Yates's Wine Lodge and the Flying Flute - as they are now - stand on either side of Shipgates. Both pubs were rebuilt after Bradshawgate was widened in 1906; however, the Ship Inn relinquished its licence and its demolition enabled Ship Gates to be opened out. Prior to demolition, entrance to Ship Gates was via a narrow alleyway that ran beneath one of the pub's bedrooms. Image taken April 2012. Copyright Google Street View.
The Ship Inn was situated on Bradshawgate. While the address at the time of its closure was 22 Bradshawgate, it was also numbered 135 and 136 in various directories in the early part of the nineteenth century.
A nearby street, Ship Gates, was named after the Ship Inn. An alley ran under one of the bedrooms of the pub, into a yard then through another covered entry into a short and narrow street opening on to Mealhouse Lane . The Gates shopping centre on the site of the street was initially named the Shipgates Centre when it first opened.
The Ship Inn dated back to at least the eighteenth century and was one of the principal hotels in the town. It was also one of the most prestigious, a respectable Tory inn housing a news room for the manufacturers, professional people and gentry of Bolton. 
The news room ran from around 1816 to 1825. It consisted of nine newspapers and magazines and subscriptions and membership was an expensive 16 shillings a year, the equivalent of £65 today - and that was just to read the publications! Members could buy bound volumes of the newspapers at the end of each year for anything from 5 shillings to £2 and seven shillings. 
There was also a Ship Inn Social Club, a debating society which existed around 1804, but perhaps for not long afterwards. The society debated such topics as “whether disappointments in love or trade are hardest to bear.” 
The Ship was also a meeting place for the local Caledonian Society. Composed of descendants of the large Scottish contingent who settled in Bolton after the failure of the 1745 rebellion, the Caledonian Society was founded in Bolton in 1799. Its main function was to host an annual dinner to which Scotsmen from Manchester, Bury, Wigan, Rochdale and other Lancashire towns were invited. 
The Caledonian Society had 118 members by 1829, but only 75 ‘members and friends’ were present at the 1831 annual dinner which was held for a change at Watson’s Cloth Hall, situated on the south side of Deansgate. The society was still going some decades later. They set up a Caledonian Curling Club in 1864 and a Caledonian Shinty Club in 1876. 
There was also a strong Scottish connection in the running of the Ship. The licensee at the beginning of the 19th century was Susanna Jardine; the secretary of the Caledonian Society was Thomas Jardine, presumably a relative. He was perhaps not the landlord, though an attorney by that name practised in Shipgates close to the pub, according to the 1819 local directory.
By 1824 the Ship Inn was being run by John Brooks. There may also be a link here with the Jardines given that three of Brooks’s children were named Thomas Jardine Brooks, Elizabeth Jardine Brooks and Susannah Jardine Brooks. The chances are that he married Susanna Jardine’s daughter.
The Ship Inn was the scene of an attempted murder of its barmaids in 1882. On 30 January that year Miss E Briercliffe was attacked by a young man who was later sentence to five years penal servitude. 
An image of the pub decked out for Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee celebrations in 1887 can be seen here at Bolton Museum’s local archive collection. The proprietor is named on the image as S Crowther.
Note how narrow Bradshawgate is in the image compared to today. In the end, the narrowness of Bradshawgate proved to be the Ship’s undoing. In 1906 the street was widened, but that necessitated the demolition of many of the properties. But while the likes of the nearby Fleece Inn was rebuilt, the Ship Inn gave up its licence.
The local firm of Magee, Marshall & Co were owners towards the end of the nineteenth century but by 1906 ownership had passed to Wilson’s Brewery of Manchester. After demolition the Ship’s full licence was transferred to the Sunnyside Hotel on Bloom Street at the bottom of Adelaide Street in Daubhill.  Given that the Sunnyside was a Sharman’s pub one can only assume the licence was purchased from Wilson’s.
Ship Gates still exists and its junction with Bradshawgate marks the former site of the Ship Inn.
|Ship Inn pictured around 1900|
 Bolton Town Centre, A Modern History. Part Two: Bradshawgate, Great Moor Street and Newport Street, 1900-1998. Published by Neil Richardson, (1998).
 Leisure In Bolton, 1750-1900, Robert Poole, (1982)
 Annals Of Bolton, James Clegg, (1888)
 Pubs Of Bolton 1800-2000, by Gordon Readyhough, published by Neil Richardson (2000).