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The ‘Fox’ of today (2000) is a far cry from the ‘Fox’ of the 1950’s when Mum and Dad had it. Today lunchtime is the busy period with lots of customers, mostly ladies for bar meals. In the fifties it was an unusual lunchtime if there were more than half a dozen in for a lunchtime pint, Dad would have been horrified if any of them had asked for a meal, in fact very few Wirral pubs of the time offered food..

There seems to have been a pub or pubs in the village since at least the sixteenth century. Over the years it has had several changes of name. The first licensee recorded is a Thomas Baylye some time prior to 1561.

The photograph opposite shows the road much narrower than it is today, so far I have been unable to find out what the building attached to Beech Farm was.  "‘Old Polly’, Mrs Gertrey the licensee at the time, used to whitewash the sandstone bas of the building every morning, she also washed down the pub counter with paraffin wax.

Licensees, pub names and dates
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)

Fox & Hounds C1910

The pub is recorded as the ‘Black Horse’ on Bryants 1830 map. 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’

The historian Phillip Sulley writing in 1888 said ‘In this old hostelry, a model of neatness is to be noted the ancient Cheshire custom, now fast expiring, that of tracing angular patterns on the tiles with fresh dock leaves each morning.’ Of the road outside he had this to say ‘a delightfully uneven roadway, a source of tribulation alike to horse and passenger’ Further evidence for the state of the road is contained in a poem which was found in a poem which was found in an old edition of ‘Mortimer’s history of Wirral’, it described the journey of the horsedrawn omnibus from Birkenhead to Heswall. In the eleventh verse the unknown writer says:-

When we get to Barnston Dale
All the passengers turn quite pale
Conversation flags, no-one can talk
For the driver shouts - get out and walk.

In 1910 M. O’Mahony wrote of Barnston’ Its chief attraction the clean and venerable inn is now being demolished’ of the dock leaves custom he had this to say ‘in the new hotel that is to arise it is doubtful if their will be time or inclination for such fond conceits’

'Fox' with horse drawn carriage outside.

The 'Fox' 1935

Click HERE to visit the 'Fox' website.