The Fox & Hounds is built on a site that has been home to a pub for nearly 400 years, making it one of Wirral’s oldest pubs. There seems to have been a pub or pubs in the village since at least the sixteenth century. Over the centuries it has changed names several times having been recorded as ‘The Flag’, ‘The Hen & Chicken’, ‘The Black Horse’, and ‘The Sportsman’s Arms’ before finally ending up as ‘The Fox & Hounds’. The first licensee recorded is a Thomas Baylye some time prior to 1561 and since then various licencees have had the site:
1754 Richard Shaw/John Harrison
1767/1768 Thomas Price
1777/1778 Thomas Johnson/William Owen
1785/1799 Richard Piercy
1822 John Youds ‘The Flag’
1823 John Youds ‘Hen & Chicken’
1824/1828 Stanley Youds ‘Black Horse’
1848 John Stubbs (Owner Hugh Lowe per. Tithe Apportionment)
The pub is recorded as the ‘Black Horse’ on Bryants’ map in 1830. By 1891 it was known as the ‘Sportsman’s Arms’ and was in the hands of the Gertrey family, with John Gertrey listed as the licensee. It was described as having ‘One bed for travellers, accommodation and refreshment for ten. Stables two.’ ‘A modest house, fair accommodation, refreshments other than drink frequently supplied’. It is likely that the original reason for a pub being in that location was to supply an extra horse or horses to assist loads being taken down into and up from Barnston Dale (the dip).
The road running past the Fox and down into the dale was much narrower, with only room for a horse and cart, nowadays it has been widened and surfaced to allow for the passage in both directions of modern traffic, but was described in historic records as ‘a delightfully uneven roadway, a source of tribulation alike to horse and passenger’.
The present pub was built on the site about 1911, featuring lots of stunning Edwardian features. Thankfully the previous owners of the Fox and ourselves avoided the craze of stripping out the interior and original features of the pub, and it appears now very much how it would have 100 years ago. Ralph Leech was instrumental in creating the institution that is “the Fox” and creating the success that the pub enjoys today. Having been licensee there for over 30 years adding to the pubs long and illustrious history. Its cosy and welcoming atmosphere has maintained its popularity since its doors opened over 100 years ago.
Contributions from Collin Millington, www.barnstonvillage.info