Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Druids Arms, 5 Back Spring Gardens, Bolton

Druids Arms Back Spring Gardens Bolton pictured in 1908

The Druids Arms pictured in 1908. The chimney of Queens Foundry can just about be seen in the distance.

The Druids Arms on Back Spring Gardens dated as a pub to around the middle of the nineteenth century though the building itself was older. It was a private house belonging to Robert Walsh, a local councillor and staunch teetotaller who was strongly opposed to the sale of any alcohol. However, in 1860 it was bought by John Walsh who then rented it out to William Ainsworth. Ainsworth paid the required 2 guineas to the local licensing authorities to open up a beer house.

Back Spring Gardens now only runs from Ashburner Street to the car park outside Elizabeth House, but in the middle of the nineteenth century both Spring Gardens and Back Spring Gardens ran from Deansgate, at its junction with Howell Croft, to Great Moor Street.

The Druids Arms had a reputation for being one of Bolton’s roughest pubs. In March 1869, James Bridge, a riveter from Liverpool, was found – quite literally – with his hand in the till. The wife of landlord William Ainsworth was passing from the bar parlour into the bar when she saw Bridge lean over the par and put his hand into the till. She caught hold of him and he dropped 6 ½ d (about 3p) in coins. He claimed to be drunk but he was sent to prison for 14 days. [1]

When Bolton’s beerhouses had to re-apply for their licences later that year William Ainsworth was the first to appear in front of the magistrates. Chief Constable Beech called Police Constable Dearden to give evidence against the renewal of the licence. PC Dearden claimed he had seen thieves and prostitutes in the vault of the Druids Arms not once but on many occasions. He could not name any of the thieves, but one of the prostitutes was named Mary Tong. However, he didn’t make any file note of his observations claiming instead that he told magistrates when they undertook a tour of the premises before the hearing. PC Greenhalgh, who often worked in tandem with PC Dearden, said he had seen prostitutes at the Druid Arms, but only in the vault. They were never disorderly and Mr Ainsworth never refused to throw out anyone who was disorderly. But under cross-examination he admitted seeing prostitutes in every vault on Deansgate and Bradshawgate. The magistrates granted Mr Ainsworth his licence. [2]

By 1876, William Ainsworth was at the Derby Hotel on Chorley Street and Mark Wilcox was at the Druids Arms. Mr Wilcox was a former stonemason who moved into the pub trade the previous year. His wife was a member of the Walsh family who owned the building. The Wilcoxes lasted about a decade and were succeeded by an Irishman, John O’Connor, along with his Bolton-born wife Catherine. John was a former labourer from Blackhorse Street. They were in turn succeeded by Sarah Mason who moved from the Anglers Home on nearby Queen Street.

In June 1908, a customer at the Druids Arms was the subject of a robbery. William Mather, a collier from Tyldesley left the pub and met Mary Briggs. As they walked along Barn Street – the small thoroughfare that still runs from Queen Street to Blackhorse Street to the rear of the job centre – they were met by two men, John William Rigby and Bernard Colgan. Mather had shown Briggs a half-crown coin plus 2 shillings and 6 pence in change - 5 shillings in total and the equivalent of around £25 today. Rigby and Colgan asked Mather if he had any money. Briggs shouted that he had plenty and the two men set about Mather.  Mather shouted for help and the police and two members of the public arrived. Rigby, Colgan and Briggs were arrested and although the half-crown coin was missing they were charged with the theft of 2 shillings and 6 pence. All three were found guilty at Manchester Assizes. Briggs and Rigby were both sent to jail for 12 months. Colgan was sent to six months in jail but in addition he was given 12 strokes of the ‘cat-o’-nine-tails’. [3]

The Druids Arms was owned by J Atkinson and Sons’ Commission Street brewery in the 1890s. By 1910, when it closed down, it was owned by the Cornbook Brewery of Manchester. The building became a private residence before being demolished in the late-1920s. The Civic Centre was built on the site and the bottom end of Back Spring Gardens contained the building which, for many years, was the central police station.

[1] Bolton Evening News, 25 March 1869.
[2] Bolton Evening News, 1 September 1869.
[3] Manchester Courier, 4 July 1908.

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