Tuesday, 13 May 2014

White Lion, Deansgate

The former White Lion, pictured as a sports goods shop in April 2012 (copyright Google Street View). The area was the shutter is on the far right-hand side was formerly the entry to a courtyard. This was bricked up when the pub expanded into the open area in 1985.

It was a case of ‘another good ‘un gone’ when the White Lion closed its doors for the last time around 2001. It’s now a sports shop.

It was a decent enough pub with pleasant surroundings and back in the day sold well-kept ale – Wilson Mild and Bitter, perhaps even Websters Choice when that came out. It even made the Good Beer Guide on one or two occasions in the eighties and nineties.

So what went wrong? It was probably at the wrong end of town, for one thing. The Albion, Gypsy’s Tent, Greyhound, Hen and Chickens and Blue Boar were all within a few hundred yards and with trade dropping over the years it was inevitable that at least one or two of them would go. And so it proved with the White Lion and its nearest neighbour the Gypsy’s Tent both biting since the turn of the millennium.

The White Lion dated back to the late-nineteenth century so the fact that it lasted over 200 years before closing is doubly tragic. It came into Wilsons ownership in 1949 with their takeover of Walkers and Homfrays, the Salford brewery that had taken over the Manchester Brewery Company in 1912. A number of pubs that ended up owned by Wilsons pubs were earlier owned earlier by local brewery, Wingfields and which was taken over by Manchester Brewery in 1912 although it continued to act as a spirit merchant for some years afterwards.

A refurbishment in 1985 was quite tastefully done considering how some of other Wilsons pubs were knocked about in the early eighties. The vault and games room were extended into the former courtyard and they even retained the table football machine for a while. It was the first time the White Lion had been refurbished since the early sixties.

The nineties, though, were a tougher time as the big brewing combines of the time chose to get out of pub ownership or brewing - even both in some cases.

The White Lion spent a period closed in 1994-95 until it was bought by the Unique Pub Company. When it closed in around 2001 it was put up for sale again and was sold de-licensed to a company dealing in sports goods.

For much of the 20th century the White Lion’s immediate next-door neighbour was the Deansgate railway goods warehouse. From 1828 a railway line ran from Great Moor Street station, which was situated where Morrisons supermarket car park now is, and traversed across the sites of what are now the market and Moor Lane bus station – then a steel works - into the warehouse. The railway line was dismantled in the late-1920s and the warehouse was leased to a firm called Harry Mason & Sons Ltd. They left in 1962 and the warehouse was demolished the following year.

This 1996 shot shows the White Lion on the left-hand side of the image a few years before it closed. The image below shows the pub in the 1980s.

[1] What’s Doing – the Greater  Manchester Beer Drinkers Monthly Magazine. December 1985 issue.

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