History

After 1846 with the building of the Shrewsbury to Birmingham railway, Oakengates started to thrive. The expanding local industry attracted workers and brewers, and numerous inns, alehouses and beer houses opened and closed. One that survived was the The Crown Inn.

The original Crown was a one roomed provision merchant shop, licensed by the Duke of Wellington’s Beer House Act of 1830. This permitted a householder or rate payer, on payment of two guineas to the Excise, to turn his private house into a Public House. It was the intention of this act to reduce the damaging high consumption of raw spirits, and increase the consumption of ale, porter and cider. It failed. Richard Corbett retailed ale from his grocers shop around 1835. He is recorded in the 1841 census aged 49, with his wife Sarah 39, and their family of six, Richard 12, John 11, Elizabeth 9, Thomas 7, Benjamin 5, and Edward 3. They boarded two lodgers and employed two servants. By 1851 Richard Corbett had passed on, and his carpenter brother William had taken over the business. He was 40, his wife Elizabeth 40, and daughter Elizabeth 9.

Victorian licensing hours were long and demanding. Eighteen hours a day, 4 am to 10pm, seven days a week, closed only during Divine Service, Christmas Day and Good Friday. It was ideal for shift workers.

Like the majority of licensed premises in Oakengates, the Crown Inn brewed a limited range of beers. The popular parish drink was a form of malted mild; heavy, dark, sweet and strong, which usually varied considerably from brew to brew. However the average rural Shropshire gravity was 1060, the second highest in England.

Richard Corbett junior was married by 1857, the year he became landlord of the Crown Inn.. In 1861 he was 32, his Wem born wife Elizabeth 28, and they had two children, Jessie 3 and Sarah Kate 1. Wombridge magistrates granted the Corbett beer house Inn status in 1870. This permitted the Crown to remain open, as long as a bed was empty, offering simple victuals, home brewed ale, and stabling to the lawful traveller. Full Ale house license was approved following necessary alterations on the 4th March 1946.

Holding a beer house license was not regarded by the Victorians as a profession, more a secondary source of income, or a respite during a period of unemployment. It was difficult for tradesmen, shopkeepers, or honest lawyers to make a living from a single occupation. As an example of this Richard Corbett was described in 1871 as grocer, beer house keeper, soda water manufacturer and bottler, and he probably brewed as well.

Other members of the ubiquitous Corbett family were also licencees. Young Edward Corbett held the license of the Oxford Hotel 1860 – 80, ( latterly Lloyds Bank ),and his aunt, Harriet Corbett, kept the Green Inn 1870 – 85, ( now Lloyds Chemist ). Both were beer houses, and both were in Market Street. Magistrates paid an official visit on the 14th July 1896, and were moderately pleased, and found that the house needed painting and lime washing. There were five rooms upstairs, and four downstairs, with stabling for two horses. The premises were owned and occupied by Elizabeth Frances Corbett. In total the Corbett family were consecutive licensees for 87 years, with one short four year break 1890 – 94. This was not uncommon in the 19th century.

The Wrekin Brewery Company of Wellington bought The Crown Inn on the 26th March 1926 from William Henry Pitchford who kept the butchers shop next door (now the Oakengates Tandoori Restaurant). The Wrekin Brewery was taken over by Greenall Whitley of Warrington in 1951. Greenall Whitley closed the Crown Inn in 1994. Fortunately the premises were purchased by John Ellis in May 1995, who, after extensive renovations re-opened the old beer house on 28th July 1995, without any loss of character and ambience.