The Higher Nags Head pictured a few years before it closed in 1929. Image from the Bolton Library And Museums Service collection. Copyright Bolton Council.
The Higher Nags Head was situated on Deansgate in between Market Street and Oxford Street.
The building was a private residence for some years before becoming a pub. It was built in 1735 as a townhouse for John Andrews (1684-1743). Andrews’ principle residence was Rivington Hall, which he bought from the Breres family in 1729 but he needed a residence in the centre of town.
Andrews was famous for having built the beacon on top of Rivington Pike in 1733.
Around 1820 the house became licensed premises. It wasn’t uncommon for there to be two pubs of the same name not too far away from each other. For example, Whellan and Co’s Directory of 1853 shows the Millstone on Crown Street and the Old Millstone on Deansgate; a Three Crowns and an Old Three Crowns, both on Deansgate, and about 20 yards away from each other a Higher Nags Head and the Lower Nags Head, both of which were named the Nags Head in 1853.
For a number of years people differentiated between the two pubs by referring to the Higher Nags Head as Holden’s Vaults. That was after John B Holden and Co, a firm of wine and spirit merchants who owned the pub and used it to store their stock.
John Brown Holden was born in Bolton in 1797 to the family that owned the George and Dragon in Oxford Street, just around the corner from the Higher Nags Head. The Great Bolton licensing records of 1778 show that Holden’s grandfather, John Brown, was in charge of the George and Dragon at that time. His mother, Mary, was later a licensee of the pub, certainly around 1818 and John was in charge by 1824. He added the Higher Nags Head around 1840 and used it as a base for his wine and spirits business.
Like a number of people in the drinks trade Holden entered politics. He was also a councillor for six years from 1851 to 1857 representing Exchange Ward for the Liberal Party. He was also a subscriber to the Bank Of Bolton.
John Brown Holden died in 1866, aged 69, the George and Dragon having been relinquished but with the Higher Nags Head still in the possession of John B. Holden and Co. Indeed, Holden’s were still charge into the early part of the 20th century.
The Higher Nags Head was eventually taken over by Magee, Marshall and Co of Daubhill. By then they also owned the Lower Nags Head. Having two pubs with similar names just a matter of feet from each other obviously made no sense to Magee’s. Two decisions were made in the late-1920s. First of all, in 1927 the Lower Nags Head was completely rebuilt and the old building demolished. Then, in 1929, the Higher Nags Head was sold.
The building was subsequently demolished and shops built on the site between Market Street and Oxford Street.