Thursday, 24 March 2011

George Hotel, Great Moor Street

Refurbishment work begins at the former George Hotel, Thursday 25 March 2011.

Builders got to work on the George Hotel in March 2011, but rather than it being replaced with a 12-story block of flats as had been thought, it was eventually converted into student flats. With that the pub’s long, drawn-out demise is finally to be brought to its inevitable sorry conclusion.

The George hadn’t operated as a pub since around 2000 and all efforts to sell it as licensed premises have failed. In the end the property was sold for just £50,000 and despite calls to retain the frontage the whole lot will be a pile of rubble in due course.

What a shame as it was a decent pub, one I went in many times without it ever appearing to be so busy. I used to go in there in the eighties and early nineties and I don’t think I ever saw more than 20 people in what was a decent-sized pub.

Like many Wilson’s pubs of that time it sold real ale from electric pumps and to be fair it always sold a decent pint and at a reasonable price. A survey in 1986 showed that the Geroge had the cheapest real ale in the town centre with a pint of Wilson's Mild costing just 67p while Wilsons Bitter was 71p a pint. [1] though the Mild was taken off due to poor sales just a few months later. [2]

The last time I went in there, around 1999, real ale had long gone in favour of smooth John Smiths Bitter. Custom was as thin on the ground as ever and sure enough it had closed within a year.

The layout of the George hadn’t changed since I first went there. The pub had two entrances: one on Blackhorse Street that gave access to the lounge, and one on Great Moor Street that led to the vault on the right. In later years another entry on the corner of Great Moor Street and Blackhorse was re-opened to provide direct access to the vault.

Given the not inconsiderable size of the pub the lounge only had a moderate number of seats, not that its capacity was regularly tested. There was more seating in the vault while two rooms to the side of the pub were used as meeting rooms by local societies.

The George dated back to the 1820s and was at one time known as the George Inn and Railway Hotel as a nod to Bolton’s first railway station at Great Moor Street which opened just across the road in April 1831, almost three years after the completion of the Bolton to Leigh railway line, the second oldest in the world.

The immediate area was particularly squalid, as this report into sanitation in the town described in the middle of the 19th century:

“Behind George Inn there are five [privies] placed in a row, most of them without doors, and the passage past them is used as a thoroughfare, from one street to the other.” [3] So the loo was a toilet without a door at the side of the street! This would probably have been at the junction of Stable Row and Back Weston Street. Stable Row ran from behind the George and across the railway line via a narrow bridge to New Street which is where the back of the market is.

Confusingly to the modern reader, that part of of Great Moor Street beyond Blackhorse Street was known as Weston Street some years before another thoroughfare of that name was constructed to link Manchester Road and Rishton Lane.

In September 1851 the street outside the George was the scene of a rescue operation after 14-year-old John Hutton became stuck in a sewer. In what to us might seem like a remarkable act of procurement, the council had engaged a local collier to clean the sewer and the collier had entrusted young Hutton and another youth to do the job. The lads went into the sewer on the Saturday morning but by 5pm Hutton had become stuck. Excavations took place but were halted later that evening after it became dark. When Hutton’s body was recovered at eleven o’clock the following morning it was discovered he had been dead for only an hour. The council later rewarded many of those who took part in the rescue. [4]

The George became a Wilson’s house in 1949 following their takeover of Salford brewer Walker and Homfrays. At the end of the 19th century the pub was owned by the Manchester Brewery Company who were subsequently taken over by Walker and Homfrays. No doubt the closure in 1954 of Great Moor Street station affected passing trade although you might have thought that the construction of Hargreaves House a few years later would have given the George some local business.

In the 1998 update of his book Bolton Town Centre: A Modern History covering the Great Moor Street area, Gordon Readyhough pointed out that in the 1930s Great Moor Street boasted nine hostelries but “in 1998 only the George, the Griffin and the Railway remain.” [5] No longer – only the Griffin is still a pub.

George Hotel Bolton

The George, pictured on the right of this 1962 image of Great Moor Street. Image from the Bolton Library and Museums Service collection. Copyright Bolton Council.

[1] Bolton Beer Break, Summer 86
[2] What’s Doing, September 86
[3] A Report Of The Sanatory Condition Of The Borough Of Bolton, John Entwisle, 1848.
[4] Annals Of Bolton, James Clegg, 1888
[5] Bolton Town Centre: A Modern History. Part Two: Bradshawgate, Great Moor Street and Newport Street, 1900-1998. Gordon Readyhough, published by Neil Richardson.

Image copyright Google Street View.


  1. Can you give me suggestions of Bolton cheap hotels to stay? I plan to go this lovely place. I like it there.

  2. My parents - Jim and Alma Sayers - were licensees of The George from about 1964 until they retired in 1975/76. In those days almost all the beers came from hand pumps. It was busier than described above and not unknown to have a lock-in!! Happy memories. Jim Sayers