The Georgian Boat Inn opened in 1779, nine years after the completion of the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal in 1770. It was an alehouse (full licence), catering largely for bargees and travellers along the busy Navigation.
Penkridge village, the residents, and the Boat Inn also benefited from industry attracted by the canal and the adjacent wharf, where warehouses and cottages were built (one was converted into a beerhouse kept by Thomas Thomton).
As an indication of population growth and business development, in 1835 there were eight alehouses, six basic beerhouse, four maltsters, and two coopers in the village. Lord of the Manor and principle property owner was the Rt- Hon, E J Littlelon, whose estate owned the Boat Inn, the posting house and the Littleton Anns Inn.
The Duke of Wellington Beer House Act of 1830 allowed a householder or ratepayer, on payment of two guineas to the Excise, to turn his private house into a
public house. Sales were limited to beer, and cider.
Tenant Joseph Dugmore was the first recorded landlord in the 1820’s. John Dugmore was recorded in 1841 census aged 23, a carpenter, with his wife Mary, 26, and his brother Hugh. 20. His carpenter son John Dugmore followed him and became landlord in 1843. The Dugmores were local farmers and maltsters.
Georgian and Victorian licensing hours were both long and demanding (18 hours a day, 4 am to 10 pm, seven days a week), and closed only during Divine Service, Christmas Day, and Good Friday.
As an inn, the Boat was permitted to remain open offering basic accommodation, simple victuals, homebrewed ale, and stabling to the lawful traveller as long as a bed was empty.
There were no common brewers (wholesalers) in south Staffordshire in the late eighteenth century. Consequently, all public houses brewed their own limited range of beers.
A form of malty mild was the popular drink, sold at 2d a quart and varied considerably from brew to brew. It was black, heavy, sweet, and strong. However, the Penkridge average gravity was 1060, the second highest in England.
Somerset born Ell Higgins and his wife Sarah arrived in 1843. Documented in 1851 census he was 30, she was 32, daughters Henrietta (8), Emily (5), Elizabeth(1), and William (2 months). He employed two servants, indicating a busy house.
Master butcher Joseph Robert Burd from Battersea held the licence in 1899. The 1901 Census lists him as 28 years old, and his Wolverhampton wife Edith, 28. They had a son Robert Williamsone month old. His niece Olive Elliott lived with them together with two servants.
It was difficult for Victoria tradesmen, shopkeepers (and God forbid, lawyers), to make a living from a single occupation – running a public house was not then regarded as a profession.
By 1908, Edith was a widow, and licensee of the Boat Inn. She remarried in 1926, but a widow again in 1934, holding the tenancy until her eightieth year.
Ansells merged with the Allied Group in 1961, and acquired the Boat Inn. Following industrial action the Ansells Aston Brewery finally closed in 1981. The Boat is now the property of the Spirit Group Ltd.
I829 – 1841 Joseph Dugmore
1841 – 1843 John Dugmore
1843 – 1866 Ell Higgins
1866 – 1871 Joseph Wood
1871 – 1878 William Morris
1878 – 1886 William Griffiths
1886 – 1892 Annie Turner
1892 – 1899 William Turner
1899 – 1907 Joseph Robert Burd
1907 – 1926 Edith Burd
1926 – 1934 Edith Page
1934 – 1953 Edith Burd
1953 – 1976 Albert George Hailey
1976 – 1976 Flome Hailey
1976 – 1986 Ronald William Mitford
1986 – 1997 David Laird
1997 – 1998 John Alistair BIakeway
1998 – 2001 Kevin Jon Emery
2001 – 2002 Clair Marie Dobbing
2002 – 2002 Lee Robert Scarth
2002 – 2003 Ian Paul Griffin
2003 Susan Marie & Ian Raines
2006 – 2009 Chris Whitehouse
2009 – 2010 Kate Jones
2010 – 2013 Gemma Gruar & Andy Green
2013 – Current Prem86