I do have to confess to not being in possession of an abundance of information on the Costermonger in Birmingham City Centre – partly, as there is scant info around and also as during my time frequenting the establishment I took full advantage of the hospitality and so memories are a little vague at best! However, the image above shows the Costermonger pub entrance (where the red walling appears) on Dalton Way, which runs off Lower Bull Street with the pub itself being below ground level, around the time of its closure on 16th August 2009 to make way for a total redevelopment of the whole block in which it was sited.
As is mentioned elsewhere, my first foray into the Birmingham pub scene was late ’85/early ’86 when I visited the Railway in Curzon Street to see a rock band called Fayre Warning at the behest of their bass player Mark Vance. Shortly afterwards, the very same Mr Vance invited me into town on a Wednesday night and the first place we visited was the Costermonger (or Costers, as it was known) . . . in fact, such a naive youth was I that when he mentioned going I scuttled off to get a dictionary to find out exactly what a Costermonger was!
The pub itself had, as far as I’m aware, a rock theme from back in the 70s but in 1985 the brewery decided to make it an all-out rock pub. I still recall descending the stairs and at the bottom, the two doormen – who I later knew were Dave Noble and Pat – opening the doors to reveal a wall of denim and leather-clad backs across the entrance and being greeted by a blast of heat coming out of the room. It was one of the most packed, and hot, places I’ve ever been to – and as it was only the second pub I’d been into for a drink was a bit daunting as we fought our way to the bar – opposite the entrance, although it seemed miles away as we squeezed through – and got a drink. Fortunately for me, Mark knew most of the pople there and I was soon enjoying myself – although not the battle to the bar – and it became a regular haunt of mine on a Wednesday and Sunday night.
I have to say that the crowd in there were pretty much the best I’ve encountered anywhere and I always felt quite looked after in there – even being chaperoned on the number 45 bus home by some of the regulars who lived in my direction. It’s weird the things that stick in your mind from the past – I could reel-off a ton of names of people I used to enjoy drinking and nattering to in there but I thought it would be more evocative to recall a few images of the pub when in its halcyon days.
As I’m sure any regular from those days will recall, the toilets were possibly part of the worst plumbing job ever undertaken in the history of the trade! For a pub of its size, the Gents were miniscule and by about 9pm the floor was inches deep in overflowing bodily fluids virtually every night I was there. This often led to the Womens’ toilets becoming a pioneering pre-Ally McBeal ‘unisex’ affair. Unfortunately, the Womens’ were as small as the Gents – but cubicles – so much queuing would ensue.
No mention of the Costermonger would be complete without mentioning the ‘legendary’ gravel-voiced DJ Tony Craig (also see the entry on the Grapes) who, as I remember, was quite a fan of 70s rock which was great by me: Paranoid by Black Sabbath, Jessica by the Allman Brothers (the Top Gear theme) and from the 80s, Remember My Name by Stevie Vann (think it was used in a shampoo ad at the time), being particular faves of Mr Craig.
In the mid-80s the Costermonger was the hub of the Brum rock scene – with Mr Bills on Needless Alley, 49’ers on Smallbrook Queensway and the Grapes on Hill Street (and for a while, the West End Bar on Snow Hill) – making up the numbers. For me, when Edwards opened as a rock club I drifted away from the Costers but did start going back there a couple of years later when my mate Dave Bloxham (who I was saddened to hear recently passed away a couple of year ago) worked on the door there with Pat.
Like a lot of places, I hadn’t thought much about it over the years until I’d heard it had closed and it was too late to revisit! For those who used to drink there, however, there is a good Facebook group to visit which has many photos from the 80s in it and many a face I remember from my time there. The Facebook page can be found HERE.
If anoyone has any information, or memories/anecdotes they’d like to share on the Costers, please use the comment form below.