Longsight & Levenshulme
This time we remain in Manchester and the suburbs of Longsight and Levenshulme which are essentially strung out along the A6 as it heads south from the City Centre. Back in the day there was an interesting collection of pubs, and several of those, notably in Levenshulme, reflected the large Irish community in the area.
This one was written by Carole Brookes who, at the time, was a very active local member, along with her partner Peter. Their cat, Theakston Sebastian Splodge, was also a member of CAMRA.....They all moved away from the area and I know no more about them.
Here we go...
What follows is not intended to be a statement of the quality of the pubs or beer on all occasions, but is our opinion of both on the night of the crawl.
Bouncer/doorman: "Hope to see you again"
Departing girl: "I doubt it"
This crawl could have been far more compact had more pubs in the area sold real ale; and as an area it is ripe for CAMRA to return to grass roots and start campaigning. Much of the beer was little better than mediocre, much of it was too cold, and one pub served grossly short measure.
I only hope that our branch name change doesn't lead to South Manchester being ignored as the poor relation.
What happened next
Well, that was a whistle-stop tour wasn't it? Lots of exclamation marks as well. It's also leaves some questions unanswered - what was the 'cow' in the Garrett? What was interesting about the glasses in the Pack Horse? More to the point, what beer did some of the pubs actually sell?
Quite a few of these pubs have survived. They have also been joined by a clutch of new bars over the years. We'll also have a quick look at those pubs this Stagger missed out, most which did go on to sell cask beer at some point.
So, let's have a look at the pubs visited first. We've met the Longsight before. It was a recently built Banks's house, part of their ill-fated foray into Greater Manchester, and had a very short existence. It had closed by November 2006 and was demolished a year later.
|The site of the Waggon & Horses|
The Ducie closed in early 2004 but, remarkably, is still standing, complete with rather faded pub signage. There have been occasional rumours that it might re-open but it's really well past that stage now. The bulldozer awaits, I suspect. The former Bay Horse (it closed in late 2009) is also still with us, in a much modified form, and now functions as a supermarket.
The Crown became the 'Crown Ale House' although that didn't signify anything in the way of an enhanced range of beers. It didn't save it from oblivion, either. The pub closed in June 2000 and has now been knocked down and replaced by commercial premises.
We talked about the Garratt (to spell it correctly) last week. By the time we visited the pub a year later in the 'Homage to Holts' the white 'cow' had clearly disappeared. The pub closed in May 2013 and is now a mosque. The Polygon is also still standing but now functions as a cash and carry, having closed in early 2008.
The Pack Horse has also had a chequered history. It first closed in Autumn 1999 but was open again by October the following year. It finally closed (allegedly after an intervention by the authorities) in mid-2007. It's now a shop-cum-cafe selling cakes and ice creams.
Despite having been slightly knocked around in the intervening years, the Union is still open and remains a characterful little local but, like many others on the Stagger, no longer sells cask beer. The Farmers Arms fell into the hands of the Magic Pub Company at one stage and suffered the indignity of becoming the 'Farmers Kipper'. It regained some semblance of normality but nevertheless closed in May 2010. It stood unused for many years but has now been converted to other commercial use. Finally the Midway, which must have been hugely impressive in its day (just look at this vintage photo You can read a bit more about it on the Pubs of Manchester blog here. It closed in May 2008 and has been converted into some sort of college and a discount store.
The pubs they didn't visit
here) hadn't sold a drop of cask in years and never did until it closed in early 1990. It was subsequently sold for other use and it now a furniture shop. It's fair to say that in its last years, the Church had a very dubious reputation. Not so far away was a Tetley pub, the Springbank Tavern. This had a strong Irish customer base and for a while was renamed O'Connors. It then became the Springbank Inn and sold cask Tetley Bitter for a short while. It closed in 2008 and has been replaced by shops.
Heading further south into Levenshulme was the Little Vic. This was a tidy little pub with a good local atmosphere - and at one point sold cask Lees Bitter (although like many pubs in the area it had originally been a Wilsons house). It was closed in March 2016 and converted to other use.
Back to the A6 and the hub of Levenshulme is probably where Albert Road joins the A6. Head a way down Albert Road and, until recently, you'd have come to the Kingsway. Back in1985 this was an enormous keg-only Greenalls pub but happily they sold it on to Holts. I don't think it was the huge success that Holts expected it to be - perhaps it was just too big to work. In any event they closed it at the end of February 2018 and sold it on to a developer. Demolition followed in June last last year.
On the corner of Albert Road and the A6 stands the former Railway, a sizeable old Chesters pub.A later Levenshulme Stagger took place on St Patrick's Day when the Railway, which I think had stared to sell cask by then, has a special offer on Guinness. It was pandemonium. It closed in June 2002 and was converted into an estate agent's office. Then, in early 2016, it reopened as the Dice Lounge, which in turn closed in October 2018.
The Levenshulme pub scene hasn't just been one of decline and decay. There have been a steady trickle of newcomers over the years, and the pace of that seems to have quickened over the past couple of years.
All of the other arrivals are on the main Stockport Road. In Longsight, there was a relatively short-lived Wetherspoons, the Sir Edwin Chadwick. This was a rare blunder by Spoons, and it didn't work at all. It closed in November 2003 and is now an Indian restaurant.
Fred's Ale House, which is next door to the Union mentioned above (and which he also owns). This bar-cum gallery-cum events space has been a notable success and sells up to six well-kept cask beers.
Station Hop, the Talleyrand, Nordie, and OverDraught MCR. The latter has no fewer than 30 taps!
The Host Group
There are several mentions above of 'Hosts'. So let's have a quick look at the Host Group.
This seems to have vanished into the mists of time - a very quick Google didn't bring up much. It was the managed house arm of Grand Metropolitan, the leisure company that acquired Watney Mann and its various subsidiaries, which included Manchester-based Wilsons.
They seemed to go bonkers and stories leaked out about how higher management aimed to remove the word 'pub' from the organisation's vocabulary. They certainly had plans to impose unlikely themes on many of their pubs. A piece in the 1985 Good Beer Guide talks about plans for "Big Apple" fashion bars and "Slots of Fun" pubs which would be basically licensed amusement arcades. "Sports" was a favourite theme - the Windsor Castle in Edgeley near me became Windsor Sports.
Perhaps the local nadir was reached when Stockport's Mersey Tavern was transformed into the Indian Raj-themed Far Pavilions. Not only did this boast a 3-metre wide illuminated pith helmet over the bar, but a side room had some sort of raised bandstand-style drinking area surrounded by plastic vegetation, and 'enhanced' by taped jungle noises - which in fact just sounded like a mass outburst of flatulence among the customers.
It was marketing hubris unleashed and it didn't last. Trouble was, as I mentioned in an earlier post, these themes were installed on the cheap, doubtless with a view to ripping them out after a couple of years or so. Unfortunately many of the pubs were then left to their own devices for rather longer than that and quietly began to fall apart.
The reference to the branch name change cane about because the South Manchester Branch decided to change its name to Stockport & South Manchester in June 1985.