Born in 1885, Annie Clark was brought up in the Victoria Tap pub beside Dudbridge Upper Lock. Her father was nominally the landlord, but he worked as a millwright, leaving his wife to manage the pub - until Annie took over in the 1920s. The building had formerly been associated with a foundry involved with pioneering work on the development of textile machinery at a time when the wood used in early machines was being replaced by cast iron. After larger foundries were established elsewhere, however, the foundry by the lock closed in the 1860s, although the name Foundry Lock continued to be used for many years.
The pub was in a remote location with no road access, but it attracted workers from the nearby gasworks, crewmen from barges on the canal and walkers on the towpath. Stokers at the gas works did exhausting work under difficult conditions, and it was natural for them to want some liquid refreshment after a shift. Also, when a barge carrying coal arrived at the gasworks, men would be waiting, hoping to get casual employment discharging the coal, and after they had been paid, they would go straight to the pub.
As Annie was growing up in the pub, her personality attracted many of the local young men who would be ‘round her like wasps round a jampot!’ If the foreman at the gasworks was waiting for a delivery of coal, he often sent a man down the towpath only to find a barge sitting in the lock with the crew drinking and mooning over her. After Annie took over the pub in the 1920s, she still had many admirers who liked to call in and chat about the old days.
In later life, Annie was remembered wearing an unfashionable dress, often standing beside the pub doorway. The towpath was a playground for young children who were particularly attracted by Annie’s parrot. They soon learned that the parrot knew some swear words, and so they tried to annoy it to make it speak. For older boys from Marling School on the other side of the canal, the pub was out-of-bounds, and this provided an added incentive for more adventurous lads to call in for a glass of cider at lunch-time.
Sadly the building was demolished in the 1960s, but some local people still remember Annie with affection.
Date of change from foundry to beerhouse deduced from census returns.
For more about Annie’s admirers, read article by Tony Jones in the Trow March 1988 p15.
Story of the parrot from memories of John Stockbridge.
Story of the Marling boys from Tony Jones.