Saturday, 22 March 2014

Ben Topp's/McGinlay's/Absolutely Fabulous

Two shots of the former Ben Topp's building. On the left a view taken in 2012 (copyright Google Street View). On the right an image of the building from the 1960s when it was still part of the nearby St George's church. For many years it was used as a school building. Photo from the Bolton Library and Museum Services collection.  Copyright Bolton Council. 

Ben Topp's opened at the top of Bath Street in 1986. The former St George’s school building, which since the early-eighties has backed onto Topp Way, was built in 1847 but was bought in 1981 by businessman Des Duxbury who wanted to turn it into a free house. A finance company backing the project stepped down so Tetley’s brewery stepped in with a free trade loan. [1].

 It was initially named after Ben Topp, which was something of an oddity as the prominent trade unionist Mr Topp is believed to have been teetotal. In 1986 the pub won an award from the Civic Trust, much to the puzzlement of the writer in local beer magazine What’s Doing [2], but the premises did nothing as a pub, probably as it was too far out of the town centre. Revellers weren’t likely to make a detour along St George’s Road on their way to the nightclub on Bridge Street (the old Palais building knows as Ikon, Ritzy and initially the Palais) and by 1988 it was up for sale for a price of £350,000.

In 1994 the then-Bolton Wanderers striker John McGinlay took over and turned it into a sports bar named McGinlay’s. That wasn’t as successful as McGinlay’s spell at the Wanderers and it later became a cabaret bar called Absolutely Fabulous before becoming a furniture showroom.

In 2009 the Bolton News reported plans for the building to be turned into a restaurant. Owner Clarence House Properties Ltd planned to add a number of one-bedroom apartments on the upper floors but went bust before the plans could come to fruition. The building remains empty.

[1] Bolton Beer Break, Summer 1988.
[2] What’s Doing, June 1986.
[3] Bolton News, 17 September 2009.

Here is a side view of the building taken at the same time as the image at the top of the page. Clarence Street can be seen tailing off into the distance. Clarence Street once linked Vernon Street with Kay Street but is now a fraction of its former length. Photo from the Bolton Library and Museum Services collection.  Copyright Bolton Council. 

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