Saturday, 14 February 2015

Borough Arms, 106-108 Higher Bridge Street

Borough Arms Higher Bridge Street Bolton

The Borough Arms. The picture was taken either in the late-twenties or early-thirties after Sharman's were taken over by Shaw's. It is believed that this image and many more like it, were commissioned by the Liverpool brewer Walker Cain who bought out Shaw's soon after their takeover of Sharman's.

The Borough Arms was situated at 106-108 Higher Bridge Street on the corner of China Lane. One theory as to the name is that it was founded when Bolton was incorporated as a county borough in 1838.

The pub was occupied by the Wolfe family from the mid-1850s until the late-1870s. Oliver and Elizabeth Wolfe were previously weavers in Prince Street until they moved to the pub, but Oliver died in 1858 and Elizabeth ran the pub until her death in 1878.

During Elizabeth Wolfe’s tenure the Borough expanded into the premises next door and for the next 120-odd years it maintained a traditional two-roomed set-up: lounge to the left of a central front entrance with the vault to the right.

Local brewer Sharman’s eventually bought the pub. [1] They had moved from Mill Hill to a new brewery in 1872 right next to Mere Hall just a few hundred yards away from the Borough. It became a Shaw’s pub when the Leigh firm bought out Sharman’s in 1926. Shaw’s were in turn bought out by the Liverpool brewery of Walker Cain in 1931. Most people will remember the Borough as a Tetley pub from 1961 onwards after Tetley merged with Walkers.

That part of Higher Bridge Street wasn’t bad for night life in the sixties and seventies. The nearby Palladium cinema – built 1921 – became the Wryton Stadium in 1958 and staged wrestling matches for the next 20 years. The Carlton Ballroom (later a nightclub known variously as Drumbeat, the Blue Lagoon and the Neptune) was just further down so the Borough enjoyed a steady custom from patrons of those venues.

But the changing fortunes of the area affected the Borough. The old streets on the other side of Blackburn Road were cleared away and the pub suffered. There was still live entertainment in the lounge at weekends as late as the eighties with a resident drum/organ duo along with a vocalist. The occasional rock band played there.

The Borough shut in 1997 and remained closed and boarded up for a number of years. It was demolished around 2006 and is now used as a car park for a nearby motor dealer.

The site of the Borough Arms in September 2014 (copyright Google Street View). The site of China Lane - now closed off - can still be seen.

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

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