The Prince Arthur Hotel pictured in the 1920s shortly after Tong’s had been taken over by Walker Cain Ltd of Liverpool. It was a sizeable building and may have been two or three properties knocked into one. The pub was on the corner St John Street and Pen Street and the latter street can be seen to the side of the pub. Like a number of pubs it also had a counter for the sale of beer to be consumed off the premises.
Updated on 10 October 2016 to include more on Robert Wood and the pub’s brewery.
The Prince Arthur was a beerhouse situated on St John Street, which was just off Higher Bridge Street. Egyptian Street, which still exists, was the next street along and the two streets converged as Bridge Street. St John Street ran off the main road at an angle as far as Pen Street. At the junction with Pen Street stood the Prince Arthur.
The pub began in the 1860s when Robert Wood, who was previously the licensee of the Cross Keys on Cross Street and who had also run the Rising Sun on Churchbank near the parish church, moved into the premises along with his wife Catherine. Wood was a weaver by trade, but Catherine’s family were publicans. Her father, John Holgate, was the landlord of the Farmers Arms on Bridgeman Street when the couple married in 1856.
Many pubs brewed their own beer and sold only their own draught ales on the premises. But there was an increasing demand for what was known at the time as a ‘common brewer’. That was a brewery that sold beer to pubs who didn’t have their own brewery.
The Prince Arthur was in heavily-pubbed part of Bolton as beerhouses sprang up all over the rows of terraced houses that were being built between Higher Bridge Street and Halliwell Road. Robert Wood began to build up the brewing side of the business and was soon supplying other pubs in the area. It was a competitive market. Joseph Sharman had just built his Mere Hall Brewery while John Halliwell had the same idea as Robert Wood and was supplying pubs from the Alexandra Hotel just a hundred yards or so away from the Prince Arthur on Stewart Street.
Even so, there is evidence that Robert Wood was very successful as a brewer. The 1871 Census shows him and his family living on the premises. The Bolton Directory of 1876 shows Robert living nearby at 83 Hampden Street – so the business was profitable enough for him not to have to live on the premises. But by 1881 Robert Wood was going up in the world. Aged 50 he was living in Victoria House on Markland Hill not far from the Victoria Hotel (“Fanny’s”) which still stands. Ten years later and Robert had obviously retired. He was living on Raikes Parade in Blackpool where he died on 29 March 1895.
A measure of Robert’s success can be seen in his will. He left a fortune valued at £18,000 – the equivalent of over £2million in today’s money – from a 30-year career in brewing.
Robert Wood was succeeded in the business by Catherine and their sons, Thomas and John. Charles Holgate, who was born to Catherine out of wedlock in 1852, was also a partner in the business.
At the end of 1909, Charles Holgate retired from the business but the Woods continued as a partnership. He died in 1920 and was living at 71 Hampden Street at the time.
Catherine Wood died at the end of 1914 at the age of 84 and the following year the Woods converted their business partnership into a limited company.
By this time the Prince Arthur brewery was not only supplying its own pub but also a small tied estate. This included the Little John, which still stands on Lever Street, as well as the Mortfield Tavern on Gaskell Street , the Caledonian on Lyon Street , the Kings Arms on Chorley Old Road, the Noble Street Tavern on Noble Street, the Prince Hotel on Thwaites Street, the Standard Hotel on Gray Street and the Fountain Inn on Nelson Street. Most were reasonably close to the brewery with the Prince Hotel being just a few yards away.
But the first world war was under way and trade was tough. Small brewers such as Wood’s found it difficult to continue in business as even the basic raw materials for brewing became more and more difficult to get hold of.
The Woods packed in brewing at the Prince Arthur in 1917. The pub was sold to a larger local concern, William Tong’s, who were in turn taken over by Walker Cain Ltd of Liverpool in 1923. Walker’s merged with Joshua Tetley Ltd of Leeds in 1960 to form Tetley Walker Ltd and it was a Tetley pub that the Prince Arthur ended its days in the early seventies.
Nothing remains today of St John Street and only very little remains of Egyptian Street. The site of the Prince Arthur is covered by part of the playing fields surrounding St Matthews primary school.