Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Arkwrights Ale House - Gardeners Arms (Monkeys Nest), Valletts Lane


Shorn of its pub signage, but still a classic example of late-nineteenth century pub architecture, Arkwrights Ale House in late 2014. The pub was awaiting sale as a residential property.

In olden days, a pub given the sign of the name of an occupation would denote that it was often used as a meeting place for workers in that trade. But the increased number of licensed premises when beerhouse licences became freely available after 1830 led to new entrants into the trade and many of those named their pubs after a former profession or after the trade of members of their family.

In 1871, Ralph Southern was a gardener living at number 2 Valletts Buildings, just off Valletts Lane. Ralph was 61 and a widow and he lived with his two sons, William (25), who was also a gardener, and 21-year-old Alfred who was working as a butcher and who, before long, had opened up a meat stall in the Market Hall in town.

Next door to the Southerns, at number 4 Valletts Buildings, was a beerhouse run by one of their relatives, Moses Halliwell, and his family. This enterprise was short-lived, but later in the 1870s, Alfred opened a beerhouse of his own at number 10 Cope Bank, just a bit further up Valletts Lane, and he named it the Gardeners Arms in honour of his father and his brother. Sadly, this venture didn’t work out. In June 1883, Alfred Southern petitioned for bankruptcy at the Bolton County Court with debts estimated at £1300 – a huge sum in those days.

The Gardeners Arms was bought by local brewers Joseph Sharman’s. But as the nineteenth century wore on, the area around Valletts Lane and Cope Bank became more populous and the decision was made to rebuild the pub a little further down from Cope Bank on Valletts Lane  itself, next to a bowling green that the brewery already owned. The new Gardeners Arms opened in 1895.

Sharman’s were taken over by Shaw’s of Leigh in 1927 and like the rest of Shaw’s estate the pub was bought by Walker Cain Ltd in 1931.

The Manchester Archives hold this image of the Gardeners during the Sharman’s era. It has been dated to around 1920 when the landlord would have been Percy Stafford.

The Bolton News published a piece about the pub towards the end of 2014 and they received this response from a Mr Hardman:

"Valletts Lane used to run from Church Road to Ivy Road and off the lane was Horrocks Street and Benson Street. On the other side was a council land fill site.

"The pub was called the Gardeners' Arms and the landlord was a former international football called Donaldson.

"He turned the bowling green into a football pitch for the young of the area, which put the old men's backs up," he says. [1]

This would have been in the 1950s. Alex Donaldson was born in 1890 in Barrhead, East Renfrewshire. An outside forward, he was signed by Bolton Wanderers in 1912 from Scottish minor side Ripley Athletic. He spent nine years at Burnden Park in a career that was interrupted by World War I before leaving for Sunderland in 1921. He subsequently had spells at Manchester City, Chorley and Ashton National and made six international appearances for Scotland, most of those caps earned during his time at Bolton. [2]

After his playing career ended, Mr Donaldson opened a sports shop in Gorton, Manchester, but he eventually went into the licensed trade and ran the Gardeners Arms during the late-forties and early-fifties. He was running the pub in 1951 when his 20-year-old daughter June married a local motor mechanic, Frederick Parkinson and the couple lived at the pub after they wed. Alex Donaldson died in Bolton in 1972.

The layout of the Gardeners was of a classic pub design. The lounge-best rooms were on the left of the entrance while the vault – and its curved bar - was to the right of the entrance.

The pub was nicknamed ‘The Monkey’s Nest’ though the origin of this name isn’t known.

The Gardeners became a Tetley pub when they took over Walkers in 1960. The bowling green was eventually converted into a car park and after another licensee fell into bankruptcy, the Gardeners was sold into the free trade in the mid-1980s. It became Arkwrights Ale House in an attempt to give a typical down-to-earth feel to a traditional pub.

But despite being based in a built-up area, Arkwright’s struggled particularly during its final years. Licensees came and went – there were 11 changes of supervisor between 2005 and 2013. The pub closed in June 2014 and was sold for residential use later that year. Trust Inns, the Chorley company that were its final owners, were looking for just £165,000 for what was a sizeable property.

The property’s Rightmove entry for its 2014 may still be seen here

[1] Bolton News, 21 January 2015. Accessed 27 May 2015. 
[2] Wikipedia entry for Alex Donaldson. Accessed, 27 May 2015.