Sunday, 23 November 2014

Wheatsheaf, 76 Blackburn Street (76 Deane Road)

Wheatsheaf Deane Road Bolton
The Wheatsheaf pictured in the 1960s

The area of Bolton at the bottom of Deane Road was originally known as Blackburn  Street from the junction with Cannon Street down to turn and then  Pikes Lane from Mayor Street up to Deane.

Blackburn Street was the home to a number of beerhouses with the 1853 Bolton Directory listing no fewer than eight with one fully-licensed public house. One of those eight beerhouses was the Wheatsheaf, situated near the town end of Blackburn Street.

Like so many pubs at the time, the Wheatsheaf brewed its own beer. But there was a disaster at the pub in April 1875 when an explosion killed one man and one child and completely destroyed the pub. Adjoining premises were also badly damaged.

The landlord at the time was a man named William Greenhalgh who faced criminal charges following the incident, which was caused by a boiler used in the brewery. At the inquest the jury found that Greenhalgh had been negligent in the management of the boiler, which was in a poor condition. But they did not feel justified in returning a verdict of manslaughter against him. [1]

The Wheatsheaf was re-built and by the 1880s it was under the control of Mark O’Boyle, who was landlord of the Derby Arms on nearby Derby Street. He also owned the Shamrock on Soho Street on what is now the site of Morrisons supermarket.

The Wheatsheaf was bought by Magee’s and was a Greenall’s house when it was closed in the seventies. [2]

The site of the pub was used for parking for many years until Bolton College was built on its site in 2010.

[1] Annals Of Bolton, James Clegg (1888).

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

Bolton College, re-located from Manchester Road to Deane Road and completed in 2010. The Wheatsheaf was one of a number of buildings that stood on this site.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Commercial Hotel, Victoria Square

Commercial Hotel Victoria Square Bolton

A splendidly atmospheric view of the Commercial Hotel on what looks like a bleak autumn day but which was actually taken on 21 June 1954. Image from the Bolton Library and Museums collection. Copyright Bolton Council. 

Of all the pub closures in Bolton few can have been as controversial at that of the Commercial Hotel, which stood on the corner of the Victoria Square. The pub closed in April1972 after a bitter battle which even reached the debating chamber at the Town Hall.

That debate and the pub's subsequent demolition marked the end of a local landmark that began life in 1809 as the Commercial Tavern. In those days, what is now Victoria Square was then the New Market Place and the Commercial was popular with stallholders and customers from the nearby market.

The Gatty family, William and Ann, were in charge during the early years. William Gatty was listed as the innkeeper from 1814 to 1817 but the 1818 Pigot’s Directory shows Ann Gatty as the proprietor.

The Gattys were succeeded by the Padburys with Thomas Padbury listed as the proprietor in 1821 and he was succeeded by Samuel Padbury, presumably his son.

The Padburys made their mark and it could be argued that the Commercial’s elevation to one the position of one of the principle inns in the town was largely due to their efforts. The hotel was attractive enough to host a regular season of balls and assemblies in the 1820s, at its Assembly Rooms.[1]

The Commercial also hosted a subscription library, which could be regarded as one of the predecessors to Bolton Library, with newsrooms for the manufacturers, professional people and gentry of Bolton. While this was by no means the first reading library in the town, in 1824 it became the highly respectable, reforming Exchange Newsroom and was regarded as the natural resort of gentlemen of all political colours. [1]

The Exchange Newsroom outgrew the pub and moved to a building on the other side of what was then the Market Square – now the Town Hall Square. The Exchange Newsroom became Bolton Library in 1853. Its former premises still stand as a betting shop having been a branch of the Nationwide Building Society until 2009.

The 1841 Census shows John Walmsley as the proprietor at the Commercial but he moved on and business began an association with the Brandwood family that lasted for over 30 years.

John Brandwood was the licensee and his standing as the landlord of one of the principal inns in the town meant that he was able to move in high circles.

For many years Brandwood was the president of the Bolton Licensed Victuallers Association. He became a local councillor: a Liberal representing Derby Ward from 1858 to 1867. One election, in 1861, saw two seats up for grabs and was unusual in that all four candidates represented the Liberal Party. Brandwood and Councillor Constantine were elected but it is worth pointing out that in brief note to the election in his book Annals Of Bolton, John Clegg noted that the two defeated candidates represented “the teetotal interest”.

However, Brandwood must have fallen out with the Liberal Party. In the 1867 election he stood as an Independent candidate and was defeated by two Liberals. He later jumped to the Conservatives but was defeated  in 1873 when he came fourth out of four candidates in Exchange ward, two Liberals defeating the two Tories. [2]

Brandwood died in February 1878 in his 66th year. His name lives on in Brandwood Street and its eponymous primary school situated off Willows Lane. The Commercial was taken over by Brandwood’s daughter, Sarah Ann and her husband, John Priestley, who married just a few months after John Brandwood’s death. Priestley also became a councillor spending three years representing the Conservatives from 1879 to 1882 in the same Exchange ward that had rejected his father-in-law just a few years earlier.

Sadly, Priestley died a young man. The former chemist turned licensed victualler died at the Commercial Hotel in June 1885 at the age of 43.

The Commercial was eventually taken over by Magee Marshall and by the early seventies it was in the hands of Greenall Whitley, who had bought out Magee’s in 1958.

Greenall’s put the Commercial up for sale in 1971. Even at that stage pubs in the area close to the Town Hall were finding it difficult to attract custom. The nearby Crown and Cushion was closed around the same time the Commerical was put up for sale. Would the decision in 1969 to close off Newport Street, Oxford Street and Victoria Square mark the end for an already struggling pub? Perhaps it made no difference. 

But the decision to sell the Commercial caused an outcry in the town. It was bought by Mothercare who proposed to demolish the pub and replace it with a retail store. The issue was brought up in the Town Hall where Councillor Hanscomb told those opposing the plans not to be “silly and sentimental”. As is often the case, the Commercial would have thrived had those in opposition to its closure chosen to patronise the pub.

The Commerical closed in April 1972. It was demolished in November of that year and in August 1974, Mothercare opened on the site. The retailer remained there for 36 years until 2010 when it closed the store and sold the site to Barclay’s Bank. [3]

[1] Leisure In Bolton, 1750-1900, Robert Poole, 1982
[2] Annals Of Bolton, John Clegg, 1888
[3] Bolton News, 16 December 2009. Retrieved 16 November 2014.

Due to its proximity to the Town Hall, the Commercial was one of the most-photographed pubs  in the town. Here are a few images from the Bolton Library and Museum Services collection. All images are copyright Bolton Council. 

Commercial Hotel Victoria Square Bolton


Commerical Hotel Victoria Square Bolton
A night-time shot from 1958

Commercial Hotel Victoria Square Bolton

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Railway Hotel, corner of Trinity Street and Newport Street

Railway Hotel Trinity Street Bolton

The Railway Hotel on the corner of Trinity Street and Newport Street pictured in 1937 by Humphrey Spender for the Bolton Worktown project (copyright Bolton Council). 

A number of railway stations in Bolton had pubs built nearby and they were almost inevitably named the Railway or the Railway Hotel. Moses Gate and Bromley Cross stations still have their Railway pubs. The Railway on St Helens Road and the Railway Inn on Bridgeman Street were both named in honour of the Bolton to Leigh line – the world’s second oldest – which ran close to both pubs. The Railway next to Great Moor Street station lasted long after the station was closed, but the opposite was true of the Railway Hotel on the corner of Newport Street and opposite the old Trinity Street.

The Railway dated back to the 1860s and was originally a beerhouse named the Railway Tavern. It gradually expanded into two neighbouring buildings and in 1879 it gained a six-day public house licence (which meant it couldn't open on a Sunday) when a pub named the Talbot (or Old Dog) on Brown Street surrendered its licence. Seven-day opening only arrived in 1935 when the Railway took over the licence of the Cross Keys on Cross Street.

As befits its name, the Railway operated as a hotel for a good part of its existence. There was also an upstairs function room.

Norman King reminisces about the Railway on the Bolton Worktown website. He says that in the fifties and early sixties a man named Jack Francis used to sell newspapers from a window ledge outside the Railway. Later, Jack’s son Stu Francis gained fame as a comedian and children’s entertainer as the presenter of the BBC television programme Crackerjack (“it’s Friday, it’s five o’clock….”). Mike Wilson adds that new management moved into the Railway following Jack’s death and refused to allow newspapers to be sold from their property, even if it was only from a small part of their window ledge.

The Railway was owned for many years by Threlfall’s brewery and passed into Whitbread’s hands when they took over the Salford brewery in 1967. Within six years the Railway had closed down. The pub was demolished soon afterwards for a number of years until the late eighties the site was an empty patch of land.

By the mid-eighties plans were advanced to replace the former Trinity Street station building with a new construction across the road. The plan wasn’t popular and readers of a certain age will forever compare the current building somewhat unfavourably with the far more grand building that once stood on Trinity Street bridge. Anecdotal evidence of the time from staff at the station suggested that subsidence and strain put on the bridge were apparently the reasons for the change. A new bus station was also to be built replacing a number of bus stops that had previously been sited on Newport Street a little further down from the Railway (buses to Astley Bridge were amongst those running from there).

In 1987, Bolton Interchange was opened incorporating the site of the Railway as well as the former buildings behind it on Newport Street.  After the interchange was completed the clock from the old Trinity Street railway station was placed on land formerly occupied by the pub.

This view, taken from the old Johnson Street footbridge in 1973, shows the rear of the Railway Hotel just prior to its demolition. Also shown is the Holy Trinity church, which was converted into flats in 2014 after being empty for a number of years.Taken from the Bolton Library and Museums collection  (copyright Bolton Council).

Railway Hotel Newport Street Trinity Street Bolton

A 1960s view of the corner of Newport Street and Trinity Street showing the Railway Hotel. The photo would have been taken from the offices at the corner of the Hick, Hargreaves factory on the corner of Crook Street. Taken from the Bolton Library and Museums collection (copyright Bolton Council).

A May 2012 view of the corner of Trinity Street and Newport Street with the clock from the old Trinity Street station building on the site of the former Railway Hotel. (copyright Google Street View).

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Hawthorns, Club Indie-Go, Crompton's Mule

Hawthorns pictured in 2009 (copyright Google Street View).

In December 1978, Crompton’s Mule restaurant opened in a former grain store and garage on Spa Road. [1]

The restaurant was an early outlet for Theakston’s beers but by the early-eighties the local real ale magazine reported that it had been selling Draught Bass. That was withdrawn from Crompton’s Mule towards the end of 1982. [2]

Hawthorns pictured during its piano-bar days in the 1980s.

The change to Hawthorns came in July 1984. By this time it was owned by veterans of the local nightclub scene who decided to try something different. Initially, Hawthorns was a piano bar, complete with large grand piano – which wasn't merely for decorative purposes. A pianist was employed to tinkle the ivories most nights of the week. Again, real ale was tried but it proved to be short-lived. [3] [4]

A change of management came in April 1993 when Hawthorns came under the auspices of the people who ran Oscar’s CafĂ© Bar underneath The Wellsprings on Le Mans Crescent. The club had moved on from being a piano bar and was now a nightclub playing mainstream pop music, but it was a little off the beaten track. The change of management meant that for the three nights a week it opened – Thursday to Saturday -Hawthorns became an outlet for rock and indie music and like Oscar’s, Hawthorns had a live music policy with bands on most nights it was open.

A refurbishment in 2003 led to a name change to Club Indie-Go, though the music policy remained unchanged.

The end for Club Indie-Go came at the beginning of January 2006 under the most unfortunate of circumstances. The gable end on a neighbouring building collapsed and building inspectors forced the club to close. At first the closure looked to be temporary: "I have been informed that we will have to stay closed this weekend which is a huge disappointment," Gay Nuttall, who ran the club told the Bolton News. [5]

The building’s owner, Tasos Pattichis, said: "It is my main priority to make the building safe so that the club can start again as soon as possible.”

It never reopened. The building was demolished in 2011, not just Club Indie-Go and the adjoining, structurally unsound business, but the whole of that block. The land - now cleared for any potential development - remains empty. Gay Nuttall ended up in Canada.

[1] Bolton Town Centre, A Modern History. Part One: Deansgate, Victoria Square, Churchgate and Surrounding Areas, 1900-1998, by Gordon Readyhough.  Published by Neil Richardson (1998).
[2] What’s Doing, the Greater Manchester beer drinkers’ monthly magazine. November 1982 issue.
[3] What’s Doing, August 1984.
[4] What’s Doing, September 1984.
[5] Bolton News, 12 January 2006. Accessed 10 November 2014. 

Two fliers reproduced here from the Hawthorns Facebook group. At the top, a December 1993 for both Oscar's and Hawthorns reflects the breadth of live music on offer at the two venues. You could often catch two gigs on the same night. Note the John Cooper Clarke gig at Hawthorns on 23 December. JCC had appeared at various folk clubs in Bolton prior to taking on the mantle of 'punk poet' in the late-seventies. He also appeared in the upstairs room at The Gaiety bar (now the Flying Flute) along with Ed Banger in December 1978. By late-'93 he was down on his luck, but a recent surge of interest in his work sees him playing larger venues. Oscar's played host to more 'mature' acts such as The Lost Boys or veteran blues guitarist Victor Brox. The flier below is from March 1994.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Bridgewater Arms, Manchester Road

Bridgewater Arms Manchester Road Bolton

The Bridgewater Arms pictured in 1964 shortly before its closure (image from the Bolton Museums collection, copyright Bolton Council). Manchester Road can be seen in the foreground with the pub and its neighbours set back slightly from the main road. The street running along the side of Worthington’s garage is Starcliffe Street, which still exists, though in a slightly truncated form. Video footage of the area around Gravel Hole and Moses Gate can be seen in this extract from the video, Bygone Bolton.

The Bridgewater Arms was in a part of Bolton named Gravel Hole situated right on the outskirts of Great Lever close to Moses Gate. The pub should not be confused with the Bridgewater Hotel that still stands on Buckley Lane in Farnworth.

Gravel Hole was actually nothing more than a hamlet – a small collection of buildings on the main road from Bolton situated just before the current turn-off down to Little Lever and stretching for a couple of hundred yards along Manchester Road.  The Gravel Hole colliery was situated in the valley below.

In the late-1820s a Mr E Darbyshire opened a bowling green in the Gravel Hole area and that appears to have been one of the catalysts for the opening of two nearby pubs, one of which was the Bridgewater Arms.

William Burton was one of the first landlords in the 1830s and he was succeeded towards the end of that decade by Thomas Tunstall, who moved into the Bridgewater around 1839.

By 1853, John Shaw was the licensee having moved from the other pub at Gravel Hole, the Bradford Arms. The Shaws were in charge for over 20 years with John succeeded by his son, David, when John died in 1865.

The pub was a meeting place for a number of organisations. The trustees of Farnworth Grammar School met at the pub from 1856 to 1861, while the Rising Spring lodge of the Odd Fellows were meeting there in the late-1870s.  [1]

By the 1920s, the Bridgewater had its own bowling green which was situated to the rear of the pub. That remained until the pub closed.

The end for the Bridgewater came in 1966. The Farnworth and Kearsley By-Pass was planned in 1961, permission was granted in 1965 and building began almost immediately. The Bridgewater closed that year and was soon demolished.

The by-pass opened on 21 December 1967. [2]

[1] Online copy of a pamphlet recording the history of Farnworth Grammar School and published to mark the school’s 250th anniversary in 1965.   Accessed 31 October 2014.
[2] Lancashire County Council article written in 2000 giving details of the planning and construction of the Farnworth and Kearsley By-Pass. Accessed 31 October 2014.

The Gravel Hole area pictured in May 2012 (copyright Google Street View). The whole area has changed beyond recognition. The site of the Bridgewater Arms was roughly where the grass is next to the entrance for the road leading to Darcy Lever.

The Gravel Hole area pictured in May 2012 (copyright Google Street View). The whole area has changed beyond recognition. The site of the Bridgewater Arms was roughly where the grass is in the foreground next to the entrance for the road leading to Darcy Lever.