Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Great Eastern/Claremont Hotel, Waterloo Street

The site of the Great Eastern pictured in September 2009 (copyright Google Street View) painted in green. In the mid-1990s it was a dark shade of blue. The pub stood on the corner of Calvin Street although in its previous incarnation as the Claremont Hotel it was situated across the road, where the back of the B&Q Superstore can be seen on the right-hand side of the photo. The whole of Waterloo Street was changing even before the Great Eastern closed in 1968. Car breakers now dominate one side of the street - scrapyards have been in the area for many years - while offices and retail outlets are on the other.  Indeed, the former Great Eastern premises probably challenges the Bolton Gate Company’s factory at the bottom of Waterloo Street as the oldest building left on the street.

The story of the Great Eastern on Waterloo Street is actually the story of two pubs.

The Claremont Hotel beerhouse – not to be confused with the pub of that name on Halliwell Road – existed for some years on Waterloo Street, possibly as early as the 1850s. However, in 1883 the owners decided to move from number 221 Waterloo Street to number 228, just across the road on the corner with Calvin Street. [1] A licence transfer application was put into the local magistrates and number 221 – the Claremont Hotel – closed as a pub and was converted into a private residence. The back of the Bolton branch of B&Q now stands on the site.

But instead of opening number 228 Waterloo Street as the ‘new Claremont Hotel’, the pub’s owners decided on a totally different name, the Great Eastern.

The new pub took its name from a ship, the SS Great Eastern, built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and, at the time of its launch in 1858, by far the biggest ship that had ever been built. By the 1880s, though, the SS Great Eastern was coming to the end of its life. It was reduced to acting as a giant advertising hoarding sailing up and down the Mersey advertising Lewis’s Liverpool department store and it was broken up towards the end of that decade - not long after its namesake pub opened in Bolton. Its flagpole was later bought by Liverpool FC to stand on top of the Kop end at their Anfield ground.

Bolton’s Great Eastern pub lasted a good deal longer. As long ago as the 1930s it was nicknamed ‘the Ship’ by locals as a nod to the type of vessel that gave it its name. [2] It was owned by John Halliwell & Son who operated from the Alexandra Brewery on Mount Street in Halliwell. In December 1910, Halliwell’s were bought by another local firm, Magee, Marshall & Co, who supplied the Great Eastern from its Cricket Street brewery on Daubhill until the pub closed in 1968.

The Great Eastern was sold off for use as offices. A firm of accountants occupied the building for a number of years but it is now used as offices for a nearby firm of car breakers.

[1] Bolton Pubs 1800-2000, by Gordon Readyhough. Published by Neil Richardson (2000).
[2] As noted by Mass Observation. See Ron Pattinson’s Barclay Perkins blog for more Bolton pub nicknames from the 1930s. 

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