Edward Knight 1903 - 1905 F. G. W. Hazelwood 1909 - 1913 John W. Dutson (J. F.) 1919 - 1922 G. H. Lowe 1924 - 1927 E. Wilson 1929 H. Wetten 1931 - 1936 T. Bromley 1961 - 1962 Zigmas (Bob) Bentley 1982 John Smith
OWNERS:to 1926 Charringtons 1962 Mitchells and Butlers to 17th May 2012 Punch Taverns from 17th May 2012 Tony Harris