Wednesday, 21 November 2018

From the Archives

Hyde Road - November 1984

My archive doesn't include the November 1988 issue of Opening Times so we are off back to November 1984. That wasn't long after Opening Times had been launched and this was issue six.

It hadn't settled down by the then so the Staggers were called 'Around in the Town'. You will also note the rather primitive appearance of the magazine (if you can call it that).  At the time it was produced on a duplicator - if you Google that today you'll be pointed in the direction of a whizzy bit of kit but back then it was rather different. Each page was typed out (on a typewriter) onto a stencil and then it was more or less hand-cranked. The finished effort (this one ran to six pages) was distributed as an insert in something called What's Doing - a magazine produced by the former North Manchester branch of CAMRA and which at one time had regional aspirations. 

The eagle-eyed will also note the advert for Sykes Wine Bar at the George in Stockport's Mersey Square which offered Higsons Mild and Bitter plus Draught Bass.

This article was written by Malcolm Swallow - who is now happily married and living in British Columbia. He still gets a regular copy of Opening Times. Here we go:

Curiously, the Hyde Road Pub Crawl started out at the massive Wilsons pub, the Waggon & Horses, Stockport Road/Plymouth Grove. A fortunate idea since Mild scored 3.7 (scores are from 0, undrinkable, to 4, excellent) the best score of the evening.  The rather cool Bitter scored 2.4. No price list evident but at 63p the mild was also the most expensive of the evening, the bitter was 64p.

Down Kirkmanshulme Lane we eagerly headed for the Longsight Inn and the Banks's beer. Unfortunately the mild, at 57p, was very cold and tasteless and scored only 1.1. The bitter at 60p was slightly better and managed 2.

We wandered around Belle Vue Speedway Stadium and into the Rock Inn on Hyde Road. A recently renovated Tetleys pub, the beer was good with mild at 62p scoring 3.5 and the bitter, 64p, 3.1.

Down Hyde Road towards Manchester we called in at the basic Boddingtons pub the Nags Head. No mild available but the bitter tasted pretty good and scored 2.9 - almost worth the 62p price tag!

The Travellers Rest was next on the list - a recently painted Hydes house; but the beers were disappointing. The mild at 56p scored 1.8 and the bitter, 62p, managed 2.4.

Another Boddingtons pub, the Unicorn Hotel, also only sold Bitter. It was 2p cheaper that the Nags but scored only 2.4. However it is obviously a popular local, so much so that we had to stand outside to drink.

A swift stop at the Horseshoe Inn found Robinsons Bitter (63p) in slightly above average form with a score of 2.5. Unfortunately the mild was so bad as to prove undrinkable and scored 0. 

The City Gates is a large open-plan Chesters pub done out in Man. City colours. No real mild but the handpumped bitter was better than expected and scored 2.3, costing 63p.

As the evening was coming to an end we headed down Devonshire Street North in to the Greenall's pub, the Kings Head. Again no real mild was available but the bitter at 66p (the most expensive of the evening)managed the best bitter score with 3.3.

To finish the evening, we hurried down Ashton Old Road to the excellent Holts pub - the Seven Stars. The mild at 55p was cheapest of the evening but only scored 1.8. The bitter was 56p, was also the cheapest, it also tasted pretty good and scored 2.9.

A summary of the evening reveals that the bitters scored between 2 and 3.3, a fairly consistent set of marks. Whist real mild was sold in only 6 out of the 10 pubs visited the scored varied between 0 and 3.7. Enough said!!

A note on beer scoring 

You will see from the text that all the beers were given a score. This was well before CAMRA's National Beer Scoring System came into operation but the old South Manchester Branch (now Stockport & South Manchester) was an early adopter of using beer scores to select pubs for the Good Beer Guide. 

Scores are still recorded on the monthly Staggers but no longer appear in Opening Times. This was stopped quite early on when a local newspaper correlated the scores from one Stagger and published "CAMRA's League Table of Local Pubs". Ructions ensued.

What happened next

I think carnage is as good a word as any here.

The Waggon & Horses (which also sold handpumped Bulmers cider on my one and only visit) was a a very early casualty. A large half-timbered effect building it closed in the late 1980s - it appeared in a local CAMRA guide published in 1989 - and was knocked down (overnight apparently!) around 1992.  A block of flats now occupies the site.

The Longsight was on Redgate Lane and formed part of one of the entrance gates to the old Belle Vue.  It was a ramshackle old place and was essentially bought by Wolverhampton-based Banks's for the licence  in late 1983. The pub was demolished in 1985 and a replacement built around the corner on Kirkmanshulme Lane. That too has gone. The tale of Banks's utterly disastrous 1980s foray into Manchester will in fact be covered by a Stagger next year.

The Rock Inn, a great little Tetley house with much speedway memorabilia, was pretty much opposite the entrance to the old stadium. Famous for extensive 'lates' or "nights when time seemed to stand still" as one friend of mine put it, the pub closed in the late 1980s. It was located on the corner of Boundary Street and Hyde Road so its site is easily located (shown left).

The Nags Head closed in 2009 but the building still remains as a convenience store. The Travellers Call (not Travellers Rest as recorded in the article) remains open for business which is something of a minor miracle. As you may see from the photo in the main piece it's no longer a Hydes house - and no longer sells cask beer. Nonetheless its survival is to be celebrated.

The Unicorn was notable for retaining its old skyboards along the roof for many years- once commonplace on many pubs they have now largely disappeared. The pub has disappeared too and, such has been the scale of redevelopment down this part of Hyde Road, it is very difficult to pinpoint the exact location.  The same applies to Robinsons Horse Shoe (sic) a pub standing in splendid isolation and at one time unusual for selling their 'ordinary' bitter. I suspect both were located somewhere along the stretch of road seen left.

Passing under the main railway line, the stretch of Hyde Road running down to the Devonshire Street junction for many years featured two large, derelict pubs. One was the Bulls Head and the other the Hyde Road Hotel which ended its days as the City Gates, a shrine to all things Manchester City (the club's original ground was just behind the pub). The football fans couldn't save it and the pub closed in 1989. After that it stood rotting for about 12 years until the wrecking ball came calling.  There has been some debate on various online forums abut the exact site of the City Gates but I suspect the stone blocks seen here may be its last earthly remains.

The King's Head was closed by Greenalls but it then reopened as a free house which did reasonable well in the 1990s and beyond. It finally closed in 2008 and again lay derelict for many years until its demolition in August last year. Here's the site.

And finally - the Seven Stars.  This was a classic pub in its day and when I first called there the interior may well have gained it a place on CAMRA's National
Inventory of Heritage Pubs. Holts then had a rush of blood to the head and built an entirely pointless extension which seemed to knock all the life out of the place.  Holts ran it as some sort of arms length operation but it finally closed in 2009 and has now been converted to a wholesale and retail seller of live (live!) seafood - so if you want a lobster for your dinner that's where to go.  The pub still retains many external featured and even the extension has had a sympathetic extension!



  1. Great read, John. The real interest for me lies in the detail about beer quality; not just scoring but reflections on temperature and some fairly honest thoughts (always a strongpoint of Stockport reports under your leadership).

  2. Cheers, Martin. Looking at some of these old Staggers it does strike me how much really poor beer was encountered - even with busier pubs and only a couple of beers on the bar.

  3. So where's the place to be in Manchester city centre for mild?

    1. Try the Grey Horse Portland Street good Hydes dark mild

    2. City Arms Kennedy Street or the Rising Sun Queen St.

  4. This place was amazing! Great food, it's smaller than others I guess but it is still a fair sized fun. The decor at this venue was amazing as every note of music reverberates off the beautiful walls. Everything about this event space Atlanta is nothing less than 5 stars.