The Beer Cask, Pennywell Road, Bristol
Memories of Reg Hobbs BEER CASK Pennywell Road Bristol
Reg Hobbs, whose father was Charlie (of Beer Cask fame) boxed as a featherweight himself. He had a fine record as an amateur and was one of three boxers chosen by Fred Dyer — a Welsh man with a fine baritone voice and a sound record as a handler of boxers — to form a small stable in London.
Fellow Bristolian George Rose and Midlander Bert Kirby were the others who went. Reg won about three-quarters of his fights; he had a good left hand and was a skilful counter-puncher, talented enough to be matched against two Welsh champions. Nowadays he lives in Kingswood where his hobbies include classical music and “the avid reading of books on history”.
Dad began as a boot-maker and then ran the Beer Cask for nearly 40 years. He loved boxing and was actually co-promoting Harry Mansfield at a Park Street venue in the early days. That’s really going back. I looked on him as a great benefactor for the sport. He filled a void, turning an old shed at the back of the pub into a gym.
So many including some champions came there to train — or just to watch. And there was Bob Wade, of course, ‘a wonderful teacher en masse. No-one ever paid anything for lights or anything like that. Dad was just happy to keep boxing going.
I suppose I fought ten times or so at the Drill Hall, Old Market. As an amateur I’d often been paired with George Rose and then, as a pro, I beat him. I drew with him after that. Some at the ringside thought I’d beaten Rose again but not Kid Lewis the ref.
George, Bert Kirby — who was to become flyweight champion of Britain — and I lodged together in London, when Fred Dyer took us in charge. He was a bit of a fanatic about diet, I remember. Insisted on special food for us.
I used to train at the old National Sporting Club, a remarkable institution. It had a very Bohemian atmosphere. Big money was always changing hands during the fights there. I met and talked to many of the most brilliant boxers of the day during that period. Four times I fought at The Ring, Blackfriars — also the popular Premierland and Lime Grove Baths, Shepherds Bush. At Hackney, the ring was so small that the spectators were right up against the ropes. I got hit very low there by Billy Mack, fighting on his home ground. He should have been disqualified, of course. But instead, the referee decided to give me a minute’s rest. What do you think of that?
The most vivid memories for me are of the early days at the unlicensed shows. I once topped the bill at Yeovil and got 30 bob for it. An army champion’s opponent didn’t turn up and I was roped in. I knocked him out in the 2nd round. But I could be sent anywhere to fight at almost a moment’s notice. Chard... Gloucester... Shepton Mallet... Bridgwater.. . Cheltenham...
You didn’t even know who you were fighting. No such thing as contracts - and weights didn’t matter. It wasn’t unusual to end up taking on a bloke two stone heavier.
By the time I’d reached 30, I’d become a manager. I looked after Frank McAvoy and Jack Haskins. Frank did become Southern Central welterweight champion but I always felt he had the ability to go further.
Jack, a fine rugby player, of course, was a great big mountain of a man without an ounce of fat on him. He was so big he could just push his opponents over. Prince-Cox had this great idea of putting one rugby man on against another, ‘Digger’ Morris, at Gloucester, a typical gimmick. Jack won, by the way.
Looking back on my own career, I feel I developed a ‘sixth sense’ with my left hand. But, of course, you didn’t learn the trade at venues like Chard and Shepton Mallet — you needed to go to London. These days I’m happiest of all sitting at home listening to my Chopin and Beethoven records.
Yet I can still nostalgically hear Fred Dyer’s lovely Welsh voice.., can still remember the suppers we were given after fighting as amateurs at the United Services Club in Narrow Wine Street or the Drill Hall... can still see Dad sitting in his corner seat at the Arcade, along with engine driver Bill Brewer, offering advice to the contestants! Oh dear, what warm memories.
BEER CASK Pennywell Road
189 Pennywell Road, the Beer Cask was demolished in the early 1960’s.
1866. F. Puddy / 1867 - 69. William Slee / 1871 - 72. Henry Miles / 1874 - 75. Mrs. Miles / 1877. J. Brain - 1878. S. Mountain / 1879. Augustus Lyson / 1883. John Olley / 1885. James Harvey / 1886. Francis Biggs - 1887. John Morgan / 1889. Robert Hicks / 1891 - 1901. Edwin Fry / 1904. Mary Howell / 1909. Harry Taylor - 1914. Frederick Hurley / 1915. Stephen Lush Hobbs / 1916 to 1950. Charles Hobbs / 1950 - 56. Thomas Pippin.
During the time he was licensee at the Beer Cask, Pennywell Road, Mr. Hobbs trained in his own gymnasium nearly all the leading Bristol boxers of the time, including Bert Kirby, flyweight champion of England in 1930. He took over at the East Street Tavern about 1900* and after six years there, moved to the Beer Cask where he was licensee for 36 years before his retirement.
During those years in addition to Bert Kirby, boxers who trained at his gymnasium included George Rose, Albert Jennings, Jack Dale and Harry Mansfield. “Things have changed since the old days” he said. “Then £10 was a big purse for a boy to get in a fight.” Boxing is not Mr. Hobbs’s only sport.
He helped to train several Bristol Rugby Club players. He saw the world single sculls rowing championship on the Thames in 1889. Five times out of seven, his quoits team won the Bristol and District Table Quoits championship. He has seen 22 Grand Nationals, including one run in a snowstorm in 1901.
He remembers the floods of 1889 when he rowed a boat along Broadmead. He remembers seeing his brother off as apprentice in a windjammer. This brother is now living at Birkenhead and holds awards for bravery presented to him after he and another man had rowed 60 people to safety from a wreck on the French coast.
Mr. Hobbs started work at the age of 10 apprenticed at 2s, 6d, a week to a shoemaker. He later worked for Derham Brothers, whose Union Street premises he saw destroyed by a serious fire in 1906 when one fireman was killed. Mr Hobbs Is 82 today--and there will be a party to celebrate the double event at the Hobbs’s home on Saturday, Not all the family of two daughters, two sons, 10 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren will be there, but those living in Bristol and some friends will attend.
Among them will be Mr. Hobbs’s son Mr. Reginald Hobbs, who himself trained at the Beer Cask, fought in the ring and managed Bristol Boxers. He was the first man to beat George Rose, who won the West of England welterweight championship in 1932 at the Colston Hall. Mr. and Mrs. Hobbs were married at St.Matthias church, Broadweir.
* Wright’s Directory has Mr. Hobbs at the East Street Tavern 1909 to 1914
Charles Hobbs was the second son of Steven Lush Hobbs who was the licensee at the Bath Arms in Milk Street. 1897 - 1913 and the Beer Cask 1915. (Wright’s Directory)
Between the wars the local small-time promoters staged shows in any available venue - like the large shed at the rear of The Red Cow, Bedminster.
There was another in nearby North Street. And the Beer Cask in Pennywell Road with its delightful little ring about 12 feet square, Charlie Hobbs, the landlord, had such a big following for boxing in those days. The Beer Cask used to be known as Bob Wade’s boxing academy. There was also Hardings’ butcher’s shop in Cathay, Redcliffe where local boxers did their training.