A Strange Tale of The Old Holly Bush

This well known roadside inn at Penn which was included in the sale of a portion of the Lloyd estate 24th & 25th September 1901, is connected with a very curious story bearing its past history.

The Holly Bush circa 1945.

It is one of the oldest  licensed houses in the county, and the present modern house was built in the 1920’s and replaced a  former one built in the early years of Victoria’s reign which is the subject of the auction sale by Messrs Ludlow and Briscoe at the Star and Garter Hotel.

The Plan showing site of the licensed Inn from the particulars of the sale September 1901.

The original old house stood almost in the same spot today as it did on the day of the sale and in its original state was  a quaint timber and brick structure, with a thatched roof and a low taproom with a wide chimey and originally the fire was only raised a few inches from the floor, and surrounding this fireplace were comfortable chimney corners in which the village worthies used to enjoy their long church warden’s pipes and home-brewed ale.

The Holly Bush was a well-known and much frequented place of call in the early days for pedlars and bagmen who used to go to Wolverhampton each week to get their stock of needles, buttons, and small wares which they retailed in the surrounding villages.

At the time of the sale this amusing little story appeared in the local press regarding this old house.

For the amusement of his customers the landlord kept a tame monkey. The local justice Shallows were not so strict about licensing in the good old days, and the monkey was no doubt a great source of pleasure to the customer as well as an attraction to the house.

Just above the corner seat and in the wide chimney was a shelf where Jocko used to sit when he wanted to get away from the teasing of the customers to munch his biscuits or to escape their wrath – for he was an inveterate thief.

He had a special fondness for sugar, and one pedlar, who was a very old and regular customer, when he went to Wolverhampton took home in his basket his weekly store of tea, sugar and grocery.

Jocko found this out, and when the owner of the basket was not looking, slyly crept down from his perch, and consumed the sugar with great relish and much chattering to the huge delight of the assembled customers who greatly enjoyed the joke, and who chaffed the pedlar unmercifully.

This happened on several occasions , and at last the victim determined to pay his tormentor back. When he went for his usual weekly purchases he substituted gunpowder for sugar, having it wrapped up in his basket as before . He called at the Holly Bush for his usual glass.

Master Jocko pounced down on the sugar  and fled up the chimney amid the jeers of the lookers-on. Having seated himself comfortably on his shelf he opened the package , took a handful of the black powder and with a shriek of rage, dropped the bag into the fire.

There was an instantly a loud explosion and a general stampede of the company. The flames caught the old thatch, and in a very short time all that remained was a blackened ruin

The Star & Garter 1901.

The article closes with the postscript

The modern house which was erected on the old site is to be sold by auction by Messrs Ludlow & Briscoe at the Star and Garter Hotel on the 24th of this month and there will doubtless be a keen competition for this historic old house.

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