Sunday, 28 September 2014

Duke Of Clarence, Bath Street

Duke Of Clarence Bath Street Bolton

The top of Bath Street pictured in 1986. The Duke Of Clarence is on the left. Conversion of the former St George’s school into licensed premises known as Ben Topp’s was under way.  Image from the Bolton Library And Museums Service collection. Copyright Bolton Council.

The Duke Of Clarence, at the top of Bath Street, dated back to the 1860s as licensed premises. The pub’s layout was a classic of much of the 20th-century. There was a central bar on the right as you went in through the main Bath Street entrance. A lounge was situated on the left-hand side of the pub with a vault on the right that could also be accessed from Bath Street via a separate entrance.

In 1875 the pub’s owner was Robert Harrison. We noted Mr Harrison as the landlord of the Flag Hotel on Great Moor Street in the 1860s along with his wife, Ellen. By 1871 Mr Harrison was landlord of the Duke Of Clarence leaving Ellen Harrison to run the Flag, which she did until she died in 1888. 

The Duke Of Clarence was a beer house, but Robert Harrison wanted a wine and spirit licence. In 1875 he negotiated with the council to buy the full licence of the Horse And Groom on Bradshawgate. The owner of the Horse And Groom, Johnathan Gorse, had died and the council had bought his pub as part of a plan to widen Bradshawgate close to its junction with Great Moor Street.  Later that year, Harrison obtained the full licence thus enabling him to sell wine and spirits as his pub as well as beer.

The following year, 1876, the Bolton Evening News reported on an unusual wedding party that adjourned to the Duke Of Clarence following a ceremony at St George’s church at the bottom of Bath Street. One Tuesday morning, the clerk to the church, Mr Briscoe, was approached by a man whose wedding was due to take place the following day asking him if he would give away the bride. Mr Briscoe agreed and carried out his duty as requested. As the happy couple were walking up the aisle, the groom recognised a woman whom he recognised. It was his wife - he was already married! In what sounds like a sketch from the Benny Hill Show the groom ran off down Bath Street in the direction of St George’s Road hotly pursued by wife number 1. Wife number 2, meanwhile, headed in the direction of Clarence Street. The newly-weds then met up in the Duke Of Clarence for a post-wedding drink, though the BEN suggested the groom might expect a charge of bigamy. [1]

The Manchester brewery of Threlfall’s owned the Duke Of Clarence for much of its existence. It became a Whitbread pub in 1967 after their takeover of Threlfall-Chester’s as it then was.

The Duke Of Clarence limped on after the big brewers’ stranglehold was broken in the early nineties but it redevelopment of the housing around the pub led to a shrinking customer base. Houses on Bath Street were demolished in the early eighties and the land cleared for use as a car park. The pub closed around 1994 and was demolished in 1996. The Duke Street multi-storey car park was subsequently built on land from Bath Street to Duke Street, including land once occupied by the Duke Of Clarence.

The top of Bath Street pictured in 2012. The modest Bath Street car park has been replaced by the Duke Street multi-storey car park. The former Ben Topp’s hasn’t been used as a pub for some years. Image copyright Google Street View.

[1] Bolton Evening News, 15 July 1876 as recounted in the Looking Back feature of 21 August 2001. Retrieved 28 September2014.  
[2] Bolton Pubs 1800-2000, by Gordon Readyhough. Published by Neil Richardson (2000).

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