My granny, Alice Jane Mortlock, was born in Burton on Trent in 1880. She would often visit her aunts, Jane and Kate Mortlock, in London, and told us once that during one of her visits, when she was small, she could remember the newsboys shouting the headline “ANOTHER MURDER IN WHITECHAPEL”. Of course, this was about Jack the Ripper.
Alice married Edgar Newey in Burton in 1907 and had seven children between 1908 and 1923. Edgar served in both the Boer War and World War One.
In 1926 they took over the running of The Acorn Inn, a pub just outside Burton on Trent, close to Anslow, Tatenhill and Needwood. The Acorn has always received free advertising from the local bus company, as the terminus for the No.10 route is ‘Acorn Inn’.
After Edgar’s death in 1934, Alice took over the running of the pub, with the help of her older children.
During World War Two, the pub was a hub of activity for airmen from the local airfield at Cross Plains, better known as RAF Tatenhill. One New Zealand pilot sent her a photo of himself signed “To Ma and the girls”; this was how the pilots knew her. Sadly, he was killed in action.
Alice entertained them all by playing the piano in the smoke room. She was a tough lady and took no nonsense from anyone.
In 1964 the Derby Telegraph featured an article about her, as she was the oldest licensee in Staffordshire –
A pub which was originally taken over as a sideline to her husband’s business as a painter and decorator has ended up as the chief interest of the oldest woman licensee in the Burton area. Mrs Alice Newey, of the Acorn Inn, Needwood, moved to the pub in 1926, with her husband and six children. Mr Newey hoped to build up a country connection for his business and succeeded. But he died in 1934, and Mrs Newey carried on with the help of her children. Now they are all married, except one son, Leslie, who lives with his mother, and assists her with the work of running the inn. Mrs Newey, who serves in the bar in the morning, also has the help of a daughter who lives nearby. Mrs Newey was born in Burton, where her father, Mr William Mortlock, kept an off-licence. It is still there, at the junction of Stafford Street and Thornley Street. He started off by ‘bottling’ a drop of beer for his own use, and it proved so popular that he began to sell it, starting a small bottling store. He was the first person in Burton to be allowed to display the harp of a famous firm of stout brewers. Smart and sprightly, with white hair, Mrs Newey refuses to divulge her age. “I lost my birth certificate years ago,” she says. She is a keen gardener, and the garden at the Acorn is a pleasant place where parents can sit with their children on fine days. Mrs Newey believes that a good publican should create a friendly, homely atmosphere, where people can relax.
How well she herself succeeds in this may be judged by the fact that people stationed nearby during the war still call back to remind her of the days when they had sing songs round the piano in the back room, with a gallon jug of beer on the table.
The change to decimal currency in 1971 didn’t faze her; she still did all the account books for the pub until her final few weeks.
Alice died in 1973 when she was 92 years old and still the licensee of The Acorn Inn.
Margaret in Burton
© Margaret in Burton 2008
Personal knowledge and family memories
Derby Telegraph, Wednesday 2nd September 1964.