Saturday, 19 April 2014

Rising Sun/Imperial Hotel, Churchbank

Imperial Churchbank Bolton

Not a great image, but the Imperial Hotel can be seen behind the lamp post on the right. When this photograph was taken in the 1950s the pub had already been closed for around 20 years and was being used as a boarding house for performers at the Grand Theatre and the Theatre Royal which can be seen in the distance.

The Rising Sun was situated at 3-5 Churchbank, just outside the parish church, although in some directories of the time it is described as being on Churchgate. Then, as now, Churchbank was merely an extension of Churchgate.

The Rising Sun was certainly in existence in the 1770s and Bolton Old Band was formed at the pub in 1803. This was originally a reed band – it converted to brass in the 1850s – and practised at the pub with the then landlord playing clarinet. Four band members were either innkeepers or were later to become innkeepers including Thomas Sharples who open the notable Star Inn and Concert Room, just a few yards away from the Rising Sun, in the 1840s.

The Bolton Old Band certainly had its characters in the early nineteenth century. It was accompanied by a resident fiddler whose fondness for what were described as “drink and company” eventually got him the sack. There was a piccolo player who regarded playing the flute for dancing as beneath him while the bassoonist also earned money playing at the circus where his daughter performed. There was also a serpent player who was a strict Methodist and Sabbatarian. The serpent was a wooden instrument with a twisted body and a metal mouthpiece which was very hard to blow. This particular player once stayed out so late playing on his serpent one Saturday night that he didn’t get home until dawn was breaking on the Sunday morning. He was so full of remorse at having thus broken the Sabbath that he buried his serpent, swearing never to play it again. [1]

It isn’t known for how long the Bolton Old Band was linked with the Rising Sun but the band became a well-known outfit and some of its members were travellers in one of the carriages at the opening of the Bolton and Leigh Railway in 1828 playing at both ends of that historic first journey.

Here’s a nineteenth-century gig review of sorts, of the band’s appearance at the Bolton Floral and Horticultural Society’s show of 1829 as reported by The Gardener's Magazine and Register of Rural & Domestic Improvement:

“The Bolton old band was in attendance, as usual, and performed several interesting airs, in very creditable style.”

The band was attached to Bolton Volunteer Regiment under Colonel Fletcher and lasted until around 1884. [2]

John Hamer was listed as the landlord of the Rising Sun in 1818 and John Entwisle was licensee in 1824. During Mr Hamer’s tenure the Rising Sun was first used as host to a Masonic lodge. The Lodge Of Antiquity began to meet at the pub from 1816 and used it as its headquarters until 1855.  The St John’s Lodge also met there, from 1873 to 1874. [3]

By the end of the nineteenth century the Rising Sun had become the Imperial Hotel but it closed in 1934 and its full licence was transferred to the Kings Arms on Chorley Old Road. [4]. The premises became a guest house and was popular with performers at the Theatre Royal and the Grand Theatre on nearby Churchgate.

Since the end of the sixties the building has been used as offices and studio space. In a neat link given the Rising Sun’s involvement with the Bolton Old Band the premises are now (2014) the headquarters of the Talent Pool recording studio. Talent Pool was recently set up by Booth’s Music whose shop was opened by James Booth just 150 yards up Churchgate in 1832. It is entirely possible that the likes of Thomas Sharples and his colleagues in the Bolton Old Band would have bought their instruments from Mr Booth’s shop before assembling for practise at the Rising Sun.

The image is of the premises in April 2014 (copyright Lost Pubs Of Bolton).

[1] Leisure In Bolton, 1750-1900, Robert Poole, 1982
[2] IBEW. Retrieved 18 April.
[3] Lane’s Masonic Records.


  1. In 1791 William Rothwell is named in "The Universal British Directory of Trade, Commerce and Manufacturing, Band 2 - 1791" as the innkeeper (victualler). I am trying to establish if this is the same William Rothwell, a distant relative of mine, who later lived at Mount Pleasant, Little Bolton, where he died 1833 aged 85. Interesting is that "Rising Sun" was on Churchbank an Extension of Churchgate. In Churchgate Peter Rothwell (a direct ancestor) , a Saddler and Richard Rothwell, also a Saddler, were living. Peter's son, James Rothwell, continued to live and work in Churchgate as a Saddler until at least 1830. In the "Commercial Directory Pigot 1818 - 1820 a Peter Rothwell of Churchgate is named as "Reedmaker". Could it be that he was manufacturing the reed instruments used by the Bolton Old Band before they became a brass band

  2. It depends on the type of reedmaker your relative was. It could refer to part of a loom as well as the manufacturer of reeds for musical instruments. If it was the latter it is highly likely the band bought a local manufacturer though with Bolton heavily involved in the weaving industry at that time I feel it may be the former. The book Four Bolton Directories, published by Neil Richardson, shows Rothwell and Ross, reedmakers, of Union Buildings, Bradshawgate, Bolton in 1821/2. Union Buildings was only a small thoroughfare though it still exists. (I did an article on it about the Anchor pub).

    The earliest pub listings for Bolton is from 1778 and it shows William Rothwell as the licensee of the Rising Sun even then. If it is the same William Rothwell then he would have been around 30 years old at that time. A William Rothwell is listed in the 1821/2 directory as living in High Street, Little Bolton, which wasn’t far from Churchbank, though not to be confused with the High Street that still exists in Bolton. Mount Pleasant was in Darcy Lever, about a mile or two away.

    Rothwell is quite a common name in Bolton, which doesn’t always help matters.