This week we continue with the birth of the Advertizer

ONE INTERESTING advert was that of Plumbe’s genuine arrow root. It was apparently prepared by the native converts at certain missionary stations in the South Sea Islands.

The founder of our local newspaper, Samuel Roberts, could see how important advertising was in the area.

The Standard Book and Magazine Library was just another project he would display in the newspaper. In fact, this was a precursor of the public library structure. At that time there were books circulated through a subscription method and readers would be kept up to date on this through the Oswestry Advertizer.

Mr Roberts would mention a full list of book titles. These would include “Mr Dickens’s Christmas Book – The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain.” There was also an exceptional variety of magazines available.

These included Punch, the Mirror and the Edinburgh Review. Mr Roberts would not be sure if this would appeal to the people of Oswestry resulting maybe in the reduced sales of the newspaper. Consequently, the paper did not fail and is still flourishing into the 21st century.

Oswestry ‘Watering Holes’

IN THE early 1980s I believe Oswestry had in the region of 30 public houses to serve a populace of around 12,000.

During the 16th and 17th centuries, the town’s woollen trade would have been most brisk. The traders of wool would have been most important to the landlords of Oswestry inns and taverns. As the woollen business began to decline as the years of the 17th century went on, dealing in cloth continued, albeit on a somewhat smaller scale, while livestock and produce markets continued as usual from previous years.

Inns known of at that time according to certain records were to include the Sun (1672), the Bell (1663), the Star (1683), the Red Lion (1668) and not forgetting the Fox (1687).

However, there is a strong possibility they may have been established earlier, say at the time of the Civil War or the Restoration. Nothing is absolutely certain here.

One thing is more convincing according to historical records: Oswestry was in possession of more public houses 300 years ago than now.

Another consideration was the fact that fewer restrictions on licensing laws were imposed upon landlords all those years ago. It was much easier to establish an inn or tavern.

It appears many of these watering holes did not stay in business for long depending on demand at certain times.

Many public houses have graced Oswestry over the years and possibly more than 100 since the 1770s. (Many glasses/tankards have been washed!).

Names such as the Hog and Armour, the Leopard, the Plume of Feathers and the Talbot, to name just a few.

Attracting customers to these early public houses in Oswestry would depend on a vibrant trade in the town such as the success of its market for instance.

As the 18th century dawned there was a significant improvement in communication across the country which was help trade etc. The Cross Keys Hotel in Oswestry benefited as a stopping-off place for the London to Holyhead mail coach service. This was also advantageous to the Wynnstay Hotel.

The thriving woollen trade in the town eventually fizzled out as the years went on. Change will always happen. (The march of time!). It was not until 1815, that Oswestry was beginning slowly to pull out of a steady decline, although there had been some growth as regards Salop Road. As Queen Victoria came upon the throne, Oswestry was to start growing gradually.

At that time, most of Europe was entangled in revolutionary causes. As regards London, a decade of Chartist protests was coming to a somewhat disappointing finale for many.

Meanwhile, back in Oswestry, it was a more of a brighter outlook for much of its population.

On December 23, 1848, the branch line from Gobowen to Oswestry was opened.

The following year in June, the Powis Hall and Cross Markets were set in motion as regards trading. A month later in July, more new business was introduced at the Smithfield and Horsemarket.

This short period of time when change was introduced in Oswestry was to sow the seeds for future expansion in the town. Willow Street, which was once considered as the town centre, was now becoming quieter allowing more business to be carried out involving the railway and the Smithfield market.

Consequently, as a result of this, certain inns in Willow Street had no option but to discontinue trade. These public houses were Woolpack, Mitre, Owen Glyndwr and the Duke of York. While Willow Street was losing ground, it was quite the opposite for Beatrice Street and Salop Road.

New inns were opened in Beatrice Street which included the Lower Swan, Crown, Volunteer and Railway. In Salop Road were the Black Lion, Bricklayer’s Arms, Smithfield, Freemason’s Arms and the Barley Mow.

Reflecting the presence of the railway were inns named the Mechanic’s Arms, the Engine and Tender and Cambrian Inn.

Unfortunately, due to progress at the time, many attractive older buildings were demolished.

However, the Greyhound and the Five Bells were rejuvenated from timber and brick into significant inns of red brick as was the Sun public house.

It appears the Sun was popular with the local farming community. There was also the White Horse inn in Oswestry which was modified in 1872. (There were so many pubs in Oswestry – a good town to exercise a pub crawl I think!).

It seems that not everyone in Oswestry at that time was in favour of certain inns in Oswestry. The temperance society had high influence in their objections to public houses.

The Horseshoe in Cross Street, which was established in 1828, was one of their targets. It seems there were many unpleasant, rowdy incidents and brawls outside this pub quite frequently. It was said due to the drink sold in the pub.

Apparently, many of the ales sold in those days had a very high content of alcohol compared with those of present times!

There were also more pubs available then than there are today. Despite the grievances from the temperance movement, the Horseshoe remained in business until the 1870s.

Some historical records gives the impression that drink was the cause of many social problems and had a dominating grasp on parts of the community. Although in many cases, that can be an issue today.

In Oswestry, the temperance movement was referred to as the Oswestry Public House Company operating from Oswald Road from what was interestingly known as Harlech Castle.

The method they used was to purchase as many inns in the town as possible in order to shut them down.

(In my view, the temperance society/ movement seemed to have similar opinions to those supporting the prohibition in the USA early in the 20th century. Across The Pond this was far more serious, with the emergence of Al Capone and illegal trading of alcoholic drinks etc, resulting in much crime and murder etc).