Monday, 4 April 2011

General Havelock, 110 Sidney Street

General Havelock Sidney Street Bolton

If there’s one type of pub that has pretty much disappeared over the past 20 years ago it is what was mistakenly referred to as the ‘back-street boozer’. That term was always a bit of a misnomer in Bolton where a back street is an alleyway between the backs of two separate rows of terraces and as such has no buildings of its own, but you get the idea.

So if we define a ‘back street’ – or more accurately a side street - as a street where you could conceivably throw down your jumpers for goalposts and have a game of footie, then what would you call a back/side street? Brownlow Way and Lever Street are both unclassified roads – no ‘A’ or ‘B’ numbers – but a game of football there is out of the question. The Howcroft is off the beaten track and so could conceivably be called a’back street’ boozer, as is the New Globe (the Rock, as was). The Portland up Halliwell was one of the last in that area and the General Havelock in Sidney Street definitely was one.

The network of streets bounded by Lever Street, Fletcher Street, Bridgeman Street and Thynne Street began to spring up in the first half of the nineteenth century as Bolton expanded out of the centre of the town and by the middle of that century streets such as Sidney Street, Coe Street and Foundry Street already existed, a mixture of industry, corner shops, housing and – inevitably – pubs.

The pub took its name from General Henry Havelock, who was notable for his recapture of Cawnpore during the Indian Mutiny of 1857. Pubs and streets were named in his honour and its highly likely that the Bolton General Havelock was named at that time.

According to Gordon Readyhough’s book Bolton Pubs 1800-2000, the General Havelock was a brewhouse owned by Mrs Mahalah Hardcastle in the late nineteenth century. [1] Mrs Hardcastle sounds like a formidable woman and was certainly no slouch. She was born at a village near Bingley in Yorkshire in 1809 and along with her husband John ran the George Hotel in Bolton in the 1830s. Her husband’s family also ran the Boar’s Head on Churchgate for much of the first half of the nineteenth century. However, by 1851 she was a widow living at 13 Deansgate but she was described on that year’s census as a laundress and a brickmaker despite the address being that of the Old Woolpack. The brickmaking business employed eight men! By the 1860s she had the York Hotel on Newport Street. Later, she also took on the General Havelock. She also owned land in Shaw Street which she sold to the council in 1876 and she died in Bolton in 1881 aged 72, still the licensee of the York. Her son Walter was a decent cricketer who played a number of times at county level for Lancashire. [2]

In 1871 the General Havelock was owned by a Mr Joseph Haslam who regularly held the All-England Celery Show at the pub! [3]

The pub was later sold to the Openshaw Brewery of Manchester but that business was taken over in 1957 by the Hope & Anchor Brewery of Sheffield and the General Havelock was one of 125 pubs that formed part of the deal. Hope & Anchor was later sold to Bass and it was as a Bass pub in the seventies that the General Havelock made it into the Good Beer Guide. That it sold real ale at all was unusual enough for a Bass pub in Bolton in the seventies but by then the Sidney Street area had changed beyond all recognition compared to Mahalah Hardcastle’s day. The houses on Coe Street, York Street and Nile Street had all been demolished and replaced by industrial units and other ‘back street’ pubs in the area had also bitten the dust; pubs such as the York Street Tavern on York Street, the New Inn on Coe Street and the Bradford Arms on Foundry Street – all of which were demolished in the early sixties.

Bass decided to put the General Havelock up for sale and it was sold into the free trade in the summer of 1982. [4] I first went there later that year and found a pleasant pub with the bar on the left as you entered from Sidney Street and beers from Boddington’s and Timothy Taylor’s on sale, which made it of enough interest to want to return.

But as the eighties went on the pub continued to struggle. In early 1985 it was being reported that its owners, Columbia Leisure, had also bought Blighty’s nightclub in Farnworth and were planning to turn part of it into a ‘real ale fun bar,’ a plan that never came to pass. [5]

Gordon Readyhough says the pub closed in the 1980s. If it did it was at the end of that decade though I might suggest it remained open for a few years longer. I do remember one licensee getting into a dispute with the Havelock’s then owners and locking herself inside the pub, a fact reported at the time by the Bolton Evening News, and it closed not long afterwards. By then it did some decent business when Bolton Wanderers played at their Burnden Park home, but not much apart from that.

Today, there’s nothing left of the General Havelock. The distinctive white-washed pub was knocked down not long after it closed and as shown in the image above the site of the pub is now used as a lorry park for one of the businesses in Albion Mill next door. You wouldn’t know that a pub ever stood there.

A sketch of the pub and mill by local artist Roger Hampson was up for sale in October and may be seen here.

[1] Bolton Pubs, 1800-2000, by Gordon Readyhough (published by Neil Richardson, 2000)
[2] Cricket Archive. Retrieved 3 April 2011.
[3] St Mark’s website, David Dixon,  Retrieved 2 April 2011.
[4] What’s Doing, the Greater Manchester beer drinkers’ monthly magazine. August 1982.
[5] What’s Doing, February 1985.

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