Image copyright, Google Street View.
The Learners Arms and World Cafe, formerly the Spinners Arms in 2009. The building was more recently (2015) the Mojo Trust.
When The Spinners on Brownlow Way was completed in 1974 it was effectively a replacement for a number of pubs that had been swept away in slum clearances that saw row upon row of terraced houses demolished and new social housing built in their place.
For those who wanted the pub stock to fall the clearances brought a huge result. Over a dozen pubs in the area bounded by what is now Prince Street/Merehall Drive, the south side of Halliwell Road, and Higher Bridge Street were swept away with just two as the Cotton Tree and the Spinners Arms were built in their place. The whole landscape between Halliwell Road and Chorley Old Road was altered for ever but the area’s pubs were hardly adequately replaced.
Pubs such as the Swiss Hotel, the Queens Hotel, the Mount Street Inn, the Woodman and another pub named the Spinners Arms all stood within 100 yards of Brownlow Way, a thoroughfare which was itself carved out of this urban redevelopment as part of the need to easily link two of the main arteries heading out of the north-west side of the town.
But what the residents got instead was The Spinners Arms, a small, modern pub on the edge of the shopping precinct and right next to St Matthew’s church.
But look at it from another angle: how must the first set of locals have felt when they moved into the new estate and found a comfortable pub with soft furnishings, soft orange lighting and a lounge that looked out over a panoramic view of Halliwell’s ‘New Jerusalem’ and with the lights of the east side of Bolton twinkling in the distance. That isn’t a sarcastic comment. After a warm, dry house with a small patch out of grass out the front replacing damp Victorian terraces with outside loos, and (relatively) clean tarmac-laid streets instead of the cobbled setts the Spinners must have seemed like the icing on the cake, the tin hat, the final realisation that the long days of post-war austerity were finally behind them. Instead of beers from Magee’s and Walker’s they could drink a pint of keg Red Barrel that tasted the same every time and would never go off and was another facet of this modern world they suddenly found themselves in. Or they could head into the games room to the left of the entry for a game of darts or American pool.
So where did it all go wrong? Well, at the end of the day these estates almost became like the ‘new slums’ and when The Spinners finally closed in the first decade of the 21st century, like so many pubs it had gone from being owned by a business – Wilson’s Brewery – who brewed the beer and owned the pubs, to a property company who simply saw that the punters weren’t coming in, couldn’t find a tenant or a lessee to take it on and who finally gave up the ghost. By that time the whole of the immediate area was an eyesore. People had not only forsaken the pub but also the shopping precinct at the back of it with rows of empty shopping units a testament to the fact that what had replaced those rows of terraced houses in cobbled streets hadn’t necessarily been an unmitigated success.
The old church was knocked down and rebuilt a few yards away while the precinct was demolished a few years ago and replaced by more housing. The Spinners is now a community centre known as the Learners Arms and World Café and is probably fulfilling just as much of a social function these days that it did as a pub. The other new pub development of that time, the Cotton Tree, still survives but 200 yards away in the other direction the City Hotel is now a pile of rubble, such is the fate of many estate pubs these days.