Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Volunteer Inn, Empire Lounge, Jolly Sailor, Bradshawgate


This photograph shows the Volunteer Inn on the far right of the picture. It was taken just before its conversion into the Empire Lounge which took place in 1890.

The Volunteer Inn began life as the Jolly Sailor towards the end of the 18th century. There was no pub by that name on the 1778 list of Great Bolton Ale Houses so it must have become licensed premises during the final two decades of that century.

The Volunteer was noted as a meeting place for one of Bolton’s earliest Masonic lodges. According to Lane’s Masonic Records the St John’s Lodge, which was instituted in 1795 and continued until as recently as 2005, met at the Volunteer from 1811 to 1812 and from 1816 to 1820. [1]

A fire at the pub in October 1877 caused £700 worth of damage.

In 1890 the Volunteer was refurbished as the Empire Lounge – and quite a refurbishment it sounds, as well. With Axminster carpets and mahogany fittings it was out of the league of most of the Bolton townsfolk. [2] No doubt there were prices to match but there is no word as to whether the proprietor had security on the doors or if more down-at-heel patrons began to be allowed in when the pub was quiet. 

Whatever, in 1904 the Empire Lounge was demolished. Bolton Council decided to widen Bradshawgate and in order to do this they had to clear  the whole of the western side of the street from the Deansgate end down to Nelson Square. The Empire was pulled down along with its near neighbour the Ship and a number of other properties. Neither were rebuilt. The Bradshawgate side of the Primark store marks the spot where the Volunteer once stood.

Four brewing companies had an interest in the property at one time or another: Allsopps of Burton-on-Trent and also the local firms of William Tong, John Atkinson and Magee, Marshall. It appears as a Magee’s pub in the above picture.

[1] Lane’s Masonic Records. Retrieved 23 September 2014. 


[2] Pubs Of Bolton 1800-2000, by Gordon Readyhough. Published by Neil Richardson (2000).

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