This week’s blog post is on the Warren-De-Tabley Arms, now known as the Bells of Peover. The pub was named after the local Lord of the Manor, most likely George Fleming Warren, 2nd Baron de Tabley (1811-1887). When the picture on the above postcard was taken, the pub was the home of the Bell family, who would reside at the address for over 65 years!
The pub opened in 1839, and the first occupants appear to be Peter Toft and his wife. Following Peter’s death in 1846, his wife took over the pub for a couple of years before a local sawyer named George Bell took over the occupancy in 1849 – a year after his marriage to Phoebe Whittaker.
It is not clear if George Bell had any experience of running pubs. However, the venture proved so successful that by the 1860s, his brothers had joined the business, and they had a dozen pubs, each serving their own ‘Bell’ brew.
The 1871 Census reveals that George and his wife Phoebe had three children; William, Elizabeth and George, who all helped in the family business. Alongside brewing and selling beer, George was also Sexton of St Oswald’s Church, which he held for 50 years.
George remained at the pub until his death on 16th May 1898. The local newspaper reported that he died in his 80th year after a short illness.
Only a week after his death, Phoebe sadly died. She was buried in the same plot as her husband in St Oswald’s Church.
Following George’s death, his son William took over the pub and the brewery. William was born in 1848. In 1878, he married Alma Percival in Runcorn, and the couple went on to have ten children. William had a passion for cycling and motorcars. During his time at the Warren-De-Tabley Arms, he transformed the pub into a premier destination venue for cyclists and motor enthusiasts.
William was also part of the Tabley Troop of the Earl of Chester’s Yeomanry; he served with them for 21 years. He was also an excellent swordsman and won numerous awards in the sport – including two cups from the Duke of Westminster.
The 1901 census reveals that two of the Bell children (Arthur and William) are employed in the business. Two of their other children (Gilbert and George) are employed in a solicitors and a bank. The rest of the children are still at school.
In 1908, the couple’s oldest daughter, Fanny Percival, marries Walter Ormerod and the pair settle in Bowden, Altrincham. Only a year after the wedding, Fanny tragically committed suicide by shooting herself. She was only 20 years old. She is buried in the family church of St Oswald’s. Tragically, her husband Walter could not get over his wife’s death. On 28th December 1909, while in Southport, he used his gun license to purchase a gun. He then took a seat on the pier and shot himself, dying instantly.
By the 1911 census, William Bell had also died. The pub and brewery was now being run by William’s wife Alma and their son Victor.
Alma Bell continued to run the business for another four years when another tragic event shook the family. On 25th March 1915, Victor Bell took his own life. The day before his death, he kept asking his mother to go away with him, saying he couldn’t stay at the pub. Later that evening, Alma stayed with him while he went asleep. However, in the night, he started asking his mother to go away with him again. She stayed with him until 5.30am when he got up and washed. He left the house at just past 7.30am, telling his mother he was going for a walk. Alma saw him leave the house and head over towards the church. At about 7.45am, he called at a friends house and borrowed a bicycle. Sometime later, a porter named Samuel Hatton was riding to work, when he spotted an overcoat, cap and jacket in a field. He entered the field and saw a man standing in an upright position in a pit with water was passing over the crown of his head. Hatton went and got help, and they managed to pull the body from the pit. The body was later identified as Victor Bell. He was buried with his father and sister in St Oswald’s Church.
The death hit Alma hard. It was reported that she was too ill to attend the inquest. The day after Victor’s death, she announced she was retiring, and the pub was passed back to the owner, Captain Leicester Warren.
Over the next few years, the Warren-De-Tabley Arms had several different proprietors, including Sydney Frank Cake, who was an acting Sergeant Major during WWI. In the late 1920s, the pub was in the hands of the Blackshaw family and from the mid-1930s, the pub had a new licensee; George Savage and his wife, Victoria. George dies not long after taking over the pub, however, his wife Victoria carries on managing the hotel during WWII. The 1939 Register reveals that Victoria is living at the address with her two daughters Joan and Phoebe. It was during this period that the Warren-De-Tabley Arms changes its name to the Bells of Peover Hotel.
Surprisingly, in 1941, Joan sued her mother and sister over a car accident. Phoebe was driving her mother’s car when she crashed into a lorry, killing a passenger named Viola Edwards and injuring her sister, who was also present in the vehicle. According to Phoebe, she was driving at 30 mph, when the lorry appeared in front of her. She braked sharply and turned the car, but they failed to miss the lorry. She stated that it had no rear light – this was disputed in court. Joan argued that she sustained a permanent scar that would seriously prejudice her opportunities in the theatrical and film profession. The judge ruled that Phoebe Savage was negligent in failing to keep a ‘proper look out’, and her mother was also negligent as she owned the car. The family of Viola Edwards was awarded £4000, and Joan was awarded £1100.
Joan was not the only actor to spend a night at the Bells of Peover. By the 1960s, visitors to the pub included General Eisenhower; General Patten; Vivien Leigh and comedian Leslie Henson.