Saturday, 31 January 2015

Tippings Arms - Bedrock Cafe - Astley's, Blackburn Road

The site of the Tippings Arms in September 2014. The pub knocked into its neighbouring properties many years ago and part of the premises had already been sold off and converted into a taxi office when this image was taken.

The Tippings Arms opened in the 1820s and was named after the Tipping family, local landowners who owned land in the Little Bolton area north of the River Croal. The pub was one of the last buildings in Bolton, at least until Astley Bridge was incorporated into the County Borough of Bolton in 1896. The bridge itself over Astley Brook was just a few yards away up Blackburn Road.

John Grime was an early landlord of the Tippings and he was followed by Humphrey Nightingale and his son John who ran the pub from around 1836 until 1848.

Mr Nightingale was succeeded by Jesse Langshaw, previously a warehouseman in Little Bolton. Jesse had married a Turton girl, Alice Wood, in February 1848 and once they had settled in at the Tippings the couple took the opportunity of the relative stability of life as pub licensees to start a family. In the space of less than two-and-a-half years, Alice gave birth on no fewer than three separate occasions – a girl followed by two boys.

The Langshaws were gone by 1870 and were running a beerhouse further up Blackburn Road.

Later in the nineteenth century, the Tippings was bought by Eden and Thwaites, who since 1770 had owned the Water’s Meeting bleachworks at the bottom of what was then known as Tippinge’s Road (now Water’s Meeting Road).  The deal made commercial sense to Eden and Thwaites who would see their employees trudge up Tippnge’s Road every night into the pub. Buying the Tippings at least ensured that they reclaimed what was perhaps a fair chunk of their employees’ wages.

There was a more munificent side to Eden and Thwaites. When one of the partners, James Eden, died in 1874 he left money for the establishment of a children’s home. The Eden Orphanage stood on  Thorns Road from 1878 to 1951 when it was taken over by the Isis Independent School. It closed in 1966 and most of the buildings were demolished. Pendle Court now stands on the site. [1]

The Thwaites side of the partnership built The Watermillock in the 1880s. After ending its days as a private residence it was an old people’s home for many years before being converted into a restaurant in the 1990s by Banks’s Brewery. It is now a Toby Carvery

Eden and Thwaites eventually sold the Tippings to Threlfalls brewery of Salford. Threlfalls were bought by Whitbread in 1967.  That led to handpumps being pulled out of the pub and Whitbread’s ubiquitous national brand Trophy Bitter being pushed. Local drinkers reported in 1981 that it did, however, sell two of Whitbread’s real ales from time to time: Special Cask Bitter and Dutton’s Best Bitter. [2]

The pub was taken over in the mid-eighties by the same licensees that ran another Whitbread pub, Scandals (formerly the Painter’s Arms) on Crook Street. They renamed it Astley’s and turned it into a kind of disco pub with regular live acts. It did well – at least for a while.

In January 1999, Astley’s was taken over by Willy Richards, described by the Bolton Evening News as “a larger than life character” who had previously run The Jungle (previously Pink Panther) on St George’s Street. Willy renamed Astley’s as the Bedrock CafĂ©, based on a Flintstone’s theme. Opening-night invitations were sent out on slate. There were three bars, two floors and two DJs. [3] When that didn’t work out the pub reverted back to being the Tippings Arms.

The Tippings closed in 2006 and the premises remained empty for a number of years. A taxi office opened in one part of before work began converting the rest of the premises into houses in 2014.

Bridge Inn Tippings Blackburn Road Bolton

The Tippings can be seen in the distance in this 1970s image of Blackburn Road. In the middle distance people are crossing Astley Bridge itself, which at one time marked the Bolton boundary. But in the near distance is the Bridge Inn which was demolished some time after the turn of the millennium. The site of that pub has remained vacant ever since.

[1] Retrieved 31 January 2015. 
[2] What’s Doing, the Greater Manchester Beer Drinkers’ monthly magazinie, July 1981 issue. Retrieved from the Bolton Camra website, 31 January 2015. What’s Doing’s Bolton items from 1975 to 1984 have been collated onto two files (the otherfile can be accessed here). 
[3] Bolton Evening News, 22 January 1999. Retrieved from the Bolton News website, 31 January 2015.


  1. Sorry, but you're wrong about the Bridge pub being demolished in the late 80's. I used to run a ladies aerobics class in an upstairs room there in the mid 90's, my son met his wife in there in 2001 and they were regulars in there for quite some time afterwards.

  2. Thanks for that. I've corrected it. I must admit, I thought it was much earlier.

  3. Just out of curiosity I've been digging about to try to find exactly when the Bridge was demolished but haven't come up with anything as yet. It's certainly only within the last eight years or so though. I know in November 2004 I had my motorbike stolen from the car park of a nearby nursing home and it was found abandoned round the back of the Bridge. The pub had been empty for a while then but was definitely still there and was only demolished some time after that.

    I found your blog by accident while looking for something else, but you've stirred up many memories of pubs I used to go in back in the early 70s, some of which I only knew by their local nicknames. It will be interesting reading through your blog to see if I can find them.

  4. I was only going off my memory and I thought it was much earlier. The Closed Pubs project ( doesn't offer any date.