The Peels Arms was one of the early beerhouses on Sidney Street, which at the time connected Bridgeman Street with Lever Street. William Grime was the licensee, according to the 1853 Directory and it seems that he was the pub’s founder.
Grime is listed in the 1841 Bolton Census as a resident of Sidney Street, one of many hand weavers that lived in that street. But it seems he had grander ideas and he turned number 30 Sidney Street into a beer house, the Peels Arms, which also sold general provisions.
William Grime got lucky. In 1884, George Hodgkinson and Sons’ built Hilton Mills. While the mill fronted onto Bridgeman Street it employed many of the weavers from Sidney Street that provided the Peels with much of its custom – and the pub and its attached shop was right outside the mill.
Grime brewed his own beer - he was listed as a brewer in the 1871 Worrall’s Bolton Directory – and the pub must have been a little goldmine, at least for a while. But unfortunately, Hilton Mills was destroyed by fire in 1892 with damage estimated at £30,000. But even then, the land was redeveloped for housing.
Magees took over the Peels and were the pub’s owners in 1962. By that time the brewery had been taken over by Greenall Whitley and there was the review of the tied estate that inevitably accompanies such a takeover. The area between Bridgeman Street and Lever Street was earmarked for redevelopment and a number of streets had already been demolished.
At the same time, Magees – or Greenalls – were pressing ahead with a new pub, the Morris Dancers on Sapling Road. Whereas the Peels was in a predominantly working-class and over-pubbed area, the Morris Dancers was in a more affluent area which had only recently gained its first pub, the Prince Rupert.
The brewery did a deal. They surrendered the licences of the Peels and the nearby Oliver Cromwell – two beerhouses – and obtained a full public house licence for the Morris Dancers.
Sidney Street seen at its junction with Cochrane Street. The street ends at that point but beyond the factory gates in the foreground the old street can still be seen. The Peels was situated in the distance, on the left-hand side, not far from the junction with Bridgeman Street.