Sunday, 10 August 2014

Rothwell Street Tavern, 32 Rothwell Street


Rothwell Street looking towards Derby Street in April 2012 (copyright Google Street View). The Rothwell Street Tavern was on the right-hand side on the corner with Parrot Street, which runs across the centre of the image. The site of the pub is now part of a widened Rothwell Street. Moor Mill and its entrance is on the left of the image. Vehicular access to the mill by large vehicles meant the street needed to be widened although this took place some years after the pub was demolished.

The Rothwell Street Tavern was situated on the corner of Rothwell Street and Parrot Street, just off Derby Street. This area of Bolton had a number of back-street pubs and even as late as the sixties the Houghton Street Tavern and Rothwell Street Tavern were still open.

The Rothwell Street Tavern dated back to around the 1860s. It wasn’t around in the 1853 Bolton Directory, but the 1871 Directory lists a beerhouse at number 32 Rothwell Street owned by James Ridings, who is also described as a gasfitter.

One notable licensee was Thomas Howcroft who, according to Gordon Readyhough, ran the pub in the early-twentieth century. [1]

At that time, the Rothwell Street Tavern had its own brewery situated behind the pub. Howcroft was a brewer of some repute and was supplying a number of local pubs as well as his own pub. In 1937 the opportunity arose to purchase the Model Brewery on Spa Road.

Built in 1874, the Model Brewery was known for the first 30 years of its life as the Park View Brewery because it was directly opposite Queens Park. But during the 63 years before it was bought by Thomas Howcroft it changed hands on a number of occasions.

It was initially Walker’s Bolton Brewery Company Ltd before becoming the Spa Wells Brewery Company Ltd and, in 1904, it was taken over by James Jackson & Sons Ltd. Jackson’s were bought out by George Shaw & Co Ltd of Leigh in 1927 and the brewery was sold again the following year to the Bolton Free Brewery Company Ltd.  This was registered to take over the bottling business of Fred Leigh & Co. It changed its name to Bolton and District Clubs Brewery Company Ltd in 1929 and brewed primarily for the town’s working men’s and political clubs. There obviously wasn’t much money in brewing for clubs as the Model Brewery was up for sale again in 1937.

Thomas Howcroft moved from the Rothwell Street Tavern, which was put for sale early in 1939. Walker’s of Warrington bought the pub and it became a Tetley pub when they merged with Walker’s in 1960. It received a full drinks licence in 1961.

The Rothwell Street Tavern eventually became a victim of the slum clearances that took place at that end of Derby Street. It closed around 1970 and many of the buildings on the street were demolished including the row containing the pub.

The site of the former Rothwell Street Tavern is now part of a widened Rothwell Street, mainly for the benefit of the nearby Moor Mill whose vehicles use the side entrance on the street.

As for Howcroft’s the company fell into the hands of Thomas Howcroft’s son, Atherton. He diversified the company into clubs. Bolton Casino on Crompton Way – later Copperfield’s, the Bees Knees and now a Nisa supermarket – was owned or managed by Howcroft’s.

By all accounts, Atherton Howcroft was a formidable figure. “Think of Lord Alan Sugar but worse,” says Ken Hampson on lankybeat.com [2]. The Casino club in Bolton opened in June 1961 and there were also Casino clubs at Blackpool, Burnley, Westhoughton, as well as the one in Wigan which became popular with Northern Soul enthusiasts in the seventies after Howcroft’s were off the scene. The proposed Burnley operation encountered significant opposition and Atherton Howcroft had to assure the local licensing magistrates that none of the Casino shows would include any striptease! [3]

Howcroft’s brewery merged with B. Cunningham Ltd in May 1969 and the Model Brewery closed down. The merged operation didn’t last much longer and was wound up in December of that year. Atherton Howcroft died in November 1971. The Bolton Casino went into voluntary liquidation in February 1972 [4] and was renamed Copperfield’s later that year.

A descendent of the Howcrofts now runs the Henighan’s chain of pubs in the Bolton area. [5]

Some of Howcroft’s bottle labels can be seen here.

 [1] Pubs Of Bolton 1800-2000, by Gordon Readyhough (2000).
[2] Lankybeat.com  Accessed 10 August 2014. Ken Hampson’s reminiscences of  the Casino Club are close to the bottom of the page, but the page also includes entries and memories on a number of other clubs in the Wigan, Leigh and Bolton areas and is well worth a look.
[3] Clarets Mad. Accessed 10 August 2014.
[4] Bolton News, Looking Back feature, 20 February 1997. Accessed 10 August 2014.
[5] Bolton News, 23 September 2009.  Accessed 10 August 2014.

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