Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Crown Hotel, Derby Street and the Magee, Marshall Brewery

Crown Hotel Cricket Street Bolton

At the top is the Crown Hotel on the corner of Derby Street pictured by Humphrey Spender in April 1938. In the background is Magee, Marshall's brewery on Cricket Street. The image is taken from the Bolton Worktown website and is copyright Bolton Council. On the right is the same view taken in April 2012 (copyright Google Street View). The building featured on the left of both images  is a bank, the District Bank in 1938, a branch of the Natwest until its closure in 2015. 

The Crown Hotel was situated at 213 Derby Street on the corner of Cricket Street.

The pub dated back to at least the 1860s and possibly slightly earlier as that part of Derby Street began to be built up in the 1850s.

In 1866 the landlord was one David Magee who moved to the Crown from the Good Samaritan a little further down Derby Street at number 73. He had been at the Good Samaritan since 1858. 

Magee was a brewer and he wanted to build a brewery on land next to the Crown. It was a brave move as the beer market for Daubhill was quite competitive. A number of pubs were brewing their own beer in 1866. The Albert, just a hundred yard from the Crown, was brewing for other pubs, while the Derby Street Brewery, just a few doors along from the Derby Arms, began brewing in the 1820s and was there until the end of the nineteenth century.

But Magee was undeterred and built the Crown Brewery right next to the Crown Hotel. It was operational by 1870 and was extended in 1875, the same year that David Magee died at the age of just 46. He was succeeded by his sons Thomas, John and Joseph and they extended the brewery again in 1893.

By then Magee, Marshall and Company Ltd had been formed. It was set up in 1888 after Magee's had taken over Daniel Marshall & Co’s Grapes Brewery on Brown Street, off Manor Street three years previously. They also bought the One Horse Shoe brewery in nearby Water Street at the same time. Henry Robinson’s Wigan Brewery was added in 1894 and John Halliwell’s Alexandra Brewery in Mount Street, Bolton, was bought and closed down in 1910.

Magee’s advertised themselves as late as the 1950s as “brewing in Wigan, Bolton and Burton” though Henry Robinson’s closed soon after takeover and Magee’s only leased the Bell Brewery of Burton-on-Trent for a short time in 1902. [1] However, until the fifties the brewery transported Burton water by rail to their own railway sidings next to the brewery (part of the original line of the Bolton to Leigh railway).

The Crown Hotel remained pretty much as it was on the corner of Cricket Street while the small brewery that was once situated next door grew to a become five-storey traditional tower brewery taking up most of the block behind Derby Street.  A 1982 image of the brewery complex can be seen here

Indeed the pub was all that was unchanged around Cricket Street in that period surrounding the end of the nineteenth century. A row of houses next to the brewery was named Magee Street but all the houses in the street were bought up in the early-1900s and the whole street demolished as the brewery expanded. The row of Peel Street, from Cricket Street up to German Street (later Haslam Street) also disappeared to be built upon by Magee's.

Mass Observation tells us that in 1937 Magee’s best-selling product was Mild, much as it was in the rest of Bolton. Best Mild was lighter in colour than ordinary Mild. It was also 20 percent dearer at 6d a pint (2 ½ p) against 5d (2p). Those two products accounted for over 90 percent of the company’s sales. An IPA was brewed using the water from Burton. It cost 7d (3 ½ p) a pint, but it largely was snubbed as it was stronger and had a reputation for giving a bad hangover. Remember that in those days there were no teenagers in pubs trying to get drunk as quickly as possible! [2]

The catchment area of the local pub was very small. Few people walked more than 300 yards to their local and in the case of the Crown Hotel that meant its customers were in Bantry Street, Peel Street, Parrot Street, Brigg Street, Haslam Street and some of the houses fronting Derby Street. The pubs were quiet until 8.30 or 9 o’clock and chucking-out time in 1937 was 10pm - every night of the week. There were no facilities for food.

Magee’s built up a substantial tied estate. It was mainly in the Bolton and Wigan areas but with outlets at seaside resorts such as Blackpool and Southport, both places where the brewery's customers would take their annual holidays. 

But being a family-owned business it was prey to takeover and the company lost its independence in 1958 when it sold out to Greenall Whitley. The Crown  brewery continued in service still producing Magee's beers until it was closed in October 1970.

The poor reputation for Greenall’s beer in Bolton dates back to the closure of Magee’s and the replacement of local brands with Greenall’s own products. A few years ago Hop Star brewery in Darwen brewed a few test brews based on a Magee’s recipe.  It wasn’t hard to see why Greenall’s were so scorned. If this one beer was anything to go by it was completely different to anything Greenall’s brewed. It had more of a sweet taste to it whereas the standard Greenall’s beers were more bitter. People liked what they knew and Greenall's tasted much different to what they knew.

The Crown Hotel carried on for a further ten years – as a pub, at least. In his reminiscences of the pub on the Bolton Worktown website, Mike Wilson says:

“The Crown Hotel was always a busy spot. The locals always boasted the freshest beer in town. The locals said that Magee Marshall piped it in from the vat itself. Not true, but I am sure the legend got its legs from the regular crowd.”

Magees beermat 1952

It probably wasn’t true and the beer was perhaps no fresher than it was at the Ram’s Head or the Pike View a couple of hundred yards up the road. But the Crown was the ‘brewery tap’ – the nearest outlet to the brewery – and there is a certain prestige to being the pub on the brewery’s doorstep.

But that prestige ended when the brewery closed. There had also been certain social changes in the 12 years since the Magee family sold out with many of the streets from which the Crown drew its custom demolished in the sixties and seventies.

Greenall’s took the decision in 1980 to hand over the Crown to the Royal Antediluvian Order of the Buffaloes and it spent its final seven years as the RAOB Club.

The Magee’s site became the headquarters of Cambrian Soft Drinks, another Greenall’s subsidiary. The moved out in the nineties and the site is home to a number of small business units.

In 1987, three years after the brewery was demolished, last orders were called at the RAOB Club - as the Crown then was - and the building was pulled down to provide a small number of extra space in the Cambrian car park.

The firm of Magee Marshall and Company Ltd lasted until August 2017. The limited company was formed on 22 March 1888 by the Magee family and Daniel Marshall. It was part of the De Vere Group, which Greenall’s became when they got out of brewing and pubs in the nineties. By June 2016 the company had been sold to a local brewer, Edward Ian Mather of Halliwell, and there were rumours that the original recipes were going to be recreated. That didn't happen and on 15 August 2017 the company was struck off by the Registrar Of Companies.

[1] The Lost Beers & Breweries of Britain, by Brian Glover. Published by Amberley Publishing (2009).
[2] 5d in 1937 works out at £1.28 a pint in 2014. The average wage in Bolton in those days was around £1 12 shillings a week, the equivalent of about £100 a week in 2014.

Magees Brewery Bantry Steet Peel Street Bolton

This is the view from the front door of Magee's offices taken by Humphrey Spender in April 1938. The land in the foreground belonged to the brewery and was used to exercise the company's dray horses. The street on the left is Bantry Street, which still exists. The street on the right is Peel Street which was demolished in the sixties. Image from the Bolton Worktown website. Copyright Bolton Council.

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