The James family were involved in the local licensed trade for over eighty years. Francis James commenced his business activity on 23rd July 1897, when he took over from James Walters the Park Tavern Inn, at 1a Union Road, Packmores, Warwick, (renamed Lakin Road in 1941). The Park Tavern had a bar, smoke room, and a tap room and was valued at £13. 19s. 6d. This Photograph shows Henry and Hannah James, Francis’ parents-in-law [both sides of the family having the same surname as they were cousins]. The small boy is Archie James who died in 1919 as a result of peritonitis. The gentleman behind Archie is landlord Francis James and the lady on the right is Francis’ wife Agnes Mary James.
Francis arrived in Leamington in August 1903 and became licensee at the Star Inn in Wise Street until June 1904. In April 1904 he became the landlord of the Queen’s Head in Brunswick Street where he remained the licensee until March 1921.
Francis James’ grandson, who has the same name, is still around. He lives in St. Helens Road, Whitnash. Frank, as he is known, says, “The Queen’s Head would open at 6am and there would be a queue outside. My grandmother and grandfather took it in turns to open up. They used to say ale was drunk because it was cleaner than water and gave you less trouble. A lot of the regulars worked at Flavel’s factory across the road and started work around 7am. On the day the Titanic sank someone shouted up the stairs to my grandmother: ‘Missus, Missus, the Titanic’s sunk’.”
On 21st September 1920 the Bath Hotel in Bath Street, which had been advertised for sale by auction at a reserve price of £8,000, was suddenly withdrawn from sale. On 8th October 1920 it was reported that the hotel had been sold to Francis James who took possession in March 1921. Francis continued as proprietor at the Bath Hotel until October 1923. In the photo of the Bath Hotel Francis can be seen standing in the doorway.
Francis took over the Bath Street Vaults wine and spirits business on the opposite side of the street at number 13, from Messrs. Johnson in December 1922 and continued as licensee until August 1930. He also took over the licence at the Brunswick Arms 67, Brunswick Street in July 1927.
Francis died aged 60, on Wednesday 30th July 1930 as a result of a stroke. He left a widow Agnes, a daughter, Mrs. Gladys Jacka and two sons Francis and Ernest. The funeral service took place at St. John’s Church, Tachbrook Street at 3.15 on Saturday 2nd August 1930 with the Rev. E. W. Bryan, the Vicar of Whitnash, officiating.
The coffin of waxed English oak, with solid brass fittings, bore a name-plate inscribed: “Francis James. Died July 30th, 1930. Aged 60 years.” A full length floral cross from the family bearing the inscription: “With best love, and many dear memories of a devoted husband and father,” rested on the coffin.
Following Francis’ death, the licences of the Bath Street Vaults and the Brunswick Arms were transferred to his wife Agnes Mary James on Monday 11th August 1930. Agnes remained licensee of the Vaults until September 1942, although the business was run by her son Ernest James from 1930 until his call-up into the Fleet Air Arm in 1942. Agnes remained landlady of the Brunswick until her death on 3rd December 1954. In January 1955 it was transferred to her other son Francis Henry James.
Francis, also known as Frank, was born on 11th May 1905 at the Queen’s Head. He continued at the Brunswick until July 1962 when he took over as landlord of the Queen’s Arms, 82, Queen Street, Leamington – where he remained as licensee until his death in January 1971. Following Frank’s death his wife Winifred took over the Queen’s until it closed on 3rd January 1978.
The local press at the time reported: – For 73 year old Mrs. James, probably the town’s oldest licensee, the Queen’s Arms has been her life for 15 years. “It’s sad to think that it’s going to be pulled down,” she said, “but I think I am ready to retire now. I’m getting on a bit for this sort of life.” Mrs. James won’t be leaving her hundreds of friends far behind when she pulls her last pint, “I’m going to live in a flat quite close to Queen Street. I didn’t want to go too far away. I know so many people in the area and want to stay among them,” she said. This photo which was taken on 23rd December 1977 shows Win James behind the bar and long standing customer Miss Elsie Phillips. Miss Phillips said she had been calling at the Queens Arms since she was 15. “I used to think I was so grown up in those days coming across the road for my mother’s half pint. I’m 76 now, and I’ve been coming in regularly for all those years”.
The closing of the Queen’s Arms marked the end of a long career in the licensed trade for Win James. “I started as a licensee with my husband in 1930 when we ran the Brunswick Arms and came here 15 years ago.” During the years at the Queen’s Arms, she got to know her regulars very well. “I knew some of them so well that I could tell them just by the sound of their walk. And I could always recognise one chap just by the way he wiped his feet as he came in.” But despite that, in all the time she spent in the licensed trade she was only ever known by customers as Mrs. James, never Win.
Allan Jennings 2013
Photographs Courtesy of Frank James