By Mervyn Edwards (For The Sentinel’s The Way We Were, March 18, 2017)

Many Burslem pub aficionados will tell you that the former name of Chillz Bar in Westport Road was the Huntsman – but what was its name before that?
 Well, that’s where it gets a bit messy. 
 If we scrutinise the accompanying photograph (circa 1903), we’ll see that the pub appears to have two names.
 We can discern the name of the White Hart below its pediment, whilst the etched windows convey that it is the Victoria Hotel.
 At the Burslem licensing transfer sessions in 1930, the pub was referred to as the Victoria Inn, but continuing confusion over its name saw the issue being raised by Burslem Police Court in 1934.
 The Sentinel ran a report headed, “Inn With Two Names,” declaring that nobody seemed to know which was the correct one.
 The opinions of the licensing magistrates, the police and the brewery were now sought – without really settling the matter.
 The discussion was sparked by an application to the magistrates by Thomas Wood, the licensee of the Bell in Eccleshall, for temporary authority in connection with the licence of the pub.
 When the assistant magistrate’s clerk asked what the correct name of the pub was, Chief Inspector Marshall viewed that as the name of the White Hart was carved in stone on the frontage, then this should be the proper name.
 This was the name given in the clerk’s records, too, but he’d received correspondence from the brewery referring to it as the Victoria.
brewery representative communicated, “We don’t know it as the White Hart.  We took it over from another brewery as the Victoria and the Excise licence and records call it the Victoria.” 

The clerk himself suggested that the name of the White Hart was “a jolly sight better” but concurred with the meeting’s chairman, J. Wilcox that only one name should be used – and adhered to!  Wilcox duly granted the application, but insisted, “We think that either the hotel should go back to its name of the White Hart, or steps should be taken to have it registered as the Victoria, so that it will appear in our records as such.”

 Of all the names that the boozer has been given over the years, I much prefer the White Hart.
 It was there where the St. Martin’s Lodge of freemasons met, between 1837 and 1847.
 Full well was the pub able to accommodate them, as by 1848, we know that it offered a bar, bar parlour, smoke room, spirit vaults, large club room, five bedrooms, stabling, brewhouse and good cellars.
 In the later nineteenth century, it also incorporated a music hall, though this didn’t prevent the premises being described as “an old and
dilapidated building” in 1878.
 Perhaps the profits from the music hall triggered the pub’s rebuilding in 1889.
 Press reports suggest that the venue was a little rough and ready at times.  In 1865, the licensee attacked a violinist who was appearing.
However, the music hall was put to very good use in 1870, when it staged a benefit concert in aid of a local hollow ware presser who had lost his job in a trade dispute at Tunstall.
 Entertainments offered at the time of Burslem Wakes in 1883 included Arthur Morris, the character vocalist and champion clog dancer, Miss Marie Brigard, the serio-comic and characteristic vocalist dancer, and Little Gem Brown, described as “The irresistably
Funny-Knock-Kneed, Song and Dance Artiste, Eccentric Big Boot, Clog and Pump Dancer, and Champion Laughing Comedian of the World.”
Imagine trying to live up to a billing such as that!

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