Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Farmers Arms, Pikes Lane

Two possible sites for the Farmers Arms on Deane Road. The pub was numbered 190 Pikes Lane which was renamed Deane Road around 1902. The building in the centre of the top photo was the Red Sea Shop of 190 Deane Road  in 2012 when the image was taken. However,  Hannah Cotterill places the Farmers Arms beerhouse a few hundred yards further up Pikes Lane in Gate Pike at a place known as "Hell's Mouth" because of the number of booze outlets in such a short space. This is  Gate  Pike now. Fern Street runs to the right of the picture, the Lillian Hamer home (closed 2009) is  in the middle and Jolly Waggoner stands boarded up in the distance although it is now an Asian restaurant. Photos copyright Google Street View.

According to Hannah Cotterill’s book Gate Pike [1], by the early-1840s William Tong was brewing his own beer in a small brewhouse behind his pub, the Farmers Arms. Gordon Readyhough puts the address at 190-192 Pikes Lane (now Deane Road) and dates the pub to the 1850s [2]. Given that William Tong was born in 1825 it does sound unlikely – though not impossible – that he was brewing as a teenager in early 1840s. Even so, by August 1846, when he married Betsey Barlow, he was described as a ‘beer seller’ by trade. His wife was also familiar with the licensed trade. She was the daughter of Thomas Barlow, a publican, who was listed in a trade directory seven years later as the licensee of the Three Crowns on Deansgate. [3]

If we take the property number on Pikes Lane to be numbered the same as Deane Road then the Farmers would have stood on a site now occupied by the Red Sea Shop on Deane Road, but there is no saying that it was the same building. Mrs Cotterill places the Farmers Arms in the Gate Pike area. This was a small part of Deane around the area now occupied by the (now closed) Lilian Hamer home and the former Jolly Waggoner, which was then an un-named beer house. A website devoted to the Tong and Tonge families puts the address of William Tong at 39 Gate Pike in 1851 and 190 Pikes Lane in 1853 [4]. The Bolton Directory of 1853 lists William Tong as a beerseller in Pikes Lane, though it does not supply a number for the property. [3]

As a devout Methodist it is not surprising that Mrs Cotterill had no time for the booze-related activities that went on in the area. With the Farmers Arms, the beer house that was eventually named the Jolly Waggoner and the nearby Split Crow beer house she referred to the area as “Hell’s Mouth.” From her description it seems no worse than any other part of Bolton and certainly a good deal tamer than life in the slums of the town centre in the middle of the 18th century. Beer was also sold from an off-licence run by somebody who rejoiced in the nickname ‘Owd Woof.’

Gate Pike was written to celebrate the story of the Methodist church in the area. The religion was established in Deane at a house in Moss Street which later renamed Fern Street when the area was incorporated into the County Borough of Bolton. It later moved to a purpose-built church in Fern Street. The book is interesting if only for Mrs Cotterill’s description of life in that part of Bolton in the 1840s and her descriptions of the characters that lived there and is available at the central library.

As for the Farmers Arms, Gordon Readyhough tells us that the pub lost its licence in 1869, but a few years later, William Tong, whose beermaking activities had grown to an industrial scale from large premises at the top of Balshaw Lane, arranged for a beerhouse licence to be transferred from the Rifle Volunteer on Bridgeman Street in 1872. The Farmers later became an off-licence but closed in 1876.

Tong’s Brewery was registered as a private limited company, William Tong & Sons Ltd, in 1897 with an address of the Diamond Brewery at the top of Balshaw Lane, Deane, though there was also an office on Mealhouse Lane, Bolton. But by then William Tong was dead having retired to Moorfield at Lostock where he died in 1891. 

The brewery was taken over by the Warrington firm of Walker Cain Ltd in 1923 along with its 23 pubs, although 66 pubs were owned by the company in 1997. Walker Cain had only been formed in 1921 by a merger of Peter Walker Ltd of Warrington and Robert Cain Ltd of Liverpool and the new concern photographed the whole of its tied estate in the 1920s. A good  many of those images can be seen in Mr Readyhough’s book.

There is some confusion as to how long brewing continued at the Diamond Brewery after the takeover. The Brewing History: A Guide To Historical Records claims brewing continued until 1940, although it lists a catalogue for the auction of the brewery in 1924, a year after the takeover which suggests it was already closed. [5]

Walkers merged with Joshua Tetley & Son of Leeds in 1960 to form Tetley Walker. Up to the brewing industry divesting itself of much of its tied estate in the nineties a number of the former Tetley pubs in the town were once Tong’s pubs and the inscription of Wm Tong & Sons can still be seen outside the Market Hotel on Brackley Street in Farnworth. Image here.  The Vulcan Inn on Junction Road also advertised Diamond Ales etched into one of its windows. Image here

William Tong’s son, Thomas Barlow Tong, was a Conservative mayor of Bolton from 1906 to 1908. He worked as the Bolton area manager for Walker’s after their takeover of the family brewery. [6] William’s nephew, Walter Wharton Tong, was also a Conservative mayor of Bolton from 1940 to 1941 and was knighted in 1955. [7]

The company’s livery can still be seen on offices above the former Crown & Cushion in Mealhouse Lane. [8]Image here. 

[1] Gate Pike by Hannah Cotterill. Published 1828.
[2] Pubs Of Bolton 1800-2000, by Gordon Readyhough. Published by Neil Richardson (2000).
[3] Four Bolton Directories: 1821/2, 1836, 1843, 1853. Reprinted by Neil Richardson (1982)
[4] Accessed 9 April 2014. 
[5] The Brewing History: A Guide To Historical Records. Accessed 9 April 2014.
[6] Bolton Mayors. Thomas Barlow Tong. Accessed 9 April 2014. 
[7] Bolton Mayors. Walter Wharton Tong. Accessed 9 April 2014. 
[8] Brewery History Society. Accessed 9 April 2014.

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