Pat Collins (1859 – 1943), formed the Van Dwellers and Showman’s Protection Society in 1889, it’s still going strong today as the Showmens Guild. He moved to Bloxwich in 1915 from Cheshire, there’s a memorial clock in the park further down the High Street; as well as being the Greatest Showman of his era, he was also Member of Parliament for Walsall and latterly the town Mayor.
More than a hundred years later, his famous funfair is still doing the rounds of the old Black Country Wakes, one of which was held on the traditional fair ground at the rear of the Wetherspoons’ that’s been named in his honour.
The Bloxwich Showman pub is housed in the old Odeon cinema, long closed down before Tim Martin took it into his care in 2014. Where’s the link there to the famous Bloxwich Showman, I hear you cry? Well a shrewd entrepreneur was Pat Collins and an early adopter of the Bioscope and then cinematographic images, incorporating them into his travelling funfairs and by the 1920’s owning fourteen cinemas across the W.Midlands; The Grosvenor, Bloxwich is the sole survivor. I wonder whether the original lettering is hidden behind Wetherspoon’s sign?
The main reason for stopping here, apart from requiring a cheap repast was because my Grandfather was a noted Showman and I liked the name, plus it was on the way from Birmingham to Cheshire, the home of my wife’s family, who coincidentally are Collins.
After a quiet evening in Birmingham city centre I was surprised to find The Bloxwich Showman was buzzing at 11am. Proper cross section of people from families with kids in buggies through to older folk enjoying a bite to eat. I mean no disrespect to spoon’s drinkers, but the clientele here was comparatively quite upmarket.
Commensurate with the buildings original purpose you walk through what would have been the foyer into a broad, high auditorium with the bar down the left side. A mezzanine floor has been installed to the back and right side, which is essentially a glass wall. To be fair, it’s been very well done and provides different zones with their own atmosphere.
Spotless throughout and professionally run, a decent breakfast arrived in no time. Stand out points; the original and connected artwork around the walls and the funfair related decor, including the carpet. I like a real fire too, especially in a space where it’s unexpected.
The other thing which caught my eye was the adverts on the tills, inviting customers to submit NBSS scores and help them get in the Good Beer Guide 2020! I’ve seen this overt propaganda in other branches recently, and why not.
Sadly I didn’t try any of the cask beers, as well as the unholy three, there was DBC Jurassic Dark, Jemima’s Pitchfork from Glamorgan Brewing Co. and Ossett Excelsior. Again, another spoons with a curtailed selection, which can only be good. I didn’t see any cask ale being pulled though, only John’s Smooth, Lagers and wines.
I didn’t know what to expect from Bloxwich, although it did rain. The flowers Mrs C bought her mother in the friendly shop near the pub were unbelievably cheap, but the town looked a solid well kept sort of place without being anything special.
I loved the history behind the Bloxwich Showman and I thought Wetherspoon’s have done a cracking job here with some quality touches. I like the comprehensive history for this, and other pubs on Wetherspoons website. Love ‘em or loathe ‘em, you have to say well done Tim, again.