Bartons Arms Clock Tower 2011
The imposing central clock tower

I first visited The Barton’s Arms when I was studying to be a schoolteacher back in the mid – seventies. It was 1976 and punk was screaming to be heard from every radio station. I got the bus to Birmingham from Walsall and got off in the suburb of Newtown which is a part of Aston I had never visited before.

Bartons Arms 2011
The exterior with Dutch gables and impressive Victorian lanterns

My second visit was soon after the riots of 2011 because I had heard the pub had been looted and set on fire by rampaging mobs. I was concerned that damage may have been done to the glorious Victorian interior. I spoke to the manager at  the time who confirmed it was a very frightening experience for him and his staff hiding away in an upstairs room from the chaos taking place below them.

The pub was looted and windows were smashed and a fire had been started which the manager had bravely managed to put out very quickly. Eight shots were fired at police who responded to calls for assistance. Fortunately, there was very little damage done and the Barton’s Arms continues to thrive.

Bartons Arms Exterior 2011
Red brick and stone neo-Jacobean style exterior

The Barton`s Arms is one of the finest examples of Victorian pub architecture in the country and the pubs interior is simply stunning and of another age. It stands like an oasis of calm and order amongst the chaos of the A34 traffic outside its front doors and the bleak urban landscape of recent years which surrounds it.

As historic pubs go this historic Grade II-listed red-brick building stands like a lone survivor of a bygone age. Looking at the building from the outside the Dutch gables, Victorian lanterns and central clock tower gives the building a sense of opulence and grandeur. The foursquare clock tower is an imposing brick and stone structure nestling on a building wrapped in a neo-Jacobean style reputed to have been inspired by the nearby Aston Hall.

The interior is the personification of Victorian decorative grandeur covered with walls of opulent tiles, stained and leaded windows, carved wooden panelling, tiled arches and an elaborate staircase.

Bartons Arms Staircase - Minton-Hollins tiles
The stunning elaborate staircase – Minton – Hollins Tiles

The pub was built on the site of a former pub 115 years ago by noted pub architect`s James and Lister Lea for Mitchells & Butlers and is on the Campaign for Real Ale’s National Inventory of Historic Pub Interiors.  I must remember to check out the others on their list! The Barton’s Arms was purchased in 2002 by Oakham Ales who restored the building to its former greatness before reopening it in 2003 after it had been closed for three years.

Bartons Arms -
From behind the Bar

Despite its age the pub has retained many of its original features including some rich mahogany woodwork, stained and engraved windows and mirrors, a sweeping wrought-iron staircase and the coup-de grace shiny-glazed Minton-Hollins tiles with a range of decorative patterns and other huge painted scenes.

Stained Glass Windows
Beautiful stained and engraved windows

I have always loved the snob-screens best. These bar screens were very popular during the Victorian era. Usually installed in sets they comprise an etched glass pane in a movable wooden frame and were intended to allow middle class drinkers to see working class drinkers in an adjacent bar but not to be seen by them or be disturbed by the bar staff. Managers could keep an eye on the workers without being seen during their social hours. Wonderful stuff.

Bartons Arms Snob Screens
Some of the stunning snob screens

The bar which was originally divided into three sections is stunning. I spoke to the barman about having a look around and he kindly invited me upstairs to view the function rooms which would originally have been used for club activities, events and billiards.

Bartons Arms -
Snob screens and rich mahogany woodwork

The Barton`s Arms is famed for its long association with the Aston Hippodrome once the Midland’s premier variety theatre but now demolished and replaced by The Drum Arts Centre and Music hall stars Laurel and Hardy once stayed there having worked the variety show circuit. When not busy making films they would rest at The Barton’s Arms between shows. On one occasion the hilarious duo were photographed serving beer from behind the bar. Their last tour of the UK was in May 1954.

Bartons Arms Restaurant
The opulent restaurant

Today you are just as likely to rub shoulders with football stars from the Premier League, classical musicians and rock stars. It is said that Black Sabbath singer Ozzy Osbourne frequently drank in the pub in his younger days and violinist Nigel Kennedy sometimes calls in when watching his favourite Aston Villa Football Club. Marie Lloyd, Sid Field, Enrico Caruso and the immortal Charlie Chaplin also drank and lodged at The Barton’s Arms at other times in its history.

Bartons Arms Snob Screens
Snob screens

The huge cellars under The Barton’s Arms and barrel areas are testament to the vast quantities of ale consumed by those passing through its busy doors. Taking the steps down into the cellar is a completely different experience from the opulence of the upstairs rooms. The cold grey floors and  walls of the cellar run the full length of the building and ensure that the barrels of beer are stored at their optimum condition prior to consumption. Rumour has it that there is a tunnel that used to run from the cellar of the original pub to nearby Aston Hall.

Bartons Arms - Stained Glass
Decorative, engraved and stained windows

The pub was also featured in the Bob Hoskins 1999  film Felicia`s Journey. Hoskins perfects a very convincing flat brummie accent. Canadian director Atom Egoyan working from a novel by Irishman William Trevor set his film in Birmingham and The Barton`s Arms features prominently. The pub also stars in the 2006 novel by Ron Dawson called The Last Viking: The Untold Story of the World’s Greatest Heist; as the gang of robbers meet in the pub.

Bartons Arms Upstairs Dance room
The upstairs functions room

I would seriously recommend a visit to this outstanding Victorian Public House ASAP. Preferably book yourself on to one of the excellent `Taste and Tour ` evenings but book up very early because they are sold out at least six months in advance. See below for details or visit their website.

The Barton’s Arms 

144 High Street (A34), Newtown, Aston, Birmingham, B6 4UP

Grid reference SP072890 

Telephone: 0121 333 5988


Twitter: @TheBartonsArms

Bartons Arms Fireplace 2011
Bartons Arms Fireplace

Restaurant Opening Times:

Mon – Sat:  12:00 pm – 2:30 pm 5:30 pm – 10:30 pm

Sun:  12:00 pm – 3:30 pm  5:30 pm – 9:30 pm

Bar Opening Times:

Mon – Sat:  12:00 pm – 11:00 pm Sun:  12:00 pm – 10:30 pm

Bartons Arms Exterior 2011

Tales from the Tiles – A Taste & Tour of The Barton`s Arms

The Barton`s Arms is one of the most beautiful pubs in the country.  Now you will have the chance to take a tour of this famous old pub and marvel at its Victorian tiles, its magnificent wrought iron staircase and splendid snob screens. Take a journey down to its unique cellar and discover the ingenuity of the Victorians.

There will also be a light-hearted talk and slide show charting the pub’s amazing history and its links to the Aston Hippodrome and Laurel & Hardy. Find out if Laurel & Hardy really did stay there. And were the Bartons’ tiles really the inspiration behind Aston Villa’s famous claret and blue colours? The talk and tour will be hosted by local author, John Ullah who was born just a mile from The Bartons Arms.

The evening will finish with a delicious 2-course Thai meal served in what is probably the most beautiful restaurant in the UK.

All this for only £19.95 per person. Why not come along and discover the Bartons for yourself?

The Taste and Tour evenings are on Monday and begin at 7:00pm.


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