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The Pig on the Wall
(ex Bricklayer's Arms)

Scores of old-fashioned Black Country pubs have closed down over the past decades and many drinkers were fearful wine bars would sweep the land. But here's a tale of an ale-house that has survived closure (so far!).

The Bricklayers Arms in Upper Gornal - now the Pig an the Wall - was for more than half a century better known to many locals as "Hammond's". commemorating the Hammond family which moved into the pub in 1913 (See below). In the old tradition of the area three generations of the family looked after the pub until calling time in 1972. Pubs in the forties and fifties were much different to the type that are becoming popular nowadays.

Drinks back when the family took over were vastly different to today with often just mild and bitter beers, milk stouts and Guinness. People did not drink as many kinds of spirits and wines and cocktails were almost unheard of. There's one legend at the Bricklayers of a bottle of sherry being opened to celebrate Christmas and there was over half of it left the following year! People would more often than not make their own entertainment, playing the piano and singing.

Characters abounded and the local gravedigger Harry Francis had various remedies for ailments, including a cold cure of putting as much mustard into a pint of beer as it would take and then drinking it straight down.

Today the pub, which became near derelict after closing a few years ago, is The Pig on the Wall, commemorating the traditional Black Country legend that folk used to treat porkers as part of the family and even put one on the garden wall to watch a band go by!

The Pub today The pub circa 1913
Many thanks to Cassy for this modern day photograph of the Pub.
The old photograph and the following text were very kindly supplied by Mike Hammond

"I understand the date to be circa 1913, the people in the shot are Harry Hammond, my Grandfather, new owner of the public house, recently purchased from a Mr Reuben Bennett. The two children are the brothers Sidney Martin Hammond and William Norton Hammond who later became the Manager of the establishment after the business was sold to the Holt Brewery Company from Birmingham, on 5th June 1950. The Holt Brewery Company was later to be known as the Ansells Brewery Company of Aston Cross, Birmingham."

The Urban Legend of the Gornal Pig on the Wall

Dawley Pig on the wall postcard
The original Captain Webb postcard
Gornal Pig on the wall postcard
The Gornal "borrowed" postcard

The postcard on the left was published circa 1875 by George Baldwin of Dawley, Shropshire. He was one of the first photographers in the area and resided at 8 Langley Square in Dawley. It was he who in the 1870's took the photographs that made the montage for the original postcard entitled " Who Stuck the Pig on the Wall to see Captain Webb's procession pass?", later to become the urban legend, mistakenly claimed by Gornal. Captain Webb was of course the first man to swim the English Channel in 1875 and was born in Dawley. George Baldwin was a teenager when he began his photography business and he was born in 1860. The Dawley procession was a celebration of his, Captain Webb's, achievement.

The postcard on the right (date unknown) is an obvious copy of the original Dawley card with the names typed in. The text states:

"Who put the pig on the wall at Gornal to see the band go by. Was it Billy the Boy, Jimmy the Go, Clockweight, Billy on Tho'b, The Pokey Mon or Jacko, Tasso, Cogger, Blossom, Jackery? No, it was Johhny Longstomach."

Johnny Longstomach used to sell green grocery from a donkey and cart and his route was around the Brierley Hill and Pensnett area. Unfortunately he always had difficulty passing a pub. Whenever he made a sale the resulting profit was exchanged at the next establishment. If he had a 'good day', the figure of Johnny Longstomach could be seen being carried out of the last licensed premises he had entered before losing consciousness, being loaded on to his cart with his long legs (he was as "thin as a prop" and 6ft 7" tall) trailing the cart. The donkey would then make his way back home to Gornal without assistance, and at the cottage where Johnny lived, would stop and bray three times to let Johnny's long suffering wife that he was home.

Many thanks to John Favill for the information above.

R(euben) Bennett was the original Owner/Landlord of the Bricklayer's Arms.

Tokens were used as defacto money. Workers were often paid in tokens rather than coins thus forcing them to buy goods from particular shops/pubs, frequently owned by their employers. These shops were know as 'Tommy' or 'Truck' shops"

Due to the rapid industrial growth, proper coins were also in short supply around this time. Despite calls from many quarters for the Royal Mint to produce more copper coins the British government was reluctant to act. As a result the captains of Britainís Industrial Revolution were forced to enter into contracts with private mints (most of which were located in Birmingham) to produce the coinage that they so desperately needed.

Token photos courtesy of Mike Hammond

Bricklayers Interior 2 Bricklayers Interior 2
The first shows my father Bill Hammond
serving one of the regulars.
A typical scene taken in the bar of some of the regulars, the names are I think L to R Herbert Green (Cobler from Badger Street?) Tom Upton, Beattie Hammond (my mom and licencees wife), Bill Marsh (partly obscured), Robert George ("Big Bob"), Alf Shaw, Mr Clarke.

Photos and information courtesy of Mike Hammond

Death of the Pig December 2002

Demolition of a Gornal icon lost to Corporate greed Photos courtesy of Martin Reeves of Yampy.co.uk
Gornal's own excellent website.

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