Monday, 28 March 2011

Roundcroft Tavern, James Street

The University of Bolton as seen from the Derby  Street end of what was once Fletcher Street but which is now Edgar Street, 26 March 2011. James Street was directly across the main road and ran down to Deane Road.

Image copyright 2011 Lost Pubs of Bolton.

When it was decided to build the Bolton Institute Of Technology (now the University Of Bolton) on a site bounded by Deane Road, Derby Street and John Street it meant the end for a small community of houses, shops and factories that stood in Kirk Street – which was badly damaged in a Zeppelin bombing raid on Bolton in 1916 – Ebenezer Street, James Street, Roundcroft Street, Bethel Street, Liptrot Street and Ardwick Street. All were demolished in 1965 so the BIT could be built and the redevelopment also saw a number of pubs demolished. These were mainly on Deane Road and Derby Street but there was one, the Roundcroft Tavern, that stood off both main roads at number 50 James Street.

The Roundcroft was a beerhouse that brewed its own beer in the late nineteenth century but was a Wilson’s pub by the time it was granted a full licence in 1962. At the beginning of 1965 the Roundcroft closed and it was demolished at the end of January that year along with the Britannia, the Milestone and the Gladstone, all of which fronted Deane Road. The BIT began to move into the Deane Campus when the first phase was completed in 1967 but someone at the college had the foresight to capture the whole area for posterity both prior to and during the demolition process. The Roundcroft is shown rather forlornly here on 18 January 1965. The pub’s signage has already been removed while the neighbouring houses have been gutted ready for the bulldozers. Another photo,from May 1964, shows the area to the rear of the pub which was clearly still occupied while the front is pictured here. The regulars undertook their final annual outing on the thirtieth of that month.

Other photos from the mid-sixties of the area now occupied by the University Of Bolton are shown here, here, here, here, and here.

James Street ran from Derby Street to Deane Road and began just opposite where the bedroom furniture shop stands on the corner of Edgar Street and Derby Street (until 1980 it was Fletcher Street until that road was re-routed to end at the traffic lights outside what is now McDonalds). The Roundcroft was situated about a third of the way down from Derby Street just past a ‘dog-leg’ bend in the road.

At the end of the nineteenth century the pub’s landlord was George Hilton who would often sing to the customers as he served them their drinks, a novel approach to customer service. George’s seven-year-old son Jack would also sing at the pub. Billed as 'The Singing Mill Boy' he would accompany his father on popular songs of the day such as Thora, and A Miner’s Dream Of Home.

This was young Jack’s first public performance and it obviously gave him a hunger for more. Later, he slightly altered the spelling of his surname and became a notable band leader under the name of Jack Hylton touring America and Europe with his own band until the early days of the Second World War. He later went on to become a director and major shareholder in Decca Records.

Here’s a video of Jack and his orchestra with their 1931 hit Choo Choo.

This picture shows the student union bar being built around 1970. Next to the bar was the refectory which was also used by the Students Union for live music performances in the seventies when it hosted such acts as Hawkwind, Joy Division, Motorhead, The Fall and The Scorpions.

It would be nice to be able to say that the likes of Lemmy and Mark E Smith performed in the exact spot as George Hilton and 'The Singing Mill Boy' but it would be a lie. As this map shows, the Roundcroft was actually situated a few yards away.

Incidentally, the website consists of a ‘virtual walk’ around Bolton. The site was developed during the nineties at the then BIT and although the photos on the site are ‘only’ 15-20 years old they are themselves rapidly becoming a testament to a town that, for better or for worse, is constantly changing.

The University of Bolton pictured in March 2011. The Roundcroft Tavern was situated just to the right of the white building in the middle of the picture. Although the university buildings have been considerably altered at the Deane Campus in recent years, gigs at was then the BIT took place in the cream building to the left of the picture.


  1. have a look on 70s bolton & wingates and westhoughton facebook sites over 2000 photos in and around bolton with people sharing there memorys

  2. Contact us to talk about the roundcoft tavern - my husband was born there

  3. Hello Christine. Who was the last Landlord at the Roundhouse before finally closed its doors and then demolished?