Saturday, 5 December 2015

Sir Charles Napier, 30 Moor Lane, Bolton

Sir Charles Napier 30 Moor Lane Bolton pictured in the 1920s

The Sir Charles Napier pictured around 1929 shortly after it became part of the tied estate of George Shaw and Sons of Leigh.

The Sir Charles Napier existed as a pub from the 1850s until 1939. It was one of a large number of pubs that existed on Moor Lane until 1869 when licensing magistrates managed to get a number of them closed down.

The pub was named after General Sir Charles Napier, the commander-in-chief of the British Army in India in the 1840. Napier was a man of contradictions. He once pointed out: “War is detestable and not to be desired by a nation. It falls not so heavily upon soldiers – it is our calling; but its horrors alight upon the poor, upon the miserable, upon the unhappy, upon those who feel the expense and the suffering, but have not the glory.” However, he also said: “The best way to quiet a country is a good thrashing, followed by great kindness afterwards. Even the wildest chaps are thus tamed.”

James Nightingale was the licensee at the time of the 1869 crackdown, but he was the latest in a string of licensees who came and went from the pub in a short space of time. William Morris is listed on the 1869 Bolton Directory, but by the early part of 1871 he had been replaced by James Wardle.

Mr Wardle was hauled above the judge in July 1869 for an infringement of his licence with regards to opening hours. Those who remember the days before licensing laws were liberalised in 2005 will hark back to a time when an infringement of opening hours usually meant a few late-night drinks. But while late hours were legal in 1869, Sunday morning opening was frowned upon and the police were active in the town seeking pubs serving patrons when those patrons ought to be at church. On Sunday 18 July 1869 they caught three pubs open. The Rising Sun on Churchbank was serving at 8.30am, but when the case came to court there was a doubt in the case against the landlord and it was discharged. But there was no such luck for Betty Bee of the Three Tuns on Moor Lane, nor for James Wardle of the Sir Charles Napier who was found to be open at 10.15am. Who would want a drink at ten o’clock on a Sunday morning? Well, it was the only day off work for most people. James Wardle was fined 5 shillings plus costs and he left the Sir Charles Napier soon afterwards. [1]

James Wardle was succeeded by James Nightingale, formerly the landlord of the Sir John Falstaff on Blackhorse Street. Mr Nightingale’s first task was to get the pub through the licensing session of September 1869. A recent change in the law meant all beerhouses had to re-apply for their licences so he took the precaution of getting up a petition from his neighbours attesting to his good behaviour. The pub got through and its licence was renewed. [2]

It’s a good job that James Nightingale didn’t have to apply a few weeks later. He was back in court in October 1869 charged with having assaulted Emily Cooper. The complainant lived in a house owned by James Nightingale and she came to the Sir Charles Napier to hand back the key as she was leaving the house. James Nightingale’s wife demanded that the house was cleaned first and she attacked Miss Cooper. On hearing the commotion James ran into the room and smashed a pint pot over Miss Cooper’s head. She claimed that the blood almost blinded her and when she went to have the wound dressed a piece of the pint pot covered in blood was found in the bosom of her dress. [3]

Mr Nightingale was found guilty, but what seems shocking some 150 years later is his punishment. For an assault that involved smashing a pint pot over a female’s head he was fined just 5 shillings – the same penalty meted out to James Wardle for opening on a Sunday morning a few months earlier! It seems that justice was dependent not on the severity of the crime, nor of the person committing the crime, but on the social class of the defendant, and there was a difference between the property-owning Mr Nightingale and his lowly tenant Miss Cooper.

James Nightingale left the pub business later in the 1870s. By 1881 he was a quarrymaster at Horrocks Fold. James Caldwell was at the Sir Charles Napier by 1876.

Sharmans eventually bought the pub and it became a Shaw’s pub when they took over Sharman’s in 1928. It ended its days as a Walker’s pub after they bought Shaw’s in 1931. The Sir Charles Napier closed in 1939.

[1] Bolton Evening News, 22 July 1869
[2] Bolton Evening News, 16 September 1869
[3] Bolton Evening News, 7 October 1869.

The picture below shows 30 Moor Lane in August 2015 when it is Crompton’s Furnishings having been Derek’s Carpets for a number of years. We’re not sure if it is the same building. The roof certainly looks different but it is a three-storey building next to a two-storey. If it was demolished then it would have been in the forties or early-fifties as the current building appears on maps from the 50s. (Image copyright Google Street View)

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