|This access road running off Deane Road between the STEM Centre on the right and the University Of Bolton's Motor Engineering Centre on the left is all that is left of Wareing Street. The original houses in the area were demolished in the 1960s and replaced by council housing. These were demolished in 2010 when plans were revealed for the conversion of the whole area into Bolton's education quarter.|
The Rushton Arms was a typical back-street pub the likes of which have largely died out. It was situated at 28 Wareing Street (sometimes spelled Waring Street) off Deane Road.
Pubs were often named after prominent figures, whether they may be national or local, and it is likely that the Rushton Arms was named after Thomas Lever Rushton, a prominent town councillor. Rushton represented Exchange Ward from 1846 to 1852 and from 1868 to 1874. He was then an Alderman for the ward from 1874 to 1883. Rushton was a solicitor by profession but he also founded the firm of Rushton and Eckersley, an iron forging business whose works occupied land that was later the site of Moor Lane bus station. However, he is best remembered for instigating the construction of the Market Hall which opened in December 1855. That perhaps gives us a clue as to the age of the pub that bore his name.
The Rushton Arms opened in the middle of the 19th century and the first reference we have is in 1857 when landlord John Smith was up in front of the court accused of having his pub open at twenty to eight on a Sunday morning. Police claimed they had seen six or eight men wait at a side window at the pub and after waiting a short while they were given entry. When the police officers went up to the window a woman shook her head at them but they were given entry anyway. However, no beer was noticed when they entered the pub. The court heard from Jane Askew, John Smith's sister, who had been staying with him for the past three weeks. She claimed to have been cleaning the pub and opened the door to let in some fresh air. Six or eight men walked in but she refused to serve them. They then asked for their wedding glasses (Smith had got married during the week). Smith came downstairs and told them to return at opening time. They then left. Jane Askew then claimed that when she saw the two policemen she shook her head as she did not know them. She also claimed that one of the policemen went round to the back of the pub, let himself in, then let in the other policemen by the front door. The magistrates admitted that there was some doubt in the case and dismissed the charges. [Bolton Chronicle, 18 July 1857].
Smith had left the Rushton Arms by the time of the 1861 census. The pub was occupied at that time by John Cooling along with his wife and a lodger. Later in the 1860s, Thomas Blackley moved in. A former iron moulder he was there until his death in 1879.
A notice appeared in the Bolton Evening News of 24 February 1902 offering the Rushton Arms for sale. At that time the owner of the building had an agreement with the Manchester brewery of J. G. Swales and Co Ltd who leased the pub and installed tenants*. However, the lease was due to expire the following month and the owner of the building decided to sell up. It was stated in the ad that the pub had been under the same ownership for almost half a century. Properties numbered 49, 51, 53, 55 and 57 Wellington Street were also included in the sale. Although all the properties were nominally in separate streets they were effectively one block of buildings. The Rushton Arms' front was in Wareing Street but it was actually the side of the block. The ad describes the pub as a substantial three-storey building that had obviously been built as licensed premises:
“The house has frontages of 41ft 6in and 28ft respectively, is of lofty elevation, good appearance and condition, well fixtured, prominently situated in favourable business position and contains centre lobby, Bar and Vault, Tap Room, Kitchen, Scullery, Assembly Room, six bedrooms, two Landings, five Cellars, Brewhouse, Yard and conveniences and is free from reproach. Apportioned chief rent £3 15s 0d, Contents of site 316 square yards.”
The pub was bought by the firm of J. Hamer who were based at the Volunteer Inn, Bromley Cross. Hamer's were in the process of expanding their tied estate and were always on the lookout for pubs. Their only other outlet in the area was an off-licence in nearby Ellesmere Street.
Hamer's ownership of the Rushton Arms was only brief. In 1913 the licensing justices referred six houses to the compensation authority on the grounds that the pubs were no longer needed and all six closed down later that year. The Rushton had the Corporation Tavern as a neighbour just a back street away along with a whole host of pubs along Deane Road.
The other pubs closed down at that time were the Harp Tavern on Moor Lane, the Foresters Arms on Blackburn Road, the Black Lion on Turton Street, the Phoenix Tavern on Phoenix Street, and the Mount Pleasant Inn on Mill Street.
* Swales supplied a small number of pubs in Bolton. Some of our senior drinkers may remember their products from the Prince William on Bradshawgate or the Lodge Bank Tavern on Bridgeman Street. The brewery and its 38 pubs was bought by Boddington's in 1970.
Sunday, 29 November 2020
Saturday, 28 November 2020
|The Town Hall Tavern pictured shortly before it closed in 1925. At that time it was owned by the Bromley Cross brewery, Hamer's. After the pub closed licensee William Cole went on to run the Cheetham Arms at Dunscar. Pic: Bolton Library and Museum Service.|
The Town Hall Tavern stood on Howell Croft on land that was to become part of Bolton's civic centre. The pub isn't to be confused with the Town Hall Hotel which stood not too far away on Old Hall Street.
In 1861 George Cooper and his wife Sarah were living at the premises. George was described at that time as provision dealer so it is likely that at some stage during the 1860s he decided to sell beer as well as provisions. One reason could have been the construction of the new Bolton Town Hall just across the road from George's premises. Construction began in 1866 and the new building opened in 1873. In the meantime beer became George's main line of business and the beerhouse became known as the Town Hall Tavern.
In 1875 George Cooper decided to apply for a licence to sell foreign wines. Pubs tended to be either beerhouses or they had full licences which enabled them to sell wines and spirits, but a small number of pubs sold just wine as well as beer. By the 1870s it had become more and more difficult for beerhouses to sell anything other than beer and licences to sell spirits and/or wine had become difficult to get come by. Cooper applied at the annual licensing hearing, the Brewster Sessions – one of 13 beerhouses applying for licences to sell products other than beer. All were refused by the magistrates.
George Cooper died aged 51 later that year and his widow Sarah took over the Town Hall Tavern. Mrs Cooper applied once more for a licence to sell wine at the 1880 Brewster Sessions. She stated that people often came to her house after watching concerts at the Town Hall and they wanted something to drink other than beer. Once again all applications were rejected by the magistrates.
In January 1882 there was an outbreak of smallpox at a lodging house on Howell Croft a few doors away. The inspector in charge of the case, George Southern, visited the Town Hall Tavern and warned Mrs Cooper not to allow anyone from the lodging house to enter the pub. She pointed out one man from the lodging house and police told him to leave and go home. He was also warned not to go into the Town Hall Tavern again. He replied he would not as he had quarrelled with Mrs Cooper. The following day Inspector Southern met up with the man at Wood Street and walked him to the workhouse which was situated on land now occupied by the Royal Bolton Hospital.
The Town Hall Tavern was bought by local brewer Magee Marshall but was later sold by Magee's to another local firm, J Hamer, based at the Volunteer Inn, Bromley Cross.
The building of Bolton Town Hall was the beginning of the Town Hall Tavern as licenced premises in the 1860s. However, the need for more local government offices was to mark its end. Bolton Council earmarked land on Howell Croft and Victoria Square for the construction of a new civic centre. The Town Hall Tavern was bought by the council in 1925 and demolished soon afterwards.
Friday, 20 November 2020
|The Higher Bridge Street branch of Aldi. The Ploughboy once stood at the edge of the car park.|
The Ploughboy was situated at 97 Higher Bridge Street, close to the junction with Prince Street.
The building was only a pub for about 20 years until its closure in 1870. It was owned by George Holden who decided to move to the another beerhouse, the Old Cottage – more commonly known as the Quiet Woman - on what is now Bradford Street in 1870. At a hearing, Holden found the transfer objected to by the town's chief constable, Thomas Beech, who claimed Holden was fined 2 shillings and 6 pence for a breach of his licence about 20 years previously. Holden stated that he had never been fined in his life. Chief Constable Beech referred to the court's fines book which stated that George Holden, the Letters, Higher Bridge Street had been fined. Holden replied that his house was known as the Ploughboy and never “the Letters”. The magistrates admitted that perhaps there was another George Holden and sanctioned the transfer. [Bolton Chronicle, 4 June 1870]
The court then turned to the transfer of the licence of the Ploughboy from George Holden to his son, George Holden junior. One of the magistrates, Councillor Richard Stockdale, pointed to George junior and asked his father if “that lad” would be taking charge of the pub. Holden senior replied that he would to which Councillor Stockdale responding by asking how old he was. “Twenty-one in January” replied George senior adding that his son would only be in charge for another four months. Chief Constable Beech stated that as the pub would virtually be under the control of the father he had no objections to the transfer.
So why four months? The Ploughboy was situated right next to Dobson and Barlow's mill. The firm wanted to expand the mill and wished to purchase properties on Higher Bridge Street to facilitate the expansion. The Ploughboy was bought and closed in the autumn of 1870 and it was subsequently demolished.
George Holden's time at the Old Cottage was brief. The 1871 census has him living on Waterloo Street describing him as “a beerseller out of business”.
Dobson and Barlow's later became Osman Textiles. That closed in the early-nineties, The mill was demolished and an Aldi store was built on the site in 1993.
Thursday, 19 November 2020
|What was once Hulme Street is now a continuation of Cross Street. The Standard Arms would have been situated on the left of the photo. Photo taken 2014. Copyright Google.|
There were two pubs in Bolton called the Standard. The Standard Hotel stood on Gray Street, just off Prince Street. We're interested in the Standard Arms which was situated on Hulme Street, close to its junction with Dean Street.
The area bounded by Folds Road, Prince Street and Kay Street was built up in the middle of the nineteenth century and with new housing developments came the beerhouses. Like many beerhouses at the time, the Standard Arms only became licensed when a householder paid 2 guineas (£2.10) to allow himself to sell beer.
The first record we have of the Standard Arms is in the 1869 Bolton Directory when David Hilton was the licensee. Hilton actually stepped down from the pub for a short while and the 1871 directory has a Solomon Hilton – presumably a relative – as the licensee. Local directories were often compiled the previous year and in January 1871 David Hilton was back as the licensee. The Bolton Beer And Wine Sellers Association held their quarterly meeting at the Standard Arms that month. [Bolton Evening News, 12 January 1871].
Solomon Hilton went off to be a clogger working from shop premises in Folds Road. By 1881 he was living in Chew Moor. David Hilton later moved to the Middleton Arms, not far away from the Standard Arms, on Charles Street. He died in 1882.
By 1882 the pub was owned by the Spread Eagle Brewery based at the Spread Eagle pub on Hough Lane in Eagley.
In 1901, landlord John Murphy was brought up in front of the magistrates on the charge of serving alcohol to a drunk. Two police officers went into the pub one night and saw a man named John McCormick who was seated in the vault in a drunken condition. In those days not all vaults had tables and it was common for customers to sit on benches and leave their drinks on the bar counter. McCormick went to the counter and picked up a pint pot containing beer and when challenged by the landlord insisted he had paid for it. One of the police officers suggested to Murphy that McCormick was drunk, something Murphy denied. McCormick was then asked to go outside. He staggered out and created such a commotion with the two policemen that he had to be taken to the town hall to be locked up. He was later fined for being drunk and disorderly. Both Murphy and his wife denied serving McCormick claiming that neither of them had even seen him enter the pub. The magistrates were having none of it and fined Murphy 10 shillings although they decided not to endorse his licence. [Bolton Evening News, 18 April 1901]
In 1908, landlady Mary Ann Walsh was the victim of a scam involving a 54-year-old man named Thomas Harvey Williams who entered the pub one day and asked to cash a cheque. He claimed to be a local councillor and that as he wasn't well enough to go to a bank he would like to cash a cheque for £2 and 5 shillings (£2.25) – the equivalent now of about £270. When Mrs Walsh came to cash the cheque it in her bank account it bounced. Williams was also charged with carrying out a similar fraud against the landlord of the Waggon and Horses, Bury Old Road, Heywood and against shopkeepers Mr Alston of Bridge Street and Mr Hornby of Higher Bridge Street. Williams was sentenced to four months in prison with hard labour. Since the offences had been committed he had spent three months in jail for another matter. He had been in and out of jail for much of his life albeit on minor offences. [Bolton Evening News, 13 January 1909].
The Standard Arms closed in 1911.The area around Hulme Street was knocked down in the sixties and new housing built on the site of the Standard Arms in the nineties. The stretch of Hulme Street where the pub once stood still exists but is completely unrecognisable from the early part of the twentieth century. It is now a continuation of Cross Street.
Monday, 16 November 2020
|Folds Road pictured in 2012 (copyright Google). Benchmark House in the foreground marks the site of the Folds Road Independent Methodist Church. To the rear is Regent House. The site of the Same Place Again beerhouse is at the back of Regent House.|
The Folds Road Independent Methodist Church was opened in April 1823 on land once occupied by the bowling green of the Three Tuns pub on Chapel Street. A small street ran down the side of the church in the direction of the River Croal and it was named Independent Street in honour of the church. By 1825 small cottages were being built along the street down to its junction with Green Street. Two of these cottages were later to become the Same Place Again beerhouse.
The first evidence we have of the pub is an entry in the 1869 Bolton Directory which shows Edwin Smethurst as the licensee. Born in 1839, Smethurst was working as a warehouseman on the other side of the River Croal in Great Bolton when he married Sarah Worthington in 1862. How he got into the pub business isn't known but his father-in-law Henry Worthington was a brewer and given that most pubs brewed their own beer that may have overcome one barrier to setting up in business. Edwin Smethurst left the Same Place Again in March 1870. He later moved to Noble Street, off Derby Street, and he died in Farnworth in 1921 at the age of 81.
The next licensee was John Horrobin but by November 1870 the pub was being run by Ellis Marshall. Ellis's brother was Daniel Marshall who ran the nearby Grapes Hotel pub and brewery as well as the Horse Shoe Brewery on Water Street, again not too far away. Marshall was a brewer – he was later a co-founder of Magee, Marshall's in 1885 – and it is likely that he bought the pub and put Ellis in charge. An 1883 licence transfer shows that Marshall had to install himself as licensee following the death of the incumbent Mr Valentine before it could be transferred to R.J. Brundett. It was common for breweries to install a manager or proprietor as a stop-gap licensee to enable a pub to continue trading.
In 1903 the licence of the Same Place Again changed twice. This was an indication of just how competitive the market was. The following year magistrates tried to close down the pub. At that time there was a purge of pubs where the rateable value was less than £15 a year. At the annual licensing session it was claimed that the Same Place Again ought to close because the rateable value was only £14 10 shillings (£14.50). There is a brief description of the pub in the Bolton Evening News' report of the hearing printed in their edition of 1 March 1904.
“The premises were formerly two cottages, and one doorway had been bricked up. The sanitary condition was moderate.”
It seems the valuers were trying to reduce the rateable value on the grounds that one half of the premises had once been a house. The rateable value of a residential property was lower than that of a commercial property. Mr Byrne, who represented owners Magee, Marshall, argued the case for the pub claiming it wasn't fair to value a property on the basis of adjoining premises. The landlord had spent £60 on improvements. He also brought in two surveyors both of whom insisted that the rateable value was in excess of £17.
The Same Place Again survived on this occasion but its luck ran out when there was another objection two years later. At the annual licensing sessions of 1906 the chief constable of the borough objected to the renewal of 11 licences on the grounds that they were “undesirable in the public interest”. Magistrates heard that a manager was now in charge of the pub and that weekly sales were just three-and-a-half barrels of beer plus a quarter of a barrel of stout. An indication of the competition in this part of Bolton was that Detective Inspector Smith, representing the chief constable, claimed there were nine fully-licenced public houses, 11 beer houses and one off-licence all within 200 yards.[Bolton Evening News 7 February 1906]. Three months later the closure of the Same Place Again was confirmed along with eight of the other ten licenses objected to. [Bolton Evening News, 9 May 1906]. The two that escaped were the Old Cock on Green Street which lasted until 1935, and the Weavers Arms on Brunel Street which still exists today and is popularly known as 'The Mop'.
All that remained now was the level of compensation payable to Magee, Marshall as owners of the pub. They put in a claim for £1050 but the magistrates offered only £700. At a hearing of the Compensation Committee early the following year Magees indicated they would accept £800. [Bolton Evening News, 9 January 1907]. Some reports have suggested that the level of compensation was £700 [Manchester Courier, 10 January 1907].
The Same Place Again became a boarding house and was run by Patrick Gorman according to the 1924 directory.
Much of the area between Folds Road and the River Croal was cleared in the late-sixties for the construction of St Peters Way. For many years the area that was once occupied by Independent Street formed part of the Folds Road car park. However, in 2005 the Vinden Partnership was given planning permission to build two office buildings on the site of the car park. The site of the Same Place Again is now occupied by Regent House.
Friday, 13 November 2020
|The Nelson photographed in 1972.|
The Nelson was built in 1861 on the corner of Chorley Old Road and Gaskell Street by a man named Philip Howarth. A joiner by trade Howarth was for many years the licensee of the Elephant and Castle on Kay Street.
The premises were a beerhouse but Howarth applied for a full licence at the first opportunity. His chance came at the annual licensing session held in August 1862. A successful application would mean he was able to sell wine and spirits as well as beer, but Howarth was one of 17 applicants. At the hearing he stated the Nelson had been built with the intention of it becoming a public house rather than just a beerhouse. He pointed out that many mills had opened in that part of Chorley Old Road and a large number of houses had been constructed in the area. However, the magistrates rejected Howarth's application along with the other 16. (Bolton Chronicle, 30 August 1862). The Nelson would have to wait another 99 years before obtaining a full licence.
Philip Howarth died in October 1862 aged 56 and the pub passed to his wife Charlotte whom he had married in 1858, but by 1875 the pub was being run by John Leather.
Matters at those new mills didn't always run smoothly. In September 1877 there was a strike amongst the cotton workers of Bolton. A number of trade unions used pubs to pay strike money to people out of work. The Nelson Hotel was one of those used by the Self-Actor Minders Association. Other pubs used by the association to pay out strike money in the dispute were the Cross Guns at Deane, the Cotton Tree on Lever Street, the Park at Moses Gate, the Derby Arms on Churchgate and the Pack Horse at Astley Bridge. Strike pay was 10 shillings a week plus an extra shilling per child.
In the early days of the Nelson, before the construction of houses around Gaskell Street, there was a cricket ground attached to the pub. The Bolton Chronicle of 22 August 1863 reported that players used to meet in the Nelson before matches and that the pub was used as an unofficial clubhouse. It was common for players to turn up at the pub before the game for a drink and then leave their belongings inside before going off to play. However, the paper reported that two young men, Joseph Bradley of Halliwell and Alfred Stones of Chorley Street, were charged with stealing a waistcoat, a return railway ticket, an ancient coin and a silver pencil case, the property of Mr Frederick Topp, a cotton spinner from Farnworth. The pub's landlady, Mrs Charlotte Howarth, challenged the men about the waistcoat when Mr Topp returned to the pub at the end of the game. Bradley produced it from beneath his coat claiming it had been taken for “a lark”. Both he and Stones were apprehended by the police on the Monday following the match and they were kept in custody until the hearing three days later. The Mayor, who was presiding over the bench, discharged the men stating that the degradation they had suffered from being locked up before the hearing ought to be enough punishment.
Cricket wasn't the only sport featured at the Nelson. In the 1890s Bolton Harriers frequently began their cross-country runs from the pub.
By 1880 the Nelson was owned by a local brewer, Joseph Sharman. A native of Derbyshire, Sharman began brewing at the Crompton's Monument at Mill Hill, a pub owned by his aunt, before building the Mere Hall Brewery, a few hundred yards away from the Nelson, in 1874. In 1880, Sharman converted his business from that of a sole trader into a limited company and the Nelson was one of the original 10 pubs. As part of the transition Sharman received £25,000 in cash – the equivalent of over £3 million in 2019. He lived at the Hollies, just a few yards away from the Nelson on Chorley Old Road on the site of what is now Gaskells Nursery, so the Nelson was effectively his local pub. Sharman lived at The Hollies until his death in 1916.
Sharman's grew to become a sizeable enterprise with 58 pubs and 25 off-licences but the business was bought out by the Leigh brewery of George Shaw & Son in 1927. Sharman's brewery was closed and the Nelson was a Shaw's pub for three years until 1930 when the brewery was taken over by Peter Walker and Robert Cain Ltd of Liverpool and Warrington. Walker Cain, as it became in 1946, merged with Joshua Tetley & Son Ltd of Leeds in 1960 to become Tetley Walker. It was as a Tetley pub that many older readers will remember the Nelson. Finally, in 1961, it was granted a spirits licence when a raft of Bolton pubs successfully applied for full licences.
The Bolton branch of the Campaign For Real Ale published a list of all the town's pubs in 1982. At that time the Nelson was a keg-beer Tetley pub. Indeed, it was never one for the real ale purist. However, the pub's interior was a classic design of lounge on the right of the front entrance and a vault to the left that could be reached by a separate entrance in Gaskell Street. That vault later became a pool room.
Tetley's gradually got out of the pub trade during the nineties. The Nelson was one of a small number of pubs that ended up in the hands of an individual rather than a pub group. It became notable for distinctive bright blue shutters both upstairs as well as downstairs which suggested that the licensee didn't live on the premises. However, opening times became sporadic and WhatPub's suggestion that the Nelson closed in April 2019 appears to be an estimate albeit a fairly accurate one.
In August 2020 planning permission was granted to convert the pub into flats.
Monday, 5 October 2020
|The Alma pictured on 29 September 2020|
On 8 September 2020, the Alma Inn released a statement announcing that the club would not re-open following a brief period of closure. It had last traded four days earlier but closed for a deep clean after a member of staff tested positive for Covid-19. Just hours before the pub announced that it had closed all Bolton pubs were given notice to shut that day because of spiralling coronavirus infection rates on the town. They were to remain closed for another 24 days. The Alma's licensee was given 14 days to quit by the pub's owner Marston's brewery and with no prospect of the local lockdown being lifted in Bolton at that time it looked as though it had closed for the final time.
The Alma dated back to around the mid-1850s. The first record we have is in 1856 when Aaron Crankshaw is charged with selling beer at unlawful hours. In this case it was at 2.15 on a Sunday morning. Police saw five men coming out of the door and three others were inside. Crankshaw claimed the first five were cabmen while the other three were friends of his and weren't drinking. Magistrates found him guilty and he was fined 10 shillings (50p). [Bolton Chronicle, 9 February 1856]
Crankshaw was the founder of the Alma and he hadn't been at the pub very long at the time of his conviction. Born in 1809, he was described on the 1851 census as a 'whitster' living on the other side of the River Croal in Little Bolton. However, he also worked as a piano tuner and in 1853 he was the organist at St Peters's church in Halliwell. The following year sees him at the Baths Tavern on Lower Bridgeman Street but he moved to what was to become the Alma around 1855.
In the 19th century it was common for pubs to be named after military figures or great patriotic events. The Battle Of The Alma was fought in September 1854 during the Crimean War. An expeditionary force of British, French and Egyptian troops defeated Russian forces defending the Crimean peninsula at the Alma river. The victory was commemorated by naming pubs the Alma and a number still carry the name. The British named settlements in New Zealand and in Canada after the battle while the French named a new crossing of the Seine in Paris the Ponte d'Alma. The allies' victory was commemorated for some years afterwards. In September 1855, the first anniversary of the battle was celebrated at The Haulgh by the firing of cannon and the burning of effigies of Russian diplomat Prince Gorchakov and his wife at the Anchor on Eagle Street.
Aaron Crankshaw named his new pub the Alma. However, his tenure wasn't a long one. By 1861 he was a bookkeeper at 137 Blackburn Road although an advertisement from 1886 shows that he was now the landlord of the nearby Rifle and Volunteers, a pub owned by his family. He was also the secretary at that time of the Halliwell Football Club.
Perhaps the reason for Aaron Crankshaw's departure from the Alma was that the pub was struggling. By 1860 it was in the hands of James Pollitt who had a second job as a labourer at the Union Foundry. In February of that year he was involved in an accident at the foundry when a large cylinder fell and hit him in the eye. He was taken to the infirmary and treated by the house surgeon but was sent home the same day despite being not yet out of danger. [Bolton Chronicle, 11 February 1860].
Worse was to follow for Pollitt. In July 1860 he and his daughter Harriet were up in court over the serving of beer after hours. Police claimed Miss Pollitt was seen one Sunday morning serving a quart of beer to an old man who took the beer home. She swore in court that it wasn't her, but her father was found guilty of allowing beer to be served at prohibited hours and Harriet was then charged with perjury. Her father had to bail her out to the tune of £20 although there are no reports as to Harriet's fate when the case finally came to court. [Bolton Chronicle, 7 July 1860]
The Pollitts left soon afterwards and were succeeded by Robert Walkden who remained at the Alma until his death in 1864 at the age of 61. Under his guidance the pub became a meeting place for branches of the Ancient Noble Order of Oddfellows. Walkden had previously been the keeper and messenger of the Bolton Exchange Newsroom, a post he held for 27 years.
In 1871 the Alma was at the centre of a court case involving the building's owner James Hardman and Abraham Hayes, the landlord of the Nelson on Nelson Street. Hayes had been engaged by Hardman to help find a new tenant for the Alma. A Mrs Lovatt was engaged but she refused to meet Hardman's demand for three years' rent up front – the sum of £90. Hayes then approached Bedford Brewery of Leigh and they agreed to meet Hardman's rental demand. The pub would then be sub-let by Bedford's to Mrs Lovatt. Hayes paid £1 to Hardman to bind Bedford's to the deal on the understanding that this deposit would be returned to him when the deal was complete along with a small fee. Hardman claimed that the agreement was for the £1 to be forfeited if the £90 wasn't paid the following the day, but the judge found in Hayes' favour and Hardman had to repay the £1 plus costs. [Bolton Evening News, 18 March 1871]
Bedford's rented the pub from Hardman for a number of years – a Bolton Evening News ad from 1883 has them looking for a tenant without utilising any middle man, but the arrangement was at an end by the end of the 19th century.
The entrance to the Alma may have looked a lot different had plans put forward in 1883 come to fruition. Bedford's wanted to move the front entrance to the corner of the building and remove the outside entrance to the cellar claiming it would improve the thoroughfare; however, the magistrates threw out the proposal. [Bolton Evening News, 8 March 1883]
In April 1907 a labourer named William Holden of Water Street was sent to jail for one month with hard labour over the theft of a canary worth £2 from the Alma. Holden was drinking in the pub one night but when he left landlady Mrs Sanderson noticed that the canary was missing. Holden was apprehended by PC Lyon and told the officer that he would find the bird at the house of Herbert Hunt, a watchmaker residing at 13 Manor Street. When PC Lyon went to Hunt's house Mrs Hunt claimed Holden had given the bird to her as a present. [Bolton Evening News, 24 April 1907]
In 1911, the Alma's licensee William Wadeson was fined £10 after police found gambling taking place at the pub. [Manchester Courier, 24 November 2011]
In the fifties the pub was popular with bus drivers and conductors working at Bolton Corporation Transports' Shiffnall Street depot (the building still stands as the Excellency wedding venue).
The Alma became a Magees pub in the early part of the 20th century. Magee Marshall's were taken over by Greenall Whitley in 1958 although production continued at their brewery on Cricket Street, off Derby Street until 1970. Greenall's name was mud in Bolton mainly because their beers were considered inferior to the Magees beers it replaced in their pubs. However, the beer kept in the Alma was good enough for the pub to be included in the Good Beer Guides between 1974 and 1979.
Despite this the Alma closed in the summer of 1979 and was put up for sale by Greenall's. However, the June 1980 edition of What's Doing, the Greater Manchester beer drinkers' monthly magazine, noted that the pub had been sold to Burtonwood's Brewery of Warrington who had spent £13,000 on the living quarters alone. It reopened later that year. Burtonwood's had plans to install handpumps and there were hopes they would begin selling light mild. As recently as the 1950s light mild was the drink of choice in Bolton. Mild is generally seen as a dark beer these days but What's Doing pointed out that in Bolton light milds had always outsold dark milds by a factor of five. However, tastes had changed and What's Doing's September 1982 edition reported that Burtonwood's Light Mild was no longer on sale in the Alma less than 18 months after arriving on the bar. The reason given was a lack of demand.
The landlord of the Alma at this time was Tom Boyle. He had been at the pub in the seventies but left in 1977 for the Dog and Pheasant in Westhoughton. He returned as landlord when Burtonwood's re-opened the pub and his cellarmanship ensured a return to the Good Beer Guide for a number of years in the early- and mid-eighties. Toms wife Edna put on pub food including 'Alma pots' – small ceramic pots of moussaka, curry or chilli con carne served with rice or chips and a side salad. In those days there was a good steady lunchtime trade from local offices and works and you could still drink alcohol partway through the working day without being frowned upon by puritanical management.
|The Alma taken in the early-80s shortly before it was knocked into the Bolton Fine Arts shop next door. Image taken from a posting by Bert Kerks on the I Belong To Bolton Facebook page.|
For much of its existence the Alma was a small pub on the corner of Bradshawgate and Lomax's Buildings. The building next door was occupied in the early twentieth century by James Richards & Sons, wire workers, before being converted into a shop. By 1983 it was occupied by Bolton Fine Arts. When the building came up for sale that year it was bought by Burtonwood's to be converted into an extension to the Alma. During the conversion a large range built by the local firm of W. Crumblehulme & Sons Ltd.was discovered in the shop premises. The range remains part of the pub.
In the summer of 1988 the Bolton Beer Breaks magazine was reporting that the Alma was trying a novel way to attract customers with the installation of a satellite TV system, one of the first pubs in Bolton to do so. A rotating satellite dish at the rear of the pub moved to pick up transmissions from various satellites. Music videos and sports events were most popular and following the expulsion of English clubs from European football after the Heysel disaster of 1985 coverage of the European Cup was only available at pubs such as the Alma.
In the early nineties the Alma's clientele began to change. The pub had been a stopping-off point for punters on their way to Sparrow's rock disco (formerly Sundowners and now part of Level). In 1992, rock discos ended at the Swan's Malt and Hops bar which was subsequently converted to Barristers real ale pub. The Malt and Hops' former customers gravitated towards the Alma and for 28 years until its closure it was the home of Bolton's rock and metal community. Live music was introduced and hundreds of gigs put on largely of bands playing original compositions. An outdoor area that was originally used by smokers following the ban on smoking in pubs in 2007 was partly covered and a stage installed to accommodate more acts. It wasn't uncommon for over a dozen bands to play over the course of one day using both indoor and outdoor stages.
The rest of the row that the Alma was situated on was demolished in the early nineties and a retail unit built in its place. That unit, along with a unit built at Bradshawgate's junction with Trinity Street, was demolished in 2018.
But on 9 October 2020, the return was announced of former landlord Jim McGranthin. A posting on the pub's Facebook page read:
"With great happiness I'm proud to announce the Alma Inn will once again be reopening, under new management. After a monumental effort from Sophie, whilst working with the brewery, police and licensing, we've been able to secure and ensure the physical survival of the Alma's legacy and will be doing our utmost to rebuild, return and then maintain the pub and its reputation back to what it was once known for."
|The Alma, March 2011|